Our LDNER this week is pretty handy with a camera. Using photography and photomontage he searches for his lost childhood and explores the relationships that exist in the family unit…meet Jonny Briggs.
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
At the moment, I’m living in Jersey as part of a 6 month artist residency – Archisle – so I’m visiting London intermittently until October. Before the residency, I lived in Carshalton, zone 5 in south London. I love the nature in the area; The Ecology Centre, Wilderness Island (a nature reserve on an island), the lavender fields where you can pick your own, a Watermill, The Honeywood Museum of Carshalton, and historic buildings, well maintained. I lived on the park and would go there each day to feed the squirrels, who I’m almost certain they started to recognise me, because each time I’d visit the park they would come scampering up to me, sometimes climbing up my legs. It feels like a village in Carshalton, and the personality of the area is like none other that I’ve encountered in London.
Your work explores themes of childhood and family, why did you choose photography as the medium for this?
My interest in photography interestingly comes from a dislike in the medium. When I was younger I used to struggle with having my photograph taken. I found the family photograph staged and performative, having to stand in a particular way, adopt a certain facial expression. I found family difficulties were muted, censored and masked in the family photos. The photographs I make now feel like a role reversal of the family photograph. Now I’m behind the lens making the decisions.
Photography is in an interesting place where there is much mistrust in the medium; if something is remotely peculiar, we assume it to be digitally manipulated or photoshopped. I find this a preconception to play with, to suspend disbelief and blur the boundary between what’s real and what’s not. This takes me to the childhood mindset of not knowing what’s real and what’s fantasy, and on the other hand conjures daunting contemporary political discourse of post truth and alternative facts; questioning our conditioning and those who may be conditioning us. I’m exploring the constructed reality of conditioning through the constructed reality of photography.
Montage features heavily in your photography – what techniques do you use to achieve this?
Although many of the scenes may appear to be photoshopped, upon closer inspection they are revealed to be more real than easily assumed. A lot of care goes in to creating these scenes, which remind me of the unhinged feeling of open possibility when experiencing a magic trick. Some works, such as My Blood, Comfort Object and Envisionaries series, involve physical photomontage. I like to use photomontage to blur one thing with another or to bring two different ways of seeing together. This reminds me of my father and I, who although flesh and blood, think in such different ways.
What’s been your favourite from the exhibitions you’ve been involved in?
My favourite exhibition I’ve been involved in so far is a solo show at Photoforum Pasquart Museum in Switzerland, which recently closed on 23rd April, together with solo shows by Salvatore Vitale, Delphine Reist and Guillermo Kutca. The director, Nadine Wietlisbach was a joy to work with, involving lots of coffee, laughter, and play in placing the work. This was the largest space I’ve worked with on a solo show before, and had 3 rooms, different in character, and a corridor. This allowed Nadine and I to be even more playful with the display of the works, and juxtapose both new and older works together. How I display the works often changes each exhibition, as I like to see how their context changes them. I loved showing with Salvatore Vitale too, who had a solo show on the same floor. We’re both approaching a similar subject, yet through such different perspectives.
Diversion of Interest, 2016
Describe your perfect day in London.
My perfect day in London would be with my partner and friends. We’d feed the squirrels in Carshalton Ponds, go for breakfast at Attendant in Marylebone, where a public toilet has been converted in to a cafe. We’d go for coffee on the sofas at God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, where a warehouse has been filled with a labyrinth of neon lights of every kind. We’d watch a performance on The Puppet Barge in Maida Vale, where a barge has been converted in to a puppet theatre with tiered seats, stage and all. The performers also live on the boat! We’d then have lunch at Hazev, on the water in Canary Wharf who do incredible mezes. We’d ride over to see the llamas at Mudchute City Farm on the front of the 80s space roller coaster-esque vessel, the DLR. We’d go to Tate Britain and Tate Modern on the river cruiser, walk along the South Bank up to Soho to enjoy a dinner in the Secret Tea Rooms, above the Coach and Horses. We’d finally finish meditating with the Brahma Kumaris at Inner Space in Covent Garden.