An Interview With: Joss Williams

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Joss Williams. I have recently completed the BA (Hons) Photography course at the University of Brighton. Prior to this I studied a two year National Diploma in photography at City of Bath College.

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

As the title suggests, this project is one about place and time. The title is an adaptation from the word spacetime, which in physics refers to theories that considers space and time to be a single, interwoven continuum- three dimensions of space, in addition to a fourth dimension of time. Place is space that has been shaped by human experience. 

Place, therefore, cannot be separated from time and memory. It is inseparable from its position in the four dimensions of spacetime, and the memory of human experience is integral to its shaping out of space. Evidence also suggests that time does not travel at equal rates, making it possible that the past, present and future exist simultaneously, and are all as real as each other. If this is the case, every event that has, is or will ever take place in one point is happening there; with anything outside the present being inaccessible to us from our personal, isolated time frame - except through use of constructed narratives and imagination. For place to be truly considered then, its relationship to time, experience and memory of events should be taken into consideration.

Through a visual and archaeological survey of one place, the project aims to create a new way of viewing place, taking into account its relationship with time. This work considers a place as being similar to a black hole: a dense depository of objects, signs and fragments isolated in time. From these objects, the mind constructs narratives of reality and history, building a universe within which we then place ourselves. This project aims to represent these constructions, as well as to explore them. 

By treating photographs and found objects alike, considering them for their role as representations and prompts for construction and fiction, the work aims to question reality and perception, and representation itself. If reality and memory are constructions, then how should they be represented? And if they are constructions, are our representations in the present, involving fiction and construction, of things from other positions in space and time, any less valid than when they were perceived first hand?

Perhaps the most accurate way of representing place is through re-presenting the representations it holds, and the photograph the most accurate at representing time- the Aeonic, everlasting, simultaneously existing moment. Fragments of objects and photographs highlight absence, and make aware the construction and fiction involved in the way they are perceived, and the way events are remembered, interpreted, experienced and re-experienced through re-presentation- a role integral to the photographic object itself.

What genre do you consider your work to be?

I would say my work is conceptual photography, as it is heavily focussed on the ideas behind the images, not just what is photographed. Each photograph is made to spark a thought or way of thinking that hopefully helps to convey the theories I am trying to express. I usually begin with a theory I want to explore, and then produce work to represent it. I spend a long time contemplating each concept before I translate it into imagery.

What inspired you to start this project?

I have always had a fascination with history, and this interest is probably the reason I first became interested in photography. Therefore I think it is only natural that my photographic work considers the past. Also, with photography and visual representation being such a key part in our understanding of history and time, I thought it was something I should explore, as they are so entwined. Time is something that the majority of people just accept and rarely think about in depth, so I wanted to delve into it.

You project uses photographs taken on location and in a studio environment. How did you project develop to this point?

I use a mix of different techniques because I think there is usually more than one way to express an idea. I think that some of the concepts I am trying to convey are quite complex, so by using different types of images it allows them to work together in lots of different ways, in order that the project as a whole leaves an impression that a single image could not. This particular project was also about the ‘real’ world not being as it appears, and alternate lives outside of our perception. Therefore, contrasting the photographs taken on location and the ones from the studio was a way to try and express this; the location images representing our world now and the studio images representing the alternate and imagined lives, memories and narratives. 

What equipment did you use for this project?

The location photographs were made using colour negative film. Most of these were taken using a 5x4 Ebony field camera. The studio images were made using a digital Hasselblad camera. 

How would you like the viewer to feel in response to your work?

My main hope is that the project will cause the viewer to reconsider their relationship with time, and through this question what they believe to be reality. I would like the viewer to feel isolated in time and space, and to question narratives they believe to be true and believe themselves to be a part of. 

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

My advice would be to try and consider the ways in which a photograph works and what it really is. Then you can explore and play with these mechanisms, or intentionally subvert them. I think photography that does this can be really interesting and thought provoking.


All images copyright of Joss Williams.