(Left) Found Photo (1) 1980 : Photo Lithograph+ Varnish. 49 X 59 cm. 2015 - (right) Found Photo (2) 1980 : Photo Lithograph +Varnish. 49 X 59 cm. 2015

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.

Luciana Martinez de la Rosa : Colour Xerox. 1979 by Dick Jewell

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.

53 Finger Girls + 1 Thumb (detail)Chromogenic print 82X82 cm. 2003 - by Dick Jewell
(left) Raphaela Jewell. 2003 - (rigth) Raphaela Jewell. 2019

There’s also a mix of close friends and anonymous figures - do you find one just as interesting or compelling as the other?

I’m not sure about anonymous figures, as everyone featured here is credited, but yes, there’s a mix of family, friends and the public blending into one of my prints War and Peace, a print in which some of the subjects are anonymous. War and Peace is about images of people throwing two fingers and how over time this gesture has become meaningless. In my show at the Bonington Gallery, I was compelled and had the opportunity to present War and Peace at a scale large enough to be able to invite friends and visitors to selfie themselves into the image and share the results on Instagram, and it’s great to now have the opportunity to share the results of that collaboration in print.

Portraits and Selfies with War & Peace at Bonington Gallery #djwarandpeace.2019.
Scarlett Cannon, Mark Lebon& Martin Richman,Amber & Oliver Hughes,Dick Jewell, Tom Godfrey & Joshua Lockwood-Moran, Molly Bouch

Many of the photos were taken at social gatherings, and even the collaged pieces have something of that feel – is this something you’ve missed during lockdown? How have you adapted to the restrictions imposed upon you as a photographer over the past six months?

Oh boy, social distancing did initially throw a spanner into my plans for this year, which had been to continue with episode two of my film Head2Head. That being impossible, I diverged into editing a documentary from the hours of the archive I’ve shot and amassed on the shelves of my studio. It’s called Mabi, and it’s in response to the rhythms and home movies of percussionist Mabi Gabriel Thobejane. It explores rhythm as his inherent legacy through which he expresses his emotions and converses with other musicians, spanning a bridge between his roots in Pedi folk music and techno. Then the lockdown spurred splendid initiatives from people to provide the opportunity for us artists to contribute work for auctions for worthwhile causes, which was great for the spirit. As social distancing eased, I had the opportunity of doing a fashion shoot for Martine Rose, in a school that was closed, employing the staff as models, an amazing opportunity brought about by the pandemic. Since then I’ve thrown myself into my most ambitious collage to date – it’s going to take months! Again it has been spurred by a magazine, which I am happy to collaborate with. As an artist, I personally feel magazines supplement my loss of physical exhibitions, far better than the virtual shows proliferating online.

Saying that, I’m happy to be included in this year’s socially distanced Royal Academy Summer Show, about to start this autumn and run through the winter. The last spread that I’m showing with you is the bottom half of the print that I’m showing there. It’s titled Looking Over the White Cliffs of Dover, but you’ll have to get along to the Royal Academy to see the whole picture. Meanwhile, thanks for the opportunity to share some of my work with you here.

War & Peace (details) Bonnington Gallery UV textile print version8.2 m X 4.8 m. 2018 20/21 Looking Over the White Cliffs of Dover(detail / bottom half) Inkjet on Baryta 109 X 150 cm. 2019
War & Peace (details) Bonnington Gallery UV textile print version8.2 m X 4.8 m. 2018 20/21 Looking Over the White Cliffs of Dover(detail / bottom half) Inkjet on Baryta 109 X 150 cm. 2019
War & Peace (details) Bonnington Gallery UV textile print version8.2 m X 4.8 m. 2018 20/21 Looking Over the White Cliffs of Dover(detail / bottom half) Inkjet on Baryta 109 X 150 cm. 2019


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