Alexandra Lethbridge, Jessica Thalmann and Will Thomson are three young artists who use their thorough knowledge of image-making to deconstruct traditional photographic concepts. Currently on view in the exhibition Procedures & Materials, their work uses printing, folding, cutting, re-appropriation and fate to experiment with new art-making processes. Collectionair interviewed the three artists about their personal backgrounds, the ideas they try to challenge through their practice and their thoughts on being an emerging artist today.
Can you tell us a bit about your personal, educational and professional background?
Alexandra Lethbridge: Sure, I’m a photographer based in Hampshire but born in Hong Kong. I lived there with my family till I was 10 years old before moving back to the UK. I have a B.A. from the Winchester School of Art in Graphic Design specializing in Photography.
After my B.A., I moved to New York for two years where I worked for photographer Joel Meyerowitz and also studied at The International Center of Photography.
After I graduated from ICP, I moved back to London and began assisting, firstly for fashion photographer, Tim Walker, and then for documentary photographer, Venetia Dearden. After two years, I decided to go back to University and obtained a Masters in Photography at the University of Brighton. I graduated from that course in 2014 and have been running my own studio and working for Photoworks, a development agency based in Brighton, ever since.
I’m very grateful to have won some awards and prizes in that time, which have included The Denton’s Art Prize, my first publication was shortlisted for the Paris Photo Aperture Foundation First Photobook award and is also included in the Museum of Modern Art’s book collection.
When was your first contact with the photographic realm?
A.L.: I first came to photography when I was given a box of old cameras from my Grandfather when he passed away. This was the first time I remember being intrigued by a camera. They were old film cameras and they seemed really alien to me at the time. Even to this day, I still have an affinity with the object of a camera. After this, I didn’t pick up my interest seriously again until I was in college. I had a lecturer who really understood and shared my particular interest in photography. He helped introduce me to the idea of being a photographer myself and I’ve been working towards that aim ever since.
How do fact and fiction coexist in your constructed images?
A.L.: I enjoy working with the idea of fact and fiction harmoniously. I try to source images that are originally based in fact such as using images from NASA’s online archive and then intervening with them to adapt their meaning in a playful and experimental way, with the aim to make fictional narratives from factual images.
For me, I enjoy being in a state where fact and fiction become blurred and begin to – as you put it – coexist, as it creates a sense of confusion and in this state, things tend to be reconsidered.
When you’re unsure if what you’re looking at is real, in the act of changing the context, it becomes easier to let go of any preconceptions. I find this combination creates circumstances where you can generate new readings on familiar objects, effectively creating circumstances where the familiar appears unfamiliar. This is my main interest in combining these two aspects.
What do you think are the major challenges emerging artists are currently facing when trying to operate in the art world?
A.L.: I think there are a number of challenges that stop emerging artists being able to make work and sustain a practice. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve found the balance of creating work that furthers my career in contrast to work that brings me regular income to support myself to be the hardest one to navigate. Being able to support yourself and also find the time and the energy to carry on after a working day takes a lot of dedication and commitment and can be hard to sustain over long periods of time.
Another issue is getting your work out there and seen. Exhibitions are a great way to do that but they are time sensitive which makes the virtual exhibitions like Collectionair’s all the more important. Each artist needs to find their own way of showing their work that’s true to them but that can be tricky at first and can become a bit of a hurdle.