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City Gaps

In conversation with Shira Gutgold

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a London-based fine art photographer. I work on concept-led photography projects using a mainly analogue process. I split my time between working on my photography projects and doing freelance work to finance them.

What’s your story?

I got into photography by chance – I wasn’t really interested in art when I was younger. Then when I was eighteen, I borrowed my dad’s Pentax K1000 for a trip and I have remained behind the lens ever since. He never got his camera back.

What kind of art are you interested in?

I’ve been inspired by many different artists along the way. Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott, Francis Bacon, William Eggleston, the Dusseldorf gang, Antony Gormley… these are just a few of those who helped me shape my practice.

I suppose I am interested in any work that leaves some sort of trace; a feeling or a thought that stays with me and prompts me to consider new ideas. The work of the artists I listed above also share an inherent integrity in that they weren’t following trends. They took their own paths.

Likewise, I try to create work that leaves a trace and triggers an in-depth conversation with viewers, projects that are concept-led. They tend to start with a question that’s been tossing around in my mind, I research it and the work evolves from there. The feedback I enjoy most is when people come up and offer their own thoughts rather than just tell me that they “like the pictures”.

Tell us about City Gaps.

City Gaps is one of several projects that explore the way our urban spaces are divided and designated for specific uses – residence, business, leisure etc. In this series I looked at the gaps between these spaces. There is an uneasiness about them, as if the city is exposing its insides revealing the battleground between the ‘civilised’ and the ‘wild’. You cannot help but feel that this is a temporary state, that these spaces will not be allowed to remain as they are for very long. Soon, the city will absorb them and close up the gaps.

What was your motivation behind making the work?

Having lived in cities all my life, I’ve always been interested in the solutions society has had to come up with to enable so many people to share limited space. The solutions we have developed are clearly designed to accommodate human behaviour, but at the same time they dictate and alter it. I wanted to pause and reflect on this relationship with our environment, as we continue to shape it.

What are you working on next?

About three years ago, at the start of a new project I had been planning for some time, I had a little ‘moment of truth’. It was brought about by the changes to the medium and to the way we consume and produce images, and I felt I had to stop and consider these changes and their effect on my work.

As a result I abandoned my original project and my work has since focused on the medium itself and its evolving relationship with memory. I’ve spent the majority of the last three years working on a project that explores those themes. It’s my biggest project to date. It’s reaching its final stages so I hope to share it in the next year or so.

I have also accidentally started another project some months ago which has me carrying a mannequin around London. You can see images from this project on my Instagram.

Recommend us something.

I keep going back to Neil Gaiman’s books, just to make sure that my grip on reality remains loose enough.

Tell us about a piece of art that has influenced you.

So many to choose from. Music plays a big part in my work and I rarely do any photographing or editing without it, and I’ve been influenced by numerous artworks at different stages of my career.

If I have to choose one work though, it has to be the film Hana-Bi (“Fireworks”) by Takeshi Kitano. I watched it for the first time as a first-year photography student and it nearly made me quit photography. I remember having my camera with me in the cinema and looking down at it thinking “I’m going to have to sell that”. I felt that there was no way I could ever reach that level of visual work.

I obviously didn’t quit though. I suppose it’s good to have something to aspire to.

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