Interview with AOP Nominee Photographer Ben Gold

Ben Gold was always destined to be a photographer. His fate was sealed when, as a young teenager growing up and experimenting with his camera, he discovered his family house was once owned by founders of the world renowned photographers agency Magnum. Since then he has photographed the likes of Charles Dance, Gary Linekar, Victoria Pendelton, and has travelled the world as a commercial photographer, his most recent works Festival Nights have been nominated for an AOP award.

Aesthetica spoke to Ben about his work and his feelings surrounding his AOP nomination.

A. Let’s start by talking about your creative practice. Where did all begin and what were your influences?

BG: I have been taking pictures for a very long time, even before I started studying photography, which was a one year GCSE alongside my A levels at the age of 17. I enjoyed it so much I gave up all my other courses in the second year and left to do a B-tech in photography and later a degree at the University of Brighton.

Early on, I was influenced by great reportage photographers like Sebsastio Salgado, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier Bresson, Bruce Davidson and other members of the Magnum group. A while after moving from London to a small village in Oxfordshire we discovered that our family home used to be owned by 2 founder members of Magnum. This discovery was quite influential and confirmed to me that I was on the right path. Although I was, at this point, unaware or unwilling to accept that I was an artist, I just took pictures.

I was, and continue to be inspired by films, not one specific film, just the image on the big screen, big close ups etc, the vast amount of production that goes into them, how any reality can be created, fascinating!

A. What attracts you to work with Photography and what are you hoping to achieve through this?

BG: It’s just what I do, I love taking pictures, capturing moments, it comes very naturally to me, I am doing it all the time, I find it hard not to! I try not to control things, I just let them happen in front of me. I don’t think I am necessarily trying to achieve anything except for making great pictures, if other people enjoy them too then that’s a great achievement.

A. A selection of pieces from your work Festival Nights have been nominated for an AOP Award. You must be excited, can you tell us a bit about the works that were nominated?

BG: Yes, two images from the festival nights series, Couple who wants watt and Emu Glow have been selected for The AOP Open Awards, which is indeed very exciting and encouraging. Both pictures were taken at Glastonbury in 2010.

Couple who wants watt was taken very late at night in an area called “Shangri-La” amidst a series of Bladerunner-like alleys built in the middle of a field. It was, like most of my work, an instantaneous moment; I saw the young couple sitting against the wall and took their picture before they noticed, they both looked completely exhausted and reminded me of my first festival experiences many years ago.

Emu Glow was taken in a much quieter, neighbouring field full of crafts. In the picture, amongst other things, you can see an old Gypsy caravan and a metal sculpture of an Emu. The lighting looks like sunrise but, although it is very early in the morning, is actually coming from artificial lighting in the much crazier field behind the trees. The image encapsulates my love of festivals, the tranquility alongside the chaos, a fantasy-like scene that could quite easily be from a film.

A. What were you main artistic concerns regarding Festival Nights?

BG: I don’t know if I was or am conscious of artistic concerns, the process is somewhat instinctual. I respond to my environment, photographing what I encounter, trying to capture the spirit of festivals at night. The often fantasy-like experiences created by the late-night side shows and structures, the feeling of complete freedom, the moments of unity, excess, elation, exhaustion, at times chaos, sometimes overwhelming but always rewarding, the contrasting experiences. It’s almost like a film – anything is possible, there’s a different experience around every corner.

I would say that, throughout all of my artistic work, the use of light is very important and certainly something that I respond to, a great deal of effort and creativity goes into lighting festivals at night which gives me a wealth of creative opportunity.

A. You cover both Editorial and Art Photography, but your recent works focus more on the creative, artistic side. Is this something you would like to develop more of in the future, and why?

BG: Throughout my photographic studies I continued to resist the artist inside, convincing myself that I was not an artist but merely learning photography as a commercial venture. I saw it as a means to an end, a way of making money, not realising that my unique view of the world and the way that I document it is what makes me an artist.

I am now embracing this and allowing the ideas to flow and develop, which is very exciting. Ideally I am working towards a point at which I am only producing and selling my artistic work, although I do enjoy working as part of a creative team and interpreting other people’s ideas. It’s possibly something I will incorporate into my artistic practice. Maybe there’s a collaborator out there waiting to meet me! Until then I will continue to shoot commercial work as it allows me the time to evolve and fund my artistic practice­­ whilst making a living purely out of photography.

A. What can we expect to see in the future from you?

BG: Great things! I am working on a number of new projects and lots of ideas, most of which I can’t tell you about! But I can tell you about my window breaks project, which is slowly being introduced by the Art collective. It’s a project that documents the bits in between the start and destinations of my journeys, both personal and business. The entire project is shot from the inside of vehicles, mostly my car, and I use the interior of the car as a frame to the picture, often incorporating the scene in the rear view mirror into the shot.


1. Who wants watt, © Ben Gold
2. Chaos Kiss, © Ben Gold
3. Stereovision, © Ben Gold