From wine and seagulls in the famous town of Falmouth (United Kingdom) to the immensely encapsulating ancestral forests of Japan, photographer Alexander Mourant talks with us about his creative endeavours and his life behind the lens. Following his fascination for Japanese culture, artistry and environment, his project Aomori (meaning ‘blue forest’) was born, and every shot is by process, forever blue. Continuously exploring the relationship between metaphorical and metaphysical, Mourant’s mystical shots capture a mesmerising medley of emotion. 
So Alex, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you’ve been up to since we both left the ‘Bryanston bubble’ and the innocent countryside of Dorset?
I currently live in London working on personal and commissioned projects. However, my family has lived and farmed in Jersey for generations, so a relationship to landscape, space and experience is embedded in my psychology. This rural upbringing influenced my photographic sensibility.
Could you describe in three words your time spent studying in the serene seaside town of Falmouth?
Grey. Seagulls. Wine.
I have always been interested in learning more about photography but I personally felt that our school (we went to the same school in England – small world!) never really supported it heavily as a grounds to learn or a subject to study. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places or interested enough at the time. Do you feel that school encouraged you to pursue and progress your enthusiasm for photography?
Yes. Whilst at school, my attraction to photography emerged naturally as a reference point for my ceramic sculpture. We had access to darkrooms and my first photography mentor, Sue Macpherson, was really supportive and helped develop my curiosity. I wanted to pursue its practice and concepts further, which led to studying photography at university.
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What concerns you as an artist?
I am drawn to the friction between our interior and exterior worlds, as well as photography’s power to represent existential ideas. I am most concerned with portraying photography as an active medium.
Last year, you spent two months in Japan. I bet that was an experience! I have a hundred questions as to what Japan is like and how you found it, but for the sake of this interview, I will keep it short. Out of all places in the world, why Japan? What was it that attracted you there?
I’ve always been fascinated by Japan. The culture, artistry and environment are continually intriguing. For my recent project, Aomori, I travelled to Japan’s ancestral forests. Aomori, meaning 'blue forest' in Japanese, is a synthesis of two existential ideas: the forest and the nature of blue. Through my research, it became evident to me that Japan had strong metaphysical potential and was an ideal site to make work.
Did you have ideas and a plan in the run-up to your trip? It is always interesting to hear where an artist’s work has stemmed from and the journey it took to develop.
Before travelling to Japan, I was very interested in producing a monochromatic series. Specifically, I was captivated by the colour blue. For the author Rebecca Solnit, the colour blue embodies distances we can never quite arrive in. The colour blue – formed through fluctuating atmospheric conditions – creates for her, and many others, a great immaterial and metaphorical plane. However, it took time to combine my conceptual understanding of a colour with a subject that complemented my philosophy.
Can you tell us more about how you constructed the blue world?
Experimentally, I sourced blue glass from a church window, which was then cut to size to fit the filter holder of my camera. I wished to truly introduce this colour into my process by exposing my analogue film directly to the blue world. Glass, which is normally a material of separation, is employed directly in my process to unite both medium and idea. These photographs bring Solnit’s blue of distance near, into the world of the forest; they are by process, forever blue.
“I am drawn to the friction between our interior and exterior worlds, as well as photography’s power to represent existential ideas.”
Another project of yours I want to know more about is the alluring Aurelian. It holds a similar feel I think to some of the shots in Aomori. Did these projects coincide at all? And what processes did you use to create these photographs?
Previously, in my Aurelian series, I explored atmospheric conditions such as humidity, alongside tropical flora and fauna enclosed in Victorian butterfly houses. These artificial spaces are metaphors for a contained, continuous experience. I am fascinated by the material and psychological effects of organics, climate and geography. This process finds its roots in the 1960s Land Art movement. In Aomori, I expanded these metaphysical territories to the ancestral forests of Japan. Here, the presence of the forest – and the density of its nature – appears to halt the relentless progression of time.
Earlier this year, you hosted your first solo exhibition in Brick Lane’s eminent gallery space The Truman Brewery, to exhibit Aomori. Congrats! How did this opportunity come about?
Thank you. My Aomori exhibition was a result of winning the Free Range Award 2017 and sourcing further funding through ArtHouse Jersey and Arts Council England. It took an immense amount of time and effort to create something that I am truly proud of.
I find your work particularly interesting because it holds a huge weight of significance and sentiment and it is incredibly relevant to society and the now. Could you tell us more about your creative process?
I believe the creative process is a very difficult enigma to define. My projects definitely have an autobiographical impetus, which helps guide my taste and interests. Ultimately, I try to be always receptive and really understand why I’m making a photograph.
These days, there is a lot of discussion and frustration around products like the iPhone replacing the authenticity of capturing an image through the likes of a film camera for example – similar to the skateboarder feeling ownership over certain clothing brands and frowning upon the rookie at the skate park. As a professional photographer, how do you feel about this?
Conceptually, my work is underpinned by ideas of materiality, as a result of the photograph (negative) interacting at the same time and space as my subject. I can only make my work because of the nature of film. I don’t disregard artists who choose to work with digital technology, or those who comment on a socio-political climate. That work is extremely important. However, for my work and interests, film is a medium, not a technology.
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You clearly enjoy what you do, have done your research and immersed yourself in the world of photography. I see that, as well as your independent projects, you have won many competitions and worked for various clients. What is your preferred way of working and what’s your favourite project to date?
Recently, I’ve just completed a creative commission for The Greatest Magazine. I was provided with an ambiguous brief, plenty of pages and complete freedom to interpret the theme however I desired. That’s a fantastic project. To be genuine, I can’t force work, it needs time.
As such a young creative with an already impressive portfolio and career, what advice can you give to any gunning photographers out there wanting to pursue their life behind the lens?
When I look at someone’s work, I need to not only experience the idea presented but also, I need to experience them. A photograph is not just a document of the place but of the author. I find you are the most interesting variable within the photograph. You need to show confidently that your interests are important. Furthermore, you need to learn how successful artists have approached your subject; learn how they have interpreted, adapted and disseminated their familiar to someone unfamiliar.
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