Oct 18, 2013

Investigating the Abandoned with thelongsilence

I'm a big fan of reality shows especially ones that feature singers, dancers, etc. I have noticed a recurring theme. If the person auditioning thinks they're REALLY great, they usually aren't and those that have tremendous talent are normally very humble. Such is the case with the artist I interviewed for this feature. Richard, aka @thelongsilence on Instagram didn't believe me when I told him that HE was one of the reasons I started taking Instagram seriously as a platform for sharing photographic art. He was one of the first people I encountered who didn't take only selfies, food shots and pictures of feet! His gallery inspired me to have a second look at the potential of smartphone photography. 

Please enjoy this very candid interview with a fabulous mobile photographer.

© thelongsilence
5-Star Accommodations © thelongsilence 

Geri:  Please share a bit about yourself.

Richard:  My name is Richard, and I am a Kiwi. I live in the capital, Wellington, and am a database administrator for the revenue gathering arm of the government, Inland Revenue. The equivalent of your IRS. (Yes, feel free to hate me, I'm used to it.) I am married to a very tolerant wife, Justine, and have 4 boys - 10, 7, 5 and 3 - which leave me poor in time and money, but rich where it matters. When I'm not family bound, I will be out somewhere, phone in hand...making a dick of myself taking photos of feet*. My goal is to one day own a DSLR. (*Geri's Note: The feet photo comment is surely a dig at me from Richard, since I told him I don't like all the photos of feet I find on Instagram).

© thelongsilence
4225 © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Am I in Tunes? © thelongsilence
Geri:  Is there a special significance to your Instagram name, "the long silence"?

Richard: thelongsilence…You know, I have no idea at all where that came from. I was changing internet service providers at the time and was thinking about new email addresses. I went through several (captainduckpoo, horsemanure - yes it is a theme, I talk a lot of shit) on the way to ending up right back where I started. On the way however, the.longest.silence was one of the addresses and I guess it stuck. As for the meaning of it, I was once asked if it meant death..."the eternal sleep"...and I guess it could. That's what I tell people now anyway. On Instagram I am thelongsilence as thelongestsilence was too long. Shame.

© thelongsilence
Barbed Wool © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Flaky © thelongsilence
Geri:  When did you get started with mobile photography?

Richard:  From the first phone with a camera I had, a Motorola V9. My first photo was of Cohen, the day he started playing soccer, age 4. Since then it's something I have always enjoyed. The V9 was replaced by my first smartphone, a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro and that is when I really started playing around with images. From there I went through a Samsung S1 (which went for a swim) before my current S2. I started on Instagram the day it became available on the Android platform (April 12, 2012), my first photo being of my socks on our washing line. I'm all class.

Geri:  Do you have a traditional art or photography background?

Richard:  No, I do not have art or photography in my past. In fact, I sucked at art all through school. My elder sister is a photographer though, so maybe it rubbed off somewhat.

© thelongsilence
Blue Reprise © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Electrical © thelongsilence
Geri:  Who or what inspires you?

Richard:  Clever people. I look at images on  Instagram and think, "man, that’s cool. How can I do that?". I guess this is my way of admitting that I have never had an original thought. Everything I do is all copied from people far smarter than me.

Geri:  When I view your work it conjures up for me feelings of isolation, abandonment and a certain dark mood.  Is this intentional?

Richard:  Definitely. Although I will photograph anything, anyone, I really enjoy the dead and forgotten places that exist everywhere. I suppose I identify with them. They are secreted all about the place and your eyes slide past without ever realizing that there is something before you that has passed its best before date. They all have stories to tell, and I like to make up details of what they could have been through and what might have happened to them that resulted in them becoming what they are today. In my way, I'm preserving them just that little bit more.

© thelongsilence
Holy © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Parked by My Wife © thelongsilence
Geri:  You rarely photograph people. What attracts you to the subjects you photograph? 

Richard:  People never stand still. A house that has been empty for 30 years...that stands still. I found one down Happy Valley Road that has been up on piles for over 30 years. It still has a feel about it that makes you think it could have been something special if only someone had taken better care of it. There is also the thrill of being where you are not allowed. Most abandoned places are behind a fence, through someone else's property, behind a locked door etc. The heart always thunders a little louder when you finally make it inside.

© thelongsilence
Cohen © thelongsilence
Geri:  Do you plan your shoots with a certain idea in mind or just capture what you encounter in your daily life?

Richard:  I never plan anything if I can possibly avoid it. In fact, I got married so that I do not have to plan anything ever. When I get a day off (rare!!) I usually have a place in mind where I want to go, but other than that, I go where my whims and fancies take me. The other morning I was heading for an empty house and on the way there I fell into a river. I ended up miles away taking photographs of a cemetery instead while I waited for my jeans to dry. C'est la vie.

© thelongsilence
Red © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Rose © thelongsilence
Geri:  I'm excited to interview an Android photographer because I know nothing about your world.  Please share a little bit about your editing process and some of the apps you prefer for getting your "grunge" look.  

Richard:  I have dipped a finger into the world of iOS...and then withdrew without knowing what it was I had been doing. Over here in Android land we have the 'share' button. You can open the gallery (equivalent of your camera roll) and then 'share' an image with a program. After making the required changes, you can then share THAT image with another program and so on. Before you know it you are down in the 15th level of inception and it takes 20 minutes of hitting the back button (we have three buttons, not just one) before you get back to the home screen. You are left with pretty awesome images though. My most used are HandyPhotoPhoto Editor, PicsArt, PicSay Pro, PicsPlay, PixlrExpress, PS Touch, Touch Retouch, Snapseed and #Square.  I have more, but these ones tend to be used more often. This being said....I do use Rays on my son’s iPod. I cannot find an equivalent on the Android platform.

© thelongsilence
Row Forest © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Storage © thelongsilence
Geri: Do you have any interesting stories about any of the places you've photographed?  (Some of them look a bit eerie to me!)

Richard:  Erskine College was interesting. It is a girls' Catholic School that was built in 1905-06 by the Society of the Sacred Heart and closed in 1984. Since then it has been inhabited by pigeons. I walked in one day and asked a groundskeeper if I could go in and take some photos, as you do. His response was, "Sure, as long as you know it is an earthquake risk." Like that was going to stop me. In through a broken window, up and down the four stories of echoing silence, out on the third floor balcony and down an external fire escape. It was a freaky place...it was dark, dank and dripping in some areas; beautifully lit in others through floor to ceiling windows that were still intact and completely covered in pigeon shit. And dead pigeons. And live pigeons, that sound exactly like someone in boots who is trying to creep up on you. Majestic and morose all in one.

© thelongsilence
Pack o' Pigeons © thelongsilence
Geri:  On Instagram you're listed as a proud member of the Royal Snapping Artists?  Who started the group, and what is the common denominator for the members?

Richard:  Royal Snapping Artists is a collection of groups that specialize in particular areas. I’m part of Precious Junk and Dark whose themes are abandoned / forgotten / derelict and dark respectively.  It's a bit of an honor for me as it recognizes you have a talent in a particular area and that there are other people interested in showcasing your work. There are some amazing people in the Royal Snapping Artist families. Personally I don't feel qualified to be a member, but I am. As well as that, I'm a Nexus Soldier, the Nexus Army being an equivalent group to the RSA,primarily focused on the abandoned and derelict.

© thelongsilence
Embarrassed © thelongsilence

© thelongsilence
Sunshine Yellow © thelongsilence
Geri:  Have you ever exhibited your work?  If not, any plans to do so?

Richard:  Yes!  Right now in fact. I was asked by Leon Williams (@apped_as) if I would submit a couple of head/shoulder shots for a portraits exhibition he is holding. So I did! It’s currently running here in Wellington (if you make it over, I can put you up for a couple of days). I have no idea how many people are going to see it, probably not many, but that doesn't worry me at all. It’s a victory just to be asked to participate.

Geri:  Is there anything you'd like to add?
Richard:  Not really, other than thank you for choosing to interview me. There are millions of Instagram users out there that you could (should) have chosen, each of them very good in their fields. Me? I am just a bit player.

© thelongsilence
Stairway to Heaven © thelongsilence
Find Richard: Instagram

All images in this feature are copyrighted property of Richard @thelongsilence published on Art of Mob with the consent of the artist. 

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