An interview with Pete Boyd, guest photographer at the Photojournalism Nights

Pete Boyd  is sharing his thoughts, aims and working methodologies with Cinzia D’Ambrosi of the Photojournalism Hub on his  powerful work that will be presenting tomorrow at the second edition of the Photojournalism Night  at the Elephant West gallery. Pete’s work documents British life, its communities, social groups and subcultures, their codes of behaviour and symbols of belonging.

The event will also have the presentation of  selected photojournalists Quetzal MaucciSukhy HullaitClaudia Leisinger, keynotes from Emma Perfect (global heard of Inclusion and Diversity at Soho House), photos donated by guest photographers  printed with the support of Genesis Imaging and the media support of Photo Archive News. To learn more: https://elephantwest.art/event/photojournalism-nights/

Q: Can you tell us your journey to photography, and what motivates you
to be a photographer?
My Dad was an enthusiastic amateur photographer and I was given a camera at an early age. Since then I’ve always taken photographs. As a teenage trainspotter I would photograph the railwayana disappearing through modernisation and heavy industrial manufacturing being replaced by service industry. Photographs helped me to preserve the things that fascinated me. My Dad and I would develop those photos at home in a makeshift darkroom.
I’ve always been a collector and an organiser of facts. After years of music, poetry and other writing, I finally got around to taking photography seriously and since then I’ve felt compelled to make candid
photographs of people in public, close enough to be visceral. I haven’t formally studied photography but instead, having pursued it on my own through books, exhibitions and Wikipedia, I’ve become fascinated by its history and by the work of others.
I’m excited by groups of people in my own society whose language and customs are unknown to me. I’m drawn to capture their dynamism, the interpersonal interactions, the emotions, and private intimacies
expressed in public. I enjoy opportunities to be in a realm where not everything is understood.

I was an outsider as a child, exiled from friendship groups, and that still hangs heavy in me. That has made me anxious of groups of people in adulthood, and yet drawn to explore them. A camera gives me enough of a crutch that I can be amongst groups of strangers unselfconsciously, or is a passport they welcome me in by. I’m intrinsically a people watcher. We’re not supposed to look at other people, it’s sort of taboo to linger too long in public, which is a real shame. It’s invaluable to me to have photographs of people acting
unselfconsciously.

Q: Your ‘It’s Not About Football’ and your people at night series will
be shown at Photojournalism Nights at Elephant West gallery on the 27th
November. How do you see these projects connect to the themes of the
night: belonging, identity, Britishness and Brexit?

I photograph people coming together. In the different groups, we see how they display their difference, and how that gives them a sense of belonging.

My photographs at night show a variety of cultures. For some, the space might be one where it’s safe to express their identity; for others, this is something they take for granted. By showing these different
situations together in one body of work, I hope the viewer can see universalities between people.

The nightlife photographs were made in Brighton between 2014 and 2018. They show how some of what people were doing in the two years leading up to the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2 years since — a time, we’re told, of increasing polarisation in society.

Q: What next for the nightlife project?
I will exhibit and publish a book of these photographs. Firstly, they will be exhibited outside on the streets of Brighton, where I feel they belong.

About you
My photography documents British life, its communities, social groups and subcultures, their codes of behaviour and symbols of belonging. I’m interested in struggles for status and identity. I look for private
intimacies expressed in public spaces. My work has so far touched on social class, youth culture, masculinity, gender, sexuality, and belonging. I make candid unposed photographs in public places, and
portraits. Based in Brighton, I am available for commissions.

Pete Boyd
https://www.peteboyd.org/