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Grant Scott (Editor ofHungry Eye): Steve, I’d like to talk about stillness.Your work to me expresses the essence of stillness. Steve Pyke: You mean the portraits and the still life, all of my work? Grant:Yes, all of it.You seem to have remained true to the history of photography and portraiture, going back to Karsh and even earlier. Steve:Well, the people who were shooting the first portraits, back in the 1840s; those people were also photographing still lives. Look at people like Octavius Hill. To me some of their best pictures were their still lives. Images like a dead grouse with a bag and still lives of lettuce, all that kind of thing. They are so simple.You know I always photographed still lives, right from the very beginning, but there is stillness in all photographs because it is that captured eighth of a second. Grant: There is, but there can also be ‘a stillness’ within the still image and that is how I have always seen your work. Is that something you are aware of? Steve: I’m aware of it for obvious reasons, in the still lives that I’ve shot. In the portraits there is ‘a stillness’ as well, I agree. I like to photograph people in this very still way, but what I strive to do and what I really like is trying to capture those spontaneous eighths of a second that come every so often. Grant:You still only shoot with film, so do you think that process of shooting and then winding on imposes a pace to how you create your images? Steve: People notice it more now when I shoot them. There is no motor drive and so there is an acknowledgement by them that one frame has been shot and that we are now moving on to the next one. Grant:When you shoot, I know that you are trying to find out who the person is you are photographing, which is a very slow and considered process. The conversation leads you to the stillness.You are not a voyeur trying to capture something happening, you are engaging with your sitter to create something. Steve:Yeah, yeah, that is what happens, but a lot of the time that happens before we even sit down to


do the photography.A typical session for me lasts an hour, of which 45 minutes is talking, having coffee and getting to know each other. The actual photography takes me less and less time. It could be as little as 10 minutes and two or three rolls of film, but what happens is the result of the 45 minutes of getting to know each other and, of course, as a result of the 30 years of me doing this. Grant:Your photography for me is a pure, concise form of photography. It couldn’t be seen as a still from a movie, as a lot of work captured digitally could be viewed. Steve: That’s interesting. I’m open to all kinds of work, but I guess there aren’t many of us left still shooting exclusively on film. I’ve never been interested in the technical side of photography, which is probably why I still use the same camera I started out with. It’s where you point the camera that matters, what the subject matter is, what the composition is. I’m interested in content. Grant: I think your work looks different from other photographers’work because of that process. Steve:Mmm, yeah, but if you are aware of my work and you’ve been looking at it for nearly 30 years, that’s going to colour the way you look at it. That’s going to give it weight and added gravitas, which is inevitable when you are looking at a lifetime of work. I think that when you look at a photographer’s work you haven’t heard of you can still say that they are amazing images, but they will not have the same sense of permanence. Grant: I agree with you on that. Steve:Maybe there aren’t many of us around that have spent such a long time on projects. Grant:You do spend an incredible length of time working on projects. Steve: It doesn’t seem like that.You start a project one day and then you look at it and realise that 25 years have elapsed and you’re still working on it; you still have the same fire about it. The projects only evolve in the rolls of film I’m collecting. The concept is already there, I know what it is, and it’s not going to change. It’s about a continuum. Grant:You don’t seem to have a strong desire for instant gratification? Steve: Oh yeah, because I’m a photographer


76 www.hungryeyemagazine.com


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