Today we talk to Photographer, Poet, Artist & Co-Director at the Vortex Gallery Rosa Lucy about her recent exhibition “Tales of a Town”
Hi there Rosa first off thanks for your time I know you’re a busy woman. So tell us about yourself where are you from what’s your story? Where did your interest in photography begin?
I grew up in Huddersfield. Recently, I’ve lived elsewhere, but this town is very special to me so I always come back. There’s an amazing community here that, over the years, has inspired me to pursue what I’m passionate about. And I’m lucky for that. I feel like Huddersfield is a place where you can create; you have the space, the time and the encouragement from the people around you.
My main background is in writing, I’ve studied this through to Master’s level but I think my writing has always been in dialogue with photography. When I write, I’m wanting to reach some kind of truth or offer a new perspective in some way and I think with the combination of the word with a photograph or image, you are able to reach an even deeper truth than either form can do alone. I write in snapshots. I use photographs within texts, I draw pictures, I’m trying to make the reader see what I see but also piece their own version of the work out of what I create. I’ve always been interested in minute detail, and so discovering the close up, photographing the mundane and everyday, has great appeal to me. I like to find poetry in the detail.
Tell us a little about your work for this exhibition. What’s the theme/concept?
Huddersfield has so much going on. I’ve lived in other places and when you mention this town, nobody knows where you’re talking about, or if they do, they don’t think there’s much happening and they laugh at you when you disagree. I know I’m probably biased, but I genuinely think the creative scene is the best I’ve encountered. There’s just so much talent… musicians, writers, artists, talent of character and attitude, etc., etc. And I feel like there’s no ego to this talent. People are just getting on with creating and don’t care if they’re being recognised or not. They perform for their friends, they share, create something new. It’s a really organic process. An interesting metaphor for this was actually brought up in one of my interviews with Elliot Nichols. He likened the process of creating here, to the Buddhist act of drawing mandalas in gravel: the process being an end in itself, to be present in the moment, to make something beautiful.
On recently moving back, I had the idea for Tales of a Town because I wanted to document some of this passion. I spent three weeks meeting with people I know and don’t know in the town. Mostly I’ve been speaking with people who are part of a creative scene, asking them questions like: What is your creative process? What would you like to do next? What’s your philosophy on life? What have you learnt? All that kind of thing! When I started, the questions were more rigid, but I found that the best dialogues came from a genuine conversation, getting people to talk about their passions and giving them an ear to listen. It was overwhelming how much people open up to you when you ask about their interests and, I guess as I’m into art myself, I talked with a lot of people who have been working on something artistic. Not everybody, though. But I do think, to be living artistically doesn’t necessarily mean to be pursuing a career in art, it can be about how you live day to day, how you think, how you act towards others: art is merely a form expression. I took a portrait photo of each individual and displayed these with the text at the Media Centre.
And the theme? What it is to be human. The struggles we have. The difficulties in motivating yourself if you’ve chosen to be an artist. The different systems of thought we apply to help us get through life.
Do you retouch your photos or are you a naturalist?
I’d say I’m a naturalist, but I guess this isn’t exactly by choice. If I’m honest I’m not a very skilled photographer! I know the sense of what I’d like to capture, I’m wanting to portray an aspect of the character in the image, but I don’t have much training in the technicalities of taking pictures, so I don’t feel like I have the skills to retouch. Saying that, I am learning as I go along, I know how to do certain things, but I wouldn’t be able to describe them. I like being a naturalist, though; I like the raw effect of displaying the image from the moment it was made.
In the age of smart phones and Instagram, can anyone be a photographer?
I’m a pretty firm believer that anybody can be an artist in general. I believe that everybody has a story they can tell and everybody has the drive to create. It’s human. I do think, then, that anybody can be a photographer. There are different types, of course. But I think the more you are looking for something to photograph, the more you practice, and find your signature ‘eye’, then your practice can only get better. You don’t have to have all the gear, you just have to be inspired and be attuned to the world around you. I guess photography is like writing in the way that you are capturing and deciphering the world. I like the sensory quality of adding effects on Instagram and Smart phones. I am more of a fan of the raw picture, but I do think that using effects has it’s own skill, definitely. We all perceive through our individual eye, so being able to capture this way of seeing and to display it is pretty amazing.
When and how did you find your style?
I’ve been taking photographs since I can remember. My practice is very similar to my writing practice in that I like to decipher the unexpected or unnoticed. So, with the camera, I’ll usually focus on details people wouldn’t usually take photos of. To link this with Tales of a Town: through fairly simple means (a portrait photo), I wanted to display character. In a background, in a facial expression, a hand gesture. These little details inspire me and I guess it’s these details that create my style. This is still an ongoing process for me though, I’m still learning.
You’re a multi skilled artist aren’t you? I know of your spoken word/ poetry work but what other media you create art with? Why do you choose to cross artistic platforms?
I’m a passionate writer and I’ve spent so long working with simply the page and the written word. Being at uni, I was constantly inspired, but I thought it was a shame that the conversations were happening in a classroom, stuck in those four walls and not really connecting with the world outside. University writing circles can be quite specialised, sitting inside their own niche and so, I like the idea of finding different means to bridge this gap. I’ve used different art forms for this. As the world is shifting at a rapid pace, it’s almost impossible to be creating under one header anyway. So I find the best way to connect with wider audiences is to cross platforms in art, use spoken word, use music, use text, use images. These different styles create a kind of collage effect. All attempts of articulating things I feel passionate about. I’ve worked with paints and calligraphy, too. In the coming future I’d love to expand my writing practice with music, possibly ambient works.
The Tales of a Town project taught me a lot about how to use art in order to inspire. It was very much a community-based project and opened up conversations or debates to an extent that I wasn’t expecting. Standing back on the day of the exhibition, I saw people really engaging with what was said in the interviews and speaking about it with each other. There’s an interesting effect having all these ideas pasted up on the wall, like a one sided conversation the viewer can develop their opinion on and I hope some new perspectives were ignited. The exhibition took place as part of Onwards festival. This was an incredible day run by Sam Hodgson and Noah Burton, combining music, art and poetry across many venues in Huddersfield. The people who came seemed to have a great interest in the work and, seeing this, made me feel good about it. I’m actually carrying on with it! I’d like to engage with a wider group, people who I’ve never met and know nothing about. As I said, everybody has a story, and I’d like to show a snapshot of these!
If there were one thing, one message, that you wanted the exhibition to get across to our readers today, what would it be?
We’re all human. We all have our struggles and we’re all dealing with our shit in different ways. It isn’t easy. But you have to do what you love, and be kind. Be open.
You’re also the Co-Director at the Vortex Gallery can you tell us a little bit about that space what kind of events happen there, who have you hosted?
Yes… I love the space! And I love working with Josh, John and Claire. Vortex is sort of a blank canvas. It’s a space where we want to encourage experimentation, encourage community and collaboration. Our events are open to all and we like to think of them as warm and welcoming to new people. Our most regular night is called VIBE; this is a night of many things! Usually there will be some spoken word, music, art, potentially dance, improv theatre, film installations… The list goes on. Personally, I want to inspire people. I want to make people feel like they could create anything they want, think new things, and feel like they have a place in the community in Huddersfield. This idea of inspiration is important. The world’s in a pretty difficult place at the moment and I’ve been brought up to think that change starts small. The energy that people bring to all of our events is something else. It sounds strange to say but it kind of restores my faith in humanity. People are sharing what they’ve created, they are open to whatever we put on stage (however weird!) and they’re really connecting with each other. Which is key. All of our events have the same kind of ethos, too.
We’ve hosted so many talented performers, some great names on the poetry scene in the North such as: Rose Condo, Geneveive Carver, Geneveive Walsh, David Jarman, Lisa Luxx, Lucy Hamilton… musicians such as Thabo Mkwananzi, Emmanuel Allert, Jonas Lapinas, The Suitcase Dwellers, Band of Jays, Art Neilson, Sabira Jade… the list goes on! We’ve had Kerim Keezy Peerthy and Luke Mackley showing some dance skills and Sameena Hussain silencing and engaging the room with her improvised theatre: fusing and questioning Eastern and Western forms of expression within her practice. I know I’m missing some amazing people too. As I say, we’re never short of talent in Huddersfield. We have an event coming up on 20th October where we will have electronic sets from My Pleasure, James Wood and Chris Ruffoni and then, on 3rd November, we will some artists called Rob Miles and Alice Gauthier coming all the way from Paris to present an exhibition of their artwork and perform their music. And… we’ll be having a Christmas disco with Crooks and Claridge in December, which I’m very excited about. I’m sure it will be wonderfully weird.
I hear the exhibition will be receiving another showing, when & where will that take place?
The exhibition will be moving over to Northern Quarter… This is for the reopening of the bar where Wood Street used to be! We are still confirming a date, but I think it will be the final weekend in November.
If you could travel back in time and meet a 10 year old Rosa Lucy, what piece of advice would you give her?
Believe in yourself, have confidence in what you’re doing, don’t always care about what other people think, continue your passions… you’re on a journey and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Have fun with it… And having an interest is cool, it’s not nerdy.
How can people find out more about the exhibition and the other projects you work on, any web or social media links?
Vortex Gallery: https://www.facebook.com/vortexgallery/
Also, Tales of a Town will be on WordPress in the coming months! It will be under: talesofatown.