It is one big universal truth that our immediate environments and those we share breathing space with will inform what we do and make. Not everyone can pick themselves up and transplant everything they know with foreign architecture, questionable cuisine and/or whole other languages, but Spencer Wilton has. For this travelling graphic designer, new landscapes brought out a different sort of work from him and, for some time now, he has been photographing his way about the place, producing images that appear to hold all the studied attention of his original occupation…
You work as a graphic designer, how, if at all, does photography influence your design work?
I would say it’s vice-versa, that my design influences my photos more than my photos influence my design. When you’re trained as a designer you learn to see shapes and ratios and relationships between shapes in space in a unique way, and I think I carry that eye for shapes and relationships with me when I’m shooting.
I often find myself drawn to structures that are fairly simple; big blocky structures with little embellishment. I think that attraction comes from being a designer and loving when things are meaningfully unembellished. I like when photos look flat and two-dimensional at first glance, I like photographs that feature typography prominently and boldly (especially when it’s not in english). I love when things in photographs look like they fall into a grid, as if they were meaningfully placed there with care and attention.
What can you tell us about the stories behind your images?
I suppose the story is that I have been living a semi-nomadic existence since leaving design school in Canada some five-or-so years ago. The places I photograph are ones that I’ve lived and generally really love and miss. A lot of time they are places that I would pass on a daily basis while commuting to work, or immediately around where I live.
Over time I grow to love the mundane places that confront me every day and I try to take pictures in a way that shows those places in as interesting and compelling a way as I see them. I don’t have very many photos of London yet, I’ve only lived here for like eight months, and I’m still coming to terms with what those places are for me here. There are bits of Hackney that I really like, though.
It’s not your average travel photography and focusses quite heavily on architecture – how would you define this sort of documentation?
I’m not really sure. I’ve been calling it sort of “urban landscape” photography. It’s kind of new-topographics-ish. The words “photographs of a man-altered landscape” have a ring of truth to them. I don’t think of it as travel photography, but I suppose it is.