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John Duder has been chatting to 1 of 4 members of the photographic collective WIDEYED to learn more about their interesting work which includes international exhibitions such as Agri[culture] all about the North Pennines' farming community.

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What you see approaching the front left of the Agri[Culture] trailer. The collective have made cunning use of the design to display pictures, describe them, and generally integrate the images with an appropriate ‘gallery’.

What you see approaching the front left of the Agri[Culture] trailer. The collective has made cunning use of the design to display pictures, describe them, and generally integrate the images with an appropriate ‘gallery’.

 

WIDEYED is a photographic collective, and their latest output is a touring show about the farming community in the North Pennines - Agri[culture]. I found them at the Wolsingham Show in early September, and caught up with one of the four members, Louise Taylor, for an interview a few days later.

 

Tell me about the group behind Agri[culture]

"WIDEYED have been going for eleven years now as a collective - there are four of us, (Lucy Carolan, Richard Glynn, Nat Wilkins, Louise Taylor), we live in the North East of England and we're a constituted not for profit group. It can be isolating working on your own, but the benefit of working together is that we can support each other and we also share some equipment, things that it would be a bit expensive to buy on your own, like an old neg scanner, hanging systems for galleries etc."

 

1 The WIDEYED group, tolerantly posing with ‘your correspondent’ – contrary to rumour, I got up without needing to accept the help that was offered. From left to right, Louise Taylor, Nat Wilkins, Lucy Carolan and Richard Glynn. © Moira Wooldridge.

The WIDEYED group, tolerantly posing with 'your correspondent' - contrary to rumour, I got up without needing to accept the help that was offered. From left to right, Louise Taylor, Nat Wilkins, Lucy Carolan and Richard Glynn. © Moira Wooldridge.

 

"We’ve worked on commissions, done residencies and exhibited internationally. We’ve worked with other artists and photographers around the world: the connections made often transfer into exhibition opportunities and spin-off projects.

We really love putting on exhibitions in challenging or unusual public spaces - we often exhibit outside, like Agri[culture], using an agricultural trailer as a gallery. There have been some challenges, but bringing the work to the public is just quite exciting! Potentially, we’re reaching an audience that wouldn’t come into a gallery."

 

What's Agri[culture] about?

"In its most basic sense, we’re celebrating the long-lasting culture of agricultural shows, in the North Pennines, where we live. It’s a culture that’s been around for hundreds of years. In fact, the archive photos we’ve collected as part of the project - some of those shows don’t exist any more - so, if farming changes in the future - Post-Brexit, even – would that change the face of agricultural shows?"

"We’re documenting something that might be on the cusp of change..." Louise Taylor.

 

2 Wolsingham Show. © Louise Taylor.

Wolsingham Show. © Louise Taylor.

 

One of my great regrets is that I haven’t photographed just the streets of the places I’ve lived, because they’re different now.

"It’s really important, but I’m not sure that people understand that value right now."

 

Please tell me what you mean by reportage, and how it differs from news photography?

"'Reportage', 'documentary photographer', 'socially engaged photographer', I think they’re all different words that mean the same thing. I just enjoy photographing what’s in front of me. Plus, unless you’re very lucky, you tend to be doing it for free, self-initiated."

 

3 Richard ready to welcome the next viewer inside – once you’ve been all the way round the outside of the trailer, the inside invites you to see more…

Richard ready to welcome the next viewer inside - once you’ve been all the way around the outside of the trailer, the inside invites you to see more...

 

What gives you the most satisfaction about a project?

"Any project where we’re bringing it to the public is exciting. The people that you meet, the conversations that you have... it's 'the big unknown'. In a gallery, you’ve generally got people who are familiar with going to galleries and they know how to navigate the space, read the text etc."

 

What are the problems that you face doing this sort of reportage?

"Generally, all problems are overcome with time and patience. On this project, we’ve been communicating with lots of different show committees, and so any problems are just communication and getting a response. I say 'just communication' but we've dealt with a number of different committees, all volunteers and if they don't immediately understand what it is that you’re asking them to do, it can be a challenge. From the collective point of view, when we had the idea we weren’t as busy as we are now. We’ve been juggling members’ studies, family life, other work commitments and commissions... it’s quite a challenge, but, hey, that’s just life!"

 

4 Stanhope Show. © Lucy Carolan.

Stanhope Show. © Lucy Carolan.

 

Are there any special technical requirements for your pictures (I ask this on behalf of club photographers everywhere)?

"Personally, I wouldn’t say I am a specially technical photographer; It’s all about the moment for me. Obviously, within that moment, isolating that subject can be important in terms of depth of field, or capturing that moment in terms of shutter speed. However, I don’t worry about it too much but clearly, there are some considerations."

 

What ambitions does the group have for 2020?

"We haven’t actually had our meeting to debrief from this project yet! We are hoping to produce a legacy publication from this project so hopefully, that will come to fruition and we’ll keep our eyes open for new opportunities, spurred on by the good and the bad from this project. It could be a residency or it could just be two of us working together - we haven’t had the discussion. We all have our own lives and it doesn’t necessarily fit that there’ll be another thing straight away.

This project's taken quite a lot of time, and it’s not finished yet - there have been two versions of it exhibited in America where it was showcased at the University of Wyoming and the American printmaking and photography students made a response to our work. We’re going to exhibit their work alongside ours in Sunderland in October and we’re also exhibiting a version at Weardale WordFest, a writers festival at the end of October. There have been several add-ons happening as a result of this project; It has legs..."

 

5 Nat about to print off his portrait of me, ready to join the rogues’ gallery of visitors on the wall to his right, using a tiny Canon printer (on the grey box in the corner: courtesy of eBay). The middle row of images are copies of archive pictures of local agricultural shows over the years.

Nat about to print off his portrait of me, ready to join the rogues' gallery of visitors on the wall to his right, using a tiny Canon printer (on the grey box in the corner: courtesy of eBay). The middle row of images are copies of archive pictures of local agricultural shows over the years.

 

Implicit in doing this interview is that some ePHOTOzine members might pick up the idea and document something that they’re interested in?

"It’s a really good thing to do and even the editing session - we always make sure we have hard copy pictures for the editing session – is challenging but at the same time, it's a really good, supportive activity, editing hundreds and hundreds of photographs down to 40 that fit in a trailer. Most of our projects actually involve pictures on paper, in the real world."

 

Do you have any advice for would-be reportage photographers?

"Initially, it might be easier to document a subject that you’re familiar with, where you’ve got contacts, just to build up confidence. The thing that I do wrong is that I often don’t have an end-plan in mind, so I end up filling my address book with new friends, and no end project. For example, I took my dog on a pheasant shoot, did a project about pheasant shooting, and... I finished up photographing pheasants for five years. It did end up as an exhibition, and a book, but only because there was an exhibition call-out for that sort of theme.

Not everything is an exhibition, not everything is a book but, having an end-point focusses the mind, doesn’t it?"

 

 Langdon Beck Show. © Richard Glynn.

Langdon Beck Show. © Richard Glynn.

 

Sponsorship...

"The initial part of this project was self-financed. We did get some support from shows, in terms of giving us free entry tickets (to take pictures). This second phase was funded by an organisation called Northern Heartlands - they’re one of the Great Place Schemes in the UK. We’ve also got sponsorship in the form of the cattle trailer from a local farmer who has this farm shop (we did the interview in the rather lovely coffee shop at Bradley Burn Farm). Sponsorship needn't be in cash - find out who might be interested. Sometimes, a loan can be of enormous value, though, it has relatively little cost for the sponsor."

 

7 Art, and life – the four members of WIDEYED have different styles, from the pictorial to the gritty. As the trailer was parked next to the bar at Wolsingham show, passers-by were generally relaxed.

Art and life - the four members of WIDEYED have different styles, from the pictorial to the gritty. As the trailer was parked next to the bar at Wolsingham show, passers-by were generally relaxed.

 

I hope that this gives some inspiration to other ePHOTOzine members to record some of the everyday life around them, and to make contact with people in their own local community - possibly people they wouldn’t normally meet. It’s prompting me to do something about an idea that I had nearly 12 months ago - maybe more about that in a few month's time!

 

Another view of the travelling gallery.

Another view of the travelling gallery.

 

About Author: John Duder 

John Duder has been an amateur photographer for fifty years, which surprises him, as he still reckons he’s 17.

Over the last year or so, he’s been writing articles for ePHOTOzine, as well as being a member of the Critique Team. He’s also been running occasional lighting workshops and providing one-to-one photographic tuition.

He remains addicted to cameras, lenses, and film.

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