1. Please tell us about the work you will be showing in the 2011 E17 Art Trail. Did you respond to this year’s theme “On Your Marks”? What impact do you think the Olympics will have on E17?
My show this year is entitled WOOF! It is a photographic exhibition celebrating Walthamstow dogs and their owners. I came up with the idea last winter whilst walking my dog on the marshes one frosty morning. I noticed some paw prints
pressed into the light snow, which made me think about the way dogs leave their mark behind. And when the theme for the trail was announced, there was an instant link, albeit about dogs "making their mark". I started photographing the
first images as early as at the end of February, and as the year has progressed, the project has evolved to become a study about the unique bond between owners and their dogs. In a sense, you could say for some owners, the dog effectively becomes an extension of their identity. The diverse connections between owners and their dogs have turned out to be as fascinating as they are endearing and I hope visitors to the exhibition will come away thinking the same.
E17 and the Olympics? I'm sorry but Olympics schmolympics… Anyone want to rent our house out during the Olympics?! Having said that, we were holidaying in Athens in 2004 and by chance the Paralympics were still on. We got tickets on the door one afternoon when at a loose end, and wow, it turned out to be a truly moving experience witnessing blind runners breaking track & field records. Their spirit can only be described as inspiring, and for that, I can see why people are gutted not being able to get tickets for London 2012.
2. What challenges (if any) did you face in realising this work?
I carry a camera with me wherever I go, and since I am used to stopping people to ask if I may take their photograph, it wasn't difficult to get willing participants. But where I have struggled somewhat is in capturing a more historically accurate portrayal of Walthamstow marshes and the dogs who walk there. I guess I haven't managed to engage local youths and their dogs in a meaningful way. Issues of representation and trust can be deep-seated and take a long time to address, if indeed ever. It's a shame though because I would have liked to have had the chance to dispel the myth that certain dogs/owners should be stereotyped as aggressive. In fact, over the past eight months, I've discovered that Staffs and Pit Bull Terriers are actual rather gentle and it's the little yappy ones you have to watch out for!
3. What do you like about E17 and why? Is there anything you would change about the area?
I love E17 because of the incredible natural spaces we are surrounded by. Then there is the vibrant arts scene that keeps me staying. Also, being 25 minutes to Oxford Circus on the tube is pretty cool. And most recently, we've acquired MP Stella Creasy and Counclilor Clare Coghill, who together seem to be championing Walthamstow's residents' needs, for a change.
4. Who and/or what inspires you?
Sometimes nothing. Other times, everything.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
I don't know if I'm in a position to give advice, but I would say follow your instincts and have fun along the way.
WOOF! is on at 126 Northcote Road, Friday 2 - Sunday 11 September.
See more of Fabien's photo's here.