Zoink by Zaptronic

Article Urban

Broken circle

Gareth Gregg's subtle landscapes of the ordinary only reveal their beauty and story over time. It's one of those projects that grows on you the longer you spend time with it. The quietness of these images takes you right back to the lockdown periods we all know so well.

- Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?

I originally started photography about 18 years ago following some time off that I was taking from DJing which at that time was my preferred creative outlet. The time out I took from the music had developed my passion for photography so much that I actually stopped DJing altogether and ended up pursuing a career in the fashion industry.

I mainly shot editorial fashion photography on location and also a bit of catwalk photography in London and Brighton. My real passion was location though and preferred shooting models on the streets, in local towns and along the coast. This style very much carries through to my work now.

After a number of years working in fashion and working out a studio in Brighton I got pretty burnt out so took a break from photography. However I soon got inspired again and this was mainly because I was buying books by William Eggleston and Alec Soth. The style of photography in these books led me to start documenting the streets around me.

I love project based photos and always have several ideas on the go each with a view of transferring the images into their own zine. I think having a love for collecting photo books is what led me to start creating my own.

Broken Circle is my second zine and followed Colder Weather that I published a couple of years ago.

- Can you tell us a bit more about the project ‘Broken Circle’? 

I guess you could say that Broken Circle was my lockdown project. I had been furloughed and kept on returning to the local leisure centre to take images. I was drawn by the lines of the running track, the architecture, the gates and the fencing that had been temporarily erected in light of restrictions.

The title "Broken Circle" represents the gates and fencing that stopped usage of the running track which in turn acts as a metaphor for the broken circle of our lives due to the restrictions imposed.

The town which the location of the leisure centre is in is also heavily linked to the countryside. The images themselves naturally fall upon a backdrop of trees and hills that in some shots are looming over the photos. I feel like this presence gives hint to what might happen should the leisure centre be left unused.

- Can you tell us a bit more about your process for this project?

As is often the case with my projects I just go out and shoot and eventually it falls in whole or part as a project. Some of these image sets amount to something and some don't.

When I originally started shooting down at the leisure centre I was pretty new to the area and was getting my teeth into exploring. A commuter town like Crowborough with a beautiful countryside backdrop is mecca if like me you like to photograph the banal.

I was reading a book called 'Christmas Day, Buck Pond Road' by Tim Carpenter. The title is pretty explanatory, a series of images taken along a road on Christmas Day. The simple element of capturing a fixed period of time within a small geographical location fascinated me. I ended up rolling that idea out and experimenting with it in my photography. 'Broken Circle' ended up adopting that inspiration with the fixed time being the lock down periods and the location being Goldsmiths Leisure Centre.

The shots themselves are a blend between black and white digital and scanned in Fuji instant square images. If I knew I was going to be shooting those instant images I would have done the others on a film stock like ilford. But it came about that way because I had actually dislocated my shoulder when out shooting this project. For a good while I couldn't carry a weighty DSLR so decided to shoot with the much lighter Fuji instant camera. I actually really love the contrast between the black and white digital and the instant so I'm glad it happened...despite the whole thing being incredibly painful.

The design of the zine went through a few different looks and titles. Considering the whole thing was shot a few years ago it's taken a long time to settle on a look that works with the images. I'm fully aware that I should have probably got this out a lot sooner after covid but in a way I feel like these images now act as a cautionary tale to what we went through. Something that we would do well not to forget considering the issues surrounding war and the economy that the world is experiencing.

- How would you describe your work?

This is going to sound like one big William Eggleston inspired new topographic cliche but I  love to photograph the ordinary and banal. I like to take pictures of locations that people tend to ignore and wouldn't be considered to be a traditionally beautiful place.

I tend to mainly intertwine photography with my daily routine so for that reason my pictures are always a direct reflection of my life as it is at that point.

An example of this Is that I'm working right next to the beach at the moment so a lot of my images are taken on the coast. I actually live closer inland so naturally my local town gets a lot of documentation.

This general rule was present when I was shooting fashion photography. I was never one to come up with unusual locations but the way I worked was to simply grab the team and just go for a stroll and wait to be inspired with the environment we were in. I've found through experience that there is always something new to see in even the most familiar of locations.

I'd love to travel to beautiful places to shoot but family/work commitments dictate otherwise. I used to get irritated with these constraints but now I feel like it's just part of my photographic style and I'm a lot more accepting.

- What makes you photograph in black & white?

From an artistic point of view photographing in black and white forces you to look in a different way. It engages your brain to search for interesting contrasts and compositions that you know will work in black and white.

I used to think that from a post production point of view it made for a shorter editing time when shooting in monochrome but actually I find myself fussing over black and white images a lot more in post that I do with colour.

Black and white is great for delivering a certain mood. There is no doubt a somber element to this latest zine, something that hammers home with black and white.

- Who is your photography hero and why? 

Always Alec Soth. That dude is just so cool. I love his portraiture, I love the use of large format and the fact that he is a big photo book collector....just like me.

All his projects are beautiful and have inspired me no end in the work that I do.

I even named my son Alec. His second name is Anthony (but that's after Tony Soprano).

© Pictures by Gareth Gregg