Photogenic Presents, Episode 11: Edd Carr
Editor’s Note: When I saw the new music video for Don’t Be Afraid by Tycho Jones for the first time, I was blown away by the fact that it was entirely created out of individually-printed cyanotype frames.
For anyone who has spent even a few hours in the darkroom, it is clear from the first few seconds that this was a massive, painstaking project. We connected with Edd Carr – the artist behind the video - to talk more about his process and this unique work of art.
First, give us a bit of background: where do you live, what do you do, how long have you been doing it?
Sure! I’m an artist and researcher from the North York Moors National Park in the UK, currently living in Leeds. I work primarily with alternative photographic processes to explore themes around the climate and ecological crisis - often with the aim of developing low toxicity and sustainable methods.
I am also the founder of the Northern Sustainable Darkroom, a photographic facility researching sustainable alternatives to conventional methods of production. In addition, I also am the co-founder of SCREW Gallery in Leeds, and Animated Ecologies, a global ecological filmmaking programme. I’ve been making art of this kind since about 2017.
Tell us about your artistic influences. Maybe some artists you’ve admired or who have inspired you. What do you look for when producing your own art? What core messages do you find yourself coming back to over time?
My practice was really transformed through my involvement with alternative photo processes. I was given a copy of Jill Enfield’s Guide to Alternative Photographic Processes when studying my undergrad course, and it exposed me to a wealth of techniques. The book became my bible, and I began a long journey of experimentation with skills such as cyanotype, lumen printing, anthotypes, and so on. But as a lover of moving image, I became frustrated with stills, and began to think how I could adapt these various processes.
As there were no contemporary practitioners really working in this way - I based a lot of my research of alternative photographers working with still images, such as Ky Lewis, Barbara Dombach, and of course Jill Enfield. I then applied these methods to the various aspects of ecological crisis.
For those who don’t know or aren’t lucky enough to have seen the video yet, give us an idea of how much work went into making it. How long was the project, from inception to final output?
A lot of work would be an understatement. Overall - from shooting to final video - took about 3 or 4 months, working 7 days a week. The initial shooting and digital edit took about 1 month, then the cyanotype printing and scanning, and final edit another 2 months. By the end I was seeing cyanotypes in my sleep - no joke!
Once you understand the sheer volume of work required to produce the final music video, what really stands out even more is was how perfectly the images and music blend together. Before you had put the two together (music and images), did you know that they were going to work together so beautifully?
I actually had wanted to make an entire cyanotype video for a while - I had planned out a film on flooding in Britain as a result of ecological crisis, with the blue matching the water. For an art film, this kind of peculiar aesthetic isn’t a concern - for obvious reasons! But when creating the music video, I was anxious throughout that the flickering, vividly blue look would be too much for viewers. Indeed, when I first pressed play on the cyanotype edit - I was distraught that the project was a failure! However, after showing it to a few people, they all liked it, and it went from there.
In terms of the thematic content, I planned each shot quite rigorously, to make sure the cuts were seamless. This is a feature of my work in general, I hope!
Having watched some of your other video work (A Guide to British Trees, the Vivienne Westwood video), I wonder how much you find that the specific medium or required format influences the process?
I have always loved music videos as a medium, and I do think my editing and visual style suits that defined tempo that you mention. I think that my other works, such as A Guide to British Trees, are actually quite similar - in that they rely on a pairing of musical sound and visual cuts.
That said, one thing I did try to do with British Trees, was pair the various animation styles with the narrative on screen. For example, we see the protagonist die and travel through different elements as part of his rebirth into a tree. With that in mind, I buried film in soil, set fire to frames, shocked them with electricity, and submerged in water - to create a physical link between the screen and the material world. However, I’m sure this could be adapted to a music video in some way!
You recently posted a great in-depth article on Emulsive about the process you went through to make this video happen. After having read how much work it actually was, I have to ask, will you ever be making another cyanotype music video at 24 fps again?
This one made me laugh! The Vivienne Westwood video was 12fps, which cut my workload in half, whilst achieving an equal aesthetic. I actually prefer 12fps, as not only does it save time and materials, but it also makes it more evident that it is animation. With the Tycho video, the seamless 24fps meant sometimes people thought it was just a filter! So to answer your question - no!
Tell us a bit about your still photography, in addition to your video work. Do you continue to pursue still photography for its own sake in any way? If so, what is your favorite format, camera and subject matter?
I actually started my image-making life as a photographer. I used to work with dogs, and so bought my first camera for that reason. I then progressed to film photography when on my undergraduate course, as part of an assignment. It was then that I fell in love with analogue processes. These days, I’m not much of a regular shooter due to my animation work taking priority, and my involvement in the Sustainable Darkroom means examining and engaging with less wasteful methods of photography.
However, when I do, I bulk load black and white 35mm from old cinema stock and shoot with an old Canon, with a Lomography Diana F+ plastic lens attached. Most of the images are of my home landscape, which I hope reflects the disturbed ecology of the region.
Who is your dream collaborator or partner for a cyanotype video? Who would you want to make a video for the most?
Funnily enough, it would be another music video! I love Mount Kimbie, and their music videos made by Frank and Tyrone LeBon have greatly influenced my work. So yes, making a video for them would be a dream!
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Is the cyanotype video still part of your life, your art, and your story? Or have you moved on to something else?
Tough questions! Hopefully, working on bigger projects. I have an idea for a miniseries that uses these various animation techniques, and more, whilst again developing the themes of ecological crisis and interpersonal trauma that I often work with. So yes - hopefully working with these methods, and more!
Anything else you’d like to add, or that we forgot to ask?
Just to check out my latest initiative - Animated Ecologies. It’s a global ecological filmmaking programme offering workshops, mentoring, and film screenings - and is open to participants worldwide. The project is also working with a number of at-risk or already affected communities - such as Indigenous communities in North and South America, survivors of the Fukushima disaster, wildfire victims in Russia, and more.
Thanks so much for your time. We can’t wait to see what you create next!
Editor's Note: From 2016-2021, Photogenic Supply was called TogTees. We changed our name in mid-2021, but you might still occasionally see our old name on our website. We're still the same people :)