Steven Barritt (born in 1976) is a contemporary photographer currently based in London, UK. He studied photography at Middlesex University. In another interview on this site, Steven Barritt talks about one of his recent series called “Mythographies”, a visual exploration of the human psyche and its abysms.
Steven Barritt is an artist and photographer based in London who’s work has been shown in “The National Portrait Gallery” and “The Photographers Gallery”, “The Moscow Museum of Modern Art”, as well as selected group shows and solo exhibitions. His work encompasses portraiture, landscape and constructed narrative, exploring recurring themes of human relationships with the environment and relationships with each other.
His work shows a constant questioning of the reality of the photograph as it presents itself on the surface – photography is capable of representing the physical world with such veracity yet it reveals only an interpreted reality.
This is exemplified in his constant attraction to man-made or altered landscapes and the manipulation of our environment, the manipulation of a sitter to extract a portrait that both reveals yet obscures meaning, or constructing entire alternate realities and personas exploring the darker reality of the human condition.
He works almost exclusively with traditional analogue photographic techniques to produce his work, finding an irony in the perceived purity of meaning of analogue processes that seeming preclude the use of manipulation.
“Artist Profile” – Steven Barritt
Steven, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
“Photography for me is a way of realising visual ideas.”
I became a photographer I think because of a frustration of not being a cinematographer, which is what I aspired to when I was younger, but then life got in the way and I ended up doing all sorts of other things before returning to photography as a way of expressing myself visually. Photography for me is a way of realising visual ideas, and of allowing me to explore the world around me, to study things, meet people and I guess to a certain extent to express myself.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process? How do you plan and execute a project? Both technically and conceptually?
For me a project always starts with some form of idea, often inspired by literature or research, that is usually compounded by some kind of visual inspiration that somehow ties in with my thoughts.
My creative process is then usually a combination of engrossing myself in research about my topic, looking at inspiration and testing ideas for technique and aesthetic. Then I will start to develop the idea, shooting, editing, printing in a cycle until I feel I have reached a finishing point.
I always try to push myself in some way so that I don’t end up making the same work, whether it is developing technique or pushing myself out of my comfort zone, or developing my understanding of what photography is.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I guess I would have to say Jeff Wall. In many ways he has been very inspirational in the way he uses photography both aesthetically but more importantly conceptually in terms of questioning how photography is used and what it means. But there is also a huge list of other photographers who have been influential, as well as artists, writers and directors.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound. – Charles Baudelaire – not necessarily about photography but inspirational never the less.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
Mainly I use a Shen Hao 5×4 wooden field camera or a Mamyia 7 II, but will use what ever I think is appropriate for the project.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
1000 words – for its combination of showing interesting work, but also showing it alongside, often insightful writing about the work.
What book about photography would you recommend?
“Find new and exciting things to be interested in because this will drive you to create new and interesting photography.”
Steven Shore’s “The Nature of Photographs” is a beautiful book with some lovely images and sentiments in and Susan Sontag‘s “On Photography” gives a good philosophical starting point, but I would argue that it is difficult to have a book about “photography” in the same way that you could not recommend a book about writing because it has so many different uses (literature, poetry, shopping lists, suicide notes).
I think it was John Tagg who made the parallel between photography and writing in this sense in terms of understanding the history of photography like the history of writing.
I personally would recommend that people look in any book that isn’t about photography and find new and exciting things to be interested in because this will drive you to create new and interesting photography.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
Learn technique quickly so that it stops getting in the way of your photography – be interested in things and always push yourself further.