Interview | Christopher Rimmer


 

How do the influences of your upbringing abroad continue to bring inspiration to your current projects?

I think the tragic circumstances of my childhood in South Africa have had a profound effect on my work. My father died when I was 11 and my mother re-married an Afrikaans man who beat her up on a regular basis and threatened us with guns. My brother's life spiralled out of control and he died four years after my father. During the time when my father was sick, my brother and I attended a boarding school over 1000 kilometres from home where we were systematically bullied and abused by prefects and teaching staff. All of this was played in in the weird and tense atmosphere created by the Apartheid system. The process of evaluating how I feel about this decade in South Africa has occupied much of my adult life and has eventually begun to percolate into my artistic process as it should. The late writer and journalist Brian Sandberg said he viewed my work as the polar opposite of my childhood - "simple, beautiful and drenched in the light of truth".

When formulating your ideas, do you work with a particular audience in mind?

Not at all. When I'm making photographs, I rarely even contemplate the existence of the person who will end up viewing or perhaps owning the finished work. The process is one of the purest things I do in life and is completely unencumbered by anything other than my personal vision and exposure considerations.

Do you look to any other artists for inspiration? If so, who?

I rarely look at other photographers work but I have been influenced  to some extent by David Goldblatt's work and certainly in regards to portraiture, I have spent some time contemplating Sydney photographer, Hugh Stewart's technique. I am more influenced by painters, particularly the Dutch master, Rogier van der Weyden.

 What aspirations do you hold for yourself and your work in the future?

I aspire to continue doing what I am doing now which is traveling a lot, always looking, being curious, asking questions and creating photography that is a reflection of the inner life I experience.

Has any literature inspired you recently?

I'm currently reading The Caliban Shore by Stephen Taylor which tells the story of the wreck of the Grosvenor on the coast of Pondoland in South Africa in 1782, and the survivors subsequent doomed attempt to reach Cape Town some 1500 km away, by walking along the coast. My new project is being shot in Pondoland and the Umzimvubu River reaches the sea very close to where I am working. 

The account of the Grosvenor castaways struggle to cross this great African River, and their attempts to find a way through the almost impenetrable sub tropical forests encountered once they did, is a gripping and very moving tale of survival against the odds and has provided an additional insight into this absurdly beautiful part of South Africa which will no doubt inform the photographs I make whilst I am there.