It’s such a beautifully simple idea that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it first.
A is for ‘Alternative Accomodation’ by Zoe Campagna
Take 26 photographers all with first names beginning with unique letters of the alphabet running from a to z. Get them to each to submit a brief with key words running from, yep you guessed it, a to z, corresponding with the letter their name begins with. Make it both ongoing and international running over one year and several continents and voila! You have the most interesting collaborative project since Miranda July’s learning to love you more.
R is for ‘Reverse’ by Yong Hun Kim
That gives you a whopping 676 photographs and a whole lot of talent. With the project only just completed from ‘Alternative Accommodation’ to ‘Zigzag’, the project is hoping to exhibit here in London and bag themselves a book deal. I took some time out with project curator, photographer representing ‘S’ and artist responsible for the project brief ‘Stop a Stranger’ Stuart Pilkington and had a bit of Q and A.
C is for ‘Chaos’ by Ed Maynard
Hello Stuart, how are you doing?
Not too bad thanks Alice.
How long was it between dreaming up the Alphabet Project and its actualization?
Do you know I can’t really recall now. It’s only since late 2007 that I’ve started to get off my backside and actualize anything at all. I think the idea may have been brewing for quite some time – maybe even a couple of years.
Eventually I sat down and created a basic site for the project and then posted the concept on a few sites like craigslist and Facebook to see if it connected with anybody. This was in late 2007. I didn’t really hear anything from anybody until January 2008 when an Australian photographer called Paula Bollers e-mailed me and said she was interested. She also sent the idea to some people she knew who then started to contact me. Until then I was about to abandon the idea but this was the catalyst I needed and I haven’t looked back since.
F is for ‘Funny’ by Frank Gross
How was the project put together? Did you find photographers or did they find you? Was there a criteria for choosing artists, such as previously unpublished?
I used a variety of methods to track down the remaining photographers. Some of the people I knew namely John Wilson and Emli Bendixen. I asked if they wanted to be involved and they both said ‘yes’. Emli suggested some other photographers like Rachel Bevis and Burak Cingi and I’m very glad they all came on board – some great British talent.
I also started to contact photographers who had joined some groups I had set up on Facebook to celebrate the work of Alec Soth and Joel Sternfeld. I started to look for photographers who use a variety of disciplines like Lomo, art photography, fashion photography, large format, polaroid etc. I also consciously started to look for people from all over the world.
M is for ‘Memory’ by Rachel Bevis
Was it your intention to be a multinational project or was that pure chance from who got involved?
Not originally but when I started to enrol people from various corners of the world the more this idea excited me. Part of the concept is to do with interpretation, with people’s individual responses, and I realised that if I had photographers from different countries and different disciplines then the variety of images would be all the more exciting.
V is for ‘Voracious’ by Stuart Pilkington
Do you have photography on your walls at home? Is it your own, people you know or that of renowned photographers?
Funnily enough I am painting my rooms white at the moment and I don’t have any pictures on my wall at all but I hope to have a couple of large William Eggleston prints soon and some prints from 20×200. I also would like to rotate images from a number of the photographers I have been working with.
I is for ‘Idiocy’ by Andrew Ward
How do the response photographers work? Do they respond to all 26 projects or individual briefs that they are interested in?
Okay so originally the Alphabet Project was going to involve just 26 photographers, all with a first name beginning with an unique letter of the alphabet. However, I soon realised that a year is a long time for 26 people to remain committed so I needed to have another set of 26 photographers, similarly with first names beginning with an unique letter of the alphabet, in case anyone needed to pull out. I called this group of 26 photographers ‘responding’ purely because the only difference between them and the original 26 was that they didn’t set a task, they purely responded to each task set. The only requirement for all photographers involved was that they completed all 26 tasks by the end of the year.
J is for ‘Just by Radiohead’ by Emli Bendixen
Which brief took you the longest to come up with an idea for? Which did you know straight away?
To be honest I am the least imaginative when it comes to photography. This is probably one of the reasons I am moving away from creating images to being an art photography curator. An assignment was set like ‘broken’ and ‘thrill’ and I could only think of the most obvious responses whereas the other photographers came up with the most ingenious and leftfield images. Some of them were surreal, some of them incredibly clever and funny. I really enjoyed seeing what they came up with each fortnight.
Who or where or what would be your dream subject to photograph?
I want to get out into the great landscapes of the US with my Wista 5×4 – to photograph places described in books such as ‘Moon Palace’ by Paul Auster and ‘Walden’ by Henry David Thoreau. There’s something that really appeals to me about epic spaces.
Z is for ‘Zigzag’ by Hind Mezaina
After the book what are your plans for the Alphabet Project? What personal projects are you working on?
I am currently exploring avenues and looking for venues/galleries in London. Currently I am curating a couple of other projects by the name of 12 Faces, and the 50 States Project, (50statesproject.net). These are both ideas that evolved out of the Alphabet Project. I also have a number of other projects in mind and one I’m very excited about which will take place in 2010.
N is for ‘Nightscape’ by Geoff Ward
Finally, who would play you in a film of your life?
I think either Richard Kiel, (the chap who played Jaws in ‘Moonraker’), or Hervé Villechaize, (the midget who played Tattoo in ‘Fantasy Island’).
Nice! Thanks for your time Stuart, and best of luck.
Viva le Collaboration I say.
P is for ‘Phenomenon’ by Dirk Such
(Thumbnail: K is for ‘Kitchen’ by Kristal Armendariz)
Andrew Ward, Dirk Such, Ed Maynard, Emli Bendixen, Frank Gross, Geoff Ward, Hind Mezaina, Kristal Armendariz, Photography, Rachel Bevis, Stuart Pilkington, The Alphabet Project, Yong Hun Kim, Zoe Campagna
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