Meeting Richard Heeps
I shoot on film which can be a slow process, film can be precious which makes you think quite hard before you take a picture.
Burnt Etruscan reds, seductive saturated blues and bucolic ocean scenes, British artist, Richard Heeps‘ cinematic portrayals of America prove the magic of unedited, lens-based photography. Heeps’ camera is not only his passport to explore, but a ticket to inner sanctums; reminding us that photography does more than merely document. Even amongst the cacophony of selfies and Instagram posts, Heeps’ works manage to inspire, seduce and transport us to unseen corners of the United States.
Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you decided to follow your path as a photographer?
There is no one pivotal moment. In my late teens I wanted to communicate my ideas and often turned to art and music to do that. I was exploring different mediums but photography seemed the most effective and successful, in my late teens. My work was selected as part of exhibitions which encouraged me to make more work, I created my own darkroom and studio and it became clear to me that this was a passion that I wanted to pursue.
I love watching history programs and documentaries so when I am planning a shoot abroad I use these to get ideas of where to go and build an idea of a concept.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
I shoot on film which can be a slow process, film can be precious which makes you think quite hard before you take a picture. You then have to wait for the film to be processed. My nearest processing lab these days is 80km away from me. I do have a habit of sitting on my processed film and then look at the results with fresh eyes at a later date. Just recently I have released some work for the first time which was shot around the year 2000. I have my own colour darkroom that unlike a black and white darkroom with a red light, this is complete darkness. Often printing for days at a time your mind goes to a strange place from the time spent in the tomblike darkness. I print up to 76cm by however long.
I have spent years sourcing my materials, tools and suppliers in order to create a finished piece. I have always wanted to create a finished piece of art which is affordable. My work is limited-edition and I have been lucky enough that for many years that people have connected with my work and wanted to buy it. I love watching history programs and documentaries so when I am planning a shoot abroad I use these to get ideas of where to go and build an idea of a concept. On YouTube you can find really low production city guides which are great to build a sense and understanding of a place. I am always looking back through the files of my negatives and I find that influences where my eye is when I approach a project, I find that patterns that have emerged in my work come into play and I already know that is influencing my future work.
You grew up in East Anglia, yet many of your photographs explore the saturated hues and hidden corners of the United States. What is it about America that inspires you?
I have been very influenced by the landscape around me, since my childhood journeys with my parents, and my early work explored the hidden corners and saturated hues of East Anglia. When I went to America I saw the parallels and the journey of my work continued.
East Anglia does look like parts of America, where I grew up American influence was everywhere, American Air Force Bases, American Cars, American Motorsports, American Industrial Farming Methods, American Accents, America was on our doorstep.
My early work explored the hidden corners and saturated hues of East Anglia.
Do you have a favorite photograph or photographer?
My favourite artists are Film Makers Wim Wenders and David Lynch. My degree was Film, Photography and Animation and I feel that this approach to looking at art has most influenced my approach as an artist.
When I went to America I saw the parallels and the journey of my work continued.
Often printing for days at a time your mind goes to a strange place from the time spent in the tomblike darkness.
What do you have in store in the coming months?
I am working on a concept ‘A Short History Of…’ whether it be Hong Kong, New York, London or Milan where I am building collections which convey a sense of place. I am shooting a lot of film in the making of this, often repeatedly photographing the same subject/place/thing at different times of the day. It is not one definitive picture but a sequence that portrays the fabric of a place. This is an ongoing project and the work is being exhibited as it unfolds. In January ‘A Short History of Milan’ was launched and in July images from ‘A Short History of London’ will be shown for the first time.
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