Seeing Al Palmer’s photographs for the first time is like stepping into a world devoid of human life. His landscapes of neglect appear both lonesome and wild, yet are imbued with a stark serenity. Palmer photographs mostly in the North-East, capturing bleak disused industrial sites and abandoned homes.
Palmer has exhibited widely in the UK and USA and is also a joint winner of the Hearst 8×10 contest, 2013. As well as photographing, he publishes fantastic photography books and zines as Brown Owl Press, also based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
Al Palmer was kind enough to answer a few questions for BITE:
Where did you study photography?
I’m a fine art graduate. I mostly painted until the second year when there was a course trip to Barcelona. We visited the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and there was a retrospective of a photographer whose work I’d never seen before. It was Robert Frank. I knew then what I wanted to do. From then on I photographed more and painted less until photography was all I did.
What format do you like to shoot in and why?
For long-term project based work, I mostly shoot with medium format cameras. For essays and stories (as well as commercial work) I used a variety of equipment, both film and digital. They’re just tools.
What inspires you to take your photos?
My work is primarily relating and reacting to the man-made landscape. It can veer between topographic documentary studies and more poetic narrative-based works.
How do you feel about the photography scene in the North today?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about the North having a photography scene. My profile is higher in the US than in the UK, I barely exhibit here and don’t know too many other photographers in the North. There’s certainly not the scene that, say, Brighton has which is absolutely buzzing currently. Newcastle does have the Side Gallery focusing on documentary photography and PH Space (which is part of the NewBridge Project) which is a fine art photography space. The NewBridge Project have just opened an artists bookshop called NewBridge Books. What the North does have is space for people to work; it’s cheaper to be here than London so photographers can turn their lens on the lesser seen at their own pace.