We are lucky enough to have Sean Padraic Birnie exhibiting his photography at the SCREENED exhibition at the gallery. In this interview we get to know the man behind the lens a little bit better...
What is the role of the photographer in society?
There’s no single role.
How has your photography evolved? How do you see it evolving in the future?
In the last few years I’ve moved towards a primarily studio-based approach; I don’t go out to photograph so much anymore.
What's your favourite piece of work you've done and why?
At the moment, this veiled portrait, Profile. It hasn’t found a place in the exhibition, but it came out of work on Veil – the idea of the dark cloth as a technical aid for seeing predicated on the elimination of light. The relationship between a communications medium, in this case photography, the figure of the apparatus, and the body. My book The Séance Room concerned this conjunction of image, process, apparatus and body, and I hope to pursue it in future work. Profile might be the start of that, or it might be nothing, but at the moment it’s my favourite thing of mine.
What are your tips for aspiring photographers?
Take photographs. Read. Look at art.
What does photography mean to you?
Like writing, it’s a means of pursuing certain pre-occupations, one of which is photography itself.
In your opinion, what makes a memorable photograph?
Any number of things. The opposite of any quality that might make a memorable photograph might also make a memorable photograph. But often something in the way a picture handles its subject in relation to the material and formal characteristics of its medium.
Where do you find your inspiration?
From reading, from looking at photographs and other things, and from writing.
What artists/photographers have inspired you?
Christopher Williams. Thomas Ruff. Taryn Simon. Larry Sullivan.
How do you know when a piece of work is completed?
When adding to it reduces it.
What do you hope the viewers will take away from your artwork?
A certain sense of the medium, of its strangeness.