I first met Rick at a house party around four to five years ago. He was a very chatty guy, enthusing about everything and anything. In conversation, I found Rick likes to use all kinds of metaphors and imagery to explain what he’s talking about.
At that time he was mostly known as the bloke who fixed bikes – the bicycle maintenance man, if you will. He’s more-or-less given up on that occupation, and now, amongst other things, has taken up photography, or photografuckery as he likes to call it.
So exactly what does he mean by this term? In essence, he says it’s “the apex of outsider art”. He began taking photos “without any outsider influence, or instruction, or technical know-how” he says. He describes that it’s about the journey, and how he likes to do pretty much everything without prior knowledge.
He must just have a naturally good eye for a good image though, because Rick really does produce some very interesting pieces of work. He does sometimes make use of one particular app, Inshot, although even with this, because, as he says, it allows for so many possibilities, it’s almost as if he’s barely scratching the surface of what could be achieved.
Rick says that most of his photos are not really meant to have meaning ascribed to them – he’s not necessarily keen on the fact that “humans are always trying to attribute meaning.” Most of his images he talks of as being simply “visual candy” or “nice, cool images.” Of the photos he says that do have meanings, he thinks that most people, if they saw his work in an art gallery for example, would probably not be able to get the meaning anyway. I ask if “abstract” would be the right term for his photos, and he’s not even sure about that – “sometimes pointless” he jokes would be the correct term.
Rick interchanges between colour and black & white, and I asked him if he had a preference. He thinks black and white can give “more feeling”. More and more he says he’s trying to get into lighting to provide a feeling. A lot of the photos have a lot of shadows and light effects – Rick might use up to seven or eight light sources he says. Although he sometimes takes a few shots of the same thing, Rick thinks he’s getting better at trying to capture what he’s looking for in one shot, and to “use less editing and more know-how”. Bear in mind that, abstract or not, nearly all of Rick’s photos are still-lifes, not action shots, so it’s probably more to do with the arrangement of objects and light sources before taking the actual photo.
Of the objects he uses, he says it’s mostly a case of using “the object at hand”. Rick claims he could be “locked in a room till the end of time with just a brick, and he’d find endlessly creative things to do with the brick”! You might notice that, for example, a lot of the objects in Rick’s photos are glass objects; things that reflect light etc. but Rick is quite adamant that it’s not really about the objects themselves, he just likes to take endless photos of things from strange angles and using strange lighting.
We go on to discuss one particular favourite image Rick has produced which he has titled “Ketamine”. This is a black and white image, with again, a lot of shadows. While Rick was homeless for a while, he would quite often find the toys from McDonald’s happy meals. He decided to place one particular toy on a brick in Bute Square at night, with around seven different light sources on it, and gave it a dark look, “the exact opposite of what it looks like in daylight.” “In daylight”, he says, “it would be a children’s toy that might make you happy and warm, but in this photo it was not.” The reason he calls this piece Ketamine is that he thinks it reflects the dark, hollow feeling that the drug, he feels, can give. Some of Rick’s pieces do have a happy feeling, but the darkness of this image Rick concedes probably reflected his “character and mindset at the time”, unsurprisingly given that he was homeless when he took this image.
Rick does also take self portraits. These are mostly quite playful images. He says with these they are mostly “acting; without motion or without words”. He smiles as he talks about in these photos “coming across as a well dressed man in a suit.”
We also talked for a short time about Rick’s interest in martial arts, and if you’d like to hear about that, I would refer you to the last five or six minutes of the interview in the video below (note, unfortunately due to the fact that I didn’t hold my camera phone close enough to Rick himself, the audio quality is not fantastic, but you should still be able to pick up most of what he says).
Rick does say he lacks a little self-esteem, but he’s proud enough of his work to say that if his photos were exhibited in a gallery, that for someone to look at them for perhaps fifteen minutes of their life “it would not be terrible.” The uniqueness of the photos means Rick feels “it would not be like looking at someone else’s photos. People shouldn’t need to pretend to like them; they should find them interesting.” If any owners of a gallery in Cardiff would be interested in putting on an exhibition of Rick’s work, please get in touch via the contact page on this site, or contact Rick directly via his facebook page.
A selection of Rick’s photos: