Harry Layzell

Where are you from/based now?

I’m originally from Bradford, West Yorkshire. I currently live in Nottingham.

What is your background in photography? What got you started?

I was first introduced to photography through punk and hardcore music and photographs found in records, from there I was introduced to photographers like Glen E. Friedman and I started getting interested in photography. Growing up in Bradford, I was really lucky to have the Media Museum so close to me and an exhibition of Don McCullin’s work was a major turning point that helped shape the work I produce today.

What equipment do you use?

I currently use a Contax T2, Lomo LC-A+ and a Mamiya 7ii. I have a few more cameras, but these are the three I have on regular rotation.

What are your views on film vs digital?

Digital works really well for some people, but not for me. One of the reasons my work has the aesthetic it has is due to shooting exclusively on film. If I used digital cameras I would have probably tried to correct a lot of the ‘mistakes’ that appear in my work, but they’re the parts of my work I really get excited about. With film I just have to trust myself and my equipment and move on - I can’t shoot and shoot until I get exactly what I wanted as I would be able to with digital and this restriction has helped shape my work greatly. I don’t have a problem with people shooting digital, but I find shooting on digital counter productive.

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

The majority of my work is created as a reaction to something so I don’t really plan any photographs I take. My approach is very much to record the world that’s presented before me so I try to keep the planning to a minimum; I like to shoot how I feel something should be shot at the time based on feelings and instinct. The photographs I take when doing this, I feel, are always the more successful ones.

Could you tell us a bit about your 'better' series and photo-'zine.

‘Better’ was a project I created for an exhibition in Nottingham and one later in London. I was exhibiting as part of festivals and my work was being showcased alongside lots of other people’s. All the work that was being produced was aiming towards a final product that would be seen as fit for exhibition, so I focused on the process of creating work rather than an actual end result. I presented hundreds of images in the shape of contact sheets on the wall with my chinagraph markings all over them, this was to show my approach and the process behind my photographic work. There’s so much effort and time that goes into producing any body of work that sometimes I think it’s a shame when months and months of work ends up summarised with only a handful of images and the rest are never seen. Why not? Why are we only shown a few images? Are they somehow more important than the hundreds of other images created in the process? All the photographs I took during the project served a purpose – they gave a deeper insight and understanding into my methods and approach, so it seemed contradictory to edit any of them out of the final presentation.
The photo-‘zine accompaniment was to serve as an example of what, if any, shape the body of work could eventually take. The photographs I included were ones that I felt were quite beautiful when viewed in solitude and large enough for all the details to be acknowledged. I didn’t want it to feel like that’s what the whole project was leading up to - I really wanted the focus to be on the contact sheets, so I intentionally made the selection so that there’s little that holds or links the images together within the ‘zine other than the physical form of the book.

Who or what inspires you?

One of my main sources of inspiration and motivation comes from seeing and discussing photographic work with people. I’m lucky to have a few close friends who are in similar situations to me, they’re insights and practices help to shape mine. Andy Jones is someone who I’ve had this relationship with for years.

Are you working on a project at the moment? What does the future old for your work?

I’m not working on anything in particular at the moment, though I do continue to constantly take photographs. I’m currently doing research that will lead to a project in the future which will focus on Christian beliefs and imagery, the majority of the images will be made in Jerusalem. Hopefully.

What drives you to keep taking pictures?

I have a very ordinary life. For me, photography is a way of making it interesting and beautiful. It helps me appreciate everything.

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