Jonathan Stallard’s series of precise studies into form, colour, depth and positioning, provide focused glimpses of the world around us.
His vibrant, carefully composed images are the result of a compulsion to photograph things that he cannot quantify and attracted our attention last year during the photography degree shows at Nottingham Trent University, gaining him the Photography Bursary Award; comprised of extended support from tutors at Nottingham Trent University, a bursary of £1000 of our production services plus mentoring and assistance to produce an exhibition, one year later, at Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham.
With his exhibition open at Lakeside Arts Centre until Sunday 17 May, we caught up with Jonathan to hear his thoughts on his first year out of university, the development of his practice, and the production of his exhibition…
Firstly, what have you been working on since your degree show last year?
For the first few months, I continued with the work I had been producing [for my degree show], because I felt I should be doing that as the work I created then was the reason that I was awarded the photography bursary award, but I knew this wasn’t really what I wanted to do any more and I wasn’t producing images that I was actually happy with.
I found that I was overlooking other images that I had made because they weren’t fulfilling what I thought I should be doing. In October, I reviewed all of the work that I’d been making and realised there were a lot of images – that I initially dismissed – that were more like what I was striving to achieve.
The images that I have produced since bear similarities to my earlier work in terms of how I approach making them. I begin work by just walking around – I just instantly see something and think ‘I want to photograph this’ – and with that; I know where I should be standing and where I want the frame to be.
Tell us more about how the images themselves have changed…
The actual images themselves are softer, I suppose still considered, but a little more relaxed and now predominantly of exteriors [unlike my degree show work and the earlier images that I was making].
I suppose that the images also a little broader with regards to what’s actually in the frame – though arguably that was simply a limitation of interiors; when you’re shooting within four walls you have physical confinements that aren’t really present outdoors. I don’t feel as if I’m framing images [that I take] differently, but the resulting photographs are more relaxed and arguably a little subtler.
How do you approach making images and what do you find are the biggest challenges to overcome?
I produce work when I feel like it; I can’t force images to come together. I’ve struggled to make work where I live because I don’t feel relaxed shooting somewhere that I might bump into someone – I’m always a bit worried that someone will see me making a photograph of something ridiculously mundane and wonder why. When I’m abroad, people still look at me but there’s a big difference in that I know I’ll never see them again.
Because of this, most of the images for this exhibition have been made abroad during various trips to Majorca, Warsaw and Dublin, amongst others. My initial trips I made with the mindset of focusing on hostel interiors, Dublin marked a turning point as this was the first trip that I realised I wanted to focus on exteriors, making images as I walk between destinations. The place that I was staying wasn’t important anymore, because I wasn’t really making work there, the only requirement was that they needed to be 12 or 15 miles away from the previous location. In the end, I chose where to stay on a basis of price rather than where looked more interesting – which also helped in the production of the series.
The bursary has also helped and definitely made me more proactive; I wanted to do the trips, but I felt more pressured to because I knew that I had this [exhibition] coming up. I probably wouldn’t have progressed this much if I didn’t have anything to aim for.
What would you say has been the biggest change in the way you work, since you left university?
One of the biggest changes to my practice [since I left university] has been in the way I choose images.
The image above [of the cactus], I’ve looked at for quite some time, I made it back in September but I always struggled to place this – Illogically I liked it, but logically I couldn’t find a reason to and I felt like it wasn’t enough like the other images to be included. Somewhere between December and January, I realised that selecting images didn’t have to be logical – I guess I’ve become more intuitive and given my practice more of a free reign.
How do you record the work that you do?
I write [my thoughts down] in a Word document because I struggle to read my own handwriting. I do also have a blog, but I’m quite behind with it.
Lastly, what are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
I like what I’m doing now; I enjoy making work, but I struggle to sell myself and to talk to people about it. Because of this, I don’t know whether I will be doing anything directly related to my practice in the long term – this year was intended for me to work on my exhibition, but in September I will need a job.
I really have no idea – I’m just taking things as they come.
See Jonathan’s exhibition at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham until Sunday 17 May.
This bursary award and the partnership we have forged with Nottingham Trent University aims to give support during the early stages as a graduate and to assist in the development of their practice. See how we support students and work with colleges and universities.