In anticipation of the Semi Peppered x Inter:Mission ‘Empty Spaces’ event , I:M met with creative Maximilian Fullerton to discuss what Empty Spaces means to him.
When and why did you get into photography?
To be honest I kind of stumbled into photography. I did the double maths-double science combo at college and had never really given any thought to anything creative. I was supposed to go straight into my engineering degree but panicked and ended up taking three years off before I started. In one of those years I managed to save up enough money to head to South America for a few months with a GoPro I’d seen on offer as I was leaving. I got back and made an Instagram account from the resulting snaps but I considered them documents of the journey rather than anything creative. In fact, outside of my travels I never really given photography a second thought before university.
Half way through first year, I went to visit one of my best mates and he introduced me to shooting on film. I knew the medium existed from looking at all my old family pictures but was yet to have any real exposure to it. I was immediately interested in the process so it did not take long to find my mum’s little point-and-shoot in a cupboard next time I went home. I was amazed at how simple and inconspicuous it was. It wasn’t a big, expensive piece of equipment that had a sinkhole of technical jargon surrounding it. It didn’t require a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity to justify taking it out with me. It made photography purely about the pictures. Another couple of lucky breaks later - Poundland finding a way to briefly stock film (a product that even at the cheaper end of the spectrum one does not usually get change from a fiver for) and discovering one of the cheapest developers in the country was in Bristol - and in my first month of using film I had burnt through 10 rolls. From there an obsession began.
Have you ever experimented with any other mediums?
I feel photography is very much a gateway into the creative world for me. Although I imagine photography will remain as the vehicle, I’m excited to experiment and see how things evolve as I go. Right now, I’m trying to put together a couple of photobooks and loving seeing my work in hand but creating a story through images is a whole new realm I’m only just starting to explore.
In terms of photography in particular, there is the possibility I might venture back to digital to make the most of its technical potential. Nowadays I shoot solely on film but I would not describe the switch from digital to analogue photography as a conversion. I associated the digital form as a tool to capture reality and even though I tried to make those images as attractive as possible I never looked at them as any sort of artistic expression. It has only been with the analogue form that I have learnt how to make pictures rather than take them. The process is so slow and arduous in comparison and it forces you to pause and think about each image carefully.
Do you have something in particular that you feel unifies all your photography? (a particular style, colouring, narrative)
My favourite pictures always provide a platform for a deeper narrative beyond what is initially apparent. A pretty picture will always stimulate a positive reaction but without substance it will remain as just that. I feel it is not entirely up to the artist how a piece of work is interpreted so I like my images to provide the pieces of the puzzle and leave their assembly to the viewer.
This summer I finally invested in a new camera, new being a relative word for a camera that has not been produced for over two decades. Unlike my mum’s camera that made every technical decision automatically, my latest addition forces the photographer to manually configure and input each aspect of the process. This allows me far more freedom and control in achieving what it is I envisage while making an image. My style and subject matter have been in a state of transition as a result but I have loved exploring the new camera’s capabilities.
Who are your greatest inspirations?
Photography is still a very new medium. Its pioneers are admired for their scientific achievement and in the art world it has only recently begun forging a credible standing amongst the more traditional methods. However, photography plays such a huge role in society today that the current generation likely do not go a single day without being inundated with pictures. This has lead to a constant influence and molding on my development, mostly from to online communities. Instagram, Facebook groups and the university’s own society have played the biggest role in my growth and photographic education so the majority of my inspirations are small, niche photographers.
What does empty spaces mean to you?
One area of photography that I have explored more than most is club photography. Bristol has some of the country’s best nightlife and it is built around a hugely creative and experimental community, so when I started out shooting film and was in need of some practice I reached out to my friends in the industry. Happy to take a risk on me I quickly improved and started photographing regularly. Working within the nightlife business I learnt how important our venues, themselves nothing more than an empty space, were to the community. Clubs are fighting a losing battle to remain open and continue operating in the current climate where councils are happy to revoke licenses to approve more commercially viable businesses. In this ever-growing materialistic world, empty space is becoming a luxury few can afford.
What do you have in mind for our empty spaces exhibition?
Earlier this year I found a picture called Valley of the Shadow of Death. At first, it appears to be a simple black and white landscape with undulating hills under a cloudless sky but, on inspection, one quickly realises the vast number of cannonballs and potholes dotting the foreground. It in fact depicts a battlefield from the Crimean War in the 1850s similar to that described by Lord Tennyson in his poem Charge of the Light Brigade. In that poem Tennyson eulogizes about 600 cavalrymen who bravely rode into battle to their death. The juxtaposition between the serene landscape that presents itself is merely a façade for a much darker narrative that comes with the horrific scenes of war.
Linking back to my interest in club photography I have started a series that shows a similar transition in nightlife. I arranged to photograph Motion, Bristol’s biggest club, at 5am after thousands of party goers had been and gone. The only remnants left was the rubbish that now scattered the once again empty space.
What are your plans for the future?
Hahaha, your guess is as good as mine. Currently I’m trying to pick between taking the blind leap of faith into something creative, an office job I’ll resent or putting off the decision by doing a masters. Whatever I choose I’ll never be far from my camera though, I have so many ideas I want to make a reality. The next step would be to hopefully try and curate a full exhibition.