Understanding your creative process is difficult enough for a lot of artists. There are perils along the way that may dismay you or get you stuck in a rut. But then there's understanding who you are as a person and as an artist which is even more complicated. Photographer Ian Howorth seems to be at ease with who he is and what he's doing. While other people have this rigid figure, Ian is free flowing and unpredictable. He doesn't stick to an aesthetic but rather explores them all on his own pace. It's a never ending process, he says and he's just excited to see what the future holds for him. Wise words, Ian. Wise words.
Hello, Ian. Welcome to the Lomography Online Magazine! How did you get started on your photographic journey?
And thank you for thinking of me, I’m honored that you asked! That's a difficult one to answer — it started when I was very young, maybe when I was 9 or 10 and my brother surprised me with a Canon Snappy V Point and shoot. I remember shooting it for quite a bit then giving up all together when ‘other’ things began to interest the adolescent mind. It must have been around 2009-2010 when I began to get a bit more serious about image making and maybe making a living out of it.
I started with video as that's what interested me at the time, and had a good go at trying my hand at a few things — sound recording, TV, music videos, short films; you name it, i tried it! I think what really cemented it for me, was the time it took to get a video project off the ground - whilst hugely rewarding once finished, the stresses in between to get things going was not enough to keep me interested. Photography at first became an outlet in between video work, which has now turned into my main pastime!
How would you define photography?
I define it as a very personal realization of a vision. The vision can be something extremely personal or it can be something with more common ground between photographer and the viewer. It doesn’t matter. However, I feel that all photographers have the responsibility to make a photograph as good as it can be, whether they are telling a story or not. I don’t want to read pages and pages to understand what I’m looking at — I want the photograph to stand alone as something that can be understood/enjoyed and the words to elevate it further if needed.
What's your favorite thing about it?
I like the alone time — the time to think, reflect and be at one with what you’re doing. Whilst I don’t always shoot alone, I scan all my negatives pretty much alone and that often means long hours on your own — thinking, examining and judging your work!
We're a fan of your photographic work. What makes you stay with film photography?
That's a difficult one to answer, but I guess film photography doesn’t just equate to a finished product, it's also a state of mind. Every shot you fire has a cost attached — it forces you to think and consider every time you fire the shutter. It teaches you patience, not being able to review your images every time you take a shot. Equally, you have to be spot on with understanding your exposure and also understanding the film stocks you use to ensure your end result is what you want.
I also like the fact that each film has its own vibe and even though with digital darkrooms images can still be manipulated somewhat, they are more finite than a digital raw file - and they come with their imperfections. But these imperfections are one of the things that I love about it — I love being at the mercy of something that's really [unpredictable,] you have no assurance it will develop correctly, or without scratches or light leaks or whatever.
We love the mood of your shots. They can go from cinematic to artistic in a snap. Was this a particular style your were going for?
I'm a huge movie fan — I have been since a very young age, thanks to my parents being cinephiles. I’m not sure if it's that or the aesthetic that shooting video taught me that has influenced my style. I've always appreciated the care and attention put into every shot in cinema, even the transitional shots that introduce a scene. I enjoy the challenge of finding these scenes that remind me of that.
Some of your shots have this Americana influence to them, especially your photos of houses and cars. What attracted you to these subjects?
I guess I’m fascinated with both of those things — I get told about it a lot! For me, houses and cars have always been things I’ve paid particular attention to — having lived in three different continents from being very young, the change in the urban landscape from place to place has always fascinated me — purely from an aesthetic point of view. I always looked out of the car window ever since i was little, wishing I could go to all these places I’d see on the way to somewhere.
When I lived in the US, I used to hop on my bike and just go for long rides for a few hours just because I wanted to see different neighborhoods away from what I'd see everyday. I’m still not sure why I do this now as an adult, but I don’t question it anymore — to me houses and cars are things that represent choices made by people — things that represent taste like clothes or jewelry. Photographically, houses are just structures that jut out of the landscape that help the construction of a scene, a car, the right car should I say, finishes that off for me in the absence of a person.
How would you describe your style?
Random, haha! I’m not sure — I’m not sure what my style is. I shoot a lot of unusual urban landscapes but i also soot minimalist frames. I shoot portraits and work with models, I shoot color and black and white! I still feel I’m very much at the infancy of my photographic journey - I’ve only been shooting film for a couple of years and been able to call myself a photographer for 3 or 4. I’m not quite ready to call it anything yet, I’m happy just learning as I go along, and if I settle on something I’ll be happy, but if i don’t that's a-ok too.
What are you trying to capture when you're taking photographs?
Just subtle emotions. I think if I look back at my photographs and feel good when I see them I’ve succeeded. Any reminder of how I felt when i took the photograph is good! I think photography can teach you a lot about yourself too — the reasons you photograph the things you do or the feeling you’re trying to arrive at.
If you could shoot with any camera and film, what would they be and why?
I'm pretty happy with the equipment I have at the moment — I think I’d like to add a 4x5 camera like a Speedgraphic or Linhoff in the future, but at the moment, the costs for that are a little prohibitive.
What do you think matters more — talent or skill?
I think talent is far more important! I mean, you need both ideally, but in terms of the photography that I enjoy, talent is far more important. Skill can be taught, talent can’t.
Lastly, what's next for Ian Howorth?
I’m not sure, that's an answer that changes all the time. I think the elixir of life is to spend as much time doing what you love - I’d like to be able to spend as much time shooting film. Photography isn’t just a finished product for me, it has taught me how much I love adventure, talking to strangers about their lives and experiences. Patience, long periods alone thinking about myself and my life and how not just to be a better photographer but a better person — long may that continue!