An Interview with Samuel Hodge

Interview with: Samuel Hodge

© Samuel Hodge

How did you come to start working with photography and what is it about the medium that has kept you interested?

Around 2000 I became obsessed with this French fashion magazine called DUTCH. It was printed in the Netherlands, hence the name. I just loved it - I loved the ads and the layouts and then of course there were the fashion shoots. What they were doing was interesting and like nothing I'd seen. Then again I had never really seen stuff like that because I was from the countryside. Anyway, I was obsessed! At the time I was young, brave, poor and I had no understanding of how to do things properly. I emailed the photo editor from the magazine with examples of my work and he was kind enough to email me back with his thoughts and to say that he saw potential. He gave me some guidance and put me in contact with the guys who made BUTT magazine. From there I continued doing my own thing although I never really worked in a commercial sense. I disliked commercial photography because I didn’t consider myself to be a technical photographer. I still don’t, nor do I like being told what to do and I can't stand "photo club". Who cares what lens I use? I don't even know. I think that distance has kept me interested.

It seems to me that way you work is very intuitive. I noticed when I recently assisted you on a shoot that although you had a very clear picture of what you were going to photograph you tended to wing it when it came to models/props/costumes/lighting. How would you describe your process and how do you think it has affected your work?

With this stuff I really don't like to stress. That shoot you helped me on I had previously shot in Berlin and I was not happy with it. I wanted to do it again but with a stronger vision. I also think that me ‘winging’ it was really just a whole lot of luck. I was actually quite unorganised and didn't arrange anything until that morning, including the models. But it worked. 

© Samuel Hodge

Your work is exclusively shot on film - Could you tell us why this is?

I was given this old film camera 14 years ago and that’s what I learned with. I really like what I get when I shoot film and I like the restriction of only having a certain amount of shots that I can take. I suppose some people would think the opposite. I’m not at all adverse to digital photography, it's just that I have never used a digital camera and I'm comfortable with my analogue camera.

Although you have worked extensively as a fashion photographer in the past you talk about fashion photography and the industry with some amount of disdain. Your most recent exhibition at Alaska Projects in Sydney, The Imponderable Archive however did feature clothing from prominent local fashion brands including Romance Was Born. I’m wondering why it is that you have decided to merge fashion and art?

I don't have a disdain for fashion photography. I just really dislike being told what to do. I actually haven't done that many fashion shoots, maybe a few a year… And mostly the ones I have done I have loved doing because I've been free to do what I want. I actually love fashion but I feel there is a real lack of control when you're working in a commercial fashion sense and being paid by a client. The whole thing of photographers having commercial work sections and personal work sections on their websites is a really strange idea for me. Why can’t we all just do what we want? It would make for much more exciting advertisements and magazines! That’s what happened with my work, I decided to merge the two. It was a pretty natural progression.

© Samuel Hodge

The Imponderable Archive is made up of images that you have sourced from digital and personal archives and have then reconstructed and re-shot. Where did you source these images and what was the significance of collecting and reconstructing the archives?

This all kind of happened by accident. I found myself drawn to certain images on gay dating sites and Tumblrs – images that I wanted to or thought would be interesting to recreate. One day I decided to try out the idea and so I inserted these seen images into a fashion shoot I was doing for Oyster magazine, with the hidden purpose of using them for an exhibition.  And again it was about control.  There were several themes I wanted to explore and to be honest I'm not quite sure where it was all going but my intuition was telling me to go with it. Sometimes I think it's a smart idea to just shut up and follow your instinct. At the time I was getting very bored with the work I had been making and I wanted to challenge myself. Something I had been keen to explore was the way in which photography as a medium could be perceived – I was interested in the place of the photograph in the gallery versus the photograph as a marker of time and so on. I suppose my instinct was that it was working and I was excited and proud of the results. I'm not 100% sure why it worked and I'm not an academic but I think that's OK… maybe when I'm 70 I'll have a better idea of what this all means and how it all fits.

© Samuel Hodge

You are soon to be included in a Thames & Hudson publication on the 40 best fashion photographers. How do you feel about being included?

Oh yeah, I think the publication is called Don't Stop Now. I haven't checked it out yet and to be honest I'm not sure who else is in it. I know it’s about people like myself who work within the realm of fashion photography but still do their own thing. I really don't mind being included because I think it makes sense… maybe now I’ll be able to do a shoot for Vogue or something. Steal the job from Annie Leibovitz!?

What projects are you currently working on/what projects do you have planned? 

At the moment I'm working on some group shows and working on expanding The Imponderable Archive. I’d like to take that show to L.A and add several more works. Basically I want to keep going with this until I'm bored and everyone else is too.

Interview by Nicholas Shearer

Samuel Hodge is a photographer that moves fluidly between the fashion and gallery context and print and online mediums. He has exhibited in several Artist-Run Initiatives and has been involved in creative projects in Australia and abroad. These projects have helped define a unique way of working and a critical approach to the photographic medium within an art and commercial context. His work has been collated into 3 monographs to date; truth-beauty-cock, Sometimes I Just Need Quiet and Pretty Telling I Suppose. He has also presented annual solo shows at Alaska Projects, Sydney since 2012 and is currently collaborating with fashion label, Romance Was Born.