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Interview

Mark McGuinness: "Photography has been used in relation to landscape and place since its inception"

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Futures Photography
Date:
August 18, 2020
Nominated for Futures by PhotoIreland, Mark McGuinness (b. 1991) is an Irish photographer who works and lives in Dublin. His ongoing research is focused on 19th century colonial activities in Ireland, particularly the mapping of Ireland, and the affects these activities had on Irish cultural identity and representation.

“I never really thought about any relationship with a medium, photographing was just something I did. But over the last few years it has become something I have been thinking more and more about.”

Mark is currently working on a number of projects and in 2018 started a Master’s degree in photography at Aalto University School of Arts, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki. In this interview, he talks about his inspirations and career:

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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?

Frequently the initial ideas for my projects come from books or articles I read or a story I hear from someone. I just stumble across something, say about an event or place, and it just sticks with me in the back of my mind until I go there and see it for myself. Sometimes I photograph when I get there and sometimes, I photograph so much it can work as a sequence or project, or it at least interests me enough to return and carry on taking photos.

Thinking back on my work over the last few years, a lot of it has had to do with the idea of ‘place’, this latest work kind of being the culmination of that fascination. I have lived in a number of different countries in my life and that is something that has obviously affected my work. After making all this recent work about maps and Ireland, the place I consider home, I feel like I have finally gotten ‘place’ out of my system. I want to move onto other things that are not location specific next, something where it doesn’t matter where each image was shot.

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

That’s a hard question. Initially, I never really thought about any relationship with a medium, photographing was just something I did. But over the last few years it has become something I have been thinking more and more about. Honestly, I don’t know, somedays I love it and just shoot and don’t really think about much and other times I don’t shoot for long periods because I overthink everything and struggle to express myself. Then very rarely everything works, and I shoot and can express myself and then I go back to either one of the previous states. I think it’s important to look at yourself in relation to the world and photography and try to figure out which stories you should chase and which ones you should leave to someone else.

Working on projects about place and constantly moving around, it was just a natural connection. Photography has been used in relation to landscape and place since its inception. It wasn’t a very conscious decision; the camera was just the only way I could express myself and I always had one with me as I moved around. Going forward though I would like to look into some of the more unique properties of the medium. I don’t want to make these very heavy theory based abstract projects but something that hopefully goes a bit deeper than my earlier work.

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

Unfortunately not just yet. I have been working on completing my masters during lockdown, so I have not been photographing much lately, just writing and rewriting. I have plans for some new things I want to try out, in 2021 I will get a chance to experiment a bit more and make some new work. It will be a challenge because being in Ireland, I am trapped on an island that I have photographed a lot over the last two years. The easy thing to do would be to go somewhere exotic but with travel restrictions, I think it will be better for me to constrain myself and dig deeper into something here. I find I usually produce better things where I have some kind of constraint or limit, it leads me to finding a more creative solution.

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

For art in general? I don’t know. Hopefully it has given people a moment to reprioritise what they work on and why. 2020 has been such a massive year, not just because of the pandemic but it feels like there is a real momentum for social change in a lot of different areas. I just hope that momentum isn’t lost as things (hopefully) get better again and that it will lead to some real tangible changes.

Personally, lockdown has been a time of reflection. I have been really fortunate with my health so I can’t complain. My days have been spent here at my desk working on my thesis or going for a walk through the local park. Being trapped at home and then within a 2km bubble for months has allowed me to think a lot about what I have done so far with photography and how I work. It has definitely changed what I am interested in and what I want to work on next.

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

I guess the whole system has had to change this year. I’m looking forward to talking with some of the other new artists and seeing their work, looking at what topics everyone is into and how they are approaching them. It will be good to hear how the others are reacting to the global changes we are going through and hearing what they think about it all, is the industry just waiting to return to normal or have things changed permanently? The program this year is packed full of events so there really will be a lot to take in. It’ll be nice someday, in the not so distant future, to get to properly meet each other and say ‘hi' in person.

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