GET TO KNOW ME: STEVEN COX

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My name’s Steve, I’m 27 and based in Leeds, UK. I enjoy shooting a variety of subjects on any format from 35mm to 8x10. I don’t really have a preferred format or technique as such – I tend to use whatever technique fits with the theme of a particular body of work. I do love black and white photography though, and shoot a lot of day to day stuff on Fomapan film. I like to think of each body of work as an exploration of a particular idea, and as such I’m always reluctant to commit to one particular ‘genre’ or aesthetic style.

Aside from the regular black and white work though, I’m currently working on a couple of long-term projects, one of which involves using photographic paper as a negative, as well as making my own very primitive cameras, and coating glass plates with a silver-gelatin emulsion for exposure in large format cameras. I’m also giving colour separation negatives a go for another body of work – but this is very much in the early stages. In between all that stuff, I’m a photography instructor teaching in the darkrooms at Leeds Arts University, and technician-demonstrator at Leeds City College, so I’m lucky enough to be able to share my skills and passion for photographic processes with people who are often new to the ‘old ways’.

I’ve just recently self published my latest project in the form of a paperback book – The Fifth Dimension. These photographs are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of early pictorialist photographers who would use techniques such as deliberate soft focus, combination printing, and manipulation of negatives and prints to create art through photography. I used disposable cameras with expired film as a way of achieving a similar painterly feel, as the basic lenses which are installed in such cameras somehow produce photographs which are sometimes soft, sometimes sharp and the cameras sometimes leave scratches and deposit debris on the film. I also love the fact that you can never be quite sure what you’re going to end up with when using disposables – sometimes there’s some crazy lens flare, sometimes the negatives are so under exposed that you can only just make out the faintest of details, and sometimes it all just comes together and you end up with a magical result. Further manipulating the film by cross processing seemed like the next logical step, and the other-worldly colours this has produced is an integral part of the project.

I also find landscape painting from the romantic period (early 19th century) particularly inspiring, as these artists would consider the picturesque and sublime elements of the landscape when creating a work of art. In other words, they would consider painting a scene not just to depict it’s beauty, but also to convey a sense of it’s wildness, and man’s vulnerability compared to nature. I wanted to include reference to these theories in The Fifth Dimension, as the idea of a parallel world should be unsettling, even if it looks beautiful on the surface.

‘The Fifth Dimension’ is based on the idea that any one person's perception of reality is completely subjective. We can never know for sure whether what we see is real, or even the same as anyone else's perception of the world around us. The Fifth Dimension is, according to Superstring Theory, a separate world which is slightly different to the world in which you are reading this article. If we could see into the fifth dimension, we would be able to measure similarities and differences between the parallel world and our own. These photographs explore this idea visually through distorting the familiar landscape in a series of soft, psychedelically coloured photographs, creating visions of a world that might just exist.

These photographs are a collection of thoughts, memories and emotions which may never have been experienced. The fifth dimension and subsequent possible realities may or may not necessarily exist. Are we the original reality, or is our world a subtly different duplicate derived from the existence of another?

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