The 2024 London x Nikon Emerging Photographer, Charlie Tallott, embraces the evolutionary process that comes from creating. In his debut monograph, At Least Until the World Stops Going Round (published via New Dimension), the photographer combines a series of detailed pictures that brought euphoria during a time when he struggled with mental health. The photographer uses a variety of print processes to emphasize color or lack thereof, highlighting his personal touch on the artistic medium. This monograph highlights his unique eye for photography, and the vulnerability deep within his artwork illustrates an authentic representation and coalescence of the head and the heart.
Congratulations on being elected the 2024 London x Nikon Emerging Photographer. In what ways can this recognition help your career moving forward, and how does it motivate your work in the near future?
Thank you. It’s nice to receive this sort of thing. I’ve never received anything like this before, so I don’t really know how it will change anything in the future. I think the main thing is to keep making the stuff I want rather than bending or changing things, with this kind of recognition in mind.
Does this recognition apply more pressure to perform under higher standards?
I don't think there has ever really been an expectation before now. That is the best part about being quite new to it all. There is still not much to be honest, but you can’t let that change the things you make anyway—just gotta keep making the stuff you like.
In general, what inspires your decisions on what subject matter to capture? How do you find inspiration in both everyday life and a more planned-out photo shoot?
One thing I’ve noticed about how I work, I seem to always be able to guess what's going to come my way to photograph. If I’m going through a certain thing, the stuff that stands out to you in day-to-day life changes. I always go out looking or hunting for something that resonates with me, rather than just waiting for the photos to fall to me.
Can you describe how your debut monograph, At Least Until the World Stops Going Round, came to fruition? Can you elaborate on the connection between this collection of photographs and any themes that tie the pictures together?
The essence of the book came after a suicide attempt a few years ago. I was in the care of the NHS crisis team working with them every day for a few months afterwards. At that time, I would be allowed to go out for hour-long walks. The photos I shot during this period, for some reason, felt really euphoric and blissful. I was using my camera as an escapist tool to get these permanent little windows into worlds or feelings I couldn’t reach. There is a quote from Paul Graham’s essay The Unreasonable Apple that has stuck with me: “Form the meaningless world into photographs, then form those photographs into a meaningful world.” I was just trying to create a new world or at least be momentarily free from my own.
At Least Until the World Stops Going Round depicts stark color contrasts and textures, with the series alternating between black-and-white and then more saturated photographs. How does color play a role in your visual expression and the emotions you aim to evoke within your work? What was the intention behind the order you displayed these images?
A lot of the black-and-white photographs are actually scanned silver gelatin prints, hand-printed in the darkroom, rather than being just scans of my negatives. Printing in the darkroom is a really expressive part of it all for me. I like to dodge and burn images heavily, or use a process called solarisation for example. The way I look at it, it is like painting with light on the paper. The colours tend to have no significance to me when I’m actually taking the pictures. I only sort of realised I tend to be drawn to the colours seen around my nan’s house, or the snooker club my grandad goes to in Cross Gates, once I started looking back and pairing images together.
In the introduction to your book, Allan Gardner comments on the juxtaposition between intimacy as a core component of your work coupled with static and highly contrasting images that suggest other emotions. Can you describe this dichotomy? Is it intentional?
It’s just the ebbs and flows of life I think. You can’t have the highs without the lows. It's definitely not intentional. Allan sums it up a lot better than I ever could.
You interrupt your book, about halfway through, with what looks like a hand-written note, with stanzas such as, “The sun will always rise in the morning,” “You don’t have to die today. Save that for another day” and “Delirium and Hysteria.” Some of these thoughts seem hopeful or motivational. Can you explain how both these phrases and your photographs were influenced by your struggles with mental health, attempted suicide and time under NHS’s care?
Those are all just throwaway phrases my mum would say which have stuck with me. They are little reminders of life’s temporality and how everything passes and changes. They’re just daft little reminders of your, and everything else’s, insignificance. I think I was just writing them down really regularly almost to just get them into my head. It was weird finding them a few years later. Even the title, At Least Until the World Stops Going Round, in addition to being from a Leeds Utd song, was something my mum would say. A sort of promise to loving someone forever, or at least until the world stops going round. That, as well as all those reminders of ‘the sun’s always going to come up tomorrow,’ which I was writing down, were the basis of the book. The freeing reality of your insignificance. The world keeps turning. The sun always rises, and the tide always changes. Everything, good or bad, does a disappearing act at some point. Learning that has been the best bit about making this book.
You mention photography as a way out of the darkness and how your monograph highlights the good and bad within life. How can your photos, and other artistic mediums in general, serve as an outlet for deep and painful emotions and also a source of light through tumultuous times? Has art been a healing practice for you through your emotional and mental journey?
I wouldn’t like to call it a healing or cathartic process really. It's been heavy looking through all the photographs from that time, bringing it all back up. I'm half glad to see the back of them now. Before this book got made, you wouldn’t dream of telling the blokes you work with about this time, or someone you met in a pub or wherever. It's the worst time of your life. It's normally kept between family and close friends. Now, it's literally there for anyone to know about. Having to cough up the back story of the book and the photos has been hard, but now it's done, it's freeing. It's like everyone knows about the worst part of your life, which in a way is quite liberating. Nothing to hide, just being as you are. That weight was lifted.
Do you have any advice for people who may be suffering from mental health difficulties and ways to navigate challenging emotions, thoughts or life experiences?
I wouldn’t like to give out too much advice to be honest. It would all feel a bit holier than thou. I did it all wrong, so I’m definitely not some guru. I'm probably not the right guy to be asking about mental health. Still on page 1 of that textbook. As far as it relates to photography, all I know is that for me, it became this little window into other worlds, giving me permanent little tickets to feel something else and take you away. I loved it so much at that time. I couldn’t wait to try and feel something else through it.
How was the process of putting your debut photo book together? What were some of the greatest challenges and rewards? How was this production different from your self-published work like, Problems…Problems…Problems…Solution?
Pairing images was a massive part of it all. I’d have images sat waiting for the right pairing for years. I think photographers like Albert Elm really show how important pairing images is, so that was a big part of it for me. With other publications I’ve made, such as Problems… Problems… Problems… Solution, they were just ways of experimenting and distributing work as quickly as I could mainly. That book specifically was just shot in different factories I was working in with my dad as a welder and electroplater, repairing industrial printing cylinders. I was just trying to churn out work.
You have a broad selection of subject matter throughout your book — people, nature, buildings, objects. What is your preferred subject matter and why? How can you find commonality between a person running on the train tracks and a pair of ripped jeans?
It’s hard to put a finger on it. I remember we had to edit down from about four hundred images. There were a lot of ‘killing your darlings’, where strong images in my view were cut because they didn’t have this cloud over them, like the ones in the book do. There's a texture to them all I think, this sense of delirium that comes through.
In recent years, and especially with At Least Until the World Stops Going Round, your photos seem to have a grainier and more saturated look. Was there an intention behind this change? What has influenced your evolution as an artist, and do you see any style adjustments in current projects you may be working on?
Some of the photos in the book are the first rolls I ever shot. I was just waiting for the right time to show them. I’ve always had this same grain and texture from the very beginning with my photos, so it’s not changed too much. My main influences were people around me in Leeds growing up. Sam Hutchison and Sean O'Connell (Broth Tarn) were people I was looking at growing up in Leeds. I still admire them a lot now.
Do you have any plans for the evolution of your styles and ways in which you photograph? What projects are you currently working on, and which are you most excited about?
For now, I’m just happy to see the back of this book. Putting it out has been graft. It's taxing going back into that time. I haven’t wanted to go near my camera with a scaffolding pole for a bit, but I can feel it coming back I reckon. I'm excited about going back into the darkroom too, so I think I will be working on some experimental prints, rather than books, for the time being. We’ll see.