Q&A with Madeline Bishop
Madeline Bishop is a photography and video artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Bishop’s work is conceptually centred around relational dynamics. Exploiting the persistent tension between distance and closeness in photographs, Bishop’s work uses a performative and constructed approach to dissecting the relationship between photography and intimacy.
I don’t think I can remember a time when I didn’t want to be a photographer. In high school I started taking a black and white darkroom class and that was it for me. I never considered ever being anything else. It’s funny because I don’t consider myself an obsessive person in most aspects but I’ve had a single minded focus on photography for as long as I can remember. I knew very early on I had to find a way to make it be the thing that I did with my life.
I’m someone that works in waves of energy. I usually mull for a long time over ideas and concepts without taking any images at all and then when I reach a point I create work quite quickly and shoot manically for a few months. I think I need to get my brain into a particular mindset and ride that wavelength over a set period of time when I’m in a shooting phase. It’s also probably because shooting can be exhausting, and I need to build myself up to carry me through that part of the process.
I’ve come to terms with being the type of artist who always makes personal work, no matter how much I try to aim for a wider political or social meaning as a driving force. Taking photographs is what I do when I don’t understand how I feel about something and I need to work through it. This means it’s always coming from my personal experience or things happening to the people around me.
I gained a lot from working on my last series ‘Without your mother’ which turned out to be a longer term project than I initially planned because of the ongoing lockdowns. Every time we would come out of one I’d shoot a bunch more images and it built up slowly. The work featured mothers and their adult children so it was a wonderful excuse for me to connect with people. My own experience of being physically separated from my own family for so long deepened the scope of the project and my understanding of this particular relationship.
Photography helps me untangle everything buzzing inside my brain and form it into something with clarity and a form. Even though at the end of the day I’m really making the images for me, I still like the idea that maybe somebody looks at one of my photographs and something they’ve been trying to grasp becomes something they can hold on to and understand for a moment.
I think what makes photography such a unique medium is that it is truly an intersection of an artist’s ideas with the reality presented in front of them. Especially because I almost always photograph people, the exciting part of the process for me is grappling with the real life person in front of me, and finding a way to make that work with my plans and ideas for the image. It takes a bit of practice to know how much control to surrender. Finding the perfect point between your imagination and the constantly moving, live thing in front of you is an exhilarating thing to search for.
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who can see that my images are full of people, to hear that I like to surround myself with people most of the time. I am a chatty cathy and I will talk for hours if you let me. Like many artists I am at constant risk of my brain disappearing into my imagination so I like to exercise a lot to keep my brain connected to my body and the real world.
My mamiya 6 has been with me for 10+ years and is the first object I would save from my house.