Broderick Aitken


Broderick Aitken is an Australian photographer/ cinematographer currently living and working in Toronto. His works are purely aesthetic and he investigates the beauty and ugliness around him with his lens. His most recent project were a series of stark white photographs for Toronto's Nuit Blanche. We met with Brod to discuss his artistic practice and his collaboration with Nuit Blanche. 

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ET:  As an artist what motivated you to explore the the medium of the photography? What does photography bring to the table in your eyes that painting and sculpture cannot - if there is something.

BA: To be honest, I never planned to get into Photography. I originally went to film school where I studied production, directing that sort of thing. It was at film that I started to grow more interested in photography. I mean, I always have a love of photography but I never thought about getting into it. Then a lot of my friends began in the field and my uncle was a photographer; I guess I was just surrounded and saturated by it and as a result I grew more attracted to it. One day I came to the realization that all of the cinematographers and directors who influenced me the most had originally been photographers. It teaches you so much about light and detail, something that a video camera doesn't. I've always thought that because its a simpler machine, you have less techniques to work with, as such you have to perfect what you have to such a greater extent to produce the same quality of work, you really learn to master the basics.

In terms of its benefits over other disciplines, well I haven't pick up  a paintbrush since pre-school and I've only just began working with sculpture (at the most basic level). Recently, for my lastest work, while I'm extremely interested in those fields I don't feel qualified to comment on the pro's and cons of my field over though.

ET: What kinds of subjects do you explore in your work and why?

BA: That's a really complicated question, because there's so many subjects that are close to my heart. What I'm trying to communicate is constantly changing. I'll keep it short and stick to three subjects that I've spent a little more time on than the others. When I was young and first shooting I was obsessed with the idea of nostalgia, old memories, feelings etc. and I think that for the majority of people a camera has one function, to capture a moment in time. So the idea and the tool are so intrinsically linked. I mean looking through old photos is an indulgence in nostalgia, the thing about nostalgia is its not quite real, the way we perceive a past event is never the same as how we perceived it at the time of its happening, time, and other events in our life influence us, manipulating how we reflect on past happenings. Even speaking purely sensory, a memory tends to be focused around a few key things, the colour of a tree, the sound of the ocean crashing, everything else is dulled and degraded. Almost forgotten faces and half spoken words make up the majority of a memory. Still, we talk about our memories like they're dogma, when in reality they can be so easily manipulated, and the same can be said for photography. People think that photography as a medium is truth but in reality so much can be manipulated or even in its truest form photography is just one perception of an event or an individual. So this link between the two is why I was so fascinated with the subject and as such I tried to incorporate it into my early work, especially when shooting people, there was a lot of use of shadow, half hidden faces, things like that.

At the moment I'm really interested in pre-fabrication, the idea that so much in our societies is ready-made and built to order. I'm not really commenting on whether that's good or bad, just that we lose so many potential experiences in life when we don't do something for ourselves. I was first really struck by this when I first visited the States and the sheer amount of frozen meals and ready made meals was astounding, I mean most places have larger cereal aisles' than fruit and vegetable aisles', back home in Australia we have that a little bit but not too the degree that they have there, and cooking is such an important part of my life, its my passion after photography, the whole process of creating a meal, sourcing the ingredients, you learn so much and you get so enraptured in the process. It scared me to think that so many people have never had that experience, and this can be applied to anything, not just food, but nearly any part of our daily lives. So right now I've been working on a new series of photos which explore this idea of the Pre-fabricated, its a series of still life inspired scenes, bouquet's of flowers, fruit presentations, combined with wax's and gels to create a kind of sculpture that then become the subject of the photograph. So the end product is something that was originally natural but it has this inorganic cling wrapped aesthetic covering the natural, like its pop straight out of a factory.

Maybe I shouldn't even mention this, because I can't remember exactly where it comes from, I think Pre-Meji Japan, but something else I like to keep in mind when I work is a facet of, as I said I think early Japanese art philosophy, that basically states that something doesn't have to have a deeper meaning, that something can just be itself, purely aesthetic. In a lot of Western art we feel that a piece needs to justify it's existence, they saw that as almost perverted, and I agree to a degree, to make something justify its existence where just pushing our ego's onto the subject, who are we to be the judge. So there are times where I just try to purely make something visual, there's not really a story or a message, at least not in any metaphorical sense, sometimes its really engaging to just make something for its sheer visual attraction. My "Fungi" series of photos is definitely purely visual, I'm not tip toeing around some greater meaning, I was just trying to create something beautiful.

ET: What was the creative process behind the Nuit Blanche images? Can you elaborate on the process and mindset behind the images.

BA: Sure, essentially as you may know Nuit Blanche is an art festival, so BMD the creative agency hired by Nuit Blanche to market the event wanted to portray the city as a blank canvas. A blank canvas displaying the different art, installation and performances that made up the night. So visually, they came up with the idea of white on white, different objects that have significance to the city of Toronto or related to the premise of a after-hours-late night art festival, painted white and then shot on a white background to invoke the idea of the canvas.