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Anthony Crossfield images are the result of complex digital manipulations that come together to form disturbing tableaux; male nudes converge and collide, figures jut in and out of each other in an almost ghostly struggle. Antony has recently received the Terry O’Neill award for his work ‘Foreign Body’, so I took this opportunity to speak to him about it:

Where do your images begin?

I have ideas for pictures all the time. Images tend to pop into my head quite unexpectedly. Then there is usually a process of working out ideas in my sketchbook with drawings. Drawing is a very important part of the creative process for me. I usually work in lots of tiny thumbnail drawings but also large figure drawings.

Obviously the images are manipulations, structures, almost sculptures; I understand that they are painstakingly sewn together in post-production and elements of the image are completely created within Photoshop. Given the history of photography and it’s relationship to time and ‘the real’, are these images a comment on our perception of photography?

Yes, very much so. A lot of my work is a comment on the status of photography in a time of digital manipulation. Photography has fundamentally changed over the last couple of decades with the availability of digital tools, into a medium that is much more flexible and malleable. But the popular idea of what a photograph is – an instantaneous, causally generated, factual record – has persisted in people’s minds. I’m interested in exploiting this discrepancy to generate tensions in objects that are at once clearly fabricated from multiple pictures over a sustained period of time, and yet, somehow still have an aura of an instantaneous moment. For this series (Foreign Body) the images are the result of many shots that have been composited to produce a single image. I was particularly interested in the idea of bringing together image fragments to make a seemingly whole unified image and using this as a kind of metaphor for the idea of a fragmented self with an illusory wholeness.

What led you to using photography in this way?

Photography is a very exciting medium to work in at the moment, full of potential for new meanings born out of the changing understanding of what a photograph can be with the use of digital tools. However I don’t think many photographers exploit the full potential of digital manipulation and just use it to polish their pictures. I began my career as a painter and this has had a strong influence on my approach to making images. In some ways I see myself as a painter who happens to have a fascination with photography, and in a way, digital technology has enabled me to fuse the two disciplines. It’s ironic that photography was always supposed to be the thing that would kill off painting, but at the moment, traditional, non-digital photography is looking more and more like the endangered species. Working in a more painterly way is just much more suited to my nature.

There is a certain corporeality to your images; a real physicality to the shots that is more reminiscent of painting than photography, do you take influence from this?

Yes, very much. My biggest influences are definitely painters. I try to get something of the physical, visceral response that a painting can generate into my photographs. When I display them they are usually printed quite large so as to engage the viewers body as much as their mind.

There are signs of a struggle within all of these images, an almost unstable permeation between skin and space, do you feel your images hold a psychological deconstruction of ‘the self’?

I think these images are very much about examining and questioning the relationship between the self and the body. One’s engagement with the world is entirely mediated by ones body, indeed, one could argue, all sensation is filtered through one’s flesh. I try to evoke this aspect in the fleshiness of the models but also by the environment that has a decomposing, organic, corporeal feel to it. I’m interested in the idea that the self is not as distinct from the other as we sometimes think and to suggest that identity is not necessarily something innate but rather the product of an interaction

You've recently won the Terry O'Neill award, how do you feel about winning this- will this open up any doors for you, allow you to make new work etc?

I’m very pleased to have won. It’s very exciting to get some recognition for all the hard work. Hopefully it will enable me to raise my profile and get more exposure for my work and ultimately just get more work made.


Emily Graham April 2009