From his earliest works in the late 1970s collating found images from photo booths around London, to his more recent forays into video, collage and animation, Dick Jewell’s wide-ranging practice has always had one important value at its heart: an endless fascination with people. It may sound simple, but through Jewell’s lens, it becomes anything but. Whether his closest friends or complete strangers – anonymous figures whose photo booth pictures he picked up, or ’90s icons like Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack – Jewell doesn’t make distinctions. His eye is, and has always been, democratic.
Still, with the circumstances of the past six months, his ability to document the lives of those surrounding him has been somewhat restricted. (That’s not to say he hasn’t remained fascinated by the ever-evolving role of photography in contemporary society, from his cherished photo booths to the visual chaos of the Internet.) Undeterred by the limitations of lockdown, Jewell has dug deep into his archive to offer an insight into the eclectic tapestry of memories and moments across the decades – many of which he was fully immersed in, but all of which he vividly defined through his photographs.
There’s a real mix here, from some of your early Found Photos pieces all the way up to work from last year. When you look at these photographs together, what do you think is the through line between them or that unites them?
Well, I was asked if I fancied doing an archive story on my collages of people so I took the lead here from the words archive and people, which narrowed it down to about 95% of my work. [laughs] I think the print process and reprocessing is the ‘throughline’ here, along with now reprinting in a magazine. I started with a printed version of a montage of Found Photos fragments, rather than from the photos themselves, followed by two Found Photos pieces from the 1980s, part of a series of ten that I printed in 2015. In enlarging these photobooth portraits (we are all aware of the shift in scale) I wanted to emphasise the aspect of the photograph as an object, by retaining the shadows from the digital scan and applying varnish – but only to the original photographic element of the image – to create a trompe l’oeil effect. So having started with these photobooth images, I carried on with this reprocessing theme.