Gavin Hammond – The art of making light
I had the pleasure of discovering the multi-talented artist Gavin Hammond several years ago on MySpace. I don’t remember exactly how we connected, but he definitely managed to make an impression and has somehow stayed on my radar ever since. For one thing, I really enjoyed the music he’d uploaded at the time (his solo songwriting and production), but I also loved his taste in art and photography. Fast forward to 2011, and what MySpace was for artists back then, is nowadays Blogspot and Tumblr. Naturally, someone as creative as Gavin Hammond is to be found there as well, but this time it’s not just with his music, but also – and most strikingly – his amazing photography; a passion he apparently has had for several years now!
About Gavin Hammond:
Gavin Hammond is a musician, writer and photographer from London. The music and film producer for film noir pop group Sweet Tooth, he is also a singer/songwriter in his own right, and the mixer and music producer of various artists from the UK and Australia. He began taking photos when travelling the world as a musician and now captures the world as if he were creating the soundtrack for a traveller.
He shoots in black and white (film) and uses a Lomo so he can concentrate on framing, lighting and mood, rather than digital tricks. He never photoshops or crops his images and aims to create a distinctively timeless work.
He likes to be creative more than anything else, and is always looking to capture that one, perfect moment and make it into a timeless document.
He is currently working on a book of cartoons and poems, a range of film posters, a film noir guide to London, a graphic novel and a series of black and white films. Oh, and about five album projects in his own studio…
Nina Baseema: Gavin, thanks for taking the time for this interview. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit more about yourself, first? Who is Gavin Hammond, where are you coming from and what is your mission?
Gavin Hammond: I’ve been a musician for many years and have travelled around the world doing that. I have also done a fair bit of music writing, so collaborated with all kinds of rock photographers as a result. I guess both those things gave me a kind of sensibility or way of seeing the world. My mum is also a photographer and that probably gave me a bit of an eye too…
Whenever I was moving around I would often end up doing drawings or taking photos, but never really took it too seriously. It was just kind of something I did when I was on my own.
Then, when I was living in Australia for some time, I would often take a few months off to travel between there and England. Asia is a very photogenic place, so I began taking photos whenever I could.
I never showed them to anyone until an artist and curator friend saw them, and was very impressed. She insisted I do something with them, but I never really found the time. I still have all those images in a box and will try to scan them up one day. But I guess it was during that time that I taught myself to take pictures.
Now that I have returned to England, I’m kind of seeing the place through fresh eyes and have started taking pictures again. My Lomos began as a project for my band, Sweet Tooth, and have now really taken off. Suddenly I am fully immersed in photography, thanks to the joys of a Lomo LC-A+ and the vanity of blogging. My mission? To quite simply find and capture any tiny fragments of beauty I can in this brief life. Our time is short, so we’d best make it epic!
NB: I noticed that you usually shoot with a lomo. Do you use other analog or digital cameras as well or are you in a “commited relationship” with the lo-fi camera?
Gavin Hammond: Well, I always used to shoot on a Nikon FM2, so was very versed in the art of analogue. When digital came along I found it rather thin and unsatisfying so I decided to wait until the cameras had matured a bit spec-wise. Meanwhile, I discovered Lomos and that really opened up a new world for me. Here was something I could put in my pocket and carry with me everywhere; something that just gave me a ‘feeling’ without getting hung up on technology. I use a heck of a lot of gear in my work as a music producer, so these cameras are very liberating. I’ve recently begun using a digital camera (a Canon thing) and I’m kind of enjoying it, so long as I dirty up the images a bit. But I do love film, it just moves me.
NB: As you know, I am a great fan of all of your art and creative endeavours. In your photography I really find it most striking how you manage to make contemporary architecture or other objects look like they are from a different time. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that the place in the picture may even exist on this planet! What’s your secret? Do you have “a third eye” when approaching a possible object for your lens?
Gavin Hammond: honestly don’t know. I do feel that there is beauty and wonder in this age of science, you just have to look for it. To me, life fades fast so you have to have to savour every precious moment. It’s a bit like songwriting – you only a brief second to capture that brilliant light when it occurs, and if you get it right, it will last forever. So I always try to be always prepared!
Or maybe it’s just all the drugs I took when I was younger. Or maybe it’s because I’m always so tired from the 18-hour days I do. Or perhaps I just have a very dirty lens on my camera [Gavin smiles].
Either way, I do tend to have my camera at the ready at all times.
NB: Browsing through your photos, I am often reminded on the works of Erwin Blumenfeld, Edward Steichen or Man Ray, who were true pioneers for turning the craft photography into a legitimate form of art. Are you very much inspired by a particular artist from back then? What is your main source of inspiration in general?
Gavin Hammond: I went to art school briefly after leaving school but was quickly thrown out for my somewhat rock’n’roll lifestyle. Before I left, I won a small scholarship from my father’s company. I spent the lot on art books, a perspex guitar and a not inconsiderable amount of LSD.
Everything else has gone, but those books have stayed with me since and whereever I am, I will always hunt down a photographic gallery to stay inspired. I’m not really into celebrity, so one of my favourite old skool photographers is a little-known artist called Franscesca Woodmann. She was American who shot many selfportraits and eventually committed suicide at 22. I also like Man Ray and Lee Miller’s work – and the tension between them.
But really, my biggest motivation is the urge to create, not consume. And to do as much as I can, while I am still able.
NB: You are such a multi talented person and apparently spend a lot of time in the process of creation. Is there something for which you have a general preference? Do you see yourself mostly as a musician with a strong passion for photography or the other way around?
Gavin Hammond: I like to see myself as a Renaissance man! No, seriously, I guess music is the thing that gives me the most visceral pleasure. But then, being a songwriter and producer, I’ve invested so much damn money in that equipment, I have to say that! I find photography a wonderful release from all that deliberation. I click, I shoot and its’ done. No editing, no photoshopping, no tweaking – just the honest truth.
A bit like my photography, I’ve always drawn cartoons (a character called Zac Stack) and now I’m finally compiling him into a book. Lately, I have also begun writing poetry and gradually expanding into film. So now it’s ALL coming out! I guess we’re in the multimedia age. What the heck – why can’t artists be multimedia people too?
Mind you, if I sold my studio and just became a photographer, I could probably buy a house and retire right now. Sigh…
NB: Allow me one last short question! If you could pick the headline you would never want to read above your photography – which one would it be?
Gavin Hammond: How about: “Hammond takes colour photo in broad daylight”!
Nini Baseema is a creative geek who enjoys spreading her passion for the good things in life all around the online world. She is constantly on the hunt for striking artwork, life-changing photography, marvelous designs, elevating performances, inspiring phrases, mindblowing literature and heartbreaking songs! She secretly wishes she was born 2500 years ago, so she could personally tell Plato off for thinking that women weren’t made for philosophy. In the present, she is usually found hiding behind her nerdy glasses and writing for several art blogs in her spare time, either that, or she’s busy teaching belly dancing or taking one of her selfportraits!