The art of portraiture is not lost on Catford based photographer, Adam King. ‘Sitters’ is the working title of a photo-series which captures the personalities of friends and acquaintances met in the area, particularly on Catford Broadway. “I have a natural curiosity about people, and I suppose in its simplest form, taking portraits is an extension of that,” he explains. The artist is currently showing a selection of his work in a curated exhibition at Ninth Life, as part of the annual Catford Arts Trail.
The portraits are beautiful, Adam. How do you go about meeting your subjects?
All of my subjects are people I've crossed paths with in and around Catford, often on Catford Broadway, and they are always people I have met with and talked to many times. I enjoy being a local photographer, because I have a natural curiosity about people, and I suppose in its simplest form, taking portraits is an extension of that. It allows me to explore and understand people a little more, and to work out why it is that I am drawn to them (something I often don't know until after the picture has been taken). The portrait I make of them is my way of showing appreciation in a sense.
The relationship I build with each subject will depend very much on them – there are some I will continue to see around the place after, others I may not run into again. The important thing for me is that the actual sitting is always an exchange. I'm well aware of the stigma around photographic subjects, and that it can all too easily feel intrusive or objectifying, and so I will always offer something – be it a shared experience, time, coffee or money if the sitter requests.
What has been your experience of working in the DEK studios and how does being a part of Catford's art community enrich your practice?
It's difficult to know where to begin with this one. There is so much to be gained from working alongside other artists. Artists can easily become quite isolated, and although this can help the process of developing what is often quite a personal expression of ideas, there is an enormous benefit to working alongside other people. The open spaces at DEK allow us to see one another's methodology and processes, we witness one other's work ethic (and panic in the lead up to deadlines) and the way different people work their business in the wider art world. It's deeply inspiring and can lead to an exciting cross-pollination of ideas. It's especially helpful I think whenever anyone is feeling a little stuck in their work – we motivate one another just by working in the same space.
So I'm deeply grateful for Bow Arts and Lewisham Council in creating this unique place, and it has in fact led to a very real collaboration between a handful of artists at DEK for an exhibition with the Catford Art Trail.
What is it about Catford that continues to inspire you?
Catford itself inspires me in many ways. It of course has a rich history and wide diversity, but it's not one of the big 'known' areas of London, and that interests me a lot. It's untouched by its own publicity. More than anything though, I identify with the place – Catford is going through enormous changes at the moment, and I am finding the same with my work. It feels as though we are both in a state of flux, working ourselves out, recalibrating, and there is something powerful about working in a place that seems to reflect your inner state in that way.
In your eyes, what makes a great photograph?
I think the most important aspect for any portrait photo is that the photographer is interested in the subject and that the subject is willing and open to being there. It's something that was integral to the work of photographic artists Irving Penn, Julian Germain and Diane Arbus, all of whom have inspired me. If the photographer is not drawn to a person or a place (even if they don't at the time know why), or if the subject is not happy, something vital is lost in the image, and that's all too evident to the viewer.
Lewisham Council has presented its ideas for how the town centre could develop over the next 10-15 years through a draft framework plan. The more people involved, the better the needs of the whole community will be reflected.
To share your views and comment on the ideas that the architects have begun to develop click here.
Please share the project with people you know locally.