RCA Graduate Show: Best of Photography
Oliver Eglin in conversation with Chiara Bardelli Nonino
Vogue Italia, July 2016
Chiara Bardelli Nonino: Can you describe to me the project that was exhibited?
Oliver Eglin: The photographs I exhibited are actually a combination of two bodies of work. The first group of images were taken in Sicily and are the culmination of a survey I have been making of the island over the last few years, looking for the scars of human interventions into the natural landscape. One photograph in particular, Il Cavallo, was in a way the genesis for the work that followed; taking bullfighting as a backdrop I travelled to Spain and began photographing around Andalusia. Although different, both works share common themes in terms of the way I am looking at the landscape as a means discussing man’s physical imprint on the world. I wanted to study the power relationship between man and nature and the encroachment of architectural spaces on the natural realm.
CBN: When did you first get interested in photography and why did you choose it as your creative medium?
OE: I was making a lot of short films as a teenager and at some point I started experimenting with a stills camera to create animations. It was probably at this point that I fell into making photographs and in the ensuing years I forgot about animation and started making landscape pictures on a small digital camera. I have always been very curious about the world and photography was a vehicle for me to channel that curiosity into something more resolute. It has driven me to visit new places and I enjoy the quiet sense of focus that brings.
CBN: Where do you get your inspiration, how do you find the story you want to portray?
OE: Prose and cinema are particularly important influences in the aesthetic of my work, I feel my images have a distinctly cinematic feel to them and that has become more conscious in my most recent series. It is important for me to keep an active eye; I collect artist books, I frequent galleries and exhibitions and when I can, I travel. Inspiration comes in many forms; I am constantly engaged with my surroundings and usually ideas come about through a fascination with something remote or unfamiliar. I will research around a subject first before engaging with it in a more direct way, finding a direction from which to approach it and then creating the physical work primarily through intuition. I often find that it is only in the process of editing or printing the work that I actually come to understand what it is exactly that I want to portray.
CBN: Which photographers’ work do you admire?
OE: My influences develop over time as I find new directions for my work. It was only recently for example that I saw a show of Cy Twombly’s photographs at Gagosian gallery here in London. I was very moved by the tranquilly of these images; he had the ability to turn the contents of a fruit bowl into something quite otherworldy. I often find myself drifting toward or away from different artists at different times, but the likes of William Eggleston, Paul Graham and Hiroshi Sugimoto remain constant sources of inspiration.
CBN: To what degree have your studies and upbringing influenced the way you take pictures?
OE: Although I was born in Wales I grew up in the north of England and I think consequently I always had this sense of being something of an outsider. That is a feeling that I like to cultivate with my photography; my gaze is often drawn toward an exotic or unfamiliar terrain and I feel I have quite a distanced viewpoint of the the world. The welsh side of my family are from a very rural part of the Brecon Beacons and consequently the schooling I received from both my mother and grandfather was one very focused on an understanding and respect for the natural world, which is reflected in the subject matter I take on in my work. From my father I learned to draw and this gave me a consideration for line and form, as well as a certain patience in the construction of an image. Graduating at the Royal College of Art I feel has given a greater focus to my practice and it has been inspiring to spend two years in such a creative and nurturing environment. My work has developed from a technical perspective, however I feel the opportunity to meet a likeminded and considered peer group has been most invaluable to me at this stage of my career.
CBN: How did your “way of seeing” change from the beginning of your career to now?
OE: This is an interesting proposition because I am not sure it has changed all that much. In my early work I was quite influenced by the Dusseldorf school and there was this frontality to my photographs which paralleled their approach. However lately I have moved away from this aesthetic and my fascination with the world is really the only constant in my work. I have no interest in the notion of an irreducible image; the idea dictates the aesthetic of my work and not the other way around.