I found out about surfer, artist, blogger and author Andrew Hughes and his book of photographs depicting beach debris from Monday’s featured author, Elizabeth Royte. While we haven’t met in person, I know Andy to be a generous and forgiving guy. He responded to my pesky inquiries about his work right away, supplied beautiful photographs to go along with his answers, and even forgave me for accidentally calling him Australian (he’s ENGLISH).
everydaytrash: I read that you’re a surfer. Is that how you discovered this unconventional subject?
Andrew Hughes: I started learning to surf whilst at art college in Cardiff (Wales) 1989 – ish. One particular beach in Wales (Sker Bay) is just few miles from a very large industrialized zone, huge chemical works…it was on this beach that after coming out of the sea I noticed a sharp/metallic object in the palm of my hand, under the skin. It hurt and when I returned home I pulled it out with tweezers. At this point I thought about all the pollution we were actually immersing our bodies into. The sea water washes in your ears, your mouth etc.
It concerned me, my work (i.e. art) began to consider this as subject matter. At this time I became involved with a group call surfers against sewage - almost 16 years ago. My work up until this point was based upon photographs of friends who were surfers.
everydaytrah: What was the first thing washed up on the beach that you photographed?
Hughes: This pic was one of the first I did, 1990 – The image was blown up to 4 foot and then covered in oil and Tar I found on the beach. Then re-photographed.
everydaytrash: Does your work deal with the metaphors of things thrown away and forgotten, or are you purely interested in aesthetics?
Hughes: I think there is a duality, a conflict…in one sense they are all powerful metaphors, in a way I hope that they refer to our own mortality.
They feel somehow lost, often the object has been in close human contact. They had relationships with humans and other objects.
The objects once had a function – then discarded at will with no sense of purpose, to wash back and forth on the coastal fringe.
I think the book gently introduces the viewer to an insight or idea, I hope that they’ll consider and ponder the consequences of our mass consumerism, perhaps some may take some future action, its like “planting a seed.”
The purpose of these images is to enhance and explore how ‘i’ ‘we’ feel when presented with stuff,waste etc. I hope that the experience of art/photography in this manner may encourage individuals to reflect and make links with their own life experiences.
everdaytrash: And similarly, do you consider your work political?
Hughes: In the obvious sense no, but as a subject very much yes, I have been involved with various pressure groups etc. and whilst they are absolutely vital, I have steered away from my images being used in a direct didactic manner.
Picasso’s Geurnica as an example is much more potent and powerful as a work of art than as political statement (even if it is inherent in the work itself). And of course one of the writers/contributors is very much a political activist, have you read Josh Karliners ‘Coporate Planet’ ? Very good.
everydaytrash: How consciously are you drawing attention to consumerism and environmental issues?
Hughes: I hope that by giving presence to the stuff in the images, by almost investing a life in the object people can make the intellectual jump and consider this in the objects they live with, the stuff they use and consume and in turn the object discarded and its effect of other forms of life, on land, in the seas etc.
Dominant Wave Theory is available to visit and/or purchase at MoMA and, for those who don’t live in New York City, online.
Next up on the Literary Trash lineup is an interview with Robert Sullivan, the alacrious and tersely cogent author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants.
Tags: sporty trash