Dave Carswell Melbourne, Australia
Dave Carswell is an Australian photographer currently based in Melbourne. His work focuses on the collision course between nature, humans and the built environment. Exploring the tension that exists in urban areas and the way in which human intervention shapes the built landscape, he draws on visual puns, urban anxieties and the underlying human resilience as some of the driving emphasis of his recent work.
Dave Carswell was chosen by photographer Geloy Concepcion
Laatikkomo’s interview with Dave Carswell July 17th, 2018.
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?
DC: I am originally from a small island called Tasmania although at the moment I live in Melbourne, Australia. I have moved towns and countries quite regularly as a child and in adult life due to my family’s work and also as an inquisitive traveler. I am always enriched by a fresh sense of place – seeing somewhere new or interesting is forever creatively inspiring, from a visual storytelling perspective.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
DC: My father’s slide nights at home. I get my sense of adventure from him and I count myself lucky to be of the generation which was at the cusp of the changeover from film to digital. I didn’t know it at the time, however watching my father’s vivid slide collections planted a seed in my own creative growth.
L: You photograph a wide variety of subjects in thematic series. Without giving away all of your professional secrets, could you tell us what goes into finding and producing a series?
DC: I am really just inspired by what’s around me. I wouldn’t say that I am particularly prolific in producing work, but I often take stock and collate my work into thematic groups and see if the idea or mood warrants further attention.
Photography is quite insular and very personal for most non-commercial practitioners. Even though some of my series and themes are quite different, they all relate to the development of my own morality.
L: The series you are presenting in Laatikkomo is part of a large project that was also made into a publication. If I understand correctly, this particular project looks at colonial control of public space in the Philippines through the installation of American basketball hoops. What sparked your interest in the colonial oppression of the Philippines?
DC: I lived in the Philippines from 2015 to 2017 and I remember asking some Filipino friends early on what was one of the cultural highlights of the country. One colleague half-jokingly mentioned ‘shopping malls’ as a tourist attraction. It blew me away that such a sterile and controlled environment was being heralded as a beacon of cultural identity. It started me on a train of thought looking at public space and more importantly the ‘perception’ of public space. How the governments and private land owners stake claim over these areas – polluting the environment with mass advertising, privatising parklands an destabilising the idea of community. The country is governed and controlled by a very small amount of wealthy families who have very little interest in bettering the lives of the everyday Filipino.
The basketball court seemed like this minor and stunning visual form of resistance against the privatisation of land. Something created, governed and enjoyed by the everyday people.
L: Most of your images show some kind of tension between humans and nature, even if the image does not feature people. Although many of your series have a sinister undertone have you also found any inspiring and/or uplifting combinations of humans and nature?
DC: I am definitely interested in this intersection between humans and nature with our fruitless battles against the world and ourselves. It’s interesting that you use the term ‘sinister’ – I think ‘cynical’ is probably a better description of the mood of some of my work. I aim to use a bit of humour to cut through tension, similar to a cartoon where the protagonist is seen waving the white flag amongst all the chaos and destruction. We are all going down and look how ridiculous this all is.
L: What is one of the most important questions that you ask yourself, or would like to inspire others to ask, through your photographs?
DC: As I mentioned previously, most of my work relates to my own morality, which I often ponder retrospectively through my work. I very rarely think about an audience or third party when making documentary photographs. Creating the work is often cathartic and is created out a desire to resolve my own tension and question the world around me.
L: Could you list five or more words related to the work you are showing in Laatikkomo?
DC: Existential, laconic, formative, resistant, reflective
Thank you so much Dave!!