Photographer Interview: Jeremy O’Sullivan

March 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

Interview with Beijing-based photographer Jeremy O’Sullivan. This guy has got a great eye for photography. The photos below will prove this statement.

Thank you very much for doing this interview Jeremy, especially because you can’t even reach the site, since all WordPress blogs have been blocked in China, as you mentioned. What’s that like, not being able to reach certain sites, since China has blocked them? Here in Canada nothing is blocked (as far as I know).

Well there are always weaknesses to any fortification (in this case ‘the great chinese fire wall’ being the intangible line in the sand), so it’s pretty common practice to access blocked sites in china via a proxy server. They can be a bit of pain to use but at least it rules out a total information void.

In saying that however it is a little disturbing how far these recent blockades are going now. I think Flickr might well be on it’s last legs in china, farm 3 & 5 have been blocked in Beijing for the last 6 weeks or so. The recent isolationist trend of the Chinese government (in regards to the online censorship of foreign sites) is not a cool ploy. The world needs a visible china and likewise the people of china need a continued opening up of dialogue with all of the rest of us.

Anyways, tell me a little bit about yourself!

New Zealand is my home, I grew up in a wooden house with roots stinging through its walls. Later my family moved to the seaside and penguin’s replaced the roots as our inner wall companions. I got a degree in sculpture and I tried my hand at art making for a while before falling into a more or less sedated life as a tape machine operator at a post production company. Through a somewhat odd tale of religiosity & riot I ended up tumbling my way to Beijing. That was about 3 years ago, currently I’m teaching kids language skills and marching noise skills at the aerospace institute. Photography is something that has grown out of these dynamics like a pole from a flag.

At what age did you receive your first camera? And, what camera(s) are you currently shooting with?

18, a Vivtar special. Now I’m using a Hasselblad, a Holga and the occasional Seagull. I also have an old digital point & shot that I inherited from a lady of the cloth.

What’s one spot in Beijing you love to visit?

A place called ‘tiantan gongyuan’ – the temple of heaven, it’s a mighty constructed landscape of intimate tree rituals and other ancient inclinations. gangs of grandparent’s trying to pawn off the hearts of their grandchildren (with physical descriptions and high praise scribbled on the backs of recycled cardboard scraps) to other likeminded oldies is one of the many great social activities going down in those shady chimes.

What does photography truly mean to you?

An overgrown enclosure in which to re-think space & people; a space of quiet violence.

Space holes.

The photographed image is to me like an interruption in the endless flow of information savagery. A kind of resistance to the immense currents of everyday flux.

A cold shower.

Yet in saying that I also feel like the practice of photography is a way to heighten ones sense of presence within that field of flux; to become fully engaged within it’s roaring lava.

A hot shower.

There is always a tense kind of inner play involved between a great tangle of opposing velocities and constraints – self, environment, subject, time & suspicious dogs. The sport is trying to make sense or senselessness out of those multiplicities in a single finite container. Reduction is such a slimy word but that’s what the photographed image is, a stylized containing of the impossibly complex systems and flows that surround us.

Truth has no place in the action of photography but certainly a form of self truthfulness is important. Image making is a kind of therapy; a way to unwrap ones inner strata’s and project them back out into the encompassing surrounds.

All of your photos are absolutely beautiful. I would even goes as far as to call them works of art. Is there some amount of planning that goes into creating each one?

Thanks! Most of the photos I take are not exactly planned. I mean, I think it’s impossible (for me at least) to take a totally spontaneous image, everything is connected to what has come before and what will eventuate next. Spontaneity doesn’t exactly flourish under such conditions.

I’d say that more and more there are constructed elements in the photos I’m taking at the moment – interventions in the fabric of the everyday. The level of the construction varies, there still has to be some room for the light of the ‘real’ to shine through, imperfections to glimmer – otherwise things become too dry, dead lasers.

The way things connect together is something that I think about a lot. How something sits next to something else within an image and likewise how one image relates to another. This notion of interconnectedness really underpins all my scheming, chains of festering what if’s.

Definitely one my favourite shots is this one [below]. — How did it come about? Where’s the location? I also love that you flipped the scene upside-down. Makes you really examine it closely.

Double thanks. Yeah, that minimal demon was born out of a place called Song QingLing – children’s science park (Madam Song Qingling was the wife of Dr Sun Yat Sen, considered by many Chinese as the founding father of China). Its a little semi abandoned outdoor park that has its roots firmly buried in the Chinese cultural revolution.

There is something about a notion of continuity, an epic perpetuation of cyclic time that grabs ones mind clump here (in china). The circle motif’s that puncture the pagodas and every other available façade seem to reinforce this posturing. Science & revolution join hands in this echoing brick wall of ever diminishing holes to create a skewed optical illusion, a handcrafted projection of infinite fortitude. The twist in the cut being that this park (like a lot of revolutionary Chinese architecture) is in a deep state of decay. Nothing is permanent; everything will succumb, even infinity?!?

Have you ever worked for any clients? Or are all your photos personal?

No, I haven’t but as to how personal my photos are, mmm, personally impossible to be any other side of the square.

Aside from shooting photos, what else do you do in your spare time?

The Beijing music scene keeps me from becoming a total glass eyed liquidator. New bands and noise entrepreneurs cropping up like arrows to a shield. It’s a burgeoning environment of testing propulsions and gleeful abandonment, seas in swells.

(if anyone is interested in learning more about Chinese bands/artists check these links for some more backgrounding: www.d-22.cn, www.beijingnoise.org, www.yanjun.org, www.kungfuology.com/jakenewby)

Top 5 photographers?

Gavin Hipkins, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Gabriel Orozco (photographic works), Jean Baudrillard (his ‘writing of light’ images) & Flickr.

Plans for the rest of 2010?

yes, exploding frozen waterfalls; pyrite mineral n’ DEMO brick pile ups; found megaphone feedback carcasses ghosting through plant cages; data rammed medicinal bone echo’s; tibetian quests; where milk and oil meet; semi real shark fins zoomed through radiated film scars; illusionary kitsch landscapes clashing into real epic ones. a dystopian colour photocopied factory (of northern china) collab; 8-bit camouflaged tent n’ tea huddles; a jungle adventure with brothers and a father, more aerospace word sirens; more.

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