An Interview With: Mike Veitch

Who are you and where did you study?

I'm a mature graduate of the University of Sunderland which is also where I live.

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Unsettled Ground“?

This work is based on and around the ubiquitous patches of ground that border suburbia. Although designated for public use, but not utilised as official parks or gardens, these largely anonymous ‘edgelands’ are often the closest to nature many of us encounter on a daily basis. These are the places where many of us might have hung around on, or even played in, in an era before our lives become increasingly virtual. Sometimes, however, the silence gives way to anxiety. In fading light, sanctioned paths seem to exist purely to hurry us through these spaces, especially when they are illuminated by low-grade streetlights that do little more than emphasise the peripheral darkness. This work seeks to explore such tensions that exist in these hinterlands, as well as their peculiar and understated beauty.

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What inspires this work?

The work is based on the concept of 'edgeland'. This is land which typically exists on the edges of urban areas and has had fairly minimal developmental interference from local government. The concept was originally (I believe) introduced by Michael Roberts and Robert Farley in their book 'Edgelands'. 

This book and also the work of George Shaw (Turner Prize nominee 2011) underpin the conceptual aspects of the work, but it is also influenced by aesthetically and photographically by Robert Adams (The Pond, various), Mark Power (26 Different Endings) and more recently, Paul Gaffney and Liza Dracup.

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The lighting looks to be a major factor in the photographs, for creating this anxiety you talk about. What did you look for when taking a photograph and what techniques did you use to capture this?

In terms of the lighting, I specifically set out to photograph around dawn and sunset in particular. The places are by definition liminal and in a process of transition, neither urban or completely country/agricultural and I wanted the (low) light quality to emphasise this. The reduced light naturally serves to increase the anxiety in some images, particularly those which feature lamp-lit paths. In terms of technique, I was working with medium format film so it was a case of using a light-meter and occasional bracketing.

What was the main development you learnt from in this project?

I didn't become interested in photography until 2010 and so naturally I'm more used to digital. Using medium format has taught me to slow down and spend time just being in the space and consider what it is I'm trying to capture on a shot by shot basis. 

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What genre do you consider your work to be?

As a genre, I consider the work to be landscape/fine at but also with a strong element of documentary especially if given a time/date stamp. This comes in part from the nature of the places - the fact that they are subject to change more than most built-up areas and far more than the traditional countryside. 

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to continue the work exploring different edgelands and following up on those already visited. I'm also interested in history and therefore the stories that are present in the landscape continually fascinate me, so future projects may also build on this element of my work.

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