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Interview Documentary

The letting go

Photographer Ben Osborne pointed his camera at his loved ones and the surroundings he found himself in during the pandemic. Like so many others, but only a few managed to create such a beautiful and intimate series as Ben did.

Tell us a little about your background?

I live with my wife and two young children in a small seaside town, just along the coast from Brighton, England. 

I’ve been interested in photography since the early 2000s when I got my first camera, a Lomo Kompakt Automat, and since 2019 I have been working on several projects, including The Letting Go which was shortlisted for the 2022 Palm Photo Prize. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your project ‘the letting go’?

The project came together in the editing process from the many photographs I had made during the Covid-19 pandemic. The photographs are mostly of the rural landscape around my home, but there are also some more intimate images of my family in the series. I don’t like to add too much to the images in terms of explanation or narrative, I prefer to let people bring their own meanings to the work, and there was certainly no concept or overarching idea while I was making the photographs. However, once I began editing the images it became clear to me that there were certain themes running through the images that seemed to reflect my state of mind at the time. That period during the pandemic was for me, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people, a time of great anxiety and foreboding, but it was also a period when I got to spend a lot of time watching my children grow up, as well as reflecting on the kind of world they’ll grow up in. 

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

I was going out most days with my camera and almost all the images were made within a few miles of my home. I was shooting entirely in black and white as I found it much more forgiving of the light, especially when shooting in the middle of the day. At first I was just making landscape images, but as more often than not my children were with me while I was shooting they gradually began creeping into the frame. Once I started to try to edit and sequence the landscape images I soon realised the project needed the images of my family to give it life and so I started to include them within the sequence. 

What defines a good picture for you? Or what are you looking for in a picture?

When out with my camera I try not to overthink it and instead try to take pictures intuitively. When I’m editing the images afterwards certain pictures jump out at me immediately and others reveal themselves with time. It’s often, but not always, the images that take time to reveal themselves that are the strongest. In terms of what I’m looking for in a picture, I’m not really sure. I’m not the best at analysing my own work, certain images will just hold my attention and force me to keep coming back to them.

What does photography mean to you?

Photography isn’t my job, it’s something I do outside of my work that provides a much needed creative outlet and being out with the camera is a great source of joy for me. Connecting with the wider photographic community has also meant a lot to me and introduced me to some wonderful people. Also looking at other people’s work is a real pleasure. 

Which other photographers, designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

There are so many people out there producing wonderful photographs but I have been deeply influenced by the work of Eugène Atget, Vanessa Winship, Barbara Bosworth, Raymond Meeks, Robert Adams, Masahisa Fukase and Chris Killip. Right now I’m also really enjoying books by Anders Edström, Mimi Plumb, Wouter Van de Voorde, Myr Muratet, Emma Hardy and my friend Allan Salas. I could probably keep listing great photographers all day so I’ll just stop there!

© Pictures by Ben Osborne