Max Colson – MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography
Max Colson graduated from MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at LCC in 2012. His work explores the use of surveillance in public spaces and how this influences perceptions of reality.
What did you study at LCC and what year did you graduate?
I studied on the fascinating and provocative MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography (Online Mode) and graduated in December 2012.
What made you choose that particular course?
I’d heard it was one of the best documentary photography MA courses around and it had a great list of visiting lecturers, including Peter Fraser, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.
What did you enjoy most about LCC?
Meeting my awesome coursemates; finding a ‘voice’ under the watchful eyes of the tutors on my MA.
What three words would you use to best describe LCC?
Eye-opening, encouraging and optimistic.
Please describe your work in your own words.
My photographic work dramatises issues around the use of surveillance in public space and pays particular attention to the relationship between surveillance and a climate of paranoia and mistaken identity. Considering how the psychology and tools of surveillance might influence our perception of things in reality, I – through the use of fiction and humour - encourage the viewer to question the visual documentation of people or places that are vulnerable to misinterpretation, when seen through the eyes of another.
At the moment I’m working on a couple of photographic projects, only one of which I can properly reveal: it’s about a fictional character I created, a photojournalist, who’s obsessed with exposing the ‘suspect’ plants that he believes are a hidden part of the security apparatus of high security areas in London e.g. Canary Wharf. I am working on a second project too, largely under wraps at the moment. However, I can say that it puts me in the incredibly unenviable position of having to photograph in fairly dodgy parts of London at night, hoping that everyone’s gone to sleep.
Talk about the approaches, techniques and tools, you use in your work:
Although my work to date has been mainly photographic, my future visual output will be open to using other media. It really depends on the idea; the most important thing is finding the appropriate method of execution, be it photography, text, video or something else entirely.
Conceptually speaking, I’m part of a collection of documentary makers who are interested in playing with the conventions of the genre for two reasons: 1) I’m as much interested in encouraging the viewer to question the quality of the visual information that is being presented to them, as I am about raising awareness of a particular issue through the content; 2) Humour, play and fiction are important tools in engaging people with the themes of my projects.
What piece of advice would you give to new students?
Experiment, challenge yourself and have fun doing it. It’s hard to get the freedom, the space, the coursemates (and facilities!) outside of art school.
Name three things you couldn't be creative without:
Google, cameras, the free press.
Where in London do you go when you need a little inspiration?
Inspiration can obviously come from anywhere but for me the best places are the British Library, newspapers and general browsing online.
Tell us about your future plans and ambitions:
This year I’ve been focused on developing a sustainable practice after university, which is basically about developing a work life balance that both financially supports me and also gives me the time and space to promote my work and produce new projects (without starving). Having this framework is key to the survival of my personal projects, particularly as an artist that’s not that interested in making work that’s immediately commercial.
I ended up being one of the UK winners of the 2013 Magenta Flash Forward ‘emerging photographer’ competition this year and I went to Arles Photography festival in the summer. These two things have helped get my work noticed and published, which is something that’s really important to my development. Once I’ve been published more widely I’ll be in a much better position to apply for funding, residencies, competitions and exhibitions (which are the key ways to develop your work post-university).
Project wise, I’m interested in working more in collaboration with other institutions (academic, artistic or educational). I’d like to develop partnerships that creatively challenge issues around surveillance in the UK and other cities worldwide.
Read an interview with Max on HotShoe