Out of Focus

In anticipation of the Saatchi Gallery's first photo expo for a decade, we chat to participant Johnny Briggs about children's ability to think outside the box

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The Saatchi Gallery’s first photography exhibition since 2001’s provocative 'I Am a Camera' presents 38 artists - including Michele Abeles, Leonce Raphael Agbodjélo and Olaf Breuning - exploring the changing nature of the medium. 'Out Of Focus' looks at how changes in technology have blurred the boundaries between professional and amateur photography and offers up a selection of approaches to the genre, from classic documentary styles to the reworking of found photography. Dazed Digital caught up with the Saatchi Gallery’s 'New Sensations' 2011 prize winner Jonny Briggs, who is part of the exhibition, to discuss his work.

Our family photographs were themselves staged, performative, and I often consider the photographs I take now to be role-reversals of the family photographs from my past

Dazed Digital: Domestic themes and childhood imagery are common in your work. What is it about a child's view of the world that interests you?
Jonny Briggs:
We can illuminate our perspective on the world by thinking outside of our learned behaviour. By taking a step back and thinking outside of what we've learnt to believe, what we've learnt to do, how we've learnt to behave. The work involves departures from the normal, and pulling the rug from under the feet of our expectations.
It reminds me of late childhood, when I was learning about myself as an individual, alongside wanting to fit in with society. The two don't quite fit comfortably together; each has to be compromised. Who we are and who we should be are different. Do we choose to become artificial versions of ourselves and fit in, or become our natural selves and become outsiders?

What I love about the childhood mindset is that they've yet to establish what is normal and what is not. I love this open mindset, where children can often think outside of the categories society has made, think outside of our words, traditions and rules. Not yet tied down by logic, they are free to pursue their impulses and feelings.
DD: What was it like winning the Saatchi Gallery New Sensations award?
Jonny Briggs: I was incredibly grateful to win the New Sensations Award, really touched. It was at the time when my grandmother was ill too, so it meant a lot that I could tell her before she passed away. It was an emotional time. She was the first person I called! All of us in the shortlist had such varied works and I could relate to all of them, so it could have been any one of us.
DD: Can you remember the first picture you ever took?
Jonny Briggs: What I remember more than taking photographs, is having my photograph taken. The childhoods of my sisters and I were well documented, and I remember distinctly being asked to stand in a particular place, in a particular way and adopt a certain facial expression. Our family photographs were themselves staged, performative, and I often consider the photographs I take now to be role-reversals of the family photographs from my past. Also staged and performative, now I'm telling my parents where to stand, what to wear, and how to behave.

'Out of Focus' runs from April 25th - July 22nd 2012 at The Saatchi Gallery

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