Alice Gur-Arie is our newest Bridgeman Studio photographer. With a background in advertising and graphic design, Alice dedicates her practice to exploring the photographic processes through travel and consideration of religion, space and contemporary life. Her work has been nominated for a Terry O’Neill Tag Photography Award Tapestry long listed for the Aesthetica Art Prize. We discuss her practice, ambitions and interests below.
When I was a child there was a painting over my bed of a Knight on horseback, riding across a drawbridge that was being lowered. The Knight, battle-ready and outfitted head to toe in armour, carried a flag on a long pole; the horse had elaborate blinders and was festooned with colourful ribbons. It was a very detailed pen and ink drawing on a pale watercolour background, and I can still see it clearly in my mind's eye. My father was the artist.
What is your favourite time of day to be in your studio?
My "studio" is wherever I am with my camera, as much as where I sit with my computer and monitor turning the "raw" photographic images into final art. My studio is as much a street as an airplane window seat, a rocky path in the forest, a beach or the foredeck of a boat.
I prefer shooting on cloudy days, or even in fog, as the light is more interesting, and offers more opportunity for creating a moody, textured and evocative image. My favourite time to work with the images? Anytime, but I prefer to dedicate a whole day to making artwork, rather than mix taking photographs with desk based work.
|Pansies / Bridgeman Images||The City Never Sleeps / Bridgeman Images|
Talk us through a day in the life of Alice Gur-Arie. What does a day in your life look like?
It depends whether I am working inside or out shooting. A shooting day usually starts at around 8am, although I might get up quite early to capture a subject in the dawn light, or catch an early mist (or equally a sandstorm), or indeed to travel to a particular place that will be the subject of a shoot. I might still be shooting at twilight, or even after darkness, depending on where I am and what's happening around me.
In a warm climate, a walk in the morning is a must, and there might also be a walk in the evening. When I have my cameras with me, anything can find itself at the other end of the lens, whether it is the focus of the shoot or not: a pensive street vendor, the ground beneath my feet, peeling tree bark, the shadow of a cat, a passing bus…
If I am not travelling, I start very early, and work continuously, stopping only a few minutes to eat some fruit or stretch.
How would you sum up your practice in 5 words?
Visual storytelling, distinctive, evocative, engaging.
Your work is heavily influenced by your travels. Do you travel specifically to photograph certain sites, or is this a happy by-product?
Travel plans are about obtaining new source material for artwork. I never travel to a country to see one thing; rather, I let the country set the context, and then within that framework explore as much as I can.
Sometimes a specific destination is chosen, such as Iceland, or sometimes the means of travel is arranged to provide the context for the photography - the Double Rainbow series, for example, was shot from a boat in the body of water called the Swale. I also have lived in many different countries - India, Turkey, Israel… And of course, these have provided extraordinary material from which I have drawn.
|Piper / Bridgeman Images||Spring / Bridgeman Images|
Your work is an interesting mix of digitally-altered photography with multiple layers of edits. Is your process of alteration systematic or more organic?
People frequently ask me what software I use, but my work is not about software or digital technology. It's first and foremost about the image, without which there is no art.
At the end of a shooting day I look at the photographs I have taken and start to think about what I want to do with them. I have a good sense as to the extent to which I have pushed the envelope in trying something new, and of course this excitement drives my enthusiasm to take the images to the next stage of development.
I start with the same work flow approach, but I always allow myself to be steered by what I see happening as I work on an image. I do not believe in process for the sake of process. If something unusual or unanticipated is happening, I go with it. The fascinating thing is, the end result may be nothing like what I thought I would create. When I speak in terms of "the picture telling the story", this is what I mean.
In some cases an image can be completed in different ways, each equally intriguing and strong, but conveying distinct feelings or moods. If there are enough images, I may create smaller series within the collection, in several styles. If it is a single image, I ask myself: what is it I am trying to communicate, and what response do I want to evoke?
What has been your most exciting commission or award to date?
Certainly the Year of the Horse commission was a great challenge, but also hugely satisfying. My client (5500 km away) did not provide a formal brief, so I had complete freedom in terms of creative approach. I produced a number of alternatives, each unique in style, and I was very pleased with all of them. So we both selected our first choice, and were delighted that independently, we came to the same conclusion. He had a fantastic response to the image when it was published, but what really pleased me was that this was his first commission, and he said he found the experience very enjoyable.
|Camouflage (detail) / Bridgeman Images||Barrier 6 / Bridgeman Images|
How do you find working to commission? Do you find it pushes your work in new directions?
There are few things as exciting as a new commission!
"New directions" can mean many things: new subject matter, new creative approach, new technique, new way of thinking, new end user...The push into a new direction certainly can come from a client, and it is always wonderful and welcome when it happens. Having said that, I also believe that the drive must come from within. No one pushes me more than I push myself.
For many years I was the one commissioning artwork, so I have a good understanding that effective communication between artist and client is critically important. I am equally comfortable tackling a tight and specific brief, or starting with a blank page. Both have their challenges and rewards. The real trick is achieving a clear understanding of what is desired before the project begins; most clients know what they like when they see it, but many find it difficult to describe up front what they want. I believe it's the artist's responsibility to help the client articulate what they are looking for; without this effort at the start, the process is bound to be lengthy, and fraught with frustration (by both parties) and wrong turns.
Digital or Analogue?
Digital. My work sits in the "sweet spot" where fine art and photography converge. I am first a storyteller, and digital offers me a broader palette with which to interpret my photographs.
|On the Feeder / Bridgeman Images||Black Friend, Red Comb / Bridgeman Images|
Which other artists, dead or alive would you choose to have dinner with?
- Egon Schiele, for his joyous ability to make a single line sing
- Frederick Remington, for his mastery of balance
- Cindy Sherman, for her unrelenting exploration of reinvention
- Henry Moore, for his matchless ability to make us look his pieces from all sides and angles, and see what is not there
- Henri Cartier-Bresson, who needs no introduction
What convinced you to join Bridgeman Studio for licensing, and what are your hopes for working as a Bridgeman Studio artist?
There are a number of factors behind my decision to join Bridgeman Studio:
- the acceptance of and delight in work of different styles from one artist
- the opportunity to reach international markets
- guidance in aligning my work with client demand
- a rich website that serves both clients and artists
- Bridgeman's commitment to grow their business in interesting and dynamic ways that offer new opportunities for professional success
- exposure to commissioning clients
- a rich community of interest with other talented artists
- supportive, responsive and knowledgeable staff
See all of Alice Gur-Arie's images available for licensing here