James Dodd speaks to Jane Macneil about her website and work: www.streetsofliverpool.com
We’ve been discussing projects on HCSP recently, and the work on your site strikes me very much as a project based approach. But I wonder how you see the work yourself and what you are aiming to do with the work?
It’s nice you’ve picked up on that as I see it as a project too. Albeit an ongoing project.
When I first started, I wasn’t sure if I should just make it a general street photography blog and include other cities I may visit, or to just focus on my hometown? But it made complete sense to just concentrate on Liverpool. It’s where I spend most of my time so I can constantly keep it up to date with new images.
At some point I think I’d like to put an exhibition together, that’s how I envision it. But for now I’m just trying to get a body of work together.
Can you tell us a bit about your practice. How long you’ve been photographing, If you’ve formally studied etc.
I’ve been taking photos since my teens and I’ve studied on various night school classes. I even started an A-level photography course but dropped out… It was more about technical aptitude than encouraging new ideas and creativity so I found it very restrictive and lacked inspiration. So much so, that after dropping out I didn’t actually pick up a camera again for many years.
How did you get started with street photography?
When I finally picked up a camera again, I experimented some street stuff but I really lacked confidence. As small and discreet as my cameras were, I couldn’t get close to people.
Getting an iPhone, changed everything, that little camera on my phone was a real confidence builder. I could get under peoples noses (literally), make myself look like I was preoccupied with texting when I was really in the act of taking photos.
When I seen the results I was getting with it I realised it’s worth taking that risk and get near as possible to people. So I got a DSLR, much, much bigger than a phone.
What drives you to photograph on the streets?
It’s the unknown that drives me. The going out and not knowing what you’re going to come back with. I think it’s what drives most street photographers?
What’s your process and state of mind when you’re shooting on the street, are you a wanderer, hunter, stalker? Do you use music to help get you in the zone.
I’m all three! And music is most definitely a must… although at times you do need to take those ear buds out, especially when you stumble across a stag party for example.
Liverpool city centre is reported to have attracted around 500,000 more visitors in the first half of 2010, than it did during the same period when it was “Capital of Culture”, would you say that tourists play any role into your photographs?
Certainly, yes, I think it’s me playing the role of tourist more so than the people I’m photographing. People in the city centre are definitely more comfortable with cameras.
We’re lucky, we have a lot of events here in Liverpool where it’s much more acceptable to be seen with a camera. I’d love to have the courage to go into the suburbs? but there’s no way I would get the same acceptance.
Who are some of your influences?
I take influences from everything, not just photographers, but people in general, friends, music, film, art, they all play a part.
As far as photographers go, there’s the obvious ones… Winogrand, Erwitt, Gilden etc. But it’s the work of the In-Public guys that resonates the most. Maybe it’s because it’s now, it’s of the moment?
What other projects are you currently working on?
Some time after sharing my photos on Flickr, last year. I was invited to join the FAB Collective. They’re a group of Liverpool photographers who got together after the Capital of Culture year. They’d all been documenting the city throughout 2008 and got together originally to keep the momentum going with photographing Liverpool. FAB has since evolved into something more than just capturing the city in images. One of the most momentous projects FAB has been a part of was a photography project working with the homeless community. Besides all this, not only are they all a talent bunch of photographers but they’re some of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met. Where were they when I was doing my night school classes?
I’m working on a collaboration with fell FAB Collective photographer Jen Allanson called “Evoked Potential”. It’s a visual conversation. We post photos and respond to one anothers images. It’s a lot of fun to work on. I also collect old snapshots and uploaded them to a site called www.lifeandhowtoliveit.co.uk I have no reason for collecting snapshots other than aesthetics. By the time these snapshots are in my possession they’ve lost all context and meaning. Which is sad but they also pertain a kind of beauty.
You also run the Print Exchange program, could you tell us a little about that, how you got started and why?
The Print Exchange Program was inspired by a guy named Jai Tanju who runs a print exchange program within the skateboarding community.
My motive for running one goes back to the idea of Streets Of Liverpool being a project based approach. If at some point I’m going to do something with that body of work, I need to get as many people as possible to be aware of it. I have a love/hate relationship with social media, of course I use Facebook and Twitter, there’s no denying that it’s a great marketing tool. I can post the photos on Flickr, add them to groups, people will comment, make them favs, but that interaction lasts just seconds. But if someone sends me a print, I will return them a print from the Streets Of Liverpool series and by doing that there’s more permanence. You’re interacting on a different level and hopefully your work will resonate with people that bit more. Plus, at the same time I get to build up this amazing collection of other peoples photographs. It’s win, win!
Streets of Liverpool is the project of Liverpool based photographer, Jane MacNeil. You can see more of her work on her personal website: www.janemacneil.co.uk her found photographs on www.lifeandhowtoliveit.co.uk and on www.fabcollective.com/.