Brighton photographer JJ Waller tells us about his work
AOH: Hi JJ, we’re really delighted you are taking part in the Christmas Artists Open Houses this year. This is the first time you’ve taken part in the AOH festival as a solo artist. Can you tell us a bit about the work you will be showing?
JJ: I don’t exhibit very often, so selecting which work to show was a challenging process. I was tempted to show pictures from a variety of projects but I finally settled on showing some of my favourite images made in Brighton and Hove. Apart from the formal framed work I will also be incorporating very large rolls of wallpaper contact sheets that I made in collaboration with the artist Deborah Bowness.
There will also be another element which has been fun to conceive and execute; it draws on my experience from a solo show for a book launch in Blackpool, where I displayed my work as an installation in a traditional bed and breakfast hotel. I am very pleased with how the pictures look framed. I think the public will be quite surprised by the images and with the playful theatrical way they are being displayed.
AOH: Would you like to tell us about your practice more generally?
Top of my list is enjoying what I do. I particularly like the uncertainty of who or what I might encounter whilst on an assignment. Photography gives license to my inquisitive nature and allows me to participate in a very practical way with people, places and events. It’s important to me to keep making work, commissioned or not, and to keep exploring ideas and hunches. Personal projects are key – it’s not knowing where ideas might lead that is a driving factor in my work.
Currently I have an on going body of work being made in Benidorm. I have an interest in working around the edges of a situation, not always going for the central focus of an event but standing back and ‘staying to the end with the cleaners’. I also seem to be attracted to towns looking to regeneration. Locally that includes photographing in Newhaven and Burgess Hill.
I like to stay involved with a place and really get to know it. I visited St Leonards regularly for 9 years before I decided to do a book on the town. That book sold several thousand copies and has become a significant record of how rapidly aspects of a town can transform. I equally like to visit places for a few hours. I love seeing new locations and people when everything is so fresh.
Publishing my own books has played a key role in placing my work into the very public arena that is bookshop shelves. My books (I currently have seven) are a huge personal investment of time and money. Overall the public response to them is good and buoyant sales help finance new work. Publishing has given me a kind of control over my work and its output in a digital age, when the paid outlets for photography are much less numerous.
AOH: Where will you be showing the work?
JJ: A fellow supporter at Whitehawk FC invited me to use his home to exhibit. When I saw the space I was very inspired, it was easy to see that this was an opportunity not to be missed. The ‘venue’ is really unique (tucked away in a mews behind the old Dudley Hotel), it has enabled me to introduce a few surprise elements.
Being a sole artist means participating in the AOH scheme can be pretty expensive. Fortunately another Whitehawk supporter offered to put in some funding which helped a lot. Also Genie, the print shop I use, offered to support me by producing all the prints for free, which was superb.
AOH: How do think this show will differ from your experience of taking part in AOH previously?
JJ: In the past, my participation has focused only on book sales and I haven’t actually been in attendance. This time the interaction with the public will be more personal as I will be around to chat and experience first hand how people actually engage with the imagery.
AOH: Are there any particular outcomes you are hoping for?
JJ: It will be interesting to see if people buy prints of my work and if print sales are an area to explore further. Doing this event might also encourage me to exhibit work more often. I have quite a few bodies of work that I would like to show. Book sales are a good form of feedback, but I imagine exhibiting in an open house format is an even more personal way of monitoring public resonance to my work and should present good potential for expanding my audience. It would also be interesting to see if any private and commercial commissions come out of it.
AOH: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
JJ:I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the great independent shops who stock my books and to give a special mention to the book sellers at Waterstones for their enthusiasm and encouragement.
JJ Waller’s Christmas 2019 Artists Open House is at:
JJ. Waller. Photographer
3 Brunswick Street West
Brighton & Hove, BN3 1EL.
Google map link to his Artists Open House
All Images by: JJ Waller www.jjwaller.com