An Interview With: Samuel Comber

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Samuel Comber, I’m 22 from Brighton in East Sussex. I graduated back in June from Norwich University of the Arts with a first class degree with honours.

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Les Alps “

‘Les Alps’ is a new series I shot in March this year near the town of Courchevel. It attempts to avoid the usual romanticised and idealised imagery associated with this tourist area, and winter sports industry its relies upon, to uncover a different beauty in often more everyday, functional, naturalistic and mundane aspects of human interaction with the environment.

Where did the project develop from?

The project developed from a short trip to the French Alps as I took 4 days out in March for a short Ski break to Courchevel. I new before I was going that I wanted to do some sort of project but didn’t necessarily have a proposal or proposition in mind as to what the project was going to be about.

Whilst I was there I found that I was shooting more of the mundane elements of the naturalistic environment, and because of this I realised I wanted to look more towards everyday objects and scenarios in a more ‘behind the scenes way’ trying to avoid a full frame typical snowy mountain type scene. In turn this project developed and blossomed as I was shooting which made it quite exciting on my part.  

How do you work when shooting a series like this?

When shooting a series I usually have some sort of idea or inspiration to go off, but with this project I kept a very open mind about what to photograph. Going out on a shoot with not much in mind can be quite refreshing and often when new ideas come up as it allows you to immerse yourself more into your surroundings and not worry about what to photograph. I feel like my mind is blank when I’m out there shooting; I just follow my gut and if something gets my attention, then I’ll take a photo.

A few of the images in the series feature windows, does this have any meaning?

I like to challenge visual perspective and I thought it was interesting how I could indirectly incorporate the surrounding landscape by using reflection or the vinyl on glass to allude the mountainous landscape. By being considerate with my compositions with the windows it allows me to bring about a slightly abstracted aspect to the series.

Are the any photographers you are inspired by?

Luigi Ghirri and Marion Berrin are two photographers that stick out for me as inspiration; they both have different traits about their work that I’m drawn to. Luigi Ghirri has always been as influences from the start and I've always looked up to his work and the way he perceived the world through the colour tone and the simplicity about his work. Marion Berrin has been one of my biggest inspirations in the last year, a lot of the work that I produce now I do on portrait configuration, I found that by doing this I was slowing my thought processes and being more considerate about my work. This influence comes from my admiration for the compositional values Berrin uses with her imagery.

But in all honesty there are absolutely loads of things that inspire me. I keep a huge list in my notes of all the photographers that I like as well as artists, graphic designers, films, and books, practically anything that engages my attention and makes me think about my own practice.

How would you like the viewer to respond to your work?

All I want my imagery to do is engage with the viewer on some form of level, whether they understand the project or not. Ideally I want the viewer to be challenged to consider perhaps a more functional and naturalistic view of the Alps, instead of it being a romanticised ski resort that everyone flocks to in the winter. But that’s what I like about photography, you can put forward all these ideas behind something and reasons why but some people take away something different so as long as the visual narrative is engaging I am open for the viewer to respond however they like taking as much or as little as they want from it.

What are your plans for the future?

As it stands I’ve had some success getting shortlisted for the Student AOP Awards. In November I will be exhibiting my work in Brighton at the Crane Kalman Gallery alongside other photography graduates. I’d like to build on this by getting more features, perhaps do a couple more exhibitions and continue to enter competitions to try and get my work out there as much as possible. I’m thinking about completing a ski instructor’s course in the New Year, I’m hoping this will give me an opportunity to create some new work along the way. After this I am considering a career as a Royal Air Force photographer, I have a huge interest in aviation especially air to air photography. I’d like to build on the experience I already have and become ejector seat trained so that I can do air-to-air photography from the back seat of fast jets.

What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?

Try and define your own style of work in order to separate you from the crowd. Experiment as much as possible to find what you like and what you don’t like and learn from your mistakes. Talk as much as you can to your tutors and your piers, I can’t stress how important that is! Take in all their advice whether it’s good or bad and make the most of all the resources and facilities, as some of them may not be available to you after you graduate. Believe in what you do and what you have to say, create the work that matters to you even if other people aren’t interested in it, it may be your interests that make you stand out. Most importantly keep your passion alive, keep at it and simply enjoy it!

Website: www.samuelcomber.com           

Instagram: @samuelcomberphotography

Facebook: Samuel Comber Photography

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