We sit down with a celebrated photographer whose art invites us to evaluate what beauty there is in the often-overlooked places of our world; if only we knew how to look for it.
Daniel Shipp | Photographer | Sydney, NSW.
Daniel Shipp is a contemporary Australian artist whose photographic works focus on and celebrate the overlooked, the forgotten and the discarded. Wild plants discovered in unremarkable public spaces; basketballs salvaged from the gutter; bikes abandoned in the street; in most people’s eyes, these are forgettable objects undeserving of attention. For Shipp however, each item is a treasure that carries stories from its past, speaks to its present and sings to an imagined future. With a touch of reverence, Shipp asks his viewer to consider afresh what we value, where we focus our attention - and what we care about.
I was always interested in the magic of making images and left school quite young to find work in the film industry. I ended up doing various work in the industry until about the age of twenty four. Films are big operations with lots of moving parts which is fun as a crew member but I couldn’t see myself telling the stories I wanted to within that medium. I started exploring storytelling with still photos which meant I could create whole worlds on my own. Once I got into the darkroom and saw the possibilities I was hooked and I ended up at art school.
I need to be around the camera, I feel like I’m in the wrong place if I’m not.
I really enjoy working with found or discarded objects and using photography to transform them into something that commands a sense of reverence. I based my Botanical Inquiry images on a tradition of 17th Century romantic botanical illustration but subverted the genre by romanticising plants that were not exotic and landscapes that were more industrial than dreamy.
There are incredible expressions of plant life that you’ll find walking through any urban environment but you’d rarely pay attention and these are the plants I worked with. I source them all on the street and take car loads back to the studio where I shoot the images on a constructed set. The images are made in the camera, they aren’t digital composites. The technique I use has its own aesthetic which lends the images are more painterly feel.
My images are generally all made in the camera because making composite images does not challenge me in a way that brings joy.
I find that images made in the camera have a different kind of soul. The engineering challenge is such a crucial part of the process for me – working in the sweet spot between design, maths and emotion. I'm continually investing days in the studio experimenting with different materials, techniques and ideas, this keeps me fresh and fills my head with new possibilities. There’s just so much you can do with photography using a basic camera and very minimal photoshop. I’m still so fascinated by photography.
I love it when I’m using my skills to tell a brand story with a real heart rather than to just create something that’s a perfect illustration of a product.
Occasionally a client will brief me on what statement they want to make with the imagery, supply me with some guidelines and let me do my thing. You can really find something original and authentic this way. That’s the dream but it’s pretty rare.
I appreciate collaboration as part of what I do and I find it a good break from manifesting my own ideas. It’s another type of satisfaction to engineer an image that needs to serve a specific purpose in the real world.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m always working on something new, always! Whether the concept cuts the mustard is another question. I hang test prints of new work on my wall at the studio and look at them for a long time to work out if it has legs.
The pandemic has made me feel differently about the type of images I want to make. I want a lot more joy right now and I’ve been working on different images that express this.
I’ve recently pitched for some commissioned work that is more experiential based and I’ve really enjoyed imagining my work as more immersive physical experiences.
Daniel holds a Fine Arts degree from Sydney College of the Arts. He has won several prestigious awards including the Magnum and Lensculture Photography Award (2017); Bowness Photography Prize, (2015, Highly commended); an International Photography Award (2015) and Phototechnica New Australian Photo Artist of the Year (2001). He has exhibited nationally and internationally, and his work is held in private collections in Australia and around the world.