Award-winning documentary photographer Huw Alden Davies speaks with Buzz about his series that captures the eccentricities of his father.
Where did the nickname ‘Prince’ come from?
Born and raised in the Prince of Wales, Porthyrhyd, it was inevitable that my father would inherit such a nickname, like May ‘Y Prince’, his mother and landlord, he too will always be known by the sign that hung above the pub’s door.
What inspired you after all these years to start documenting your father?
It wasn’t one thing, it was more like a dozen, and I’d considered it for many years. I knew for a long time that the Prince I know, and the Prince everyone else knows, is one of a kind. I’ve studied my father’s strange behaviour from a young age, and it was this I guess that eventually inspired me to turn the camera on him.
Your photos of your parents all appear to be of darker contrasts and staged. What made you decide to document Prince in this way, especially when the stories and opinions are so natural and honest?
Much of my work is made this way. However, besides the importance of balance and continuity, I’d like to think this is part of my visual language, and in some part an expression of my experience through that vocabulary. Narrative has always been a large part of my practice, and although this series has taken somewhat of a new direction compared to previous works, the Prince project is what I’d describe as a delightfully dark but optimistic perspective, while the text harmonises its tone creating an honest reflection of its subject.
Your series contains hilarious anecdotes from your parents, which is your favourite?
I could say for laughs that it would be Final Straw (the shit on a bike story), and it also seems to be a popular favourite. However, when I think of all the tales that my father has told, or of those that I have written it has to be Wild West. There is an innocence to that piece. It was a different time, and it shows another side to my father.
Have you always written alongside your photographs, or was this a new venture when you took on Prince?
Writing is relatively new to my technique, up until two years ago I was a staunch photographer, no sprinkles on top. Much like any other photographer or artist I have constantly shied away from the notion of writing for my own work. However, with Prince, or more so Scaffold, this wasn’t really an option. This project was inspired mainly by my father’s tales.
These stories were far from new to me of course, many I had heard a dozen times through out the years, but there are always some surprises. And as time went by I also recognised that the dynamic and relationship between my parents was a little more special too, something begging to be part of a sit-com. I often found myself laughing days later about something my father might have said to my mother, or my mother to him.
Why did you decide to self publish?
Initially I was looking for innovative ways to put my work out there, an exhibition without the white wall so to speak. So, I proposed the idea to CCQ Magazine that I make a publication designed to go out on the back of their magazine, this way I could reach a larger and more alternative audience unbound by the limitations of the gallery space. Not that I didn’t want to show my work in that context; I believe galleries are still an integral part of the art world, I just wanted to try new things.
How is the Scaffold to the Moon funded by your kick-starter campaign, different from Prince that you have already released?
When I made Prince it was an exploration of many things but it was only meant to be a short sequence of images and stories, a small project, and one that got straight to the point. I had no idea it would become the project it is today.
The feedback I got was great, but if there was one thing I kept getting, it was “It’s too short, I wanted more”, but that was the idea. When is enough, enough? Like any great comedian will tell you, “Always leave them wanting more”. And that is what I tried to achieve. That said, there was more, and I kept writing it too.
Prince went from book to blog, story to story. And for every tale I shot at least one more image, and eventually the project became something else altogether. Now attracting a large audience in the online extension, Prince Street, with support from a number of international Photography Festivals and Galleries, I have been inspired to make a new photo book that contains the entire collection, concluding its journey.
Prince. Price: £10. Info: www.huwdaviesphotography.com