Spotlight: Neil Massey
— 30 Mar 2018 by Lauren Furey
Your April exhibition comes from the capable and talented hands of Mr Neil Massey. We caught up with Neil to find out more about his work, his inspirations and what you can expect from his exhibition, when it arrives on the top deck of Boxpark Croydon from 1 April.
Tell us who you are and what you do
My name is Neil Massey Im a British photographer currently based in London.
What can visitors expect from your exhibition at Boxpark Croydon?
Visitors to Boxpark Croydon, and Shoreditch in May, can expect to see 8 selected images from my archive. These images were taken between 2000-2003. During this time, I was an editorial photographer working for style and music magazines - The Face, Sleazenation and Q, here in London.
Looking back, I guess we were lucky; magazines were paying photographers a day rate and covered our film processing costs to travel the world to shoot artists and youth culture. The digital camera was in development, but we were all still shooting film. The internet was in its early stages so there wasn’t much research happening. As photographers, it was an exciting time to be sent abroad and document a far away youth scene or artist and be expected to come back with the goods.
I’ve always been interested in the importance of documentary photography, and, with the passing of time, how powerful photography becomes in a historical context. Im currently digitising my film archive from 1999-2005; these images and more will be added to The Museum of Youth Culture here in London. Whilst editing them I realised that they were 15-18 years old, and I wanted to bring them to a new audience.
The images included in this show are of artists - Peaches (NYC,) Stuart from The Music (Tokyo), and Melissa Burns from W.I.T. (NYC). The other shots are taken at festivals and clubs in Washington D.C., Tokyo, London, and at Glastonbury.
You lived in Vietnam for a while, how did that influence your work?
In 2009, I moved to Vietnam with my wife; we were looking for an adventure. My two kids were born in Saigon, where we lived for six years. This was a new chapter in my life, and as a photographer. I started to work on long-term personal projects. Vietnam is such an inspiring country to live in. A country of contradictions, communist run, but with a young vibrant burgeoning population. It was this combination of Vietnam’s underground youth and street culture that inspired ‘The Vietnam Collection’, which is made up of ‘Song’, ‘Monobloc’, ‘Untitled’, and ‘Bloody Chunks’. ‘Bloody Chunks' is about the Vietnamese Underground Metal Scene. It was shown in Boxpark Shoreditch and won an award with New York Magazine PDN in 2016.
Who did you look up to when you were starting out?
As a young photographer, the photographers that inspired me were Richard Avedon, Richard Billingham, Weegee, Alex Webb, Martin Parr, Bruce Davidson, and John Deakin.
You've expressed an interest in our relationship with the environment, where do you take your inspiration from when you're creating a body of work like that?
In 2015, we returned to live in London. Time away from the UK had afforded me a fresh perspective on the UK. Returning after six years away was like having reverse culture shock. London, a city I had lived in for 14 years before Vietnam, was at once familiar and alien to me. Most of my inspiration comes from the environment around me, where I photograph and develop ideas on a daily basis. The ideas that I keep coming back to turn into long term projects, which I investigate further. Since returning to London, I have been working on two bodies of work ‘Trace’ and ‘An Ode To: The British Telephone Box’.
What does 2018 have in store for you?
This month in particular is a busy month. I have the Boxpark show in Croydon and then Shoreditch next month. I’m doing a street art show with my ‘An Ode To: The British Telephone Box’ showing with ‘Outside The Zone’ in Shoreditch next week. I’ll also be launching in Saigon, four self-published books (limited edition of 100, signed and numbered) from The Vietnam Collection at Indie Art Bookstore Inpages.