April 2017

Traveller, explorer, photographer; this is perhaps the best way to describe James Kerwin, whose beautiful photography is the focus of this week's journal entry. 

Unearthing forgotten and neglected buildings across the world, Kerwin's work is a masterpiece of unveiling hidden beauty. We caught up with James to find out more about his ethereal and humbling portfolio.  

How did you first get into photography?

In 2009 and 2010, I went on an 18-month trip to Australia and Asia. The sights, and places that I saw made me want to capture them and remember them. I even remember the first “serious photograph” that I took in in St Kilda in Melbourne on a market stall, it was colourful heart shaped lights. A week later I was shooting light trails from a bridge in Hong Kong.

You specialise in architecture; do you have an architectural or design background?

I don’t, which may surprise you! After a few years of under-taking travel photography I was drawn to architecture and from that into derelict or abandoned interiors. It is the textures, the shapes, the challenge. Architecture photography is not as simple as meet the eye; light, composition and highlighting the building's details are essential. 

Tell us about your beautiful Decadence and Neglected series – where did you get the inspiration from? How did you find your locations?

Finding locations is a result of making contacts who support me in foreign countries, of hours researching on Google and sometimes of things that I have found whilst already travelling through a country.

Decadence was my first series, my first time in some of these countries and certainly in those types of grand locations. Some of the images that I captured were a first for me, and it was not until 12 months later when I was reassessing my photography portfolio that I realised that those images all belonged together and belonged in a series.

When I first ventured into shooting inside derelict locations, I shot a much darker style of images than I currently do. This choice lead to some criticism and so after a brief assessment, I decided to dig in and come out fighting. I adapted my work and went back to my roots, back to that market in Melbourne and decided to reintroduce colour.

From January 2016, my images became much more colourful, my composition was refined, I studied more and I gained much more focus in what it was that I was doing. The series Neglected is the result of this drive to fight back, of my passion in photography and my willingness to travel. 

What has been your greatest architectural discovery?

A difficult question indeed. Some of the “lost” chapels of Wales are stunning. However, the one for me that holds the best memories is a stunning, golden chapel in the South of France. I was offered one thousand pounds by an American couple to take them there for their wedding images, I declined.

If you could shoot any building in the world, what would it be?

Imagine getting the opportunity to photograph Buckingham Palace, or on a larger scale I would love to go to one of the desolate cities in China, like Ordos.

What do you think of the popularity in Instagram and other photo-sharing platforms? Does it help or hinder photographers?

It helps as I think it is great to get your work seen and out into the wider world using such platforms, some people get picked up by travel companies or film companies simply because they can share their fantastic work to Youtube, Flickr or Instagram.

However, with that I don’t particularly like how Facebook (since buying Instagram) realised this and has since tried to turn every post into an advert by limiting reach, pages and portfolios from hitting follower’s timelines. It takes away a lot of the ease of getting work out there, after all those people are already followers, should they not be allowed to see the great work of the photographer or artist they love?

What does the next 12 months have in store for you?

In a few days I jet off to Ukraine where I am meeting lots of old friends and new, travelling out West to some beautiful looking spots before heading to the infamous Pripyat (Chernobyl).

A month later, I visit Iceland for the second time where I am hosting a tour for friends and finally for architecture photography, I hope to visit Romania, re-visit France or Portugal and go to Georgia before the year is out.

All photography © James Kerwin