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Interview

Becks Butler: "Photography is a tool to approach and reveal the ephemeral nature of humanity"

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
September 8, 2020
Nominated for Futures by PhotoIreland, Becks Butler is an artist and lecturer at the Faculty of Design, at the Griffith College Dublin. She has presented work in various group shows in spaces such as illuminations, Pallas Projects, The Royal Irish Academy and The Complex.

“My work explore’s structures of human behaviour, origins and the performance of subjects in photography,” explains the artist. Her new project ‘Loopies Field’ was recently supported by Culture Ireland initiative #IrelandPerforms (2020).

In this interview, Becks talks about her career and inspirations:

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Images from 'Loopies Field'
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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?

My work explore’s structures of human behaviour, origins and the performance of subjects in photography. Coming from a familial and career focused background in agriculture, I have developed an interest in merging that background with my practice. Prior to my studies in Fine Art and Photography I completed a degree in Agricultural Science. I have first-hand experience of the physical and mental challenges of agricultural labour. In both agricultural and artistic practices it is often difficult to draw a line between work and life and I’ve developed an interest in the performance of labour inherent in both industries.

How do you see your relationship with the medium? How do you use photography to express your art?

My work is often interested in people and their interactions with the world around them. I consider the photograph as a tool to approach and reveal the ephemeral nature of humanity. A photograph stays still amongst shifting narrative. Sculptural techniques within the photograph is a large part of my photographic process. By blending natural gestures in familiar environments through both staged and observational techniques, I aim for subject, object and environment to seamlessly marry within the final imagery. By playing with the principle methods of photography such as documentary and typology I'm trying to inject some contemporary aesthetic and see where it takes the project. The final aesthetic and colors of my images are largely inspired by the colors that exist within the photographed environments. My aim with this work is to cover the diversity of farms, technologies and people in Ireland.

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Do you have any ongoing (or more recent) project that you would like to share with us?

I most recently have been making a body of work title loopies field which investigates a modern image of agriculture in Ireland through the performance of labour. In this on-going series, I am interested in dedication to labour exploring notions of inheritance, architecture, economy, and a new mechanised industry. Technology itself has somewhat changed the conditions of being a farmer in Ireland today. I am interested in exploring how that agri economy has affected farm size, social living and attitudes as we face a future of diversification. I've been making a series of photographs on farms in Ireland around thinking about these themes. Early on in the research I had been studying the work of sociologists McKinney and Green who travelled across Ireland documenting traditional rural life often through staged images of farming techniques. Their images sparked a curiosity in me. Their subject is often quite performative. I have been following their methodology to capture a very different image of agricultural aesthetics through contemporary practices.

I've also been systematically recording the architecture of grain silos. I became interested in what these structures suggest about the economy of agriculture. It certainly signifies a level of production. I am of course interested in the work of The Bechars often referred to their images as Anonymous sculptures, a term I often think about when making my images.

We have been facing a lot of challenges this year. How do you see this moment for art? Is it changing your practice?

I believe artists are resilient people. I feel as artists we generally quite innovative people, we find ways around our difficulties. Depending on your practice I imagine that given the current circumstances people are experiencing very different situations.

I myself have found it quite difficult to make work, my practice requires me to go out and make images as well as interact with people. The current situation has made that impossible.  I find missing the art community element most difficult. For me it's such a large part of being a practicing artist is the sharing of ideas with real people. As an artist it can be difficult to find the resources to make work and maintain your practice without adding a crisis.

What do you expect from this experience as a Futures talent?

I hope to learn about the process, methodologies and careers of other artists outside Ireland. I hope to also gain knowledge on presenting portfolios and making funding applications. I am interested to learn more about markets for my work and establishing a sustainable practice. I look forward to being mentored by professional photographic institutions and am excited about this opportunity.

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