Interview with Louise Hobson

A- I have always been impressed with the way you hold yourself. I think this ultimately has directly influenced how you take photographs, and how you process the ideas and experiences you have recently come across in the past year. What aspect of the Marine Corps inspired you to work the way you have in the project, H hour?

L- My inspiration did not come from the Marines, but my brother’s individual experience of training in the Marines. I needed to make sense of his new life within the military and understand more about the training that is preparing him for the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. H-Hour thus looks back to when the target was once a rudimentary shoebox and how today, the simulated environment is an Afghan village.

A- I imagine access to something like this must have been a great challenge, can you discuss how you got around certain obstacles that you came across? How did you gain the access that you did?

L- Yes, gaining access was both difficult and lengthy. I had to be persistent in my requests, however I was ultimately granted access on the basis of my brother being in the Marines. The military saw me as part of the extended family and trust was built upon this relationship.

A- A majority of your work before had been portraiture, however a sudden change to a lack of people has happened over the past year, could you discuss how this came about and what inspired the change? Although you have changed the working method, your stamp still exists and they can easily be recognised as your photographs, could you discuss how you came about that style and way of working?

L- To be honest, I began to question what portraiture could achieve and I also felt like I was repeating myself. I was approaching each project with the same method of working, regardless of the subject matter. I wasn’t allowing a project to grow organically as I knew what it would look like from the beginning. H-Hour has instead been made in response to conversations with my brother about the scenarios 40 Commando rehearse and the areas they have trained in. This has led me to study the training areas and all that they encompass; from hand drawn maps to a demonstrations building. Although devoid of people, I have approached photographing a target in the same way I would a person and that is perhaps why there is a similar style to the project. Though I do not show anyone, I feel that a tangible human presence exists in the work.

A- How do you feel about the images as a result of your learning over the past year about the subject?

L- I feel that my work has progressively become more informed on the subject, as I began to see things I originally would have dismissed as irrelevant.

A- What is refreshing about the work, is that the subject it depicts is currently being covered left right and centre, and is proving to be a current worry and celebration of pride. How do you feel about the subject itself? I understand your closeness with it, as it being about your brother, how did that change the way you approached it? Do you feel the work has achieved what you set out to achieve?

L- How I feel about the subject can be taken in several ways – how do I feel about the training, the military or perhaps the war in Afghanistan, which my brother will soon experience? I don’t know. Perhaps I am too close to the issue to objectively comment on it all, but it is this closeness, which initiated the project. I saw the training areas through the eyes of a sister first and photographer second, often finding myself drawn to sites of domesticity and mortality, alongside that which is used to rehearse warfare. As to whether I believe it achieved what I hoped for – yes – I needed to make this work and see where my brother was training and understand his world a little more. That said, I feel that H-Hour has become but one part of a far bigger project that is ongoing.

A- As the work is current in the news focus, how did you find a way of making an alternative take on a subject usually dealt with in a very objective way? You have taken a personal but clinical approach that both feels beautiful and revealing of not just your brother and the subject, but also your stance and how you feel about the activity your brother has undertook?

L- By very nature this is personal work and so could never be objective - I think that that may be why the project is dissimilar to other bodies of work, which deal with a similar theme. It’s interesting that you say clinical, as I think that in many ways I had to distance my personal affections in order to make the work. I do however wonder what people will consider my stand to be, as I still don’t know myself. What I often had to remind myself, is that the façade of a red bricked house and the compound of a village modeled on Afghanistan are simulated yes, but they will soon be real.

A- As well as a breath taking body of work, your organisation and ability to make things run smoothly has been apparent this year, how do you feel that natural instinct affects the way you think and approach projects? Saying this, your work feels organised yet, it is not governed by structure, it is curious in a clean and sharp way.

L- Well, for this project I have spent more time researching, calling and emailing than I have actually taking photographs. I have had to be organised and on top of things in order to ensure shoots happen.

A-You have worked with the 6 by 6 format for a long while, how do you feel about this frame? Certainly work made in the square frame seems to walk down similar paths and aesthetics, but you managed to sculpt something new with this camera. How do you feel about this approach? Would you consider a different format and frame in future projects or do you feel at home with the square?

L- I began working with 6x6, as I was lucky enough to be given a Hasselblad by a family friend when I left to begin Doc Phot at Newport. I didn’t know what medium format was, let alone heard of Hasselblad and yet since then I’ve barely been able to put it down! I trust it, I thoroughly enjoy shooting on it and I think I am a better photographer when I use it. I have become accustomed to working with a square format, but I would be happy to use alternative formats and equipment for future projects.

A- Finally, you have demonstrated a fantastic range of skills over your time at Newport, where do you feel you would like to fit in the photographic world? Where would you feel at home?

L- Thank you! Well, I have just started a six-month gallery internship at Ffotogallery in Cardiff/Penarth. After then – who knows!