My Sunday Interview with… Gemma Rogers
by Rebecca J Gerken
I have had the pleasure of getting to know an inspiring young photographic artist, Gemma Rogers, over the last couple of years. So far in 2013, images from her series ‘Torridon Road’ have been exhibited and she has also published them a book. She kindly gave up a few moments of her time to be my first Sunday interviewee. (Hopefully, next time, however, I will be slightly more on-the-ball and be able to publish the post within daylight hours…)
This big old house was home to many. Lots of people came and went over the years, but two who stayed and cared for it. They left their mark on this house. I’m scared to think what will happen to it now.
R Gerken: Your series ‘Torridon Road’ is a personal one. What circumstances lead you to photographing your grandparents’ home?
G Rogers: I guess it started when my Nanna was ill, when we went to see her at her house. It was strange because the house was quite empty when it used to be full of family, noise, and she was just camped out on the sofa, barely able to talk. I found that upsetting. I went around the house using my phone to photograph that time. Bits around the house, the cellar where my cousins would lock me in whilst playing hide-and-seek and so on. At that point, I was just photographing memories.
[RG: ‘Just’ is a belittling word…]
GR: When she died, I went back again with my dad and looked around with my camera. I went back to university and asked several people’s opinions and they encouraged me to go again. I went alone and spent quite a long time in there.
RG: How did you find editing the images?
GR: Well, I had taken a lot and edited down to about half of what I had taken. I had a couple of tutorials with my lecturers which helped pick out around twenty or twenty-five images. My aim was to have a series of 10 which told a story and worked well together so then I just kept going back to them [the photographs], asking different people’s opinions until I was happy with my selection.
RG: Two of the series were exhibited in a group show in Margate and you have also published the series in book form. Were there many difficult decisions to make at this stage?
GR: The photograph of the telephone is my favourite aesthetically and the first I knew I wanted to exhibit. The second image I exhibited [below] was chosen because I think it tells a story. The different, little details you can see in the image make it more interesting. And it was detail that made me choose to have quite a large sized book. I didn’t like the idea of not being able to read what something says.
RG: Have you been back to Torridon Road since your series has been finalised?
GR: No, I haven’t been back. I’ve driven past it and my dad sent me the estate agent link when it was up for sale. Since then, someone has bought it, done it up and is selling again so it was interesting to see how much they had changed it, considering it barely changed in the twenty years I knew it.
RG: On a slightly different topic, who or what are your current influences?
GR: Earlier this year, I went to The Photographers’ Gallery to see the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition and found Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s publication [War Primer] about the War on Terror; politics and photography combining found imagery and the pages of Brecht’s original ‘War Primer’. I liked the visuals, how it was presented and so that’s something I have been thinking about and playing with recently. Also, in the book shop, there was a Bible with stuff they’d put in it. An ordinary Bible from the outside but filled with photographs, underlined passages and comment and so on. I liked that too.
RG: What do we have to look forward to from you in the next year? Have you got anything currently brewing?
GR: Something along the lines of the book thing. I am hoping to produce something worth looking at [we laugh]. I am also considering how to combine music with photography and art. Whatever I do, I’d like it to be in keeping with the sort of ‘old and new’ theme I have going, following on from a few projects I was working on alongside my ‘Torridon Road’ series.
RG: That all sounds intriguing. In every interview, I aim to finish with a question a little less to do with you and a little more to do with our photographic universe. My topical question for you is your opinion on an exhibition I’ve heard you’ve been to in the last week. So, what did you think of the Mass Observation exhibition currently showing in The Photographers’ Gallery?
GR: I thought the most interesting aspect was the idea of people presenting their ordinary lives in photographic or artistic forms. They had letters from so many different people who had created their own kind of visual diaries for MO and it was interesting to see how they combined their own photos with words. It was easy to relate to most of them and by putting it all in exhibition form it made the mundane interesting.
RG: Thank you very much for an insight into your series, your upcoming works and your opinions. I can’t wait to see what you produce over the coming year!
Gemma’s series and the rest of her work can be seen at http://www.gemmarogers.com.