Interview: Rohan Hutchinson – The City in Itself

To celebrate the release of his new book with The Velvet Cell, I asked Rohan 6 questions about his work.

1. Your work tends to look at Japanese architecture and its cultural and historical affiliations. This work seems to depart from that, would that be true?

I think that is true, in the past most of my time spent in Japan was about researching its historical culture, shown through the architecture.

With this body of work, however, I wanted to break through that stigma and take a more personal approach. I wanted to show the little nuances that make up the country and not just the spaces that are embraced / marketed by the city. It’s the personal spaces that interest me most.

2. Looking at your work, you seem to photograph the built landscape in an unusual way, focusing mainly on individual spaces, why is this?

Throughout the years, the more I inspect my own work the more I want to zoom into the details that make up a space. Firstly I was interested in the an overview of a culture produced in a single large format photograph. However, nowadays my interests have shifted. I’m now intrigued with the intricate details that make up a space.

An umbrella, a door handle or an office garden; these objects tell us a lot about the social side of culture. By choosing to zoom in and isolate particular parts/objects of a scene the viewer is able to take in the whole frame without distraction. In turn he/she can inspect a series of personal scenes over a variety of photographs and gain an accurate overview of the culture.

3. The City in itself is a personal diary of Tokyo, but why is it that you decided to leave the word ‘Tokyo’ out of the title. there is no mention of what city of country this work was taken in, Why is that?

I wanted the viewer to see the photographs as a study of a city, but not of any particular city. For those who have spent time in Tokyo they can usually pick up that it’s Tokyo, or at least Japan by the tiles or colour palette.

But I didn’t want to make this too obvious, with the works there is an underlying abstract social study. For those who personally inquired into the works, they discovered a lot more than meets the eye. For example; the mirror presenting a reflection of the street on page 5; This mirror is in fact a window from a room in a love hotel, this in turn presents an example of the social and living conditions of the citizens of the city.

I also wanted the viewer to be inspired, to look at the works and look at their city around them. In all, these are just photographs of ordinary spaces.

4. What do you hope one would take away from this series?

I want the viewer to look at the work and get curious about the scenes captured, to think about what lies beyond the door. Also, to look at the publication and think ‘hey maybe I can do something like this’. Photographs don’t have to be amazing to be published; they just have to work in the right publishing format. That is what I really love about small publications like this one, they are so accessible, not only to purchase but also to get inspired by and to create.

Some of my favourite photo-books are not the ones that have the amazing photographs; they are the ones that I buy because I get ideas from. I am hoping that someone picks up this book and decides to publish something.

5. What is your typical way of making work, such as this project?

Most of my projects start out as a floating ideas, then over time I narrow down the idea, thinking about different ways to present it. I look at other artist/photographers who have worked with similar concepts and what they have produced, then I think about what would I produce and why? The photographs are then taken, usually in a very short amount of time, during a short trip somewhere or during an artist-in-residence program.

With this project it started out very differently. I was on a short trip to Tokyo and had a floating idea of creating a 3D sculpture made up of Acrylic sheets and Dura-clears, which displayed different sections of the city.

I then got back to Melbourne and decided to do a little zine for the upcoming book-fair instead, after posting a few photos on social media, The Velvet Cell and I started talking about the project and everything fell into place. I sent a draft over and they sent one back. It all happened quite quickly.

I think that having self published all my work in the past, it was really refreshing to sit back and not be involved in the whole process, I had seen a lot of The Velvet Cell work before and was quite confident in what would be produced.

I was really happy when I saw the finished book, it was the first time I was able to sit back and see my work with fresh eyes.

6. What’s planned for the future?

Over the last 10 years I have been shooting continuously, some projects have been published or exhibited and others have remained in my archives. As I discover new ways of presenting ideas I am now finally finding the right format to present some of my previous works.

Saying all this, I am working on another artist book which was always intended to be my first book, but only now have I decided on the right format to publish it. I have also been working on another title, which is due out early next year. This body of work is a series I created in the Arctic early this year.

Along with this, I am forever being inspired by photo-books; the next large project I am about to begin has been inspired by Yuki Tabuchi in 1971, Yama No Ijou. The work will look at the geology and ecology that makes up the Victorian highlands. So busy times ahead.