Interview: Photographer Simon Terrill on his latest series, ‘Tilt’

London-based Australian-born photographer Simon Terrill is famed for large-scale projects conducted in public spaces. Vogue Living contributing editor Dijana Kumurdian caught up with Terrill to ask him about his latest series, Tilt, exhibiting at Sutton Gallery Melbourne until 31 August.

Terrill’s most famous work to date is probably Crowd Theory, an ongoing project that began in 2004, in which up to 400 people are gathered at a specific location and photographed while allowed to act any way they like; the resultant mural-sized prints document the ways people behave in environments personal to them and expose the ways they choose to represent themselves. Similarly, Terrill’s Balfron Project explored the architecture’s impact on public life: the works centre on his obsession with Ernö Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower in London, a massive apartment building constructed in 1967 as a paragon for anti-suburban Brutalism.

Tilt, Terrill’s latest series, maintains a fascination with human behaviour in public spaces, this time using superimposition to capture urban encounters in time. See below for the interview.linebreak

Simon Terrill, Rise

Dijana Kumurdian: Where did your interest in public spaces begin?

Simon Terrill: Moving to Canberra as a teenager. I thought I was living in an architect’s diorama.

VL: Can you describe your fascination with architecture, communal space, and how they relate to daily life?

ST: I am fascinated by the way architecture can function as a giant theatre set influencing the choreography of how we move about in our daily lives. It can look like a scripted performance with the odd moment of spontaneity when you see it this way.

VL: What is your photographic process?

ST: The process changes according to the situation. With the Crowd Theory and Balfron Project works there is a team of collaborators, people who love film lights, old style film cameras, soundscapes and the heightened effects these tools can bring to a situation that involves a large cast of participants. The process with Tilt is the opposite end of the spectrum, completely spontaneous. The technique I used here involves the layering of successive exposures onto a single sheet of film. This produces effects I like to think of as a peripheral vision, glances out the corner of your eye.

Simon Terrill, Hall of Mirrors

VL: What was the inspiration behind Tilt? 

ST: I was thinking about the phrase Tilting at Windmills, from the novel Don Quixote by Cervantes. It is a phrase that describes looking for monsters where they don’t exist. Don Quixote went out to battle giants that were in fact the blades of windmills. I wanted to exhibit works that felt closer to a sensation of being inside a crowd, rather that looking upon one.

VL: How does living and working in London compare to Australia? How has being from Australia influenced your work, and has this changed since your move overseas?

ST: There is a great freedom that comes from living in a city full of people from elsewhere, who have made a conscious choice to be there. This is true for many Australian cities, but perhaps more so for London.

The horizon line in Australia most often moves from left to right across the landscape, where as in Europe the horizon line is more often two lines that converge in the middle of a scene. I am interested in what these different horizon lines mean with regard to a sense of place.

VL: Can you tell us about any exciting projects you have coming up?

ST: I have been dreaming of a Crowd Theory project in Rio…

Simon Terrill, Tilt

linebreakTilt is on show at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, until 31 August.

Interview: Dijana Kumurdian
Photography: ‘Rise’, ‘Hall of Mirrors’ and ‘Tilt’ by Simon Terrill, courtesy of Sutton Gallery.

4 Responses to “Interview: Photographer Simon Terrill on his latest series, ‘Tilt’”
  1. aurelia-m says:

    Incredible pictures!!

  2. Renee F says:

    Stunning work! I want one….

  3. tgb9593 says:

    Great exhibition- worth seeing!

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  1. […] We spoke to Simon Terrill about his latest series, Tilt, which uses superimposition to explore the … […]

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