Chase My Yellow Kite - Online Photography Newspaper
Spring Issue 2014
WednesdayNF
Barbican

Bindi Vora

The start of a new regular feature called ‘Next Frame’ sees one photographer interview another, who will in turn become the interviewer for the next entry. In our first post, Chase My Yellow Kite editor Sam Taylor interviews friend and fellow photographic artist Bindi Vora.

Bindi Vora interviewed by Sam Taylor, photography by Bindi Vora – 16/03/2014
Bindi
Sam

Selfie

B.V. So what are the questions that you had?
S.T. Who are you?
B.V. Yeh but that’s a stupid question?
S.T. Why is it?
B.V. Why? Well surely you would know the person you are interviewing?
S.T I know who you are.
B.V. Exactly.
S.T. But who are you?
B.V. I know who I am.
S.T. But the people reading this won’t know who you are.
B.V. You would have the name on the post.
S.T. Is that all your identity is, your name?
B.V. Yes. My name. Well no, but you have to have them be a bit more specific.
S.T. Well go on then…
B.V. My name is Bindi Vora and I am a photographic artist. There we go.
S.T. I’m glad it’s taken this long for some context. What is your photographic background?
B.V. I started studying photography at school for my A-level’s, then moved onto a Foundation course at LCF and then a BA which I finished last year but my Grandfather used to be a photographer and he had his own studio and darkroom in Uganda and that’s probably where I get it from.
S.T. Was that before your family moved from Uganda to here? Is that the story told through ‘Making Home’ exhibition that you had work in last year at the Royal Geographical Society?
B.V. Yes, so he had his studio in Uganda however, when they were kicked out of the country they moved to Nairobi, then I think he had a small darkroom but not on the scale of what he had in Uganda.
S.T. Did they stay in Nairobi?
B.V. They are all still in Nairobi but my Mum moved to London and got married and had kids here.
S.T. So do you think you got your photographic ilk from your Grandfather? How much did you interact with him being in Kenya and you in London?
B.V. Well we used to go every summer but I didn’t know he was a photographer until I was doing my Foundation course and I made the ‘Tracing Heritage & Roots through Cultural Transformation’ project that was in the ‘Making Home – Exiles: The Ugandan Asian Story’ exhibition, which will be on show again at the end of March at the University of London, SOAS.

MakingHome

Making Home – Exiles: The Ugandan Asian Story at the Royal Geographic Society, September 2013
S.T. If you didn’t know he was a photographer, who introduced you to taking photographs? You, and I to a lesser extent are at the age where digital would have been more common at a family level. I remember being in my early teens and the odd people having digital cameras over film cameras.
B.V. When I was 11 I insisted on having a Polaroid camera, so some of the images you see in the Tracing Heritage and Roots project, those were some of the Polaroids I had shot when I was 11, but formally I was probably introduced at A-level. Then it just went from there, and everything I was shooting was on a small Samsung compact camera, so it wasn’t until my Foundation that I started using film and I completely forgot about digital.
S.T. The Polaroid you got when you were 11, is that the camera you talk about in Ex-Libris?

ExLibrisII3

Image from the book ‘Ex-Libris II’, 2012
B.V. Yep, all the images in that project are the ones I had taken in Kenya when we had gone back or when family had visited London.
S.T. I didn’t realise they were all your’s, I had assumed some were your Grandfather’s.
B.V. No, it’s only in the new display of the images for the ‘Making Home’ exhibition that some of those images are his mixed with some of mine. He used lots of different techniques like hand colouring, double exposure in the dark room to get the montage of images. The idea of the project at that time was to replicate his work in terms of technique.
S.T. Some of these next questions don’t really make sense now…
B.V. I told you. “Who are you?”!…
S.T. Well only because we covered some of them with what we just talked about. How would you describe your work or categorise it as a whole if you can?
B.V. Genre? It’s strange, because it went from being very vernacular found imagery to being more conceptual. So, for example, the project we just spoke about is very vernacular, looking at images of family photographs and thinking about that logic.
S.T. It’s still quite conceptual, even though you are using a lot of found imagery, what you then go onto create using them as a starting point is quite conceputal.
B.V. Yeh, I think what Tacita Dean did with Floh is quite similar in that sense but the difference is she found all her pictures and created a narrative from the flea-market images of Germany, but then if you look at text by Annette Kuhn (Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and imagination) where she talks about the photograph and it’s interpretation twenty years on from it being taken and the captions on the back it comes together. Now, it’s very minimal what you see on the image.
S.T. It’s just white bits of paper…
B.V. Yeh, white bits of paper, crumpled white bits of paper actually…
In that sense there is less content but more concept if that makes more sense?

Lustre1

Photograph from the ‘Lustre’ series, 2013
S.T. I think the kind of work we both enjoy doing is quite similar, in that there isn’t necessarily a through line in subject matter from project to project.
B.V. I agree, I think your project ‘Family Obscured’ that was shown during the Brighton Photo Fringe and my film ends project are very similar, but you layer the negative whereas I just print from the end of the negative.
S.T. I feel, I think you are the same, the process of physically doing something is the most interesting part. Whether it be crumpling/sculpting pieces of white paper then photographing them or using bleach to destroy the image on the negative.
B.V. I think the process is important but the layering of these techniques and the embodiment of having yourself doing it rather than just all the work being done within the camera, it becomes tactile then.
S.T. It’s more sculptural, you can see the artists hand more in the final images. Your physical actions are more the photographic tool than the camera.
B.V. The camera is often, literally the final thing I would use.
S.T. Or not at all in some cases, which is how I’ve worked in the last few years.

Out of the whole photographic process, what is your favourite part? I know we just talked about the physical part but are there any stages you revel in or alternately loathe and feel are chore-like? Say from the initial spark of an idea up-to exhibition and talking about the finished piece.

B.V. Well I like when you get the spark of an idea and when you actually get into the process, sometimes doing the same thing, say if you are in a darkroom for 3 months straight, 5 days a week trying to get the colour right, at certain points that can get bit a too much. At the end it’s worth it when you have the finished piece, even if it’s only 7 prints you end up with, that’s the thing that makes you push through. There’s not anything I loathe though…
S.T. Well, I was thinking of the bit between initial spark and actually starting the project. I don’t think I loathe it, I just loathe my inability to push through it sometimes. You can get stuck thinking abou the execution rather than actually doing something.
B.V. That’s true actually, I think you have to do it though. It’s different compared to the process you get used to at University where you have no other real commitments. Now it’s completely different, you get stuck in place where you have the idea but then other things take precedent and it gets pushed aside.
S.T. Or you just can’t afford to produce the piece as you imagine it.
B.V. I think a lot is access to facilities too. Something you might take for granted when you are in University or College. You don’t realise how good it is, it’s like being in a sweet shop.
S.T. Exactly, for me personally, it wasn’t until midway through the second year of my BA that it dawned on me “Shit, I can be doing all of my own stuff whilst I have access to all this great equipment”. There’s a slight bit of guilt that I didn’t take advantage earlier.
B.V. Most people have that, you just don’t realise.
S.T. Although, in retrospect, I probably wouldn’t still be happy with the work I was creating as a student in that first year; 8 of so years ago.
B.V. You change a lot. Everybody changes a lot during those years.
S.T. Do you know the thing that really annoys me about you?
B.V. About me!?
S.T. You make me feel really guilty because you exhibit and create a lot of work and seem to find it easy to immerse yourself in the role of a photographic artist quite easily. How many times have you exhibited in the last six months for example?
B.V. The landscape one that’s on now (‘On Landscape #1′), Basel (‘Capricious presents ‘The Louder’), Royal Geographical Society, the one we were in together (‘Material Light’), two book shows one in Singapore (‘Atlas of Places do not Exist’) and one in the House in East London last year (‘An Atlas of Places do not Exist’) and then the one with Holly Birtles (‘The Laying On Of Hands’). It’s important to show the work and it’s the rewarding part at the end when you have a project that fits somewhere.

LayingOnOfHands

The Laying On Of Hands Exhibition – August/September 2013
S.T. Those seven or so exhibitions, how many of those were the same work?
B.V. I think it’s split, the book project that was on show in the house and Singapore is what’s on show at the moment in ‘On Landscape #1′.
S.T. What’s it called?
B.V. Urmm, ‘Journeying a Non-place’.

JANP

‘Journeying a Non-Place’, 2011
S.T. Well done for remembering the name of your own work.
B.V. Yeh, ‘that project’.

The Royal Geographical Society went somewhere else after but that was a piece that was reworked from 2010. Then ‘Lustre’ has been shown four of five times but in different contexts, at the exhibition with Holly it was the large pieces on a cream wall, then at Westminster it was the 11×14 on a grey wall, then in Basel it was just one image on a white wall, so it’s changed a lot. With that body of work it took a year to produce.

S.T. They are very white.
B.V. They are super white. So it’s about finding the balance between; is it a large image on a white wall, or the small prints on a grey wall?
S.T. Do you think exhibiting it four or five times now, you now have a preferred way of having it shown?
B.V. Yeh, you can be a bit more demanding of yourself and not say “I’ll just do it like this”.
S.T. What is the set final way you would ideally show it? You mentioned different backgrounds.
B.V. It has to be grey, sometimes if the white wall is just off then the image can get lost in it. If it’s grey then you focus on the images.

LustreEx

‘Lustre’ during the University of Westminster Degree Show @ Free Range, June 2013
S.T. They become windows in the grey wall.
B.V. Exactly. I’ll probably only show it at the larger scale, or contact prints. Never in the medium size like at Westminster.
S.T. The detail gets lost, for a piece that is very minimal there is lot of minute detail.
B.V. The tiny little ribbed creases or the slight jolting where it feels like it’s coming out, you lose that in the intermediate print size.
S.T. So the ideal way of showing it, is that the same as you showed it the first time?
B.V. Yep, but that was the most that had been shown.
S.T. If for future exhibitions, space is no problem do you have a set edit number?
B.V. As long as cost is no issue either then ideally I would show all 20 in the series that corresponds to the 20 negatives in the large format box.
S.T. Is there a smaller edit that you would be happy with if you were pushed.
B.V. Six, but three would be the smallest. Just seeing one is ok but for the impact and the diversity between the images you would need three to show the range that is within the whole piece.

Lustre2&3

‘Lustre’, 2013
S.T. Are you working on anything at the moment?
B.V. Trying to…
S.T. Are you stuck in that swamp we spoke about?
B.V. I am in the swamp, yes. I’m digging my way out bit by bit, trying different things. It’s a strange project because I want to sculpt the face out of photographic paper but I don’t know whether to photograph the face then sculpt the paper when it’s flat or to sculpt the paper onto the face then re-photograph it once it’s flat. A photographer once said to me when you take a holiday it’s not to go away, it should be to make work.
S.T. I remember a photographer who when going away on holiday would challenge themselves to make a mini-project every day.

Do you see your work mainly for the wall, I know you do a lot of book work too, are they the two mediums you enjoy the most?

B.V. Yes, because you have something physical and tangible.
S.T. That goes back to your Polaroid roots.
B.V. When you have something tangible, it feels more real compared to just working digitally.
S.T. Working digitally the end product can still be tangible.
B.V. Of course it can, but I mean in terms of it being solely digital. With Lustre, I crumpled the paper, I shot the paper, I processed the negatives and then scanned them, which was still really hands on to make the white white.
S.T. Digital only came into it at the end.
B.V. As an output, yes. If I could have hand-printed I would have. The digital process was just refining what was already there, mainly getting rid of dust and so on.
B.V. With the ‘Family Obscured’ project that was shown in Brighton, that was layers of negatives?
S.T. Two layers I think.
B.V. Then how did you get the space look?
S.T. The depth? It’s just a side effect of the process really.
B.V. Did you bleach the negatives?
S.T. Bleach, salt solution; which gives you crystals on the negative, drawing with sharpies because the ink is translucent so the light will still travel through but you also get the colour.
B.V. Then scanned at the end?
S.T. Yes, two abused negatives layered in the scanner. Like ‘Lustre’, the only digital part was at the end of the process with scanning and printing. The physical piece is a row of six negatives turned into one long image which would be difficult to print in an enlarger. Plus the final print is about 7 metres long. I’ve played around with layering negatives when scanning since then but the process used is probably at the point where I want to either evolve it significantly or move on.

FamilyObscured

‘Family Obscured’ by Sam Taylor, 2011
B.V. It’s interesting to discover when a stopping point would be with a technique or a project. With ‘Lustre’ you could have easily kept going.
S.T. That negative abuse technique has been used for two bodies of work but with different context for the original negatives and also vastly different ways of display. The most recent piece I was able to use the process as more of a tool because I knew how to manipulate it for certain results. Both bodies of work have a similar look and you can definitely see the connection, I don’t want to continue using it and dilute the aesthetic.
B.V. You see works by photographers where the tehchnique is repeated but with different projects quite successfully.
S.T. It’s possible it’s just because it’s my own work and I’ve been so immersed in it for the last few years that I’m a bit bored of it.

I’ll finish with two short generic questions to round everything off.

B.V. Ok.
S.T. What is your favourite camera? That you own or have ever owned.
B.V. The Polaroid I spoke about earlier, with the 600 film. I remember asking for it for my birthday and going to get it from Cost-Co, twenty quid, bargain. Then it broke…
S.T. Had you used it a lot before it broke?
B.V. Yeh, I used quite a lot. I think I ended up with 60 Polaroids, which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you factor in the cost. I still use it now because I managed to get it fixed, only a couple of years ago though. I think it was when Polaroid announced they wouldn’t be producing film anymore?
S.T. That’s when you decided to get it fixed!?
B.V. Yes, I think it was that thing when you realise something has a time limit on it.
S.T. Do you have a favourite photograph that you’ve ever taken? Doesn’t have to be part of a project, could just be a one off.
B.V. Well there was one I shot in Paris a couple of years ago. I’d just woken up, completely hungover…
S.T. The one that’s through a window?

Paris

Paris, 2011
B.V. Yes, I guess you’ve seen it, through the window with the air breezing through and this crazy light, it’s really serene and nice. I’m really interested in the way that light plays such an important part in an image. If you look at the blog where I put a single image per post, it’s always how light corresponds to a surface.
S.T. Where is your work on show at the moment?
B.V. At Guest Projects in East London and in Switzerland.

OnLandscape

S.T. Anything coming up?
B.V. ‘Making Home: the Ugandan Asian Story’ will be on show again at the end of March at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies. I’m also organising a pop-up auction (which will happen on April 4), which involves doing a call for work to raise money for the Hackney Food Bank.
S.T. Well that’s about it, thank you very much.
B.V. Great, no problem, thank you, my turn next I guess…