Paula Haley Wilson: You recently had an exhibition and sale of your photography in Montreal. Is this the first time you’ve done this? Three of your pieces, “Transmission,” “Landlocked,” and “Paper Specter” are included in Soliloquies 16.1, which will be available in print this May as Soliloquies 16. In them, people are either absent or once-removed, as through the television screen in “Transmission” or as a shadow in “Paper Specter.” Are they part of a series from the exhibition?
Christopher Honeywell: I showed the three pieces that will be published in Soliloquies 16 at Galerie Nota Bene in February as part of a series I called “Not Far Afield.” It was my first formal exhibition, so I had a lot of material to draw from that had never seen the light of day. Most of the photos in the series I shot while living in Montreal, and some (like “Paper Specter,” which I shot in Prague last summer) were shot while traveling over the past two years or so. In both cases I tend to take a relatively passive stance in terms of direction; when I do direct a photo, I’ll see a potential image or arrange the setting in a particular way and give pretty subtle cues to the subject to make the photo work. Otherwise, I’ll just stand still with the camera at my eye and wait for the image to align in front of me. Mostly I just photograph interesting scenes I come across.
Going through my archives to come up with a bunch of work to fill the gallery with was a great exercise in understanding the kinds of images that I’m attracted to. What I found was that a lot of the photos I was most happy with were portraits of people that were obscured in one way or another. A lot of the subjects in my photos are made less visible by the weather, or by another medium like television or a window, or by an outfit or make-up. Also, a lot of the subjects relate to their setting in kind of uncanny or ironic ways. I like to play with the ways that subjects can be manipulated by the way they relate to their setting. Like how a person photographed in an entirely man-made setting takes on a completely different character than someone shot alongside natural elements, even if they’re just in a city park.
I think it’s interesting to see how changing the setting of a photo can have such drastic effects on the viewer’s perception of the photo’s relation to reality, like how when you see an image of a person set against a building’s facade or in a city park you assume the image was taken spontaneously, but when you shoot a photo indoors you immediately change the viewer’s relationship to the image; it becomes less clear whether the photo is a spontaneous snapshot or a staged scene. I like to hope that in my most successful photos it’s clear why I took the picture but the scene looks as though it arose naturally, regardless of the setting.
PHW: Does living in Montreal shape your subject matter? How has this evolved for you?
CH:I really enjoy shooting photos in Montreal because the city looks so timeless. I tend to avoid photographing details that reveal when the photo was taken. It’s not like I look for old cars to include in the shot to trick the viewer into thinking the photo was shot in 1960, but I’m generally happier with the photos I take that are free of modern signifiers. It’s easy to find lively places to photograph in Montreal that look as though they could have existed anytime in the last 50 years, which I find makes a photo more relevant in the long run.
PHW: Finally, if our readers want to get a hold of some of your work, where can they do this?
CH: I co-operate an artist-run centre in Mile End called La Plante/The Plant where we host all kinds of cultural events from art exhibitions to music shows, to a community kitchen that runs every Sunday evening. On May 20th we’re holding the second installment of The Plant Art Market, where we offer a free venue for artists to display and sell their work. I’ll be selling some work, so anyone interested should come say hi and check out some other local artists’ work! If you’re interested in participating you can submit any kind of visual art to email@example.com and reserve space. You can also find more details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/279841088771575/?ref=ts
If you want to get in touch with me directly about my work or anything else that happens at La Plante/The Plant, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also take a look at some work on my website, christopherhoneywell.com.
Christopher Honeywell is a Montreal-based photographer shooting exclusively in film with an emphasis on natural and improvised lighting. He practices both traditional darkroom and digital transfer processes. Christopher recently graduated from Concordia University with a BA in English Literature. For more of his work visit http://christopherhoneywell.com/