Steve McVey profile

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride nz.com. [00:00:04] I grew up I'm from New Zealand, and I grew up in the hut went to St. Pat's. So it was during [00:00:14] that I moved to London what actually moved to Auckland and 95 and then London in 97. [00:00:19] And what did you move to London? [00:00:22] At the time? I mean, I was really interested in photography then. But there was I just had really itchy feet. You know, it was time to time to get out kind of thing. And also at the time, that wasn't that didn't feel like there was a lot going on in photography or in the arts. Really. You know, if you wanted a felt like you if you wanted to do something in the arts, then you had to leave, which I'm places in the case [00:00:46] anymore. Before you live New Zealand, will you? [00:00:50] Yes, I came out when I was 17. my story's pretty funny when I when I told my mom. Okay, her response was does this mean you were dresses, which is you know, which is kind of funny, but you know, it also shows that kind of level of ignorance in its purest sense, with the kind of generation of difference, you know. [00:01:14] But I came about because I was with a boyfriend, and we were getting serious. And so I had to tell people, [00:01:20] I felt like I had to tell people, [00:01:22] for you is gayness homosexuality is kind of a big issue. I mean, did you have kind of issues coming up coming up? Or was it just pretty straightforward? [00:01:32] On I had big reservations about coming out. I mean, I went to Catholic, you know, boarding school as a day border boarding school. And so you know, that, that wasn't the most conducive relationship for any kind of sexual difference, or, you know, gender issues. But, so there was lots of lots of issues around [00:01:52] it, which is another reason why I had to thought I had to be, [00:01:55] you know, I mean, it was pretty, it wasn't the greatest school experience. I mean, it was a big kind of boys culture with, you know, everyone had to play rugby, and, you know, I just didn't really fit in there. But bullying and yeah, wasn't it wasn't great. [00:02:14] Was homophobic bullying, or just pulling in? [00:02:16] Yeah, homophobic bullying, and any kind of [00:02:19] any kind of bullying but difference was kind of noticed. [00:02:23] How did you cope with it? [00:02:25] I kind of went [00:02:28] well, I was at the time I was also I was doing a lot of sports. And so I was I represented New Zealand in gymnastics and trampolining. And so [00:02:39] I kind of invested all my energy in that [00:02:41] and kind of lost myself on that, and also art school. And so that was a real, really good outlet for me [00:02:47] at the time. [00:02:49] So you Lyft New Zealand for London, what was that like kind of leaving New Zealand the end and being kind of a different environment? [00:02:58] It was really, a lot of was exciting. But you know, I mean, all of my, all of my references of London were pretty much [00:03:08] based on films I'd seen. [00:03:10] And so you know, the reality is a lot different. And so it was a real sharp landing there. But [00:03:16] yeah, it was a it was a big shock getting there. But it was, it was amazing. [00:03:21] So what did you think you were going to [00:03:24] some sort of version of 101 Dalmatians. Yeah. And I also, I wasn't, I didn't really plan on staying there, I [00:03:34] kind of, you know, had enough money to catch a train around Europe [00:03:37] and kind of that run out, and so didn't speak any other languages enough to be able to live there at the time. So landed back in London. [00:03:47] Can you compare what it was like, as a young gay man, say New Zealand to that of when you kind of landed in London, [00:03:54] I'd say that just it was the [00:03:58] the acceptance, diversity was and that applies across the board with all kinds of any anyone different, really, I mean, I went straight, and worked in cafes and bars and Soho. And so as you know, I think I think, on a level, I really, I wanted to belong somewhere. And so that was what I'd heard was a place that would it could be very accepting. I came in, in our whole community, that would be very accepting. And so not just pockets, you know, it was hope district almost. And so [00:04:32] when I, when I think of the when I think of the difference [00:04:36] here, I think of, [00:04:39] I suppose I can equate it to, you know, [00:04:42] going out, really, because that was how I kind of that was how I socialized when I first You know, that's how I met other gay people. That's how identified with people. And so I think about where I went to an in Wellington, which was casters, you know, I remember going two years later, I was good, ever go to SPQR, I think don't have enough that still exists. And then going into London, and there's just a myriad of different kind of places you can go to for different kind of subcultures within gay culture, which is really, [00:05:14] you know, I feels like, [00:05:18] you know, there's a whole smorgasbord of things to do people to meet and, you know, trouble to get into, which is, you know, really exciting for the teenager. Because at [00:05:29] the time in Wellington, what there was literally one or two bars wasn't [00:05:32] Yeah, I think there was under any kind of any kind of very scared way, ran into Casper one time and then run out again, that was kind of my experience of testers, but, you know, that was it. [00:05:45] So it was a way that kind of skewed as well, just because it was, it was also foreign to me, [00:05:50] you know, to me, I knew identified with being gay, but I'd had no education at all on what being gay was all about. It was nothing. No education, school, or parents or, you know, no role models. [00:06:03] So what kind of education in London in terms of the kind of guy side of things? emotion? [00:06:09] No, I mean, I met, you know, a lot of different people from different kind of walks of [00:06:14] life. And also, I, I am, I was working, I could my, I could have either come back to [00:06:23] New Zealand, and studied or stayed there, and I wasn't quite finished traveling. So I, I started working for an airline and then studied on my days off, so I could kind of, you know, kill two birds. And I met a lot of gay people through that industry as well, the kind of traveling industry, which is in Peru, [00:06:44] which is a whole other thing. [00:06:47] And the study, this is studying photography, [00:06:50] yeah, I studied first at City and Guilds and then University of Westminster. [00:06:56] Wine photography, [00:06:59] I think is going I thought about this recently, actually, and I think it's got something to do with [00:07:06] observing, I like observing, and I can still be a part of what is going on, but there is a kind of safe distance [00:07:13] with the camera, between me and the, you know, the action. [00:07:19] And also that I find that photography helps me find order, and [00:07:26] what's going on around me, [00:07:28] because it's literally friends what is going on? And so, you know, [00:07:33] the experience can be reflected on the physical way. [00:07:37] Can you describe your photographic on? I mean, what what are the things that you look for? [00:07:47] like finding, [00:07:51] say, this kind of glibly is like order and the chaos, but I like finding kind of beauty or [00:08:01] transforming a kind of banal into the sublime, [00:08:05] if you like, [00:08:08] the everyday into something extraordinary, extraordinary. [00:08:12] What would be an example? [00:08:15] Like, [00:08:17] a brick wall, for instance, [00:08:20] and looking at the patterns within it, and the the shadows that cast and the, the, kind of like anthropological markings that people have made on them, and, you know, things like that, kind of like a piece and, and they're kind of all that kind of tension that happens around public space. [00:08:42] What about some of the techniques that you're using and kind of capturing images? I'm thinking of? What are your thoughts on things like, say light and shadow? [00:08:51] I don't, I don't like to use any artificial lights, really, all the photography that I do is ambient, ambient. [00:09:00] Good night. And I don't really like post production. I mean, I don't I'm not against it. It's just not something that I [00:09:07] find satisfying [00:09:08] with photographic process. It's, you know, I remember doing some night exposures not long ago, and they were, you know, up to five, six minute exposures, because it was so dark. [00:09:22] And so, you know, I like that kind of like, the yellow, [00:09:27] orange hue that happens in that kind of [00:09:29] environment. [00:09:32] I tend to use color a lot. I just think it's, I mean, I know that no, photography is a document of truth, or anything, you know, as simple as that. But I find it represents more truthfully, [00:09:47] a perception of what happened. [00:09:51] I did, I did, I started off taking black and white photography as a kind of, [00:09:56] I don't know, when I was learning more about the technical side of photography, and doing my own printing and things like that. [00:10:04] But kind of went into color photography, when kind of [00:10:07] got introduced more into the theoretical side of visual. Yeah. Do you think studying something like photography kind of helps or hinders the kind of creative process? [00:10:18] I think it's one it's better? Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, one is definitely one of those things where [00:10:26] sometimes it's like, [00:10:30] when you look at the moon, and you have that wonder about it, and then as soon as you go there, you know it inside out, and so the wonder is gone. So there is an element of that. But then that, you know, there is also that, you know, there can be that can be changed as well you can use those tools to, to create something [00:10:53] else, in a bizarre way. [00:10:56] studying something so intensely done, uh, alter your kind of love for the for the medium, or, I mean, do you still find that you get excited by photography? [00:11:08] Yeah, I do. I love it. I really love it. It is really exciting. You know, [00:11:14] I fresh, it frustrates me when I see images, things that I don't like as much, you know, there's that kind of, or maybe things that I don't feel like conceptually sound, you know, but I love it. I love it. And it's still still excites me. Definitely. [00:11:35] Yeah. What are your thoughts on using digital versus analog film cameras? [00:11:42] I've got I've got a selection of cameras. And you know, my favorite camera teases me a medium format camera. And so when I can afford film, which isn't very often, and so it's just for economic reasons. Really, I use digital a lot more now. [00:12:01] Do you find there's a difference in quality in terms of digital views? [00:12:05] You can [00:12:05] they can be [00:12:06] Yeah, I mean, less and less. So now. I mean, I've [00:12:09] Yeah, less and less. But there is a there is a difference. And also, there's some sort of, there's a there's some sort of craft room. I mean, when I first started studying photography, digital didn't really exist, you know, and so there was a real craft attached to [00:12:25] it. And that's what I'd come and learn [00:12:26] first, was the craft side of it. And so [00:12:33] yeah, I've got a kind of an established standard attachment to film, I guess, [00:12:37] because I guess all those things have, like, with the tool that that you can shoot hundreds of images, and then pick the best we're I guess, with film, you know, you're often so having, you know, 36 new negatives? [00:12:49] Yeah, [00:12:50] yeah. And so, you know, I remember doing shoot plan lists. [00:12:53] And so I would, you know, be shooting, swing, a moving swing, I don't have to, you know, have a couple of rolls of films, I'd have to plan each one, I'd write down the ISO numbers, and, you know, all the different kind of technical information and a little notebook and carry around around with me, someone I got them printed on knew what they were. And you know, that kind of [00:13:16] that kind of thing just doesn't happen now. So listed there, you know, when you when you [00:13:20] upload your images, or even when you take it, it shows it? So, yeah, yeah, it's just a lot more immediate and a lot more disposable. Now, I think there's less of this, there's potentially Well, there is less thought process involved in [00:13:35] taking photographs. Now. [00:13:38] You mentioned briefly before about post production. And I'm wondering, do you when you're when you're seeing an image through your viewfinder, are you framing it in the camera? Or do you frame it afterwards? and post production? I've frame it in the camera? [00:13:52] Yeah. Yeah, especially with long exposures. You know, I like [00:13:58] for me, it's the act of photo photographic, that's what I really like. And the the exhibiting of it is, is my probably my least favorite [00:14:07] element of the process, but it is a necessary one [00:14:11] to kind of finish it off. [00:14:14] But [00:14:16] I like the process of taking that time to [00:14:18] frame a shot and give the subject, you know, the attention that it deserves. [00:14:25] You've recently had an exhibition, the region's canal, London, yeah, tell me about that. [00:14:30] And that was a project that I did when I was doing my masters at Goldsmiths. And it was a research project I did on [00:14:41] kind of try and cut an attempt to kind of [00:14:47] re evaluate the social economic value of the canal and establish a new sense of worth [00:14:54] social worth within it. Because I had such a, I had a really complex and interesting history. And it was, you know, a few years ago was at a real kind of turning point. And so I thought it was a necessary thing to kind of look at this and get its true worth, but at least at least look at it if not kind of define it. [00:15:17] A seed for that kind of exhibition, does it come as you take the photographs? Or does it happen afterwards? Or does that happen? Like right at the beginning, before you've actually taken anything, [00:15:28] a bit of both really kind of like things just evolve ideas, kind of like, pop in and out of my head. And then they kind of, you know, I used to live on the Can I used to live on [00:15:40] right on the canal and Jane Smith studios, Hitchcock's old film studios, and so I used to go on the canal, [00:15:46] you know, every day kind of thing. And so [00:15:48] it was a, it was a part of my life in London. And I could see it changing, you know, so, you know, hugely in the time that I lived it. And I just thought it was just such a, you know, amazing in resource for London, and something that's kind of neglected a lot of the time and so and also under used as a way to get around, you know, it's used for a lot of other purposes. [00:16:12] But [00:16:14] yeah, underused and or undervalued in a lot of ways. [00:16:18] Do you carry a camera with your time [00:16:21] I carry my phone camera on me now. But I used to Yeah, I used to [00:16:26] my iPhone does seem to do the trick for most things around at the moment or, you know, if I, I'll, I'll take a photograph of something with my iPhone [00:16:35] and come back and then take a photograph with a, you know, [00:16:38] another camera. Because that sounds like a lot of the images that you're taking quite fleeting, whether it's a wall or the light hitting a particular object. Or I guess your new project, which was last [00:16:54] year, which is a very different tact, actually, for me. Because a [00:16:59] lot of I mean, a lot of my stuff in the past has been of that kind of liminal space, I guess that we kind of pass through but not really exist in and out unknown really, [00:17:12] kind of really knows or connects with, you know. [00:17:16] And so [00:17:19] yeah, this last project is very different. You know, I mean, [00:17:22] it's not about that space, it's about the people who inhabit. Yeah. [00:17:26] So what is last? [00:17:28] So last is a project I'm doing about how people deal with loss in their lives and how also they deal with looking to fill that void of what is lost. And whether they the act of looking for what is lost actually goes some way into filling what that [00:17:50] void leaves. I mean, the way that I mean, it's the way that I'm kind of approaching it is [00:17:59] looking at last posters, posters that people look out, like bring it back back down to its kind of real physicality. So looking at the last posters that people leave around on lampposts, which is a really unique thing I think in, in Washington, there's not many capital cities in the world that can have that have lost posters around that, you know, that people will walk past and kind [00:18:19] of thing Oh, yeah, that little puppy, you know, and so and [00:18:23] so it feels very local as well, which I thought, like I said, you know, recently moving back, and, and contacting these people and asking them, you know, certain questions about what was last how long they had it, and what what the loss of it means to them, and whether the act of looking as done thing, whether they found it, [00:18:46] whether, whether I think [00:18:48] when people lose something, then there's a real danger of misalignment, you know, mythologize in the thing. And so if they do recover it again, does it live up to the next, which is another kind of, you know, angle and but the difficult thing in this project is photographing, what isn't there? anyway? [00:19:09] So what are some of the things that have been lost that, that you found in terms of the posters, [00:19:15] so [00:19:17] I've told a couple of friends about this, as well. And they've been amazing. And like, Steve, they've got to come to this poster at this places, you know, which is [00:19:26] really, really great, actually. But there's been quite a few cuddly toys, [00:19:33] cats, dogs. [00:19:36] There was, this wasn't a poster, but someone lost a job. [00:19:43] And so, you know, I mean, that the subject of loss, you know, [00:19:48] losing things is universal, I mean, everyone is experienced it, and, you know, to different degrees, you know, from the banal to the profound kind of loss, but each each circumstances really personal. So everyone can kind of relate to on on some level, there was a poster for a missing person, and that was where I kind of had to really kind of think, okay, there is a universal subject here, you know, subject matter, but [00:20:15] where are my limits? And this? [00:20:17] And so I think, you know, missing people, although, [00:20:22] yeah, that's a tricky one. [00:20:25] Did you call up the number? No, no. [00:20:31] Not yet. [00:20:33] I have it, but I don't know. I mean, I, [00:20:36] you know, I'm not approaching some the trivial way at all. But I think when people go missing this, this, [00:20:45] of, you know, there's, [00:20:46] you know, it's pretty layered. And so I'm not quite sure, I think that might be one one step too far, people. [00:20:55] When you are calling people up, what are the reactions? How does that come? The social girly? [00:21:01] Yeah, it's really interesting. There are people who, [00:21:04] and I have to, I've actually got a script that I write that I, that I wrote, [00:21:09] because, [00:21:11] you know, I have to mention the last poster, and then they all of a sudden think that I might have information about the missing thing. And so I've got to pretty quickly [00:21:22] give a quite a, you know, really detailed background about me what I'm doing and why I'm calling [00:21:29] and also say, you know, I'm sorry, I don't have any kind of leads on what's missing. But I would like you to participate in this [00:21:37] project. [00:21:38] And, and that's been really positive. [00:21:42] Yeah, generally, it's been [00:21:44] positive. So what do you want from them? [00:21:48] Some time, I mean, it's been an hour, [00:21:51] it takes I would like to go from there to the house, interview them as [00:21:55] asking the questions asked, [00:21:56] you know, answer their questions, and also photograph them, and also the space where the thing was, and, [00:22:08] and around the house. Yeah, what [00:22:11] they, you know, kind of like, where they spent time with thing. And [00:22:17] kind of what markets left in [00:22:19] their life. [00:22:22] I wrote a kind of wrote an essay the [00:22:24] other day on photographing the missing, which is kind of really interesting thing. And that kind of misnomer of the stillness of the image, even though it's something it's so it's, it's still is so evocative and so loaded, and they kind of can equate that to [00:22:42] photographing the missing [00:22:45] have any of those situations unsettled? You? [00:22:48] Yeah. I mean, no, I mean, I can't [00:22:52] keep having second thoughts about the whole project. You know, it's not pleasant subject, [00:22:55] really, I mean, it's bad people dealing with the loss of something. And so they're all quite kind of unsettling. And they're also kind of, there's a lot of hope, as well. [00:23:09] So you know, that's the, that's the lasting impression. [00:23:14] I wonder, also, if it's about the kind of immediacy of your calling the person up, I'm thinking that it would be quite different if someone puts up a poster, and within a week you call them and then you do the same thing. But it's like, you know, three or four months down the track, if you found [00:23:31] Yeah, I don't [00:23:32] I wait, as soon as I see it, I wait a bit. I've been waiting at least a month before phoning in, and sometimes the post is gone. And that time, [00:23:42] but I you know, I've taken photographs of the posters. [00:23:46] Because I think there's got to be for this project, there's got to be that little bit of distance between losing the thing and also a bit of perspective for them on how they've gone about filling it. It's too soon, it's too raw for a start. And also, [00:24:06] they get the potential to be just immersed in the loss rather than that perspective about their [00:24:11] recovering it. And what kind of level of loss are we talking? I mean, a people really emotionally bound up and the things that I've lost was a quite, I mean, [00:24:24] people are emotionally tied up in these things, you know, and that's the whole that's that's the point. You know, I don't think anyone would go to the lengths of looking for something. And, you know, making posters around town of though there wasn't that kind of emotional attachment to the thing. [00:24:40] Yeah. Given the fact that you are approaching them a certain distance after the event. have things been found? Or have they replaced those things? [00:24:50] Yes, yeah, they have been found. And, and that was wired as that was one of my, one of the kind of one of my interest in this project is that did they make this thing bigger than what it was when it was gone? Because, you know, when things when there's a hole left by something, it's, there's a danger that it can be its its value, or worth could be blown out of proportion? Or, [00:25:20] you know, because because it's so consuming. [00:25:24] There's a chance that, yeah, kind of mythologizing of the thing could could happen. And it then if it's then been recovered, and they kind of like, you know, there's a potential for it to be for there to be disappointment. When you are going to people's houses, you're photographing the situations, but you're also doing kind of other recordings or other documentation. I have been doing a bit of tape recording of the conversation as well. But mostly, it's notes as well. And that hasn't been consistent. So I mean, I would like to I mean, ideally, I would have liked to have filmed, filmed the whole meeting. [00:26:04] And I'm still would like to do that. [00:26:07] And so this will end up as a Yeah, good question. [00:26:11] I don't know. That's the thing. I mean, [00:26:14] I know it could be a and also because the the words, the kind of interview for life is really important part of it for me. And so [00:26:23] the words are really important. [00:26:27] And it's important for me to show them and how it's how it's kind of published. And so [00:26:34] yeah, I don't I'm not sure. I [00:26:36] know. It would be a great stills, [00:26:39] exhibition. But it could be a really interesting film, as well. And also, [00:26:45] you know, I think it could work in lots of formats, as a book as well. [00:26:50] How has this affected you? [00:26:54] I think it's really kind of it's, [00:26:57] well, I mean, I, you know, I've had some big change in my life recently with moving from London to here and finishing jobs and relationship ending. And so, you know, there's, [00:27:09] you know, I've experienced quite on, [00:27:12] yes, you know, a certain amount of loss. And so it's been, and I think this is what's kind of sparked this interest for me in the first place, you know, and also, for the first time in a while, brought my attention back to people instead of space that people didn't have it. So. [00:27:29] Yeah. And so it's been quite interesting to see how people deal with it deal with loss. And so it's been kind of helpful. I don't know if it's been helpful, but it's definitely being cathartic. [00:27:44] cathartic in the sense that we all experienced this. [00:27:50] You know, it's not a lonely thing. Yeah. [00:27:54] How do you deal with loss? [00:27:56] I've I interview other people about it.

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