Today I chatted a little with Gareth Phillips of the Photo Collective MJR. I first came across the collective when i met various members at a workshop in Mexico back in 2008. Since then they have grown in numbers to become a diverse force in contemporary photography. Whilst their roots are often documentary, I’ve always enjoyed the manner in which they’re prepared to turn over any stone, championing work regardless of subject, genre or approach. They are certainly a hard bunch to pigeonhole. This is definitely one of the reasons we are most excited to have them on board for the festival…
1) Tell me about MJR, how did it form and what was the idea behind the collective?
MJR began spontaneously through the friendship of the initial founding members, Matthew, Julius and Robert, as a way to showcase and share work and ideas in the visual media. The idea behind the collective is and still remains open ended, guided by the continual growth from the ever-evolving group and its individual members, but centered around the pillars of collaboration, creativity and friendship.
2) Without giving too much away, please can you tell me a little about the work you will be showing?
The work is an amalgamation of photography and video from the collective personal histories of each member of MJR. Collection 100 was sourced over the last 100 blog entires that we had on our site and behind the scenes footage of the lives that led to these images.
3) Who are you most excited about showing alongside? Is there anyone whose work you secretly wish was your own?
For me, Miska Henner’s work and collaborations are something I am always excited to see. I am also very much looking forward to seeing Stephen Gill and Clare Strand’s work, as well as everyone else’s work participating in the festival.
4) What’s currently inspiring you to make work?
Inspiration is a very personal, subjective and dynamic creature for each image maker in the collective. For me, elliptical narratives where I can research ways to create work that embraces this concept is what drives me. Matthew has had an ongoing love affair with street photography in the Japanese tradition and roams New York like the stray dog of Daido Moriyama. Brandon is a storyteller of nostalgia and darkness in the deep South of America, Mustafah engages with long-form social issue and documentary work across the globe and Ying is inspired by contemporary theories in philosophy, sociology and urban architecture.
5) Has MJR evolved over the years and what do you have planned for the future?
MJR is evolving on a monthly, if not weekly basis. Each member is encouraged to take the wheel and push ideas that they have to bring the collective to new directions. We always have one eye out for potential members that can bring innovation and creative edge, which is essential to the other members, in order to not sink into complacency and irrelevancy. The future is mostly a great unknown but we have plans to expand our numbers and also to explore possibilities of curating conceptual shows integrating mixed media, collaborating on idea development with commercial clients and also pushing further into the fast-growing world of independent publishing.