Interview with Barry W. Hughes, Editor of SuperMassiveBlackHole

Established in 2009, by Barry W. Hughes SuperMassiveBlackHole is dedicated to contemporary photography and the photographic imagery resulting from the time-based processes found in many interdisciplinary art practices today. As a truly international and respected publication it has shown the work of over 120 emerging and established artists from all over the world, as well as exhibiting with PhotoIreland and Belfast Photo Festival.

Angela Darby interviewed the founding editor to explore the origins behind this online photographic magazine.

AD: What was the impetus to establish the SMBH magazine?

BWH: It was really a case of there not being a suitable outlet for Irish photographers to show their work to a wider audience, and at the same time there wasn’t much happening with the existing galleries by way of showing contemporary photography from outside Ireland or the UK. I could see so much more out there that would benefit the younger photographers in particular, but the system as it stood just wasn’t capable of understanding this. I thought, having had the experience of seeing my own work in online magazines and gaining so much from them, that I could use this model to help rectify the situation in Ireland.

AD: What approach do you take to curate each edition?

BWH: It depends on a number of things really; sometimes I may encounter a photographer whose work I greatly admire and build a theme around a project of theirs, or a previous issue might trigger an idea for the following issue. Having an open submission policy means I get a lot of ideas from all the projects that come in, so while some projects might not make it into one particular issue they may form the basis of another future issue. The goal is to always stay true to the theme of an issue once it is decided, then irrospective of the style or technique used, choose work which best interprets that theme. Personally, I like the unforseen work, the work that approaches a theme from an odd angle. So many publications or websites show the same work by the same artists for the same themes so why not try and say something different.

AD: You have a project in this year’s PhotoIreland could you expand on this?

BWH: The theme for PhotoIreland 2012 was “migrations” so I wanted to do a small installation of self-portraits by photographers who have migrated themselves. The best way to do this was ask them to make those self-portraits into postcards and physically post them to me so we could mount them directly onto the wall. This act in itself mirroring the the artist’s personal migration. It was up for the Book & Magazine Fair, which was a very short time, so we have decided to keep the project going indefinitely. Anyone can still send their postcards and we will archive them and see about exhibiting them as the project continues.

AD: What is your opinion on the wider opportunities for photographers in Ireland?

BWH: Well the situation has greatly improved since SMBH began in 2009. When SMBH launched, so too did PhotoIreland, and then Belfast Photo Festival, and now we see more young and established galleries starting to finally appreciate the medium a lot more. There are still hurdles and dinosaurs to contend with, certain elements which seem determined to maintain the status quo as it has benefited them for so long. But the newer generation, the photography graduates who are coming into a community which now already exists will certainly have an advantage and things can only get better. We will probably see more of the DIY attitude which has taken over the photography world as a whole, and means the artists are not waiting around for crumbs like the old days, but creating their own opportunity.

AD: What is next for SMBH?

BWH: The new issue and website were both launched recently, and now we have been awarded the Organisational Residency at Steambox, the research centre for Studies in Technological and Experimental Arts and Media, developed by the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art. There is a lot going on right now! This new space will have loads of studios and a dedicated gallery space too, so we are planning on taking full advantage of that and collaborating with people on real-time as well as online projects over the next year. Steambox has the potential to become a serious base for photography in the future, and hopefully through an innovative and inclusive programme, SMBH can be part of that and continue to build on the work ourselves and others have achieved so far.

1. Stacy Kranitz Hellhelm
2. Evzen Sobek Life in Blue
3. Asger Carlsen Wrong

Text: Angela Darby