Q&A with Harry Bowers
When and why did you first have the idea to photograph things under glass?
Creative concepts just occur to creative people - It was just an idea! The photographs have a painterly quality controlled by both myself, and the flattened picture plane. I suppose I liked the power this grants me.
How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it?
My work is concerned with the painterly rather than photographic. I am not a documentary photographer. The work has no perfect moment; I control everything. Oh, and there are definite sexual overtones - subtle, but definite.
What is it about empty clothing that fascinates you?
The wonderful prints, the colours and everything that is already there for me to work with. I get given a head start with a fabulous pattern from another artist or designer – I combine this with others and create something of my own. Also, my mother was a fashion designer and all the clothes I use belong to my wife – there’s probably something in that.
As a pioneer in the development of digital printing would your work have been possible fifty years ago?
Not at all. For the W* shoot we used a gigantic negative and a hugely expensive digital camera – to have achieved the incredibly high quality and resolution of the photographs would simply not have been possible.
How do you feel your photography has changed throughout your career – is it more to do with technological than creative development?
Whilst my background is predominantly artistic, I also have a degree in engineering physics. Both my left-brain and right-brain are constantly working, if I dream something up, I can make it myself. To achieve the level of quality that I want, I can’t just use a camera from a store. I have to build it myself!
What effect does the extremely high resolution in which your photographs are printed have on the final image?
The objects in my photographs are life-sized or slightly larger. My photographs look like the real thing – there’s no way you could doubt that they are the real thing, you cannot see that they are photographs.
Is there a limit to the quality of printing that the human eye can appreciate?
I think people are aware of print quality, people say ‘that’s a magnificent print, how is it made?’. The eye tells people it’s the real thing, whilst the brain is telling them that it’s a photograph.
Do you look closely at how people dress?
I follow fashion. I have closets literally full of clothes. I am a full-blown Comme des Garçons and Prada freak. I love clothes themselves as objects, and I also love the glossies – my love of fashion is how I discovered Wallpaper*.
Has your work affected the way you dress yourself?
I don’t think so. No. My interest in fashion is separate from my work. My love for fashion affects my work, my work does not affect my love for fashion.
Tell us something surprising about Harry Bowers.
(Asks his wife, Dot)…I like women’s clothing, I really like women’s clothing.