I’ve had Nicholas Calcott‘s images on my desktop for a few weeks now. I was initially intrigued by his The Fabric of Place project, which is really quiet and beautiful and soft. I love ghosted figures, but I rarely see them done in daylight, and these feel pretty successful to me. Today is rainy and grumbly and it seems like a good time to post the mini email interview I did with Nick, along with the work.
I’m curious about your project The Fabric of Place; tell me how it came about.
That one project was the
culmination of about six other projects I did starting when I was a
student at NYU. I was dancing around this one idea trying to tease out
the relationship between the subject of a portrait and its environment
(both in the picture and the environment of the picture on the wall),
and ended up deciding the easiest way to lay that bare was to negate
the ‘subject’ as such with various blurring strategies. Anyway, after
trying this for a while, I realized that I was getting really
interesting results when the subject wasn’t totally negated– the blurs
started to seem more like ghosts than anything else– figments of
stories on the landscape, which is an idea pretty closely related to
what ‘photography’ is.
What does the title refer to?
The title came from various research into the critical
engagement of ‘place’ (would you believe there’s a huge amount of
scholarly engagement as to what, semiotically, a place is, as distinct
from a landscape or a view?) which is usually defined as a location
experienced as opposed to just seen (a landscape). It came to seem that
I was photographing in a very literal way the relationship between
subject and landscape, what makes up a place, the fabric of place, if
you will. I can go on for hours on the conceptual background of the
project, but it usually causes people’s ears to fall off (I mean, I
worked on it one form or another for five years). Frankly, I’m just happy
that there’s a visual entry point into the images instead of the way
that /I/ approached all of this stuff originally. I have to admit that
I’ve been gradually moving away from this kind of conceptual
photography, though I have a feeling it’ll always be there somehow. I
can’t say that I’ve arrived at something else quite yet though I’ve got
a couple of projects that are getting there.
What made you relocate to Paris?
Good question. Well, I was in New York for
about six years, four of which was working for Dean [Kaufman] and I figured it was
time for a change. So, I just moved out here about five months ago and
started aggressively trying to massage all of my connections. It kind of worked– I’ve ended up assisting a smattering of anglophone Magnum