Éanna Freeney is a young and enthusiastic photographer based in London, he is also the founder of an independent publication that has attracted me more lately, the online magazine The Velvet Cell. Éanna has a fresh and modern vision about the way to manage and publish online content, his good ideas had bring to live a magazine The Velvet Cell which I consider the best window into contemporary urban photography.
Seeking Magazine: How did you get started with photography? Are you trained or self taught?
Éanna Freeney: I got into photography all of a sudden in my early twenties after I moved to London and was going through a bit of a transition period, moving between countries and between jobs. I ended up spending the winter days exploring around east London in particular, trying to make sense of it all and to capture the industrial, cold feeling of the eastern parts of London. Areas like Bow, Hackney Wick and Stratford, to me, translate strong feelings of neglect and loneliness. They are in stark contrast to more looked-after parts of the city, especially those in the West, and at the time fascinated me as I tried to fit into this area and to find some beauty in it. A lot of the photographs I take have a lot to do with my interest in sociology. London was my first time living in a large city by myself and I was struck by the isolation and loneliness present despite the fact that there was so many people living here. I think I was trying to emphasise the alienation and isolation that I felt, and still am to an extent in my current work. The idea of feeling stranded and alone in a city of millions like this is a contradiction that really interests me.
SM: How would you describe your photographic style?
EF: My style is about trying to find beauty in the conventionally ugly. It is, at its most basic level, a study of the effect of man on the planet and what alterations he has brought to the landscape. I am more interested in urban photography than anything else. I like to shoot at night because it adds to the atmosphere of the setting and by framing the scene with darkness I can direct the viewer’s attention to what is in question. Catching a city like London by night when it is relatively quiet and empty is a great thrill too and a very interesting side to the city. So many people just commute into London and only see it at its busiest. They don’t know the feeling of being in a place meant for, and usually occupied by, masses of people being empty and desolate instead. I’m not so good at shooting at daytime, or at least I don’t get the same thrill from it. I’m hoping to do an M.A. in photography and urban sociology which, I’m hoping, will help to develop this interest further.
SM: Tell us about The Velvet Cell your online magazine. What was the inspiration behind this?
EF: The Velvet Cell is an online magazine I design and curate. The inspiration for this magazine came from the desire I had to group together different photographers I admired and to provide a platform for photographers who, like myself, are interested primarily in night-time/ urban photography to see other’s work. I feel this style of picture-taking is massively neglected, with much more emphasis on street and portrait photography online and in bookshops. It started off very small but has gone from strength to strength although I am finding it harder to fit in the time to complete them in these days. To this date it has featured a mesh of both amateur and professional photographers and everyone who has been involved has been a pleasure to work with. Following on the theme of urban photography I’m hoping, some day in the future, to set up a publishing house from the work of ‘the velvet cell’ which will give a bigger platform to photographers I admire who work in the urban scene and study themes of alienation and desolation in their photography. I have already worked with so many interesting photographers and hopefully we can continue to work in tandem in some form in the future.
SM: In your book ‘Untitled’ shows a different side of the London city, is not usually collection of photographs. What inspired this book?
EF: Thanks! These photographs are a collection of my first year in London. They are my favourites of the many I took and I think best represent my style at the time. I’m not sure whether I’ve simply gotten tired of that style or whether I’ve simply exhausted its opportunities. They are mostly taken in the winter period of 2009, in and around East London. I really need to start getting out there again at night and discovering new places without simply reproducing what I’ve already taken. I have a few in mind but finding the time is another thing.
SM: Tell us about your series ‘The Black of Night’. What mean these places?
EF: These places are symbols for me of my first year living in London and trying to settle down in such a fast paced and unforgiving environment. The overbearing theme of these works is ‘light from darkness’ and the contrast that can be found between the two, especially in the winter months. I primarily take these kind of pictures in winter when the nights are longer and all these are from the winter of 2009/2010. So it will be interesting to see what draws me now that a new winter is rolling around. A lot of these scenes I just happened upon while out exploring and they intrigued in one sense or another.
SM: What are your favourite subjects to shoot?
EF: I don’t have any strict favourite subjects to shoot but all that I do shoot share a common there: they are man-made and represent the effect of human beings on earth in a less aesthetic sense. I always try to demonstrate the isolation and brutalist aspects to the urban environment, something different from commercial photos. My favourite subjects use to be lights in a dark alley or an isolated street light casting light in an otherwise dark area.
SM: What photographers have influenced you?
EF: Photographer’s who’s work I’ve enjoyed would include the likes of Rut–Blees Luxembourg and Gregory Crewdson but I’m not sure how many have influenced me. It was more a case that I discovered them once I had realised what my own style was and so could relate to their work. I especially like the work of Crewdson and his attempts to shows the alienation and discontent felt by his subjects in suburban America. I feel he captures the atmosphere excellently. Much of Luxembourg’s work I enjoy too, especially her night shots, but a lot of it I feel completely indifferent towards as well. There is an endless well on flickr of unrecognised but very talented photographers who I would find, if anyone, influences me the most. The photographers of the velvet cell would definitely inspire me, which is why I ask them to be in the magazine.
SM: How is a normal day in the life of Eanna Freeney?
EF: My normal day, unfortunately, doesn’t have enough photography or design aspects to it. These days I’m waking up at half six and getting home at seven. I try to get an hour’s work done a day at either the magazine or something else photography related. At the weekends I would try to get a lot of design work done – I’m trying to design a few websites at the moment, including a proper one for the velvet cell and a photography one for a friend. In between all these projects I’m trying to get a lot of my own photography done but, sadly, it’s few and far between at the moment.
SM: What cameras are you constantly using?
EF: For most of the images in the series “The Black of Night” and “Isolation” I have used a Canon D-SLR, but I have begun, in the last few months, to use analogue cameras a lot more. I have a Lomo and a Zenit-B and an old Canon AE-1 which I am currently using a lot in my most recent project. I’m only recently discovering the joys (and woes) of film photography. The end result can be amazing but its not great too because its so expensive or when your film is messed up or lost by the developers.
SM: Your projects, wishes for tomorrow.
EF: At the moment I am working on a project that I’m really excited about but also a bit apprehensive because it’s the first project I’ve shot entirely on film. It’s a project about the bleak infrastructure of London just outside of the main zones of the city. I’m trying to document, in black and white, the beautiful curves and dips and slopes etc. that exist in the concrete form of motorway bridges, fly-overs and sliproads. Many of these areas are what we consider the ugliest in the cities but are also home to some beautiful shapes in their formation which contrast starkly against the materials which are used to build them and their everyday use which is just to transport from point A to B. I plan on working on the project for a while and having an exhibition when it’s completed, but it will be a while before I got enough to be happy and have mastered the film technique.
Interview by Andrés Medina
Copyright © Éanna Freeney, All rights reserved. This photographs are not to be used as free stock.