© 2020 – 2021. 2chairs artspace

A talk with Rupert Warren

Hi Rupert, thanks for coming! You are a photographer with a huge experience. Could you please explain what photography means to you?

I am very delighted to be sitting here with you Lena. Thank you. We are actually having a chat after finding each other on Instagram, the social media app for photography. This is social media at its best. Probably the best way to answer your question is to explain what I am thinking about whilst taking a picture. I take the task seriously because I want to be respectful towards the subject I photograph, this applies to everything from what I choose to look at, the timing of the photo, and lastly what to present. I find this entire process very engaging and I really feel the responsibility that I hold, and this drives me. At the heart of my work I am basically a simple documentary photographer, whether it is with one or several layers. I often find myself saying these are the best images „under the circumstances", knowing full well that someone else would produce completely different images. The obvious diversity in the work we produce is absolutely fascinating and will continue to be so in the future.

We're living in the era of Instagram and smartphones. How has social media, technology availability and ease of use changed the world of professional photography?

Dramatically. In some cases the race to be the first out-ways all other priorities that used to be of importance, and I have noticed that at times it is just easier for my clients to use their smartphone for the few images they need for instant publication. So smartphones really do deserve to be called smart. But they do not replace the photographer who takes really smart photos. A good photographer takes an interest in the subject, and enjoys looking properly, and ideally has the time and capacity to concentrate on the task. It requires a lot of work to remain good at the job, and this is why even when I have fewer contracts, I have the inner desire to keep training these skills, to the best of my ability. It is the same for many professionals who have to regularly practice their craft, especially when it is one which is only sporadically required.
At first glance your story doesn't look like a 2chairs artist case but it is. Do you remember the first time when you felt yourself sitting on two chairs?

All the time! The bulk of my professional work over the years was to capture the key points and the atmosphere during corporate events. On this „chair" I have to be professional, reliable, observant, considerate and put myself in second place. I am very comfortable on this chair! However the appearance does not always represent my inner feelings. Sometimes I wonder if I do muddle along and even think aloud at an event, as I do in private. As I said, I need to keep practicing because I make mistakes all the time. And where best to practice and try out new things is obviously in private, which keeps me fit for the work, and this is the other chair. I would say this is more experimental, unpredictable, free from constraints, and vocal. This work has my fingerprints all over it. I like to create images which are very simple, low key and local yet universal but with a deeper meaning and best of all, being able to tell a story. Objectively both end products are similar, they are taken with the same equipment, and both show „pixels in a frame", and yet they are so different. I like the term amateur photographer as it refers to the the love of photography, so I sometimes consider my self as both a professional and an amateur, so perhaps in this respect I feel as if I have been on two chairs all the time.

Can you imagine that you should choose only one role? What would it be? Can you separate them or not?

Considering my age, I would love to be able to become a full time artist, because events are literally exhausting, although it is interesting to experience how my clients are booking me more for portrait sittings. But the satisfaction of producing an image which speaks to someone, enough for them to buy it, as a piece of art, is undoubtedly the best compliment anyone can have. So that is the wish!

Do you feel any pressure from any parties, e.g. your customers, colleagues, art galleries, your instagram audience, etc.?

This is a good question. Actually I do not work well under pressure, by that I mean when I get the feeling that everything depends upon my performance alone. I think this is why I was often booked as an event photographer because my role is a subordinate one. Not being center stage, but being respectfully observant. Pressure also comes from competition, which I actively avoid. And because I work alone I don't feel under pressure. If at all I put pressure on myself to create the best work I can under the circumstances. Consequently I do take all my work very personally. I am often under the impression I am doing something unique. However, after joining Instagram late in 2019, I began to realize I was on a well-trodden path.That was a hard lesson, but I have come to terms with this now, as I tell myself my work is still unique to me, I don't copy other work, and even I, don't know what I will be doing next! This is liberating and exciting as each post is like a mini vernissage where one can meet the artist. I do take it seriously but also with a sense of humor. However I don't know how it is „judged" alongside other works, although judge is the wrong word, it should be all about enjoying the exchanges and tremendous diversity out there.

Do you see a core conflict between a handicraft and higher art? Where do you draw this line in your practice?

I can tell you a little about the process behind my images. I am a little old fashioned in that I make an effort to use a professional camera, preferably on a tripod in order to have an image which could be printed large. This is cumbersome compared to the quick and ease of use, of an app on a smart phone. I know it should not make a difference to the message being told, but I still can't imagine changing my process, even though I do enjoy experimenting.

That sounds curious. Getting to the show, could you please tell us why chairs star in your "Sittings" series? How has it started?

Recently I exchanged a lot of equipment for a new camera, so I had to learn how to use it just in case I needed it for work. I decided to take the chairs out for a walk. I imagined them to be real characters who were chatting about the environment they were in, and we could eaves drop on them. This gave me a chance to express my concerns about difficult issues which interest me in politics or the environment, etc.

Sometimes these were best in the form of a dialogue with two chairs, or in the lonelier moments, which we all experience, as a monologue. I knew that the images would be seen all over the world so I tried to disguise where I was taking them, that is close to home, and yet could be universally understood.The same sensitivity was applied for the conversations. Judging by the comments I received this did entice some good discussions from around the world.

Are you going to continue with chairs or find a new muse?

I really do not know! So far this series has grown organically, as with all other series, and this has been simple as I am under no pressure, which is the way I like it. If I imagine taking this series to the next level, ideally by going inside interesting places, I would need to spend time organizing and persuading third parties to come on board to back it, and this in turn would divert my attention from taking images, which is my priority. I don't think I lack ideas. however if you follow me on instagram, you will be able to follow my journey and find out ,with me, where I am going.

Do you have any ambitions in photo art? What milestones are important for your artistic career?

I am not a planner, I seem to drift about. Having Instagram as an outlet is a really important medium for me at the moment. But as the name suggests, one post is instantly there, only to be instantly replaced by another. So deep down I do think my series, „Sittings" included, do deserve something more permanent, as they are touching upon some bigger issues which a wider public may be interested in. However the only thing I can actually do myself, is simply carry on creating images which tell stories I can relate to and hopefully others can enjoy too.

Many thanks Rupert, it was a great talk! I wish you good luck with all your projects and ideas!