Photosense: Hi Ian, it’s Daisy Ware-Jarrett & Genea Bailey from Photosense. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to speak to us.
Right shall we get started?
Ian Treherne: Yes fire away.
Photosense: Most photographers rely on their vision and visual aesthetics in their work, we’ve read up on Usher Syndrome but for anyone who doesn’t know what it is, could you briefly explain what it is and how it effects you?
Ian Treherne: There are different types of Usher, I have Usher type 2, which means I was born partially deaf, then later on in life I found out I had limited vision. My eyesight is basically what they call tunnel vision, I have a small window in front of me that I can see out of. I can’t see below, above and to the sides. It affects me on a daily basis, more so at night time as I rely on everything being lit up. Some days I don’t think about it, sometimes I do. Everyday is hard work, but somehow being stubborn and ambitious means that I seem to just get on with it really.
Photosense: In relation to your tunnel vision we found a quote from one of your past interview saying that your vision is similar to constantly looking through a view finder.
Ian Treherne: Yes that is correct, though my eyesight is just a little bit smaller than the view finder. I guess I think I see more because I see less if that makes sense. I don’t know any different really.
Photosense: I (Daisy) found out when I was 10 years old that I was born with cataracts in both eyes and my eyesight would deteriorate over the years, I also discovered it could lead to operations and in the worst case I could slowly become blind. From this point on I became more creative in all aspects of life, and as I began to photograph later on in life, it had a profound effect on the way I made images, they became very visually pleasing and more creative. I almost overcompensate for my fear of loosing sight through my images. Do you feel having Usher type 2 has subconsciously had the same effect on your work?
Ian Treherne: Sorry to hear that Daisy. I am like you, that I have an imaginary clock on my shoulders ticking away, meaning that I have been told that my eyesight may stay the same or it may deteriorate over time. It is something I don’t think about, but unconsciously I have fire in my creative roots that is making me do as much as possible while I still have the sight I have. Weirdly I think myself “Lucky”, as I have met people who have lost their eyesight and are younger than me and are also creative. I see their frustration and it makes me sad, so I guess I am doing as much as possible. I have only been able to talk about it within the last year, up and till then I kept it inside struggled and pretended I was “Normal” like everyone else. Last year I did an interview with the BBC and it was my way of “coming out”, as many people I’ve known for years didn’t even know I had the condition. It was something I wasn’t able to talk about.
Photosense: That sounds like a really hard time, since you’ve “come out” do you feel like it’s helped your confidence not only as an individual but as a photographer?
Ian Treherne: It hasn’t changed my confidence as such, but it was a huge relief to be able to talk freely about it, as I have always seen it as being a weakness. I still find it difficult a little bit, but I am able to talk about my condition without feeling bad, which I can assure you was a giant step for me! I couldn’t even be in a room with someone who had the same condition as I found it difficult to face. In my mind I think of myself as “Normal”, I am not very good at being labelled disabled, it’s not a word I feel fits in with me. I think it is a pride thing really! It hasn’t affected my photography at all, other than I am still wanting to do more and more, that is a trait in the personality.
Photosense: Your openness about your experience is really inspiring and without knowing it I’m sure by talking about your struggles you are helping other people.
So one obvious question (but we have to ask it) is why photography?
Ian Treherne: Well I know it has helped me to overcome some of my issues with talking about it, which is huge for me! I think with the recipe of stubbornness, ambition, passion, drive for the creative world of photography and bad eyesight only makes me more determined than ever to be known as a photographer. I think knowing there is nothing I can do about my eyesight, is to make the best of what you have got. Why photography….well I LOVE being creative, whether it is doing art, playing guitar, or films, making it is what makes me tick. I was never going to be a scientist, I just don’t have that kind of mind, but with being creative I just come alive, I live and breathe it. When I was 15 I used to look at fashion magazines, I remember seeing it and was bowled over. Digital cameras weren’t invented at this time, so I carried on with my art work, just did it for fulfilment. While digital was making it’s way into the world, I decided I would have ago learning (this was 4 years ago). I like an obsessive arty farty person would, sat and learned the ins and outs of the camera. I then combined my artistic skills with my camera and the new world of photography opened up. I think because it is portable, instant and flexible it was the medium that fitted with me. My love for films were transpired into my photography, my love for light is the key role for any of my photos. Sorry I am waffling, I tried to keep it short! Once you get me started I can’t stop!
Photosense: Thats fine, sometimes it just needs to be said, and that’s a great answer compared to most peoples.
One of the reasons we found out about your work was due to Photosense, a project we are running as part of #Phonar. It explores the relationship between photography and all 5 senses, and how they interact with each other.
How important do you think the senses are in relation to photography? Both in taking photos and viewing them?
Ian Treherne: For me it is pretty important, an example, I photographed a building once that 99.9% people wouldn’t have noticed, me being the way I am is being in tune with the world. It is almost like I step outside of myself and connect with all the artistic ideas and reasons, the architect had put his/her vision into it and I found and connected with it. I think with photography it enables me to step out the “box” and look into it with my camera, I literally switch off from the mundane hustle of life and look and see everything as an artistic picture. I think it’s fun to do, grab and capture the essence of life. Most people are so wrapped up with the rat race that they often don’t see the beauty around them, to me it’s obvious, others it takes time or they never really get to see it. I guess photography allows me to show what I am thinking and seeing, I like to share that with people.
Photosense: And is it this “stepping out of the box” technique that allows you to incorporate all your senses?
Ian Treherne: Well I’ll be completely honest it is not something I had thought about before. It is strange as I am an analytical person, but I don’t analyse how or why I do it. It is all about “the feeling” which is instinct, you don’t question it, you just do it because you know it is right. Music can affect your photography in some ways, I always have music on when doing a studio shoot. With my style of photography is is about elegance, sensitivity, emotion and atmosphere.
Photosense: Do you also listen to music when painting?
Ian Treherne: I don’t do so much painting now, but when I had to do a load of commissions this year, the music affected the colours and how well the painting could go. If I was feeling deep and wanted something to move me, Coldplay would go on and make me feel alive, same when I do studio shoots. Music can hit the senses and can make you feel amazing.
Photosense: That’s a really interesting point actually. Which technique to you feel allows you to express yourself best? Your photography or your art? There is a noticeable difference in aesthetics between the two, the majority of your portrait photography is black and white and offer a calm serene atmosphere whilst your paintings are really colourful and quite chaotic…
Ian Treherne: Yes it was something I had noticed that I quite literally do the opposite in the mediums. I think paintings allows me to be free and chaotic, step out of my comfort zone so to speak, but photography is what I love more, I am utterly fascinated with people, more so peoples faces. I get more excited with photos than art. My love in photography comes in 4 bits, it is about the light, the person, the clothes/place and the photographer. I am a lover of the 60’s photographers John French, David Bailey, Brian Duffy, Cecil Beaton. I like the older images because they are pure, nowadays I find that the pictures can be so enhanced that you loose the essence of the idea in the first place, which is why I like the “less is more” idea.
Photosense: It’s really nice that you can see the beauty in such minimalistic things. With my photography (Daisy again) I try to avoid using black and white and enjoy the chaotic kitsch photography of practitioners such as David LaChapelle because I am compensating for having cataracts. So it’s great to see a completely opposite preference.
Going back to what you said earlier about music being able to inspire you. Would you ever consider doing a collaborative photography and sound project? and instead of the shoot being directed by the music, let the audience be instead?
Ian Treherne: In photography there is no right or wrong, it is all about preference isn’t it. It would be boring if we all liked the same things. I’ll have to look him up. I am always keen to see other peoples work. Yes I would be interested in the photo and sound project. How would that work just out of curiosity?
Photosense: For example as part of #Phonar we are exploring sound and photos. Last week we had a task called ‘Alienated sensory mashup’ where we were either blindfolded and had to make sound recordings or had noise cancelling headphones on and had to take photos. We then had to create a mashup with images and sound.
Ian Treherne: Sounds interesting. I am always up for doing something different, again getting out of my comfort zone.
Photosense: It is definitely something worth doing. Thank you so much for talking to us today, we really appreciate how open you’ve been. It’s given us a greater insight to your work and the relationship between how we use our senses to interact with photography.
Ian Treherne: I hope I have contributed something for you. Been nice chatting to you too. My goal really in life is too get my work recognised, I am constantly raising the bar on my work. For some reason it is very important to me to be recognised as a photographer in my lifetime, I feel if I don’t succeed now and not able to leave something behind, I would feel I have failed in life! I have rather high expectations on myself.
Photosense: It’s far better to have high expectations than to not have any.