The 25th Annual Exhibition by the London Independent Photography is here at the Strand Gallery for the second week and is constituted by a large exhibit of inspiring photographs. Héloïse Bergman is one of the displaying artists whose work features a series of portraits inspired by Tā Moko and the stories of people in New Zealand. Check out his interview!
When did you first come across London Independent Photography and what drew you to the organisation?
I joined LIP just over a year ago. I was doing an MA in photography and I wanted to find a proactive community of photographers to join for fellowship and feedback. Photography can be a very solitary vocation, so its really great to have a group of people to discuss ideas and share and show work with. I go to a monthly satellite group in central London; the level of skills and areas of interest are very varied ensuring that I can both support and be supported by fellow members.
Reflecting on your journey as a photographer, how did your interest develop?
I was first interested in photography when I studied textile design in New Zealand but I didn’t really get into photography until I lived in Japan and started to travel around Asia. I saw pictures that Steve McCurry took in similar places to where I was and became interested in using the camera to bridge cultural divides. When I eventually moved to London, Martin Parr’s images of British life really fascinated me, as I’d often seen photographers shoot the same type of images thematically, but usually when facing the ‘exotic other’. His bright colours rang a bell with my antipodean roots and his casual framing gave me permission to loosen up and explore a closer and more intuitive way of working.
Who inspires you artistically?
Nan Goldin and Richard Billingham also really spoke to me at that time and changed how I thought about photography.
What themes and concepts do you like to explore and how is your work distinctive? Do you have any favourite locations or techniques?
I am still drawn to making portraits, more recently the work of people such as Charles Fréger, Shirin Neshat and Rineke Dijkstra. I tend to use staged documentary or environmental portraits to explore the individual identities of people within social groups, thus questioning how like their group identity they are as individuals.
Initially I used medium and large format cameras, then when I traveled I made the breakthrough of using a 35mm camera to be more spontaneous in responding to my environment. Working as a travel photographer for Time Out and multiple magazines, I moved into 35mm transparency for clarity and punch. When editors went digital I was quick to make the switch to digital before most photographers. I am a firm believer in the right camera for the job, keeping it simple and continually exploring new technology and adapt, adapt adapt!
What are you currently working on?
My current work, Tā Moko – Modern Māori Warriors is a series of staged portraits documenting the revival of Tā Moko, or facial tattoos within the Māori community. I have been travelling throughout New Zealand photographing people in a pop up studio and recording their stories.
All Images © Héloïse Bergman
Bergman’s collection can be seen as part of the 25th Annual Exhibition by LIP until the 3rd of November.