BP Collage Created by Nastassia Winge, 2019
Introducing Beyond Photography, London | Amsterdam Creative Platform
/DRI:M/ARTZ: Welcome and thank you for joining us. To start, can you tell us a little about the minds behind Beyond Photography and what led to the creation of your inspiring creative platform?
Beyond Photography: We are Ryan Blackwell and Nastassia Winge. We met in Leeds in 2013 when we were both on a Cinema & Photography course and we just bonded instantly. We literally spent 3 years hoping to become the next Nick Knight and exploring everything that challenged photography as a medium. It’s this area that we were initially so interested in that formed our first exhibition in 2017, which we titled Beyond Photography and where we brought together artists from a range of photography-based disciplines into a one-night show. That then became the name of our platform, which has manifested in the form of exhibitions, productions, and an online space ever since!
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Clockwise - Untitled by Nastassia Winge, 2020 / From the Project > Flowers by Ryan Blackwell & Nastassia Winge, 2020 / Ryan & Nastassia at Utopia / Mustn't be Afraid by Ryan Blackwell
DA: The two of you got your start in the UK but then relocated to Amsterdam? I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands pre-pandemic, visiting my daughter who lives in the city. I can't wait to visit again as we move closer to a sense of normalcy. So, what’s the arts and cultural scene look like there? To be honest, I haven’t explored that aspect of life in the Netherlands as much as I should have! Do you have a community of artists to connect with? Is it a decent place for networking?
BP: Our platform moves between London and Amsterdam because we live in different countries. Before Covid it was probably quite an unusual way of working but now seems so normal. We are so deeply rooted in both communities, but ultimately the digital technology we have today means that Beyond Photography is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It is only in our physical events, like our UTOPIA exhibition in collaboration with Amsterdam Pride, where we can really absorb ourselves into the community and it’s been so exciting to do that. Artists like Supernature and Martine Kamara as well as community projects like Queer Skate Collective Amsterdam have helped us bring our vision to life and it has been such a warm feeling!
DA: Beyond Photography was founded in 2017 out of a desire to “move beyond” traditional photography. The platform takes into consideration the impact of technological advances and how we can apply these new photographic methods to the medium. I love this! As someone who works in both digital and analogue, I often incorporate my own digital and film photography into my collages, using Photoshop to finalize my work. There’s quite a debate amongst the community on the topic. I know some artists out there are purists when it comes to the medium and eschew all digital practices, while others embrace what technology has to offer. I prefer to be open and utilize whatever I have at my disposal and the possibilities are endless. What are your thoughts about this divide?
BP: For us, Beyond Photography sits so much within this divide. There is no right or wrong way to make art, and its the decision that we creatives make to stick to more traditional conventions or to break them that enables potential for an interesting piece of work. In the production side of our work with Beyond Photography, we focus mostly on digital because that is our expertise but there is room for all image making if the creator has a message to convey.
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Excerpts from the Utopia Exhibition, 2021
DA: I have been conflicted at times about the topic, especially when it comes to what people consider “real” art and pricing my own work. Originals are considered to be more valuable than reproductions, with limited editions prints holding more of said value. Because of this attitude digital art is often depreciated because of a perceived value bias—it can be reproduced countless times over, so it doesn’t have the exclusivity that a “one of a kind” piece holds. I find this a bit frustrating because one needs to also consider time spent creating when pricing their artwork—a lot of technical skill is required to work digitally, as well as manually. How do you, as artists, negotiate this when it comes to your own artwork? Have you ever had to defend your work and the price tags you put on it?
BP: Yeah definitely, it’s really hard to prove the value of a piece of work especially working digitally or commercially. The boundaries are becoming so blurred and it’s both a limitation and an opportunity. New methods of making are emerging and the old wall of art is being shattered. In our exhibitions and projects, we don't really focus on the ‘original’ artwork, because it limits what we can create in the exhibition. Reproducing works allows us to work with artists from further a field so it’s something we really embrace.
DA: I read an article recently about a study that focused on how people perceived real-life, original artworks, say in a museum, compared to VR and digital versions. The study was conducted by neuroscientists an they found that the aesthetic experience was not denigrated by digital viewings. In fact, it was enhanced! I find this really interesting because critics have debated the effects of technology on art creation, display, and consumption and now there’s stats showing that it can have a positive impact. Beyond Photography confronts questions around technology and digital media head on, in fact your “story” or mission statement touches on the “threats and possibilities”, as you put it. Would love for you to chime in on the topic here for us at /DRI:M/SPACE.
BP: I think the problem with the digital space is that our attention spans are so reduced. We have to pander to the needs of social media, back links, viewing on mobile vs desktop, the parameters of coding etc. and on top of this, constantly update
and create when normal exhibitions can be open for 6 months without change! It kind of makes you feel like you’re becoming a social media influencer or something. The need to constantly create is something we don’t love but it’s a reality of the times. There are some incredible things going on in the digital sphere at the moment, and unfortunately it can so easily get lost in the noise of the algorithm and this is the threat. But art has to be a critique of the social fabric and so the art produced today, particularly art made for social media like Gena Marvin from our UTOPIA exhibition, is a really important reflection of the way that the digital world is changing our perspective. We can’t ignore the digital world when it comes to art because these are the times we’re living in, and one day we’ll look back in nostalgia about the work we’re creating today, which I think is really exciting.
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DA: I really love your forward thinking attitude and, you are correct, we have to stay current or we risk getting left behind. But, your comment about becoming a socal-media influencer is right-on. /DRI:M/SPACE is just in its infancy but, wow, the amount of work and time it takes to produce new content on a regular basis is crazy. As an artist, it's a fine line finding that balance between elevating other creators and promoting my myself, as well as /DRI:M/SPACE. How to you negotiate this in your own world with your personal art and Beyond Photography?
BP: I think it’s a really interesting question you are posing and I think unconsciously we started Beyond Photography as a way to make connections, meet new artists, post theory, and develop our work, so now we are at a point where the whole process and everything we do is so collaborative that we couldn’t make personal art without working with others. It all rolls into one for us. Some artists are really isolated in the way that they work and I think that can produce amazing results, but we produce our best work when we are engaging with other creatives and learning. So we see Beyond Photography as educational in two ways: firstly because there are lots of free and available resources for our viewers to get inspired by, and secondly it is educational for us and our development as creatives too.
DA: That's amazing! Having the platform has obviously enabled you to have a symbiotic relationship with the community both online and in person. Imagine your life without BP for a minute. What would it look like in terms of your own artistic development?
BP: I think at this moment in time, it would be impossible to imagine our life without BP. It is so intertwined in our life, in our friendship, and in our development as creatives. I think without the platform we would certainly have more time, but I think we would be less challenged to create out of our mutual interests.
DA: We talked a little about the perks and pitfalls of social media and technology. How has it helped and/or hindered you in your own world outside of BP, considering you both are working artists?
BP: Technology is both incredible and a nightmare—this is what our next project is going to be on actually. I love the communication that social media provides us, but it is incredibly draining and becoming increasingly boring.
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DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to this year and beyond?
BP:Alongside our commercial projects, our next big Beyond Photography project is going to be a film exploring the end of the world and we have some incredible collaborators—but that’s all we can say for now!
Website | Beyond Photography
Instagram | @beyondphotographyy
Linktree | Beyond Photography