We welcome photographer Meg Hewitt into Lomography Magazine as she permits us an in-depth view of her gritty black-and-white, grainy, analogue world, reminiscent of the Provoke-era — same style, same place, different time.
Hi Meg, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, how does Meg Hewitt start off in her photography grind? Any habits/preparations before taking the camera?
I mainly work at night so sometimes I take in a movie first, I like old black and white film noir movies, the framing and the symbology. I find watching them inspires me. Before I go out I make sure I have plenty of batteries, film or cards so I am prepared in case I find myself somewhere interesting. I always have a camera on me whether it's my film camera or a little digital point and shoot.
Your series "Tokyo is Ours" is very reminiscent of the works of Provoke-era photographers such as Daido Moriyama and Yutaka Takanashi.We also learned you've immersed in Japanese culture, hence inspiring the series. What was the precise motivation for doing the series?
Tokyo is Yours is set in Japan and employs a similar high contrast aesthetic as the provoke photographers. I use this style in images I make all around the world so when I am not in Japan people think they are less provoke which is strange. Hannah Watson from TJ Boulting gallery in London described my exhibition in Arles as having a more curious and humorous take on things than Daido or Anders Pedersen. Although I think Petersen can be quite humorous and likes the oddness of things he also connects well with people in a very natural way. I think I employ narrative more than my predecessors. I like to think of frames as part of a larger story, like the symbols and close-ups in films. I often shoot thinking of the book format like a graphic novel.
When I started the Tokyo project I was thinking about the density of Tokyo and the 2011 Earthquake and consequent nuclear disaster which almost called for its evacuation. The then prime minister said it would have been almost impossible to evacuate if he had made the call and he would have had to declare martial rule.
Tokyo has many layers and it takes a while to get under its skin, to find the places on the 5th floor down the hall with the Japanese only sign, then when you open the door it’s a prison hospital-themed restaurant or a sleeping space where you pay by the hour. I like the fact I do not understand everything and I need to explore and discover, to take risks and open the door without knowing what I’ll find.
I met Daido Moriyama at a group exhibition I was in Tokyo and he spent a long time looking at my work. He doesn't speak much English but he turned to me and said 'You are dangerous'. I liked that.
For times living in Tokyo, what were particular, outstanding cultural notes have you noticed?
People are very respectful of other peoples space and don't make loud noises or dominant movements which impose on others.
Everything inanimate is very animated. There are bird tweeting noises on train platforms, toilets speak to you and play waterfall sounds, people have robots as friends. When you show something to someone they make a lot of effort to engage if you watch people exchanging business cards, it is done with two hands and each person looks carefully at both sides of the card before putting it away. You have to slow down and really engage to be polite.
People don't like to say no. Instead, they don't answer yes or no, this means maybe no.
As a photographer, how would you describe your body of work? What's your style?
I like lines, the look of heavy ink on a page, a graphic quality almost like printmaking or drawing. I studied painting and drawing not photography so maybe this comes from there. I also like images that make you look twice, to spend some time to imagine the backstory.
You've mentioned that the series is inspired by manga, film noir, and surrealism. Any particular favorite films, manga or surrealistic art that has influenced the series?
There are the films of Man Ray and Fritz Lang, but I like most old noir, they are also very influenced by German expressionist prints like the work of George Grosz.
In general, where do you draw inspiration from? Who/what are your creative muses?
As above, but as a footnote to that:I like to take photos with people who like to be photographed. If somebody asks me to stop I move on. The subject is often my muse. Sometimes it is someone I know or can be someone I have just met on the street. I can tell quickly without words if they like to be photographed and work with them until they need to move on. If I am open to this engagement this is where the magic happens, suddenly they are showing you their cats or the scar on their hip or sometimes you go home with them and meet their family.
If you could work, collaborate or meet with any photographer or artist, who would it be, and what would you two be doing?
When I take photos I like to go out alone, working in the streets with another photographer around is always hard. When you are alone you meet more people and are more open to what is going on around you, you can change direction and go with the flow. If I was to hang out with another artist I would like to go on a road trip with Hunter S Thompson I would like to document that.
Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Meg Hewitt?
I like to get my film processing and editing done during the day so I am free to shoot at night.
What do you usually do during your downtime, on days not living the artist's life? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I live in Sydney Australia, so I like to go to the beach for a swim in the salt water. There is nothing better for your health. Even if you have had a crazy late night it makes you feel like a million bucks.