Interview: Stephen Harper

Interview: Stephen Harper

Interviews | February 11, 2024 |

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Image courtesy of Stephen Harper

Interview: Stephen Harper
Luca Curci
talks with Stephen Harper during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, second appointment of SENSES ART FAIR 2023, at ITSLIQUID Monti – Rome Art Space.

Stephen Harper practised as a professional photographer working from a studio in central London for over 20 years. This was principally commercial work, commissions from London-based advertising and graphic design agencies, as well as for corporate brochures. Some of his personal work was exhibited in central London spaces. After pursuing a different career, he rekindled his interest in the medium around 2015 having not taken any new photographs until then. He travels through France frequently and knows the south-west of France well, particularly the department of the Lot. A large proportion of his current projects are taken in the main city of Cahors or in the nearby small towns and villages. The photographs are of urban and semi-urban landscapes characterised by strong graphic shapes of domestic, commercial, and industrial buildings from an earlier era. A hidden geometry and textured forms are revealed, using a deliberately desaturated colour palette. The images are sometimes inspired by the muted tones of certain Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

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Image courtesy of Stephen Harper

Luca Curci – What’s your background?
Stephen Harper –
I used to practice as a commercial photographer for around 20 years working from a studio in central London creating images for advertising, public relations, graphic design, and corporate brochures. I then pursued a different career but only in recent years start to take photographs again for my personal pleasure which has developed into fine art photographic printing.

LC – What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
SH –
I see geometric shapes and abstract textures in urban surroundings, local architecture, and buildings, sometimes from an era that is slowly disappearing. By photographing these everyday scenes that most would pass by, I try to reveal their inherent beauty that is often unseen. The colour palette is deliberately subdued, with minimal saturation and reflecting influences of the impressionist and post-impressionist painters of the early to mid-20s.

LC – What are you currently working on?
SH –
A series of more contemporary scenes, interiors and exteriors but again majoring on the graphic, nature of the scene, exploiting the inherent geometry and textures of surfaces and structures. A few prints of this new series is showing in Rome and I have a major solo exhibition of this more contemporary style currently being shown in a gallery in southwest France.

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Image courtesy of Stephen Harper

LC – How important is the editing process in your work?
SH –
I try to use the most minimal of editing. Often a near full frame crop, some perspective control, colours often reduced in saturation, and only a little enhancement of the textural content to reveal inner details. All the images are as taken, true reality, nothing faked. No removal of parts of the images, nor insertion of sections from other photographs.

LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
SH –
These images often find me whilst driving or walking in urban or semi-urban landscapes. I am not always “looking” for inspiration, and often they are decisions made on the spur of the moment. But if I see something that will make a good photograph but the light is not right, for example, I will go back to the location to spend time there to capture the image I see in my mind. These images are there around me in everyday life. I am inspired by painters rather than other photographers, often where the shapes and colours are almost reduced to abstract.

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
SH –
Deciding whether a photograph, which may be excellent from many photographic criteria, is attractive enough to a visually aware viewer for them to wish to hang it on their wall. This is a tough test and I still do not totally understand how this process works in the mind of the viewer.

LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
SH –
The theme was FUTURE LANDSCAPES. My work is of a graphic nature, with geometric surfaces and shapes, sometimes verging on abstract, Both my interiors and exteriors reflect current urban cityscapes; where there is an image of a bygone piece of architecture in a not very pristine condition, this might reflect what will happen to current scenes in the future. I am not trying to be “romantic” in my approach; the revelation of a faded street scene may be the brutal reality that is often overlooked for its inner beauty.

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Image courtesy of Stephen Harper

LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
SH –
These are a selection from a previous solo exhibition held in SW France titled “Vestiges”, plus some from my more recent solo exhibition in France titled “Passages”. All were taken in the southwest of France.

LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
SH –
The organisation’s pre-exhibition and the hanging in the gallery were first class.

LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us?
SH –
Yes, I would collaborate again with you, hopefully, to be able to show more work at one time.

LC – What do you think about our services?
SH –
Too early to tell. I have only collaborated with two shows. Being a photographer amongst many, many painters is not always easy. I am hoping to benefit from your social media exposure – this interview being part of it.

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Image courtesy of Stephen Harper

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