INTERVIEW

October 20, 2021

CONSTRUCTED RIBBON LANDSCAPES

IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEX RUTHERFORD

Photography by Alex Rutherford
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Abstract photographer Alexandra Rutherford trained as a textile designer and now enjoys bringing her textile trained eye into the digital world of photography. Painting with her camera lets Alex explore taking the use of texture, shape and form to capture abstract representations of the world around her. Alex shares her work from her series of photographs "Constructed Ribbon Landscapes."

"In my head I had been all over the world, seen beautiful sunrises, glorious mountain vistas, glistening lakes, and lush green valleys but I hadn’t actually left my house! I hope to spark that imagination in other people with these images."

TPL: Alex please tell us about yourself.

AR: I was born in Merseyside, United Kingdom but spent my early years in rural Lancashire before returning to Merseyside to start senior school. My photographic/artistic journey started at technical college where I completed an Art Foundation course before moving to London to study for my degree in Constructed Textile Design at Hornsey College of Art. On completion of my degree course I worked in Interior Design (textiles) before starting my own knitwear company, this led me into the retail buying field where I worked for major fashion houses before taking time out to bring up our two children.

TPL: What was that moment that sparked your interest to pursue photography?

AR: My Foundation Art course gave me the opportunity to experiment in all aspects of art and design with advice and guidance from the most fantastic and dedicated teachers in the field. At this stage my photography was used to collect reference and inspiration rather than as an end result in itself. I would use a well worn and slightly battered Pentax, spend hours processing film in the darkroom and then have that magical moment of the image coming to life on paper! Brickwork, ironwork and dockland buildings were my main subjects as they gave me textures and and repeat patterns to use in my designs.

It was when I picked up my husbands Nikon 5100 some years later that my passion for photography really took hold. I realised that digital processing opened up a whole world of new opportunities to explore and experiment with but also just how much camera equipment had advanced. After going back to basics (by completing the course “A Year with My Camera", with the fantastic Emma Davies) and then expanding that with various online/YouTube tutorials I gained more confidence in testing the boundaries of just what could be achieved. I also joined the online community SheClicks, this is a group of female photographers who advise, support, encourage and inspire each other.

TPL: What does photography mean to you? How would you describe your photography style?

AR: I describe my work as "textured modern abstract". I love bringing my textile eye into the field of photography to produce my interpretation of modern artwork rather than straight documentation. We can use a camera to produce images which may not be seen as conventional, we can really push the boundaries. I call it "camera painting".

TPL: Can you tell us about your series of abstract images "The Constructed Ribbon Landscapes"?

AR: My series “Constructed Ribbon Landscapes” was a project I started in 2019, however, with the events of 2020 meaning that most of us were confined to our homes I decided to revisit it. By experimenting with different lighting and a compilation of ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) and multiple exposure I created impressions of landscapes, beaches and seascapes using ribbons in a variety of textures, patterns, colours and opacity. In my head I had been all over the world, seen beautiful sunrises, glorious mountain vistas, glistening lakes, and lush green valleys but I hadn’t actually left my house! I hope to spark that imagination in other people with these images.

TPL: Artists often build up and experiment towards a method of working. Has your imagery become more abstract over time, or did you know exactly what you wanted from the beginning? What has been the inspiration for your work?

AR: When I restarted my photography journey I was drawn to taking close ups of plants in an abstract fashion. The architectural structure of a leaf such as a Hosta with the rain forming droplets in the rivets, or a group of palm leaves against a dark moody sky. As I progressed my work became more abstract with the addition of ICM adding a further textural dimension which started with using Bamboo as the subject matter, I then moved on to those glorious colourful plants…Dahlias.

TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

AR: The textile designer Zandra Rhodes has always been a real inspiration for me. I chose to go into textile design originally having seen her fabulous creations and, more recently (2019), visited her exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London. Her vibrancy and clever use of scale and colour are something I regularly refer to in photography. Bridget Riley’s optical illusions and the bold unique graphics and typography of the Bauhaus movement are also images that I keep going back to, and Studio Drift, based in Amsterdam.

TPL: Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? Talk to us about how you paint with your camera?

AR: My Nikon 5100 and 5200 DSLR are excellent for ICM and multiple exposure photography all of which I do in camera.They are quite chunky and heavy beasts to carry around but they work well for me. I have just three Nikon lenses but my most used and most versatile is the Nikon DX 18-105mm. My monopod is also an essential piece of equipment. I refer to my style of photography as “camera painting” as I use various techniques as described above to create an artistic interpretation of what I see in front of me. I like the viewer to think “what is it?” as they then take time to study the image more closely.

TPL: Do you spend a lot of time editing? What is your process?

AR: Most of my images are created in camera but I do use Lightroom to fine tune.

TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist/photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

AR: In the future I would like to work with interior designers on theme projects possibly for restaurants, hotels or other commercial enterprises creating photo art for walls. I would also like an exhibition in a London gallery.

TPL: Are there any projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?

AR: My current project is working on a set of images influenced by the Pop Art movement, bold and bright…watch this space.

TPL: "When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

AR: I love my photography and get totally immersed in the whole process, however, my time out is visiting galleries such as the V&A, Tate Liverpool and Tate Modern, special time coming together to walk the dog with the family, cycling the Thames Towpath and growing exotic chillies."