Seeking quiet in a loud city, artist Byron Pritchard presents a focused photographic series, developed in a darkroom he built from scratch.
Nestled deep in the winding lanes of Hampstead, i-D online stumbled across Byron Pritchard’s exhibition ‘Akin to Nature’ – a series of gigantic photo collages. Much like Hampstead, with its nature reserves and views of skyscrapers, the work discusses the relationship between the pastoral and the urban. Impressed though we were, our credentials as art connoisseurs were really sealed when we noticed living art-legends (or living-art legends) Gilbert and George pop in for a potter around.
Tell us about the exhibition… With this project I made a conscious decision to make a body of work to a certain format to stop myself going off on tangents. It was the combination of a couple of years of preparation and a massive effort – I put everything in place (physically and mentally) and made the show. I started with the simple idea of seeing something new through the lens of my camera. I tried to use the camera more freely. I took a trip to America to take pictures of New York as a stage. I tried to capture it in a new way. When I came back I sat on the images for about a year while I built a darkroom. I used this project as a means of standing back and looking at my work. I’m starting to see threads that run through what I do. This show was very focussed; there were only seven pieces, it was a combination of two sets of photos. New York (as I said) and the rest were taken in De Beauvoir Square in Islington. I’d come out at night and take photos of flowers. I was trying to capture somewhere peaceful and calm in the middle of a city. I wanted to bring the two sets together to make it less about one city and more about the idea of finding peace and beauty in a built-up environment. I tried to add a feeling or evoke something from the images by putting a thin coat of colour over them. It helped me to see the photography in a more painterly way. I didn’t build my dark room to develop my skills as a photographer it was just another tool like an etching press.
Where did the title ‘Akin to Nature’ come from? A lot of my influences come from different eras and different times in art history and I find it helps me to make sense of my own work. This exhibition came from a quote from Hans Bellmer. He was discussing the idea that mass culture is perceived by some to be akin to nature, which angered him apparently and got him thinking about misunderstanding in our society. He lived at a time when war was looming and when Nazis were emerging. It must’ve been a difficult concept to swallow.
When did you start making work? I feel privileged to have been brought up in quite a hairy place in London. I came from a poor area and the people I grew up with were more inclined to make a bit of money selling Charlie or stealing, but I always felt different. They allowed me to see what I didn’t want and my peers actually encouraged me to make art work. I always felt free to be able to express myself. From there I studied design at college and then went to uni. I fell out of love with the idea of designing for a client so I moved to Berlin the week I graduated. I got a studio and just started making art. Since then I’ve always had a studio and I’ve never looked back.
Text: Aaron Walker
Photography: Lanoi Montet
Portrait: Dean Chalkley for Levi’s