Artist and photographer Gareth McConnell first went to Ibiza, and Space, in 1993. He started a photography project ‘Nothing Is Ever The Same As They Said It Was’ in 2002 and has returned every year since except 2008 the year of his daughter’s birth. The project focuses around mainly British workers and displays a fascinating insight into a lifestyle of transience and innocence. Gareth McConnell will be returning to Ibiza to complete the project this summer with a book to be published of some of the work next year. We asked him some questions about his photography.I notice there’s a line in the text on your website which says your working method involves a shared and co-operative process – this is probably the first thing that captured my attention with this project. Although they are striking photographs, they appear to be taken by someone who knows their subject well. How did you go about finding these people, in the wilds of San Antonio I presume? “Yes, San An. I wander about with my camera and a bunch of photos from previous years and try and persuade folk to get involved. Often I will meet someone who is really into what I am doing and they end up giving me a hand introducing me to people and knocking on doors. However I am always looking for ways to make my life easier so if anyone reading this would like to be photographed this summer I can be contacted through my website.” This set of photos is wildly different to anything else I’ve seen documenting Ibiza and it’s inhabitants. Do you feel you’re performing a role in showing not only the way people look and live, but through your work – the way they feel? They are all young, seemingly idealistic, vaguely vulnerable looking people. Are these themes you relate to, or return to in your work? “Yes I wanted the photos to be very different as I knew that only by decontextualizing them from the clubs the drugs the sea the sand the sex, you know the cliche, whatever, that they could actually be seen, otherwise they are just part of that mass of images. It’s also why I have taken so many and spent such a long time doing it as I want it to be considered as a serious and contemplated piece of work. There is also I suppose and element of pilgrimage in my repeated return that perhaps echos that made by my models who it could be said come to transcend at the clubs. There are different threads to the work and I don’t want to dump it all on the table but lets say on one level I am exploring the fracture between fantasy and reality, and maybe the second part of the title (a quote by Diane Arbus) alludes to that but I am interested in how things (1988 summer of love, ecstasy, Amnesia, Oakenfold, birth of rave, Shoom, Clink Street, free parties, blah blah) become mythologised and though how important all that stuff is culturally, on a personal level it can become problematic trying to place yourself within that narrative, especially when things have become commodified and regulated to the extent that they have. I know because I tried to do it myself. I first went to Ibiza in 1993 and I left 6 weeks later with no money no shoes and no passport and left (to paraphrase Jarvis Cocker) part of my brain somewhere on the terrace of Space. Perhaps my work is romantic in the sense that I am concerned less with specific subject matter or of making any particular point but more with trying to capture a particular mood or feeling – a sense of something or a recognition and I think and hope that is what binds my work together.” So it seems you are indeed part of this narrative yourself! Thank you. Will we see you at Space this summer?
“You will indeed… as long as we can get a babysitter!”Gareth McConnell was born in Northern Ireland and lives and works in London. He has exhibited and published internationally and his work is held in the collections of the British Council and UBS. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Dazed & Confused and AnOther Magazine amongst others. He has taught at various art colleges in the south of England and has spoken about his work at various venues including the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern. His next monograph ‘Family. A 21st Century Love Poem’ will be published in 2012.
You can view the rest of the project (and the artist’s other work), here.