Barnaby Hutchins

Where are you based?

Ghent, Belgium. I'm originally from Britain, though.

What equipment do you use?

That's changed a lot as I've gradually been able to afford better equipment. Eventually, I came to be using a Mamiya 7 and a Contax T2. And they are pretty much perfect. Especially the Mamiya, which is exactly as amazing as I'd always dreamed it would be. The Contax is with me all the time. The other day, I had to go into Brussels for a couple of hours, and when I realised I'd forgotten the Contax, I felt genuinely weird. Later, on the station platform, there were buildings coming out of the fog, a silver train, and a man looking at his shoes, all in a line. I looked on sadly.

I often use a Pentax 6x7 as well. It's another wonderful camera. Or rather, it has wonderful lenses. My Pentax body is falling to pieces. I almost always shoot everything on Kodak Portra. The new emulsions are awfully good.

What is your background in photography? How did you get into it?

My neighbour's boyfriend gave me a little 110 Kodak Brownie when I was about four or five. He was a mechanic, and it had a Ford logo and the name of the garage printed on it. After that, I don't remember stopping taking pictures as a kid. A few years later, I found my parents' old Zenit and started using that. My aunt and uncle were always interested in photography, and they taught me a lot. My uncle had a darkroom and showed me how to develop film and print. I kept taking pictures. They were never good. I was a kid, and I'd never much looked at pictures, somehow. I just liked taking them. When I was about twelve, I saved up to buy a little Russian medium format TLR. I took a lot of pictures with that, and with my uncle's Seagull that replaced it a couple of years later. And then, for some reason, I stopped. I suppose I lost interest. For a long time, I didn't take any photographs. Then, about five years ago, lots of things fell apart. And all I wanted to do was to take pictures. So I started again. And I started looking at as many photographs as I could. And since then, I haven't stopped.

What is your working process? Are your shots planned or spontaneous?

I walk around with a camera, and that's pretty much all. There have been a few times when I've seen something I wanted to photograph, but the light wasn't right, or something else was wrong, so I went back later. That's as close as I've ever come to planning. That's not a deliberate strategy exactly. Sometimes, I'd benefit from more planning. But I like spontaneity and surprise in the process, and some kind of discovery. I could probably take better looking photographs if I put more work into constructing them, but I'd rather limit my involvement. That thing that Tod Papageorge said about the inadequacy of imagination in comparison to the mad, swirling possibilities of the world – that sounds right.

A lot of your Photos have quite a minimal feel to them, is that something that you consciously look for?

Not consciously, no. Consciously, I really thought I was looking for complexity. But you're right! I guess I just keep failing. Minimalism is the kind of thing I'm naturally drawn to, admittedly. I like flat, blank spaces. If I could take a good picture of a white wall, I'd probably be happy. My problem with minimalism, though, is that if you actually want to produce something minimal, it's kind of easy, and it ends up being a cheap gimmick. And then it gets boring very quickly. So, I think, if what I'm looking for is complexity, and I fail, and end up with something minimal, that's pretty okay. At least there can be some tension there. Maybe it can work like that and not get boring. I hope so.

Who or what inspires you?

Honestly, it's a kind of panic. I really feel I have to save everything. I can't let things just go. It's completely stupid, but it's like trying to save the world. That's how it feels. If I see things line up in some way that works and I don't have a camera, I'll just stop and stare. It genuinely hurts if I let some little constellation of objects disappear.

But that's only one side of it: I take useless pictures if I don't look at other people's. I seriously love Takashi Homma. And Shomei Tomatsu was a huge influence on me. He was the first photographer whose work took my breath away. Doug DuBois has been important to me, although I'm not sure that influence is very apparent. And then there's Flickr and Tumblr. I think Flickr might be the most significant thing to happen to art photography so far this century. People denigrate it, but they shouldn't. Art develops in a context, and Flickr and Tumblr make a huge, aggregated context accessible. You can spend hours looking at great, new work every day. Access to that amount of work wasn't available before, unless you were one of the more important gallerists or curators. And there is some incredible work on Flickr (and Tumblr): Jeremy O'Sullivan, Mick van de Wiel, Andrés V, Thomas Albdorf, Alex Cretey-Systermans, Xiaopeng Yuan. Then there's my friend Neta Dror: we take very different kinds of pictures, but seem to understand each other's work. We critique each other, and that's good for inspiration.

Are you working on any kind of project at the moment?

Yes! There's a project called because, which I've been working on for about a year. The best work I've ever done is coming out of that project. There is a concept behind it, but if I try to talk about it I just sound obnoxious. So I'm going to keep quiet.


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