Interview – In Conversation: Sam A. Harris and Alex Catt
Sam A. Harris
Sam A. Harris (SH): I think we should warm up with some quickfire questions; what’s your opinion on ugg boots?
Alex Catt (AC): Ugg boots are the worst possible choice, which country has your favourite flag?
SH: Someone asked me this once but I’ve forgotten what I said. Pakistan‘s is pretty cool though. Anyway, flags aside, lets get serious. I know who you are, but others may not, can you quickly explain who you are and what you do?
AC: Just a guy that graduated from Brighton University last year in Photography along side you, now mainly living back at home in the New Forest whilst juggling around a few jobs here and there, while I sort out what i’m doing. How about you man, I know what you’re up to but let everyone else know.
SH: As you said I graduated last year, after that I sold my soul to the intern life for a while. I now assist a few different people whilst trying to make my own practice work.
AC: How do you feel about the whole interning thing? I mean, its not something I ever really thought about, due to being located too far from London to “work for free” but it must have its advantages too.
SH: Interning is definitely a double edged sword. I applied for a few internships after graduating only to find they weren’t covering any expenses, let alone paying me, which I thought was pretty fucked up. I avoided those. I then managed to do a couple that covered my expenses. Those were really helpful. Not so much the actual internships, but the contacts I got were invaluable, to the extent that they led me to the paid work I do now. You said you are too far from London to work for free, tell me about living in the New Forest, how’s life with the dogging and horses?
AC: Haha dogging, yeah man you don’t really want to be hanging out in forest car parks at night, too many weird old men. Living in the New Forest is great though, apart from the fact there’s no jobs relating to the art world in any way. Its nice to be able to wander through the forest whenever you like or get stuck behind loads of horses standing around in the road on your way to work though.
SH: Yeah there seems to be loads of horses. Those Iphone photos you’ve been posting on your blog look really good. I’m really into them, the cameras on those phones are scary good.
AC: Yeah they seem pretty legit. Did you see that dude, Kevin Russ – he makes enough from iPhone print sales to just drive around America taking photos etc, mad. I never really thought of them as a valid camera until I saw that article and tested mine out a little, turns out digital is ok after all, especially when its always in your pocket. I know you recently undertook a residency in Norway, tell us about that.
SH: Kevin Russ is living the dream. Yeah Norway was really cool, it was in Stavanger which is in the south west. I was actually given Torbjørn Rødland’s book I Want to Live Innocent for christmas, and it turns out that whole project was shot in Stavanger which is his home town. Anyway, the only thing I can fault Norway on is the prices. I was longing to go out to the forests and fjords everyday, but unfortunately the cost of hire cars meant I went much less than I would have liked. Me and Sean Gardiner managed to have a small show out there, ‘Ti Tomler‘, which was awesome.
AC: Nice, the pictures of the show looked really cool – from the photos i’ve seen Norway looks like an amazing place, pretty jealous on that one. What does Ti Tomler mean then?
SH: It’s a Norwegian idiom that translates as ‘ten thumbs’. Someone who is clumsy in Norway is said to have ten thumbs. Likewise I know you had a residency, yours was way longer, two months right? It was in some place I can never spell, Belalcazar?
AC: Yeah man mine was a bit longer, I was at the La Fragua residency (amazing people) in Belalcazar, Spain for just over a month. I drove down from England through France and the Pyrenees into Spain which added an extra week on each side of the residency, bringing it up to just over 6 weeks in total and some 4000 miles travelled. My time spent there, along with the journeys I took, produced the series of work on my website “As water returns to the sea.” I was lucky enough to share a studio with the collaborative artists ATOI (http://www.atoiarts.org) whilst I was there, as we both received grants to be there. We had some real good times, bars in those parts of Spain are amazing, along with the people. The residency resulted in a solo show in Belalcazar itself, which was a really great experience.
SH: That sounds awesome. You drive a lot, so obviously you need a decent car, I happen to know you own a Honda Jazz, which is normally favoured by the over 60’s. Any particular reason for this choice?
AC: I looked into cars for a fair while and settled on this particular one, mainly because I can sleep in it plus it seems reliable thus far, and economic – what more can you ask for?
SH: Definitely, Travel seems integral to your work recently, there is a long history of photographers making work about a journey, both physical and metaphorical. Is travel a premeditated concept within your work, or merely a way of getting from A to B?
AC: I think its important in both aspects, I really like the process of the journey and subsequently the way I think once alone. But what seems to interest me of late, is the return to home, its an inevitability that always happens. I think this as a cyclical act has started to form an impression on me and my work and I hope to keep exploring this notion. Tell me more about some of your work. Your statement for Vital Fiction is really broad, You state it was a personal inquest into some of the worlds unanswered questions. Would you like to expand on this, and where the idea stemmed from?
SH: Yeah sure, I’m not too good at writing those statement things, so it’s probably good you asked. The work was born out of a period when I was feeling particularly unsure about certain things, and was reading up on a lot of metaphysics and scientific theories. I’ve been really into science for as long as I can remember, which probably explains the premeditation and exactness of many of the images, but I think this also engrained a certain level of scepticism and inquisitiveness within me. Essentially I assembled a breakdown of the whole universe, in it’s broadest sense, into its various constituents. Through documenting these certain phenomena in a manner that blurred the lines between fact and fiction, I hoped to expose them for what they were at face value, leaving a frank impression of a fragile existence, thus exposing the polar opposite of death at the same time.
Sam A. Harris
AC: Stoked on 2013? I heard you just went DIGITAL
SH: Ha yeah man, finally scraped together enough cash to invest. That’s what I have to see it as, an investment, otherwise I will get depressed about how much money I blew on it. As for 2013 I am very stoked. We were both in the 11.59 group show in January, I think that’s a pretty good start? Besides that some exciting things are happening (slowly). I have a load of ideas for new work and a couple of commissions in the pipeline. As well as this I’m collaborating with Austrian photographer Thomas Albdorf.
How about you, big plans?
AC: Ah that sounds really great man, Albdorf is always killing it! I was also part of a group show up in Leeds at Village book store courtesy of the guys at No Culture Icons which was really cool, it was with Jordi Huisman, Bryan Schutmaat and Alex Cretey-Systermans, all of whose work I really like so it was an honour to be part of a small show with them. As for myself, I hope to make some work on the New Forest itself, it’s the place I have spent the majority of my life and subsequently the place I always return back to. Its a pretty big project to start though so I have been a bit slow so far, but hopefully theres that to look forward to in the coming months! Trying to get away from England and making little road-trips will hopefully fill my year too!
Sam A Harris is a photographer based in London, UK. Since graduating in 2012 from the University of Brighton he has assisted various photographers, as well as continuing his own photographic practice; the latter including an artist residency in Stavanger, Norway. Thematically his pensive but subtle work touches on issues of life and death, and quietly asks questions of our place within the world.
Alex Catt graduated from the University of Brighton in 2012 and has since made a body of work titled “As water returns to the sea”, a result of a 7 week artist residency in Spain. His work is often the result of various wanderings and journeys, and shows a close affinity to nature. Curently based in the south of England, he is making new work exploring the New Forest and its histories.
Edited by Patricia Karallis / Published 2 April, 2013