We recently had a chat with Rohan Hutchinson and asked him a few questions about his incredible work. Rohan has been practicing as a photographic artist for some time and creates serene landscapes of architecture in areas seemingly lost in time and sometimes overtaking the architecture itself. He shoots primarily with large-format film which gives a breath taking depth to his structural subjects.
His work focuses on the continual transformation of the architectural landscape and our relationship with our surrounding environment.
Describe yourself in three words
Tell us about your background and how did that draw you towards landscape and architecture?
I guess it started in the mid 2000’s when I was a skateboarder. In some ways this makes you look at architecture of the ordinary very differently than the standard pedestrian. During that time I started shooting, skating and then travelling with a camera eventuated from there.
What do you try to communicate through your work?
Whatever project I am working on, my main concern is to accurately communicate my thoughts to the viewer. To make them look at the spaces I photograph in a different way. I want them to see all my photographs as part of a narrative that unfolds as they make their way through the series, this can be in either exhibition or book form.
Your work shows a love of travel and photography, what attracts you to specific locations around the world? Is there a future project that may include Australia?
I spent a lot of my 20’s traveling and living in places such as Canada and Alaska. This really influenced the love I have for the outdoors. My main focus over the last few years though has been more cultural, especially with my Japanese work. Now days I really enjoy discovering a place then finding out all the intricate details regarding its history and culture.
With the Australian work, I’ve actually shot a lot here in the past, but the images have simply just been photographs without any articulated conceptual thought behind them. In some ways they are an overview of Melbourne’s geographical transformation, in another way they are a stage in time when I was refining my photographic skills.
When I have the right idea for a new body of work based in Australia, I would be keen to start it.
How do you adapt to or overcome challenges when shooting in various locations around the world in many different environments?
I try and plan as much as possible, this usually includes months of research prior, looking at the climate and the geographical settings. Google maps are also used a lot for scouting potential locations to save myself time. Also with the harsh climates that I put myself in, weather can play a big factor, so when possible I try and allow extra time so I can wait for the right shooting conditions.
You tend to devote extended periods of time on each big project you undertake. What is your process in undertaking your projects and how do you keep yourself inspired?
With my work it’s all researched based, I usually get an initial idea. This can come from anything, something I read, see or just a thought. After this it involves a really long time narrowing down ideas, looking at as many artists who have worked with similar concepts and what they have produced, following with the question; what would my approach be and why? Then the initial photographs are taken, following this begins the exhibition and publication design.
What I really love about this process is working out the best possible way to present an idea through narrowing down variables.
In relation to keeping inspired, as my work involves quite a few steps, it’s not been that much of a concern as I’m always excited to see the work finally come together. My last body of work was partly installation based so watching that unfold was great.
Presentation ideas and inspiration also comes from seeing new work. I try and see as much work as possible, whether this is in an exhibition space or through photo-books.
Your works include the use of large format film. What do you love about this medium and do you shoot digital at all?
The thing I really love about large format is the process. It slows everything down and makes it clearer. Due to the film being very expensive it also really makes you question your photographs before you take them.
When exhibiting, my work is generally printed quite large, this format also enables me to print in a size that shows all the intricate detail of a space that would be lost in other formats.
With digital I use it a lot, but only for tests and commercial work at this stage. I think I just really like having a negative as a tool to begin with.
With an eye for detail and design, you create simple and well-composed images that you both exhibit and publish. Tell us about these processes and why you do both.
I guess my attention to detail and composition comes from 2 sides, one being the years of looking at large format photographic works by artist such as Burtynsky, Sze Tsung Leong and Olaf Becker and their cleanly articulated photographs.
The other comes from all my reading into Japanese architecture and the use of design in their culture. I try and create works that present a clear thought without too much confusion.
With exhibiting and publishing, at the moment I am really enjoying both. I feel that I am stepping away from the traditional large format viewing platforms and starting to play with my own; at the moment they are installation based, presenting my ideas in a more creative way.
I see publishing as another way to present my work, to take my work away from the gallery walls and into a tangible entity. An object that can be more openly appreciated, and on a much larger scale whilst working with the details of design.
I feel that myself working as an exhibiting artist in Melbourne and given the lengths of my projects that not much of my work gets seen in the flesh, every two years or so I will have a solo exhibition which usually travels interstate, then nothing for a few years after that. Publishing has really given me the chance to work with my other love: photo books. This exposes my work to a much larger audience, especially on an international scale.
You undertook art residencies in both Japan and Canada. What were those experiences like? Do you have advice for other artists who would like to undertake an art residency?
I love doing residencies and seem to work best when doing so. The main factor is that there are no distractions; life is simply just about my art and what my intentions are, whilst exploring the subtle details of the place. Living as a local, visiting the bars and restaurants and having conversations with the residents. This is probably the main reason I work away from Australia; it is a really great way to take a couple of months off normal life and just focus on your passion.
With the application process, I have found that if the work is site specific, that the work can only be created in that area and holds either geographic, historic or culture ties to that area then your application is often successful.
I strongly advise other artists to experience a residency at some point.
Is photography a full time occupation for you?
I wish, one day though.
Tell us about your new project to the Arctic
The new work will be based in Arctic Norway on an island called Svalbard, situated half way between the northern tip of Scandinavia and the North Pole. It’s a place that I have wanted to visit for years.
The work is about climate change and Australia’s lack of response to the issue. It’s been a very long process to get everything sorted, mainly deciding what I wanted to produce and why. I have been narrowing down ideas for over 2 years now, and am finally at the point of knowing exactly what I want to achieve and how to do it.
My main concern has been working out how I wanted to convey my thoughts, although part of the project is capturing the beauty of the arctic landscape its been done before, what I am looking forward to is the second stage of these works. Unfortunately I can’t really say much more as I want to keep it as a surprise.
I will be based on the island for about 2 weeks from late Feb/March where I will be taking snow mobile expedition trips across the island and sea whilst documenting it with my large format camera.
It’s a project that I have never been so excited about.
You currently have a Kickstarter campaign, can you tell us about it? What is the reason you have you chosen to use Kickstarter to fund this project?
Every big project I take on seems to end up being quite expensive, traveling overseas, shooting large format… It all adds up. I have found that there is quite a lot of support out there for photographic artists. One of the reasons I think the Kickstarter went well for me is due to the fact that for a change I was offering smaller prints. Often at my exhibitions the works are too large for most people and this was a way to secure something a little smaller, along with giving me the support I needed.
With this project it is time dependant, if I didn’t get to the arctic in March, I would have to wait another year for the ocean to re-freeze before taking snowmobile trips to specific locations. I thought that a Kickstarter could be a good chance to raise some costs towards the trip. Luckily the campaign enabled me to raise the funds to get the project started. I feel very fortunate about this.
Intro by Georgia Quinn
Questions by Stella Nguyen
Art Direction by Jo Nixon