Campbell Addy Waits
Addy turns the camera on his own life for an ongoing series created in what feels like never-ending isolation
Q&A, British Journal of Photography — May 2020
Photo: Campbell Addy
The lyrics of a song inspired Campbell Addy’s ongoing project made in isolation. Paralysed by fear and unable to work, it was Kina Grannis’ In the Waiting, scrawled over a 27th birthday card, which encouraged him to perceive the current situation differently. Rather than allow the unease to overwhelm him, the song incited Addy to surrender to the unknown and produce an ongoing series of instantaneous images that capture life during the lockdown.
The project’s essence and the images themselves urge us to think — why should waiting equal a standstill? Life continues; it may be different but it hasn’t stopped, and Addy’s images frame beauty within that — from the contorted silhouette of a bum and legs to Addy himself, splayed out across an unmade bed. He is hopeless and vulnerable but he is also giving in — surrendering to the stillness of the moment.
Despite his success — alongside personal projects, Addy is also renowned for his fashion spreads — the artist has taken this time to reflect: “It has humbled me and made me even hungrier to learn and grow,” he says. Below, Addy sheds light on his series of images In the Waiting – how he conceived of it and what it represents, and reflects on the unease and anxiety of the moment, along with his hopes for what may follow.
Where are you isolating and how has the pandemic affected you?
I was isolating in London but had to move during the pandemic to a new apartment in east London with my partner Edvinas Bruzas and my dog Wolfgang Basenji. I’ve been yearning to do more personal photography and film projects and I had a couple planned in Japan and New York. Although they are not happening right now, I believe that everything happens for a reason and the projects, if, and when, they do take place, will bare fruits.
Early on in the pandemic, I had close friends who lost family and loved ones as well as close friends who got infected. It was terrifying as it was so new and Covid-19 felt like this dark cloud, which was slowly creeping in on me and those I loved. However, we keep safe and hopeful for the future.
You described In the Waiting, 2020, as an ongoing series where you have, and will continue, to take a picture a day and document you, yourself, and your surroundings during isolation. How did this idea develop? What do you want the work to represent?
The work came about due to the sheer fear and frustration I was experiencing. I felt inadequate in some ways as I watched my peers online and in real life creating work so seamlessly under such conditions. Despite having made work at home many times before, I wasn’t in the headspace to be producing work like that, nor was I inspired.
The morning of my 27th birthday, my partner gave me a card, which only contained the lyrics of a song — In the Waiting by Kina Grannis — which talks about how “life is in the waiting” and that we “shouldn’t wish away the in-between”. This was around the same time we began preparing for isolation. After expressing my frustration and fears with my partner, and some close friends, I decided to document my version of In the Waiting as I have hope that we will get through this and hopefully I will have grown as a person – the images will be placeholders for a time of vulnerability and stillness.
Can you select an image from the series and reveal the story behind it?
As a photographer who predominantly shoots other people, in this period of isolation I was faced with my own body, which I have a lot of issues with. As a form of therapy and documentation, I wanted to tackle my physical insecurities head-on in the only way I know how. Heavily inspired by Irving Penn’s Female Nudes, I wanted to create a picture of my body (featured below) that I found beautiful and that gave me confidence at a time when I felt lost and vulnerable.
How has the situation — being confined inside and the general atmosphere of anxiety and fear that pervades this time – affected your creativity?
In the beginning, I was trying to retrieve as much information about Covid-19 as possible to stay aware and present — that hindered my creativity a lot. With all the information that was floating about, my anxiety shot through the roof. With a decline in jobs and the influx of facts regarding Covid-19, I found myself freezing in time; I felt hopeless. After days of doing nothing, I began to ‘create’ again. It has been a process, to say the least, but, although it’s tough, I am embracing it.
Have you tried to find solace in remaining creative and ‘productive’ or has this been a period of self-reflection – has it impacted the way you perceive your practice and the kind of work you were making before the pandemic?
This period has been a great time for reflection. I often dislike being idle, however, with the current situation, being idle is exactly what I needed to push through a creative block I didn’t even realise I was having. Prior to lockdown, I was working job to job, creative to creative, and really relishing, and living in, the moment. There is nothing wrong with that — however, I was not thinking long term, or, if I was, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Having been forced to take time off has allowed me to plan and troubleshoot ideas for the future. The impact it has had on my practice is that I am now working with less and thinking more ‘creatively’ — it’s as if I am back at university again but with three years of personal knowledge of the industry.
What is the process involved in making the work – do you take pictures in a structured way, at a particular time etc, or do they evolve more organically each day?
As I predominantly shoot on film, I wanted to have a more instant approach to this imagery so I have been using the Polaroid Lab Printer, which allows you to print mobile images as polaroids. This enables me to react instantly and quickly whenever I see an image I am interested in.
At the beginning of the project I was living in a flat that had beautiful light, so a lot of them were taken during the golden hour. Now, that I’ve moved, the images are taken more sporadically.
You have shot fashion editorials for numerous publications, and commercial campaigns – how does making work in isolation compare to those kinds of commissions? Has it given you the space to discover new things about your practice and even yourself? And what has it been like to turn the camera on yourself?
The obvious things that differ are the people and production. I miss everyone, from my collaborators to the studio assistants — the most chilled conversations on set sometimes open up my brain to new ideas. One thing I have learned about myself and my practice is that I have a long way to go before I am the photographer I see in my head. This time has humbled me and made me even hungrier to learn and grow. Another is that I now have time to work on ideas as fast or as slow as I want. Yes, there’s a pressure to create, but I am slowly realising that the pressure is man-made, meaning I can make that pressure obsolete if need be.
It’s been refreshing, scary and liberating to photograph myself. The last time I did this was for Niijournal I, a self-published journal which I created at university four years ago. I think I am slowly re-entering a phase of tactile idea formations that I haven’t delved into since then.