PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBIN CRACKNELL
My work is about illumination and disintegration, ‘touching, not mastering’. I use broken cameras and found materials and, as often as possible, allow ‘chance’ and accident to make the major decisions.
Born in India and raised in America, Robin Cracknell currently lives and works in London, England. He has been widely exhibited with solo shows both in London and New York. A selection of his notebooks feature in Thames and Hudson’s ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks’ and his ‘Childhood’ series features in their 2016 publication, ‘Family Photography Now’. His photographs are in various public collections including the National Portrait Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Fundació Sorigué, a museum of contemporary art in Lleida, Spain.
Please tell us about the painting/print/sculpture/artwork? (edit as applicable) featured in your 1st image.
‘Beyond’ is a piece of work from a project I began in 2015 called ‘Weight, the Sea’. I often incorporate natural debris like dust and hair when printing photographs and this image is a bit of film wrapped in a strand of the sitter’s hair. She was someone I loved briefly and the length of that strand of hair and the references to the sea echo the distance between us at the time and, I suppose, the fragility of our connection.
What influenced you for this particular painting/print/sculpture/artwork?
It’s difficult to explain what specifically influences the pictures we take but, in hindsight, I can see some similarities between the ‘Weight, the Sea’ series and Munch’s many ‘water’s edge’ paintings; ghostly lonely figures by the sea, yawning spaces around people seemingly locked in their own world. Also the worn textures of his prints and paintings, the blurriness of his figures … there is so much to Munch that I admire and feel I must learn from.
How long was the process from the idea to the finished painting/print/sculpture/artwork?
With collage, it’s impossible to quantify how and when exactly a piece begins and ends. Every element has a life of its own. I have fragments of prints littering every surface of my studio and boxes and trays of found materials pushed into every corner. How, when and why those disparate elements find each other is a sort of mystery but that is the challenge – to stitch something beautiful, something coherent, something meaningful from this chaos of hoarded material. I once noticed a chapter heading in a Physics textbook which read ‘How do Particles Adhere?’ and thought it a perfect metaphor for how we’re all trying to create some sense of meaning and wholeness from, seemingly, nothing.
Apart from the piece featured above, are you working on anything else exciting that you can talk about currently?
Although it seems like a departure from photography, something I’ve been working on for the last few years is actually, to me, very connected to photography; I’m writing poetry using subtitle fragments from foreign cinema. I extract the subtitle file from a random foreign movie, shuffle the dialogue randomly via an algorithm, and allow ‘chance’ to effectively rewrite the narrative. All context is stripped away, of course, so we are left with a column of dada-esque sentence fragments which, read as poetry, can be remarkably layered and poignant. I compare it to photography in that it shows how much beauty and meaning lurk around us disguised as something else, often buried under something else, often simply not noticed. I think photography is a sort of excavation and this sort of writing, dismantling an existing story and twisting it into our own, is not unlike the way we photograph the world, making it our’s.
If you went back in time and could give advice to your younger self what would it be?
I would say ‘Hang on’. Hang on, brother. Hang on. Being an artist is lonely, so much self-doubt, so much rejection. People, perhaps well-meaning, will encourage you to do something else, shame you into a life of stability, something less self-serving, self-indulgent. ‘No one wants your shitty pictures’ will be the voice in your head. You’ll find yourself defending your choices, apologising for them. You’ll feel like a failure. Your own children, quietly, may feel you are. But please do not bend under this weight. One day you’ll see all the lives you’ve touched and how your work, if only fleetingly, has lifted them. What has felt like decades of pointless, thankless labour has actually been lifting you all along. The view from the mountaintop is indescribable and worth the wait/weight.
Are prints available of your work, and if so where can they be viewed or purchased?
People can contact Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in NYC for my ‘childhood’ prints. For anything else, they can contact me directly.
Where can people find out more about what you, purchase your work, and what’s the best way to get in touch?
My website is www.robincracknell.com