EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHERS BEHIND THE EXHIBITION
Michael Mackenzie and Charlotte de Quatrebarbes are two Portsmouth photographers with a mutual interest in conceptual photography which gave them the idea of organising an exhibition together, in order to show Portsmouth in an original and abstract angle, as they like to see it through their viewfinders.
Pieces of Portsmouth which opens on the 5th October will gather a selection of photos they recently shot around the city, while seeking for unseen ways of loving Portsmouth and enhancing the beauty of the day-to-day environment. The exhibition will take place in The Teatray, a hub of the local street-art scene and a perfect place to celebrate the artistic potential of our Island City. The exhibition runs from the 5th to the 14th of October with a preview evening on the 5th.
All the benefits of the exhibition will be donated to the Life House, a local charity whose aim is to help homeless people in Portsmouth. The Life House is a resource, support centre and kitchen that serves hot food in Albert Road. It would be a great success if these photographs of the streets of Portsmouth could, in some way, help those in need that unfortunately know them a bit too well.
We caught up with Mike and Charlotte to find out more about their work and the exhibition.
…in order to show Portsmouth in an original and abstract angle, as they like to see it through their viewfinders
Not only was I able to pay more attention to the nice details of my surroundings, but also, I started to physically move more to explore new spots…
Can you give us a little background on how you two got in to photography?
Charlotte: I have always been interested in photography, I am a compulsive traveller and taking photos of my trips have always delighted me. Bright colours and clear-cut shadows started to especially catch my interest when I was living in Madrid. The light there never stops amazing me. I think this is where I started to wander with my camera.
But photography genuinely started to become an essential part of my daily life about six years ago. I was in Paris, working (a lot) in a stressful environment, hours spent in awful traffic-jams and in the confinement of my office’s four walls. I realised how frustrating it was to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world without having the opportunity to fully appreciate its wonders. One day, I decided it was only a matter of state of mind, as in reality, beauty is everywhere, even in the simplest things. I merely had to open my mind to it. I started to take, every day, at least one photo of something I found lovely, with my mobile phone. Day by day, I trained my eye to seek for beauty and my views of my dull routine became much more optimistic. Not only was I able to pay more attention to the nice details of my surroundings, but also, I started to physically move more to explore new spots.
This is when I started to publish my photos in a blog, in a very informal way, just like some blinks of my eye I wanted to share with my family and friends.
After that, my life changed drastically as we moved to the UK, three years ago. I was discovering a totally new country and everything became an excuse for a photo. It also corresponded with a moment in my life when I really needed to make it definitely more creative, a survival issue should I say, and I started to seriously and concretely work on it. I kept rigorously taking photos, trying to train myself thanks to the Internet, while I was studying a master in Manchester in creative advertising with half of it focusing in art direction and creative thinking techniques. Both online and offline trainings provided me good basis to improve my photography skills.
When we moved in Portsmouth, in January 2016, I was still mainly using my phone to take my photos, mostly enjoying by playing with compositions techniques. Then, I discovered the photowalkshops organised by Strong Island. I started to attend the ones I could and it was an authentic eye-opener. Paul Gonella taught me exactly and in a simple way what I needed to know to have even more fun with my camera and to be able to take my own creative decisions with my photos, not only composition-wise. I really think my work is much better now thanks to him, even though there is still a huge room for improvement!
Michael: Being a visual person with a background in art & design, collecting images has always been an interest of mine. Until recently I only ever had access to point-and-shoot pocket cameras. 2-3 years ago I was extremely fortunate to have been given a Canon 60D which, with the help of the Strong Island Photowalkshops, I soon learnt what it was capable of!
This opened up new opportunities to me. I have since won a few local and national photography competitions, been asked to take photos for websites and print publications, and even had a few images exhibited at the Aspex Gallery.
What inspired the exhibition?
We met in the Strong Island 4-session Photowalkshop organised last year around the HMS M33 at the Historic Dockyard. We followed each other on Instagram since then and realised, whereas our photos are always different and having totally different backgrounds, our style, or maybe would it be more accurate to talk about our aesthetic interests, was rather similar. Both of us like to shoot conceptual and abstract photos, trying to find original angles of view and are almost obsessed by the image’s composition.
We reckoned it would be interesting to work in a project together: by gathering some of our photos and exhibiting them together, we are aiming to create a new harmony that could not have happened individually. Like the combination of two instruments playing in a common melody.
What can we be expected to see on show?
We are featuring ten conceptual photos each. They all are recently taken all around Portsmouth. By playing with textures, colours, light, we will try to make you discover the wonders of our Island City as we see them, in an original and maybe unseen way.
Each photo is available for sale in an exclusive 20 limited original editions, signed and numbered by its corresponding artist. All the profits will be donated to the Life House, a charity that aims to help homeless people in Portsmouth.
I love the range diversity we have here in Portsmouth. From calm beaches and busy harbours, to a bustling city centre with varied architecture…
What are your favourite places to photograph in the city? What landmarks or places inspire your photography?
Charlotte: As being practically insanely obsessive with light, I always enjoy myself in the seafront, which has different colours and atmosphere every time. And it is large enough to provide an infinite possibility of great images. I also had a couple of great sessions with the colourful little boats close to Milton Locks Natural Reserve.
The former city-dweller I am really wants to explore more in depth the city center potential and its brutalist architecture. I attended a brilliant photowalkshop there in last August and I would really like to go back with plenty of time. I am always in a rush when I go there, but I am definitely planning to return soon with my camera!
Michael: I love the range diversity we have here in Portsmouth. From calm beaches and busy harbours, to a bustling city centre with varied architecture… nature reserves, castles and everything in between.
What are your plans after the exhibition?
Charlotte: I will carry on taking photos for my pleasure for sure, and keep training myself as much as I can. We do not know if we will have to move again next year or if we are staying a little bit longer in Sunny Pompey (which I wish!). For the moment, I have a couple of projects planned in 2018 in Paris: a solo exhibition in spring and I have been proposed another collaborative project, with musicians this time, by a cultural collective for the next autumn (seems very far though…). I hope both will come true! Depending on where my family will be spending next year, I will, as always, try to find a way of coming up with some projects to plan!
Michael: I will, of course, continue taking photos and see what the future brings. I am currently involved with a few small projects, mostly graphic design based, which I’m hoping to grow in the future.