Going undergound…

Last year we became aware of an exhibition at Leeds College of Art & Design (LCAD) featuring Nick Simpson, so we kept track of him and asked him to come back and tell us a little about it…

Tell us how you got started in photography and about your photography career to date

I started doing A-Level Photography at Leeds College of Art in 2001, I was more into the idea of Graphic Design at the time, and took photography because I didn’t want to do fine art anymore. Photography soon took over as I really got into black and white, developing and printing the film and photographs. After a Foundation Diploma at Leeds where I focused mainly on Photography I did a 3 year BA(Hons) Photography degree at Nottingham Trent University (2004-2007). I worked for a year after that with Martine Hamilton Knight (architectural photographer based in Nottingham) before I moved to Berlin in 2008. Over the last 3.5 years I’ve been building up my portfolio and tried to find my own direction as an individual photographer. The recent exhibition in Leeds was my first solo exhibition since the degree shows in 2007.

How was studying at LCAD for you?

I was at Leeds from 2001-2004, I had a great time there and really developed as a student and artist. It’s not always as vocational as it seems on the courses as there are so many hoops to jump through regarding the coursework and the way that’s all marked and verified. But the atmosphere at LCAD was good, and the communication with staff always on a friendly level. I felt that changed at University where I paid tuition fees, and yet didn’t get that much tuition.

Bernauerstasse - Nick Simpson (click to see large).

The exhibition is based around Berlin’s underground – what got you started on that?

I was (and still am) using a hand-built camera that has a fixed lens on it. In looking for spaces and compositions that the camera could record really well, I took one of an underground station. I really liked the result and then built up a series based around the differences you get in the stations, looking at that space, and the element of chance that the camera invokes.

What problems or difficulties did you have?

Very few really, I asked for permission to take the images from the Underground company. They sent me proof of permission and have done each time I’ve asked. There’s a huge difference in attitudes towards doing this kind of thing in Germany. I really can’t imagine how difficult it would be to do a similar thing with the London Underground. You get the odd person walking past saying they don’t want to be in my photograph. I explain that they won’t be in my photograph as the exposure time is so long they would have to be very still, and more to the point, I don’t want them in my photograph either.

You exhibited the photos last year – how was the exhibition process for you?

It went very well, we didn’t have any big problems which was perhaps lucky. I learned some invaluable things for the future, but in knowing the institution like I do with Leeds, I think I had an advantage. The few difficult bits beforehand centered around my being in Berlin and the organization of everything in Leeds. Communicating via email still doesn’t compare with being able to go in and have a chat face to face.

And what was the feedback like?

The feedback was positive, I met some photography students who were over in Berlin on a course trip who said they’d seen and liked the work. I gave them some tips on places to go in Berlin, so I like the way things can go full circle in that way. The gallery will have had less traffic during the Christmas/New Year break, but it was up for a good 6 weeks, and that’s pretty generous in my mind. I don’t expect my work to be universally liked or understood, I would just hope that people who saw the work were able to take their own positives or ideas from it.

So, post exhibition – what are you up to and what can we expect next from you?

I am looking to exhibit this work in its home environment, in Berlin. Who knows how long that may take though! I have some other ideas for working with my camera, which follow similar avenues of looking at a space and the human interaction with that space. Berlin is a city that is changing at such a fast pace, it’s easy to miss things here. Which means my priority is often to capture what I can and worry about showing it afterwards.

See more of the images over on Nick’s website

The image displayed is © Nick Simpson, all rights reserved.

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