“Buildings are like anchors in time. The structures and their form are a constant manifestation that passes through the years rooted in place… We can perform archaeology on buildings in a way that we cannot do with memories.”Cody Ellingham
The following interview forms part of a series where I invite contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning, and philosophy, and how those are embedded throughout their creative process.
This week I talk to Cody Ellingham, an architectural photographer and art director from New Zealand. With his ongoing project, DERIVE, he explores the world’s nocturnal cities, “when things take on new forms”.
In your ongoing project, DERIVE, you explore the world’s nocturnal cities. What is it about night time that intrigues you?
Night is a special time when things take on new forms. Architecture and places reveal a kind of shadow self in the darkness under the glow of street lights and the moon and it is this ‘other’ that I am trying to capture when I go out and explore.
You write that “Through this unique process, part divination, part photography, [you] find meaning in the world.” Could you expand on this process of finding meaning and how it is captured in your works?
Buildings are like anchors in time. The structures and their form are a constant manifestation that passes through the years rooted in place. By looking at the way the world moves around these structures I try to see what it is they really mean. Another way of thinking of this is that they are reference points, places from which we base all other measurements. The layers of grime and wear on an old building are reflective not only of the structure’s age but also everything that has happened during that time. In a way they are more real than memories as their form accumulates everything that touches it. We can perform archaeology on buildings in a way that we cannot do with memories.
Picasso said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” How relevant is this quote in your own experience?
To see the world you must begin by seeing, and sometimes it is easy to not see that which is right in front of us. Modern society is quick to tear down old structures to make way for new ones, which sometimes makes me think we are quick to forget as well.
Are you guided by any particular philosophy in your creative expression?
My creative practice is guided by wandering and a deep curiosity for the world. I call this process DERIVE which comes from the french word dérive which means to drift.
How important is political messagery to you in your photographs?
Ultimately everything has some degree of the politic embedded in its form. I shoot with a specialist architectural lens to give my images a kind of surreal clarity to them and so my images reveal every scratch and story in objectively sharp focus. What this shows or says I leave up to my audience.
If you were to envision a new photograph that emulated your current experience in the world, what might it include?
We are outside looking in. There is a single light on. The light is a warm tone, an incandescent light perhaps. Outside though the world is cold and still. We wonder what is inside the building, but we will never know.