Between 30th September and 6th October, we will be hosting a joint photographic exhibition by Hannah O'Hara and Zachary Innes-Mulraine. We have a chat with Zachary to find out a little bit more about his exhibition 3 Letters + in this interview.
1. What is the meaning behind the title of your exhibition 3 Letters + and why did you choose this title?
It represents a lot of things, living in Portsmouth, London and Brighton, and, of course being HIV+ and how I dealt with that. It also represents the progress we've made in the last twenty years. From listening to Queer as Folk on volume 2 so no one else could hear, to seeing gays in TV adverts. From a teenage perception of gay men skipping about with flowers, to schoolboys holding hands. From personally mourning the fact I may never get married to being married and making poisonous chocolate tarts. I'm a terrible baker who has dreams of being a housewife.
2. How would you describe this exhibition?
It's about me trying to shine a light in the middle of shitstorm. It's a personal account told in photographs and writing in modern Polari (Polari was a secret language us Homos used to speak before we were legal) and I really don't want the language to be lost as it's an important part of LGBT history.
3. What is your favourite piece in this exhibition and why?
'Heritage Found', which funnily enough is the newest piece. I took it in Scotland in July. I knew that my Grandad had died on board HMS Hood in the Second World War, and that he'd lived in Portsmouth. I didn't know that he and his mother moved to Portsmouth from Portsoy in Scotland when his father died in the First World War. Both of their names are on the War Memorial there, and my Grandad is also on the Naval Memorial at Southsea. At the time I was very excited about seeing where he grew up, but got very melancholic when I was there, finding out that my great-Grandad was part of that whole clan thing. It made me feel that my great-Grandmother was so heartbroken by the loss she couldn't stay there anymore. I took the photo of this ruined house on top of a hill above the harbour, where I was sitting taking it all in. Also realising I wasn't as English as I thought I was.
4. What do you hope people will take away from this exhibition?
Receipts! [laughs] That if you can smile during the most difficult of times then imagine how many teeth you'll see in the happy ones. If you're still alive then be alive. And laughing at yourself means that everyone elses' pisstake is just water.
5. Would you say 3 Letters + is a reflection of a transformative journey for you? Can you explain this journey a little more?
Yes. It's a journey through my personal Bermuda Triangle of Portsmouth, London and Brighton. The three places mean ever so much to me. Portsmouth blew the ply doors off my closet, and then the closet collapsed when I was diagnosed. London made me realise you don't need a closet when you have a runway? Brighton is two things. I first flew the nest here, and then built one.
6. What does photography mean to you? Why do you choose photography as a medium to express yourself?
I love it. It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy. If I lost photography and music I think I would melt. That moment when you take an amazing photo. The moment you get it right. I love the learning of it. You're always still learning. I'm in Wales right now trying astrophotography. I'm only beginning to understand wildlife photography. Nature is shady. Get your camera out. Birds, rabbits, fish, they all fucking disappear, all of them!
7. How do you see your photography evolving in the future?
Fuck knows [laughs]. Ten years ago I didn't know I'd be doing an exhibition about my experiences. It was all fantasy in my mind. Just keep pushing forward.
8. What is next for you?
I want to get the 3 Letters + book published. My next exhibition will be called Thinking Through Fingers, and it's about dealing with changes in family dynamics.
9. What is it about a particular scene or setting that will compel you to capture it?
The fact that it's a unique moment. The idea that four people might never be in the same place at the same time ever again. They might not care. But I do. And the excitement of it. Woodland Preacher was a terrifyingly exciting and wonderful thing to do. And the fact it wasn't cold really made things blossom.
10. What is the message in this exhibition?
Every shitstorm has an eye. Just make sure you're wearing waterproofs. And no one likes a sad clown.
11. What are your tips for aspiring photographers?
Work hard. It's not just about taking pictures. Have a support network. And bollocks to the bitter queens. I've always preferred shandy anyway.