Inverness-raised Joehari Lee returns to talk about his work at Flow.
Inverness-raised photographer and lecturer Joehari Lee – who now is based in Glasgow and is an associate lecturer in photography at Sheffield Hallam University – will talk on Saturday, September 2 at Eden Court about his photographic work made after his first exhibition at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in 1989. He will also be sharing the experience of editing his 30-year archive. Below Joehari talks about his work ....
1 It sounds as if your talk will be taking us forward from your work since last time you exhibited in Inverness which was in 1989, I think, which is a lot of work and exhibitions looking at your CV. You are currently editing your 30-year archive, so that sounds like a lot of images from which to choose. How hard has it been? What are you learning about your own work as you are going through it? How are you deciding what to talk about and show?
1 JOEHARI: I have always found it very hard to define what I do and maybe after 30-odd years I might be able to figure it out.
Editing is the key and it may take me another year to shape a cohesive body of work.
The upcoming talk will go some way of getting me there.
On reflection teaching photography has really got in the way of my creative practice.
I have noticed there are recurring motifs within my archive, with further editing I hope these will reveal themselves in some form of linear narrative.
My primary motive has perhaps been about looking and trying to get to grips with the world as I see it, time itself is the subject, moreover (looking at my instagram feed) I am intrigued by how absurd the everyday is... Which I think will be the underlying theme within my talk.
2 Looking at the subject of your PhD, your description of the subject mentions the way photography in the mid-nineteenth century demanded a reconfiguring of the human capacity to see.
I think you look at that same theme for us in the digital age, about things like a ‘permanent’ image and the way images are compressed and expanded. Why did you feel your subject was an important one to explore?
JOEHARI: I think my PhD research area is important because the long-established core values of photography rightly or wrongly (I have no agenda) is being blurred through technology.
A photograph is no longer a print, but now a more fluid networked image that perhaps has lost it’s power, profundity and beauty?
Has the modern photograph eroded the need for memory, where once it was a key component used in preserving memories?
There now seems to be a compulsive need to take a photograph with the person beside you, so you can look at what you looked like a few seconds ago, then share that instance with the rest of the world.
Real interaction with the person or people you are with somehow seems to have become less important. What are the implications of this self absorption?
3 How did your interest in photography first begin? Was it at school, did you learn to use a darkroom and develop your own pix at school etc?
Do you remember a particular event or maybe photographs in your family that intrigued or seduced you into exploring photography yourself?
JOEHARI: To this day I really have no idea why I started making photographs.
I wish I could be economical with the truth and recite a profound moment/instance in my early life that moved me to where I am now.
But it was really a certain set of circumstances that enabled me to do what I do.
I moved to Inverness/Culloden at a young age. I was never close to my family and there was no sense of history through the very few family photographs we had. This gave me, although I did not realise it at the time the freedom to look and navigate the world at my own pace and values. I grew up with and went to school with a lot of good people that shared those values, however I always felt an outsider.
Perhaps my photography was a way to connect with people.
At school I was not a strong academic pupil and hid in the darkroom of the art department. That is where the alchemy began.
Inverness article on Joehari’s first exhibition in 1989.
4 What do you think a festival like Flow will bring to Inverness and the Highlands?
JOEHARI: I think Flow is long overdue in Inverness and the Highlands.
It was only a matter of time it was going to happen and I hope it will continue going from strength to strength.
I always thought culture is not the preserve of the central Scottish belt, just because there are more creative/work opportunities there.
Flow in time will amplify the cultural voice that has always been present in the Highlands by providing a solid platform for the creative community.
5 Are there any events or exhibitions you know about that are part of the programme you know you want to try and catch while you are up here?
JOEHARI: I will go to the exhibitions and events in the few days I am in Inverness. In particular, from an academic point of view the artists’ talks. Also Alicia Bruce’s work intrigues me. What she is dealing with and her approach/portrayal of the effects of big business on community is a universal theme that needs to be addressed now more than ever.
6 What do you like/dislike about the way photography has developed since your last exhibition here in 1989? ie the selfie, ease of access to high quality photos via mobile phones, more people taking pix than ever, disposability, etc
JOEHARI: Over the last 30 years the nature of the photograph has changed drastically through innovations in and the business of technology.
I have been lucky and unfortunate enough to experience these changes first-hand through commercial and fine art practice. This experience has enabled me to maintain a healthy ambivalence towards photography and has informed my teaching methods and research.
Technology has enabled more people to access, make and consume photographs as did the Box Brownie to a lesser degree a hundred years before. However I’m not too sure this technology has been put to good use by the masses and used to its full potential.....
I include myself in the previous thought, in being a proactive member of the masses.
Joehari Lee will talk on Saturday, September 2 from 3-3.50pm n the SGL Room at Eden Court about his photographic work made after his first exhibition at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in 1989 and the experience of editing his 30-year archive. More info: www.joehari.com and www.flowphotofest.co.uk The event is free but must be booked through Eventbrite (see Flow website) as places are limited.