JONATHAN CHERRY: What gets you up in the morning?
RICHARD HIGGINBOTTOM: At the moment I’m up far too early for my liking. I have to make the morning commute from Manchester to Bolton University, where I recently started training to teach photography.
JC: Are there any emerging artists inspiring you at the moment?
RH: I really appreciate Bryan Schutmaat’s photography as its quiet subtlety and constant ability to generate mood and tension really resonates with me. I love seeing new work online from Dutch photographer Jordi Huisman. I’m not sure about how emerging this person’s work is but I’ve been looking at Raoul Kramer’s book, The Lost Track, a fair amount over the past few weeks.
JC: What initially drew you towards photography?
RH: It was that curiosity about what I might find and an excitement about the way that things looked after I’d exposed the image and had the prints in my hands. It’s very much relatable to the Garry Winogrand quote where he said, “I photograph to see what things look like photographed”. I was around 17 or 18 and a much-loved pastime was to head outdoors with a camera and look for the things that grabbed and held my attention. These trips were like mini adventures, I’d imagine not too dissimilar to the way hunters or explorers operate, and this is still embedded in how I go about shooting today.
JC: What is Vivarium all about?
RH: Vivarium firstly has an element of viewer interaction, where the text is repeatedly riffing with the images, leading to the viewer’s own interpretation of what is unfolding. This work is predominantly about how nature can act as both haven and threat and the impact of nature on our psyche. There is always an underlying foreboding energy in existence in woodlands and forests. This is probably down to the influence of such things as literature, songs, films and fairytales that become lodged in our subconscious from an early age. Today nature seems to be a place closely connected to thoughts of fear and negativity. Perhaps this is because this type of environment is becoming more difficult to find nowadays.
JC: What has the rest of 2011 got in store for you?
RH: Most of my time will be taken up with a heavy teacher training workload but the course will undoubtedly help me to value the downtime I have. I’ll be taking every opportunity I have to head out with the 5x4. I have an idea for a project which is, for the time being, based around the landscape local to me and the study of its relationship to a quite significant (in my mind), yet relatively unknown, historical event. I’m excited to see how that progresses. I’d also like to start work on a collaborative zine that a friend and myself keep stalling on. There’s definitely plenty to keep me busy!
JC: What equipment do you use? (we like to hear all the details)
RH: I shot Vivarium on a Mamiya 7 with a 65mm lens. When the Great British weather allows me to leave my tripod at home it can be a really liberating camera. For 210 I used a Mamiya RZ 67. It made some really great images but unfortunately I found it a little cumbersome to take out into the landscape. On saying that, I’ve started shooting some new work on a 5x4 field camera and it’s working out very nicely. It’s incredibly slow, which encourages me to think a lot more and I’m a sucker for the detail that exists in each negative.
JC: Any advice to recent photography graduates?
RH: Try to create a close network of like-minded individuals to fire ideas off all of the time. Also, work through that difficult period when you’re in limbo between finishing University and realising where you want to head next. Just after I graduated I beat myself up a little by thinking that it was vital to come up with ideas for new projects. I soon recognised that this wasn’t the thing to do. Instead, I reclaimed the freedom of shooting that education made me forget about. Photographing without restraint really helped me grasp what I want to shoot next. Finally, I’d say try to gain some work experience with photographers who operate in a similar manner to how you can envisage yourself working. This was a massive help for me and gave a good insight into the daily life of working photographers and ways to stay motivated.