Interview with Photographer Albert Elm, XL Catlin Art Guide 2016

The XL Catlin Art Guide 2016 | New Artists in the UK will be available at the London Art Fair, running until 24 January. This fully-illustrated, limited edition publication, the seventh in a series, has established a strong reputation for championing the most outstanding graduate and postgraduate artists from UK art schools. The book will be presented on stand P25 alongside new work by a selection of the 30 featured artists and available for free throughout the duration of the fair.

The latest edition sees a strong showing from London art schools, with Goldsmiths, Royal Academy Schools, Royal College of Art and Slade School of Fine Art particularly well represented. Artists are long-listed by the book’s author, Justin Hammond, on the basis of their degree shows. He follows up with a succession of studio visits and short interviews before making his final selection. Condensed versions of the Q&As – where artists discuss their ambitions for 2016 and beyond – are included in the book. Additionally, writer and curator of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, George Vasey, contributes an essay on artists finding strength in numbers after leaving art school.

We interview Albert Elm, a recent graduate of the BA (Hons) Fine Art Photography degree at The Glasgow School of Art about his inclusion in the Catlin Guide.

A: What advice would you give to emerging artists in your field?
AE: Trust yourself, be patient and be stubborn. You go through phases where you don’t believe that your dream will become reality. Accept that your practice is a part of your life regardless of other peoples opinions and expectations. Hold on tight to what you do, and don’t expect you will reach your destination tomorrow.

A: Your photographs appear offbeat and even humorous in terms of content and composition. What influences you from day to day?
AE: Usually I let my curiosity lead my way. Anything that catches my eye. Interesting shapes, colours, bizarre situations, interesting looking people. I try be impulsive and not to think too much when I photograph. Selection, editing and contextualisation happens later when I process the films and look through the material.

A: Discuss the use of flash in your images – is there an attempt to create a flat, objective aesthetic?
AE: I think I started to use the flash when I started to use a small point and shoot camera because I lost all my equipment. I enjoyed not having to worry too much about the technical aspects of using a camera. I felt it gave me the freedom to just capture what I experienced on the go. The pocket camera liberated me in that sense. Later it became a more aesthetic choice. I use the flash to get as much information in my negatives as possible. I like the way the flash makes colours fresh and intense, so that they stand out.

A: Following your inclusion in the XL Catlin Art Guide, what do you have coming up in the near future?
AE: I’m really happy to have been invited to exhibit at the Photographic Centre, Copenhagen’s 20th birthday exhibition in the company of some really exciting artists. I’m working towards an exhibition at Head-On Photo Festival in Sydney, and I’m about to publish a book and have been in touch with Fabrica (Benetton Communication research centre in Italy) about future collaborations. But the future is uncertain, which is good.

The XL Catlin Art Guide is an indispensable source for collectors of contemporary art, and remains the only publication of its kind. Its corresponding exhibition, the annual XL Catlin Art Prize, celebrates its 10th anniversary in May 2016.

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1. Albert Elm, Untitled, 2015, C-type print. Courtesy of the artist.