This year we commissioned photographer Luke Kirwan to create the covers for our May issue / The Annual 2009. We asked Luke about the shoot and would-you-believe-it, he took some photos while he was about the task. Read on to find out more…
CR: Tell us about your initial concept and how it developed – for example, did you always have it in mind to use the particular venue that you used for the shoot?
Luke Kirwan: The initial concept was to get away from doing a studio still-life – basically what I do most of the time. I wanted something that wasn’t so much about lighting/retouched perfection but more an idea/sculpture that was photographed. The brief from Paul [Pensom, CR’s art director] was ice and oil and from there I could come up with what I wanted – as long as Paul liked it. I’d wanted to do an image with a real sense of scale and grandeur and have always liked the work of artist Richard Wilson. I remember the installation 20:50 he did at the first Saatchi gallery where he filled a room with oil. It was the first exhibition I went to when I moved to London as a student.
CR: Tell us about the venue – where and what is it? How did you find it? When was the shoot?
LK: The space itself proved difficult, I wanted a top lit gallery space so that the oil would reflect the ceiling and the light above. However, galleries tend to have exhibitions in them and for a photo shoot most want in excess of £4000 a day – if they’re even available (which they never seemed to be). The space I ended up using was one I’d seen back in January and then had decided it was just too complex so carried on a looking at other locations which just didn’t have that special something that I was looking for. Eventually I went back to this location – a beautiful historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The building itself, with it’s impressive timber roof structure and dozens of windows, is now a museum but used to be where they built ships, the floor having been added when it was converted to house exhibitions. The shoot was on a bitterly cold day in March.
CR: How big were the As (they look vast in the finished shots) – how was each one made?
LK: The As were both built to scale at around 3ft tall by Beanie Brownjohn, the creative director of a company called Makestuff. Beanie can make pretty much anything you can think of – he regularly creates installations for shop window displays and stuff. He built the A himself, not as you might think out of steel, but actually out of 3mm MDF with paint effect and cast resin rivet heads. Beanie had the ice A lasercut.
CR: They say don’t work with animals or children… Would you offer similar advice about ice and oil? There must have been some serious logistical problems to solve! Have you worked with these substances before? Would you again?
LK: I’ve worked with both before, but never on location. They were actually both very well behaved on the day, although the oil gathered dust for fun – and in a draughty wooden building by the docks in windy/wet mid March there was a lot of it floating around. The ice was fine, although as it was sitting on old dirty floorboards, it didn’t glow in the way I had imagined. However, I wanted it to feel real rather than be about what I could do with it in a studio enviroment. It needed to feel like it was being lit by the light coming through the hundreds of windows dotted around so I let it slowly melt and react naturally to the environment.
CR: So you enjoyed getting out of your studio?
LK: The shoot was great fun. It was just myself, Beanie (the guy who’d made the A’s) and my assistant, Amy. We were cold – especially moving the ice around – but, after two months of frustration at trying to find the right location, I felt like it had all come together.