Anthony Arrowsmith is a Swansea based artist and lecturer. His photographic and research practice are concerned with the continued use of traditional photographic processes and their relationship to the digital world. His teaching practice involves many aspects of his own work to inform ideas and concepts ranging from traditional darkroom work, pinhole cameras and large format photographic processes.
At present, he is working on a coastal photographic project. Although not intending to present traditional images of the coast, his photographs reflect the coast from the point of view of the sea but do not contain any images of the water.
"I am drawn to the idea that a place has its own identity that anyone can discover and most importantly that it can be different for everyone".
R&J: What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on a coastal photographic project. It developed from a previous piece of work where I used an A to Z street map of South Wales to find locations to photograph within. I chose a particular square and visited it in the hope of finding something or just recording the experience through my images. It was a good way of motivating myself to get out and make some images, but also with the idea of there being some process beyond just taking photographs. The pandemic brought that process to a grinding halt, as restrictions prevented me from moving around freely, but I think the pause gave me a bit of time to reflect too. I’ll maybe pick up the street map thread again in time, as it was really interesting, but it was the times I was at coastal areas I felt there was a different piece of work to be made. I am only in the early stages of something but the images I have been collecting feel like a series and are connected in some way. They have also been great experiences to capture as we have one of the great coastal areas in the UK on our doorstep. Though I am not aiming for traditional images of the coast, they will hopefully reflect the coast from the point of view the sea but not actually contain any images of water.
R&J: Are you an artist who prefers solitude or togetherness to thrive? Or do you need a balance of both? Have events over the past year and ongoing situation affected you? How have you remained positive?
I think a balance of both is the place to be, though a lot of my creative process means I do spend a lot of time on my own making images. I have always been quite happy in my own company, I feel lucky in that respect but as a photographer sometimes it is good to get out and meet people and see places. I can’t really make work at home all the time, there has to be some connection to the outside world. I think the pandemic and the restrictions have been difficult in terms of the potential scope of work and I think it gave me an opportunity to be more reflective and not worry too much about work and ideas and how it will develop.
Sometimes I have just told myself to just go and take pictures. I am lucky to work with very sociable and creative people too and speaking to them almost on a daily basis, particularly during the pandemic online has helped in numerous ways.
I always tell my students that you can’t do it all by yourself, it’s important to engage with people, either as part of your creative process or in the sharing and discussion of your work.
“I would love to work with a musician or DJ on something, potentially creating visuals to sit alongside music”.
What are you reading, listening to, watching right now/recently?
I am embarrassed to say I did not finish a book during lockdown, however my garden is looking pretty good at the moment and I grew some vegetables. I think that was the sacrifice for not reading as much and the weather being too good the last couple of summers. However, I am an avid film watcher and the streaming services have been used frequently. We have watched a lot of comedy series during and since lockdown, lots of episodes are available, particularly the American series and they are good to lighten the mood after the news sometimes. ‘Schitt’s Creek’, ‘Superstore’ and ‘Kim’s Convenience’ have been favourites in our house, funny, heartfelt and some interesting perspectives on American culture, politics and the workplace. The cinema is where my real enjoyment of the moving image resides though, it will be good to get back and see something on the big screen in the near future.
Some of the more interesting films I have seen at home recently have included Robert Eggers ‘The Lighthouse’, astonishing black and white cinematography, some surreal set pieces and great performances, brilliant from start to finish. If you can take the stress of watching it then ‘Uncut Gems’ from the Safdie Brothers is worth an investment of your time. A few things online have said it’s one of the most stressful films to watch, understandable when you follow the narrative of a man making a series of poor or highly risky decisions in an attempt to make money from a valuable stone. The Safdie Brothers films hark back to some of the new Hollywood films of the seventies, realistic settings and elements of documentary style cinematography. Maybe start with their film ‘Good Time’ from a couple of years before, similar in style but less stressful overall if you fancy a more challenging double bill. A change of pace would be ‘The Florida Project’, one of my favourite films that I saw last year. Again, it has a documentary style in that it has quite a loose narrative as it follows some young children as they live in a Motel in the shadow of Disney. It’s quite raw and difficult in places but at times it is pure joy to watch, with some amazing performances from such young kids.
Do you have a favourite project or piece of work of your own, or ideas you return to?
I think it’s always the idea of place and location. I think I am drawn to the idea that a place has its own identity that anyone can discover and most importantly that it can be different for everyone. It’s not a fixed or static thing, this place can change over time, the morning and evening brings different perspectives obviously but returning to a place over time and photographing it on different days or over years has become increasingly important to me and I like the idea of documenting that a lot more as I have got older.
Images: Llanelli (top) & Aberavon. 2020
Are there peers or an artist who you particularly identify with or whose work you relate to? What would be your dream collaboration?
I would love to work with a musician or DJ on something, potentially creating visuals to sit alongside music, or just to see my images on record sleeves. I have picked up a bit of a vinyl habit in recent years, seeing the scale of artwork in your hands feels more connected to the music and the ritual of turning the record over is still quite fulfilling. Some of my recent purchases have included David Holmes, Mark Lanegan and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, but to create images from some of their work or for them would be amazing.