Interview | Morgan Tedd
Looking at the work of Morgan Tedd is like sharing the earphones of the same iPod. Losing yourself in someone else's world, through music, through photographs. Heavily influenced by the dark and heavy music of his youth, Morgan creates work drenched with real and raw emotion. We had the chance to catch up with the Birmingham-based photographer during his recent tour photographing British band, JAWS.
Your portfolio is predominantly made up of portraits of musicians and artists, they remind me of certain shots by Emmanuel Lubezki in Song to Song and some black and white shots by Martin Ruhe in Control. What do these eye-catching, impressive portraits mean to you? Who/what are your influences?
I grew up in a very musical family, I was always playing it, listening to it, recording it, talking about it, I’ve spent from the age of 13, playing in various bands, and in each band I’ve always had an idea as to how I would like photographers to take my picture, or my bands picture, the way I take peoples portrait, most of the time is how I would take that photo of myself, if it were me on the other side of the lens. I think the way I shoot is heavily influenced by my musical taste and my time playing in bands. I grew up listening to Joy Division, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Depeche mode, New Order and all of the gloomy 80s stuff my parents would play to me, I don’t think its a coincidence that some of my shots remind you of scenes from Control, as I spent so long being obsessed with Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Seeing the imagery these bands produced, the grainy black and white, the amazing colours and tangibility of the film photography of the time, has also heavily influenced my work as a photographer and videographer. In terms of photographers who heavily influence me, there are only a couple really. I love the black and white work of Ansel Adams, the system he uses for his black and white work, heavily influences how I shoot and edit my own. I am also heavily influenced by Ryan Muirhead, his photography is heavily based in film and he is very experimental with shutter speed and light, he’s a genius. Other than that I wouldn’t say that other people influence me, I didn’t study photography at University or College, I studied music, so I wasn’t shown much work by the greats out there, instead I’m influenced by the music I learnt about and the people who made it.
You utilise a variety of light forms in your work: backlight, flash, high-contrast daylight and light flares. Can you tell us more about the use of light in your creative process?
I very much prefer to use natural light, but anything that looks good to me tends to get used. I’m slowly teaching myself studio lighting techniques, as there are certain things which don’t come naturally to me, but everything else so far has been instinct and self taught. I use a lot of contrast in my work, you wont find many photos of mine that are well lit with no shadows etc, I like to use shadows to draw people in to what I want them to look at in a photo.
I saw that you published a book of your photographs and words: Personal War. Can you tell us more about this project and what it meant to you?
I had an awful start to the year, a relationship fell apart in a pretty nasty way, which left me pretty messed up, spending time sleeping on friends and families sofas until i found my own place, struggling to get my self-confidence back I started planning trips which would revolve around photography, working harder than I’d ever done before, while shouldering the pain and the weight of my own poor mental health, the cracks were starting to show, and I had very little control over it. The band I’m in isn’t as active as we should be, and my usual way of coping with all of this stuff is through the lyrics in the songs we write, but with out this release, I felt forced in to releasing the feelings in to something else, and that something else became Personal War. Since I released it I’ve found a lot of happiness and contentment, a new start in a new home, a new relationship, and I feel like all of that darkness is well behind me now.
Music seems to be a significant and recurrent theme in your photographs. How do your musical influences affect your work?
They HEAVILY influence my work, I touched on it earlier but it's only really recently that I’ve realised how much it has impacted my work. I love heavy, sad and angry music the most, and I use heavy grading and heavy contrast, as well as melancholic themes in my work. To me, the arts, and creative disciplines go hand in hand with one another, they are all joined together and they all birth each other, so it’s no accident that music pushed me in to photography.
Your landscapes show the land to which you belong, made of fog, a low sun, woods, cliffs. Can you tell us more about these landscapes and how you convey yourself through them.
Those landscapes are my happy place, my perfect place to be is an endless forest, tall trees with rain and mist, if it's misty outside when I wake up in the morning, I’m like a kid at Christmas, it makes me so happy. I hate summer, you wont see many landscape shots from me of a sunny day, as I really hate the heat. I’ve had so many friends give me weird looks when I say how much I hate summer and I hate the heat, but I really do prefer autumn and winter. I’d say those landscapes represent how I like to see the world, dark and endless at times, but intriguing and beautiful in their bleakness.
Do you use both digital and analogue formats? Do you have a favourite camera or favourite film to use?
I shoot both, my digital camera is the 5D mark IV, I love the 5D series as they are wonderful workhorses that will do an amazing job at any shoot, studio, location, anything, those cameras are the one for the job. I have a fair few film cameras, but my two favourites to use are the Olympus MJU II, an incredible little point and shoot which fits in to any pocket, with an incredible lens, it's mind blowing how sharp the shots come out from such a little point and shoot, it really is heaps of fun and so convenient, as convenient as film cameras can get. And I recently bought a Contax G1, I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I'm totally in love with it, it has taken my 5D’s place as my favourite camera. My favourite film is Kodak Portra, 800 if I can afford it, it's a beautiful film. I’m yet to decide on a favourite black and white film, I’m a stern critic when it comes to black and white, damn Ansel set the bar too high.
Projects for the future?
I’m planning a second book, it wont be a sequel to Personal War though, it will be very different. I really want to make a book which is based entirely around film work, the latter half of Personal War was all film photography, and it is my favourite half of the book, so yeah, I think that will be next!
Please suggest a movie, a novel, a song, a photographer. Just say what comes to your mind first.
Movie - Tyrannosaur
Novel - Women - Charles Bukowski
Song - Moonlight Sonata - Beethoven
Photographer - Ryan Muirhead
Sum your work up in three words.
Dark, Bold, Honest
And now the hardest question: why do you take photographs?
I have a need to create, I always have, wether it’s something I can see, or something I can hear, I’ve always had this need to build and craft something that I can connect with, stand back and be proud of. I will always be this way, it's just part of who I am at this point, maybe I'll move from photography to painting next, I don't know, all I know is that I will always create.