James Gerrard

Post image for James Gerrard

by Horror Sleaze Trash on February 25, 2011

The photographer behind the newest addition to the HST GIRLS section, James Gerrard, gets down to the nuts and bolts and chews the fat about his time in squats and censorship.

HST: You lived in what can really only be described as a blood and shit infested squalor for a time while you where attending Salford University. Gotta be some good stories from them times right, any one story stick out?

JAMES: Yeah there’s so many it’s hard to choose. Probably the funniest was this one night we had been out in Manchester. We got back home and got the dealer on the phone straight away. It got to 8.00am and we were all baked. Then one of my friends decided he needed one last bong before he set off for work. Needless to say he should not have been attempting to go into work. Regardless, he ripped the bong and left. He came back 30 minutes later saying that he couldn’t find the bus stop (he’d been using it for the past two years!) He then proceeded to collapse through the wooden coffee table spilling the bong water onto three little neatly racked lines of MDMA. Not funny at the time. Very funny in hindsight. We convinced him it would be a good idea to call up work and say that he was sick. He ended up laughing on the phone for about five minutes before they hung up. No sleep for 48 hours + Bong before work = Job termination.

HST: How much bloody weed to do wide boys smoke?! haha I remember from my time in London the drug scene was prolific, coke mainly. In your opinion would you agree drugs have nestled into English culture the way a pint and a fight have?

JAMES: I smoked a lot of weed at University, almost every day for two years. Apart from when I went back home. But I’m lucky because I’ve never been addicted to any substance in my life regardless of how much I’ve taken. So I’ve never really had to “quit”. I don’t really take drugs that often anymore. But I can still hit it hard for a special occasion. There’s a lot of recreational drug use in England at the moment. The drugs of choice are mainly coke or ecstasy (usually in the form of MDMA) It’s like fucking Mexico over here these days apart from the coke is as weak as piss and it gets mixed with all sorts of shit. Not good!

HST: Is there any truth to the myth, does the starving artist find more inspiration in that style of environment, or is that just a bit of a wank?

JAMES: I think there’s something in that you know. I remember during my time living there I gained a lot of inspiration from the people around me and from that lifestyle. I suppose that’s what shaped my style of photography. As well as the good times there was also the bad but I owe a lot to that little shithole in Manchester.

HST: From what I can tell, you’re a hip hop man right?

JAMES: I could talk to you all day about music. Literally all day. Aside from taking photos there is nothing I like to do more than talk about music. Hip-hop was my first love. But I grew up listening Oasis, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths and the Jam in my Dad’s old tape deck. I became bored of the Hip-Hop scene when hardly any rap music was being released. It was around that time that I started getting into into punk rock and indie. The first band I ever became obsessed with were The Libertines. I wasn’t old enough to go and see them first time around but I was lucky enough to see them reform this summer at Leeds Festival. I fucking hope they make a new album. I do still listen to hip-hop a lot, the new Kanye album is the shit! But I don’t think anything will ever match that 90’s New York sound. ODB, B.I.G, Gangstarr, Nas in the Illmatic era. All the classics came from that period. I know it’s cliche but I love all types of music, seriously. Artists on rotation at the moment would be Kanye, The Cribs, Moruf Adewumni, and Giggs. Not forgetting Nirvana and The Smiths. They get played at least twice a day. My uncle is a massive hip-hop head and my Dad is a massive punk rock/indie freak so I guess that’s where my eclectic taste comes from. Please can I just talk and talk and talk about this topic?….no?….Ok.

HST: Your style is gritty and gutsy, like a Harmonie Korine flick, and believe me, that’s one of the biggest compliments I can offer, do you aim for an individualized style, or does it simply perpetuate?

JAMES: I saw Gummo a couple of years ago….crazy shit! Like I said, my style developed whilst living in Manchester at University. I’d just take the camera out and things would happen. So in that sense I never really aimed for or thought about a style. It just “was” my style. But since then I’ven honed my camera skills and I’m very particular about the aesthetic values of my shots. Not saying that I stage them
or plan them (never that! I hate that) but I do have to go out in search of things more often. I suppose that’s just because I don’t live in a hellhole anymore. I hate that type of studio photography that looks like it has taken 300 hours to set up. Fuck that, the best photos arise when you least expect them.

HST: You made the top five in Vice magazines contest for Kopparberg Cider for your photo “not a happy cat” , that must have been a trip right?

JAMES: Yeah that was awesome. It’s such a cliche to take a photo of your cat too haha! But mine was a good one, I’m proud of that photo. It got me a lot of free drinks. I entered another one into the competition under a different name and that made it into the top 50. I reckon I was the only person with two photos hanging in the gallery…shhhhhh. When I got told to come back to London again to attend the final I was over the moon. So yeah, I got two free parties off the back of it and some good exposure.

HST: You mentioned to me in regards to that shot that you didn’t like the idea of naming your images. Is it a personal choice or do you think the Photographs should speak for them selves?

JAMES: Yes! You’ve hit the nail on the head. A photograph should speak for itself. I hate seeing hipster-ish titles for photographs. It just strikes me as hugely pretentious. I fucking loathe it. If your photo isn’t good enough to tell a story on its own and it needs the back up of words to help justify it’s existence then DON’T EVER SHOW IT TO ANYONE.

HST: Then you spent some time at the Vice head quarters on an intern, is it all its cracked up to be? I’m worried my fantasies are about to be spoiled…

JAMES: Like most things it had it’s ups and its downs. As an intern they make you do all the shitty jobs but then they repay you by getting you free bars at cool events. I remember having to carry this huge box of flyers around every street in London during a heat wave. That fucked me completely but maybe I’m just a pussy. It was brilliant stepping into the Vice office every day. It felt good. It felt like
I belonged there. I hope to make it back there someday.

HST: Have you ever felt compromised, or have any issues arose from your more in your face imagery.

JAMES: Yeah. I remember before I got my first camera I borrowed one off a friend. I was at art college before I went to university and I had this idea for my final project that I would diarise my life in pictures for a month. And that meant shooting everything. EVERYTHING. The images that caused the most outrage were the ones with nudity. I got told that I had to cover up the offensive parts. So that gave me the idea of blowing up some of the photos to large scale and covering them with black tape and peeling parts of the tape away to reveal certain suggestive body parts. I remember ripping off some tape and revealing a thumb and my teacher told me I had to cover it up. He thought it was a dick haha! I said “yours might be that small sir but mine isn’t”.

I don’t know if any of that made sense but it doesn’t really matter because on the night of the opening I went and ripped off the majority of the tape anyway. It was Ok until my grandparents arrived.


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