This Autumn/Winter 2022-2023 season is inspired by the British artist Hannah Fletcher ( @hfletch ), a producer of images that combine photographic processes with organic materials.
I came across Hannah's work during my search for emerging artists. I immediately fell in love with her work and her values, and couldn't think of a better muse to inspire my collection. We got in touch and he agreed to give us a synopsis of his creative development and how his ethical values impact his life and work.
Where does your interest in nature come from? When did you start using it as a source of inspiration?
I have always been someone who is happy in nature, exploring, learning about what the earth has to offer. My awareness of environmental problems and my urgency to address them; The urge to do more than just recycle and turn off the lights arose about 10 years ago when I became independent. I started picking up wasted food, boycotting supermarkets, biking everywhere, and stopped eating meat. These actions became completely normal for me, they did not require any additional effort or thought. At the same time, I was bringing organic matter into the dark rooms of the university, colonies of algae in jars or fungi that I balanced on the photo chemistry trays, etc... I certainly got into trouble with the technicians several times.
After about 5 years of working and living this way, I began to reflect on the systems in photography that supported the work I was doing. Like the volumes of water that would be used in the darkroom, or the harsh chemicals that are used with no idea where they might end up. It looked so run down.
So, I began to appreciate the way I worked with my materials, the relationship my materials had with the medium, and the ways in which they could work more harmoniously. Throughout my practice I had always addressed certain environmental issues and worked directly with natural matter, bringing it into contact with the photographic surface. But, he still had to question or interrogate the photographic materials themselves.
How do you manage to merge science and ethics in your photographic work?
This is something I'm always striving for, something that will always need to be redirected and considered over and over again. Often the scientific element in work or research comes from my curiosity to understand a process, function or form. So you could relate this to or intertwine with familiar shapes and/or photographic materials.
The notion and interest in the process in my work incorporates things of fermentation and decomposition, as well as technical processes of photographic printing or scientific processes such as chromatography. When I started creating these pieces, there were no categories for me, they are all just forms of transformation, of creation.
What are the values you want to express with your pieces?
Each job depends on the specific area of research that I am part of or the topic that I am addressing. But in general, I would say that most of my works aim to express a care for the materials they use and a sense of curiosity towards the land.
Many times, I accept that I cannot control how a viewer can interpret a work. I can try to guide you though ultimately everyone will have a unique experience and interpretation of the work. This is part of the nature of art.
What do you think has been a turning point in your career?
I find the word career a bit problematic as it assumes we only do one definite thing. But as creative individuals this is rarely the case. Not only in the sense that we could be supporting our artistic practice through other works. But also in the sense that my life and my work merge into one; My experiences, everything I do influences what I do, write and think. It's all connected, so I guess, I find it problematic to single out one section of what I do and call it a career. Especially when as artists we are often redefining what we do and who we are.
What can you tell us about “The Sustainable Darkroom”? What other projects do you have planned for the future?
“The Sustainable Darkroom” is an artist-led research, training and mutual learning program that equips cultural professionals with new skills and knowledge to develop an ecological photographic practice. Our goal is a total transformation of the way photographers work, think, and exist in the living world. Committed to a current understanding of ecology, the sustainable darkroom is one of the most contemporary forms of photography to date.
Taking the form of workshops, talks, symposiums, training sessions, publications and residencies, we are currently leading the movement to challenge the environmental impact and sustainability of photography. In 2021, we launched the world's first physical darkroom based on the principles of our movement, as well as building a garden with specific plants that can be used for photographic processes or work symbiotically with the darkroom. We launched our solar powered website earlier this year, which is self-hosted and powered by a small solar panel and battery.
We have done four residencies to date and are currently in the planning stages of the next one, which will be online and will focus on systems.
In the last month or two, we have also been developing a new series of 'slow photography workshops' that meld theory and practice, to provide a deeper and more critical insight into sustainability in photographic practice. These differ from our previous workshops which were a session one, which only allowed time for teaching the practical process. These workshops will take place over the next year and the first two are already open for booking.
What is your starting point when you start a new project?
The way I start a project varies a lot; depending on if other people are involved, if it is a commission, etc. I have started to work much more collaboratively in recent years. Which, really, I've been enjoying. If you can find a person you work well with and trust, it's a very enriching experience.
My ideas develop slowly with multiple layers and ideas coming together. Like any good compost pile, my insights are formed and informed by multiple sources, slowly layering one on top of the other until you begin to form a nutrient-rich web of bacteria, fungi, worms, and microorganisms, all working toward the common goal of decomposition.
How would you define art? Would you describe your pieces as Art or as Science?
I would call myself an artist, but I guess I'd go back to my point here about not worrying about categorization.
What is your opinion about the environmental impact of the fashion industry? Do you usually consume fashion consciously?
Most of what I do, I do in a way that is conscious or has the least impact. It is very much a lifestyle choice and has become part of who I am and what is important to me. I don't buy new clothes because I don't see the need to, I enjoy getting most of my clothes from deliveries, I've even been known to find clothes in the bins. I also organize clothing swap events, giving my friends the opportunity to share clothes they no longer want. I really value a sharing economy and try to facilitate this where I can. Trading food, for plants, for clothes, for books, etc., is more than the act of picking up a pair of jeans from someone who no longer wants them, it is a redistribution of resources and a step towards alternative economies.