This week we interview east coast portrait photographer Maxwell R Finch to gain an insight as to how he creates such beautiful, raw images.
How did you first get into taking portraits?
I’ve always taken photos of people, ever since my parents bought me a Polaroid in primary school. I used to photograph our magnolia tree and their friends pretending not to smoke joints on the balcony. I think I started thinking about making portraits more consciously when I got some negatives back of my lover at the time and they were the first photographs I’ve ever taken that I liked… So cliché! They commanded my attention and I immediately started making portraits of people who were close to me and people I found interesting.
What in your opinion makes for a good portrait?
Sontag says that “Photographs really are experience captured”, I agree, and I think, an exceptional portrait photograph is a character captured. The rest of that quote talks about appropriating your subject and the relationship of power and photography. An amazing portrait will always be appropriated in some way by your gaze and your relationship to your subject, something I both cherish and often come back to and question myself on. Sontag, what a mind!
Tell us a bit about one photograph that’s meaningful to you?
I wanted to choose this photograph of my Mum for this, but I have no scan of it anymore. It’s a photo of her in Turkey in the 70’s. She’s sitting on a beach, her head is tilted, squinting in the sun with eyes smiling at whoever has the camera. In that photograph, to me, she is strong, defiant, sensitive, beautiful and woman all at once! I could always see that cocktail moment in her, even though the picture was taken long before I was born, and we’d yet to meet. Anyway, you’ll never see that photograph, sorry.
I also choose Vale Street by Carol Jerroms from 1975. It’s subtle and heavy, classic and timeless. It’s deeply personal and intimate, you can feel the toxicity in the darkness. Mum also took me to see it hanging on a wall at Heide gallery and bought me a poster print which I hung on my bedroom wall that moved with me from house to house. I still have it somewhere.
You recently moved over to France, how did the experience impact your work?
Love or hate Paris, it’s a pulsing, melting, dripping romanticism of wondrous proportions all dressed very well, in their own way. I love it. I don’t live in a big bad noisy city most of the time and I thrive in that city fix, walking through the kind of grit that only builds up in a busy city is energising to me. It’s all balance. I wanted to learn more about European art and art history whilst there, I’m no good at being self-motivated when all I have is a computer screen to educate myself, so be able to go to a different gallery or atelier every day and stand in front of something I had read about, to be able to see the texture and the way light fell on it, of course, it was mind blowing. All this gallery wandering instilled, I feel, a burning desire to print my work, and make books, little books and big books, all kinds of books and prints.
Name two photographers we should be following and why?
Only two, too hard to choose…..
Claudia Smith – Claudia has such a unique mind and her creative work reflects this, it’s curious, important, gentle and raw. She’s only just beginning as well, so much more yet to come from her.
I have to break the rules again, sorry. All of these photographers are making beautiful, interesting portraits and their work is inspirational…. Carlotta Guerrero, Shadi Ghadirian, Paul Westlake, Lena C Emery, Anne Barlinckhoff…