All images (CC BY 2.0): Richard PJ Lambert
What follows is an interview with the British photographer Richard PJ Lambert. Richard took the stunning image above, and was generous enough to share it under a Creative Commons licence, meaning we could easily use it as our wrap-around issue 13 cover. If you know where to look, you can see the cafe in which our interview with Sjón took place.
Can you tell us about the image we used as our cover?
This shot is a double exposure of Reykjavík taken from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja, a huge white church in the city centre. It was on the first day of our road trip around Iceland in the summer of 2014. It was bright and clear and all the coloured buildings shone up at me down to the harbour and towards the mountains. Watch out for the bells though. They are extremely loud and incredibly loud. I almost dropped my camera straight out of the window.
What drew you to Iceland?
Action, adventure and humpback whales all played a part but if I’m being honest, it was mostly Björk. I’ve always been fascinated by her idiosyncratic work and personality. When Björk talks about herself, it is in a way that is inseparable from her homeland. She calls upon the pulse of the ocean surrounding and shaping the island, the vast energy of the glaciers that carve through the landscape and the primal volcanic forces that can bring an entire continent to a standstill. The whole place just sounded like magic to me.
Also, a wedding proposal.
What is your process for shooting double exposures? They’re incredibly distinctive.
Thank you! I use fairly basic film cameras to expose each frame multiple times. Exactly how… depends. Sometimes I run the roll through twice in different places, other times I mask part of the lens and turn the camera around and shoot from different perspectives. I’m getting closer to a standard operating procedure but I’m happy to let the photographs be their own thing. In one picture, the elements of the composition can harmonise and blend like a dream, the next everything smashes together with jarring dissonance.
It helps to meditate on the Brian Eno quote “Honour thy error as a hidden intention” because I make a lot of mistakes and like to pretend I have emotional depth.
A literary analogue would be William Burroughs’ cut-up method, where he re-arranged existing text to create new narratives. Photography is inherently limited – whatever exists outside the frame or split second of the shutter click is removed. The image becomes divorced from context. Double exposures allow you to play collage with the context to suggest new ways of reading the image. Burroughs thought cut-ups could be a way of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out”. It’s nice to think that pictures can have a life of their own in other peoples’ minds, finding new connections, free from whatever intentions I had.
What are you currently working on?
I’m hoping to be more involved with a photography collective in Birmingham called Some Cities. They organise community projects, set up exhibitions and have an excellent darkroom. They have a wet plate collodion camera which I am dying to learn how to use.
One of my favourite bands, Opium Lord, are putting out their debut LP this year. It features my work throughout which is exciting. Album artwork is what got me into photography in the first place, so seeing my pictures in a record shop is awesome.
I’m very conscious that most of my images are online and I’d like to get them out into the real world. Printing and collecting my work would be the first step but it would appear I have a pathological aversion to projects – or at least defining and organising them. I tend to just shoot everything in the hope that an element of coherence or narrative thread might spontaneously appear. If I really put my mind to it, I would really love to put out a few zines collecting some travel pictures – at least they can be sequenced geographically.
For more of Richard’s stunning photographs, follow these links: