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Ben Pobjoy's War of Spoils

Dazed talks to the Montreal-based photographer about when he first started and how social media has broken down the barriers between artist and follower

Ben Pobjoy is continually trying to push the boundaries as to what he can do with photography online. The Montreal-based photographer has a raw and natural approach to his work and for the last two years he’s been working on two-year long projects that explore how artists have removed the mystique that was once upheld in order to remain elusive. Now however, creator and follower are able to interact freely through the use of social media with artists sharing personal work, writing blogs and just generally being more contactable. The first project, ‘Aloneliness’ features an original 35mm that Pobjoy shot each day, with the other titled ‘War of Spoils’, involving the photographer posting unusual polaroids from his archive which went live in August. Dazed decided to speak with Pobjoy about how these projects were realized and how important he feels the internet is in showcasing work. 

Dazed Digital: How did you first get into photography?
Ben Pobjoy:
 I got into photography through punk zines like HeartattaCk and Maximumrocknroll as I was drawn to the rawness and energy of the concert photos they published. Then, in the mid 90s when I was 16 my band toured the US with a band called Racebannon. Their singer always had a polaroid camera on him and was constantly taking great photographs that mesmerized me. When I got home from that tour I bought a polaroid camera and shot with it for the next 7 years. Thereafter I got more serious about photography, and jumped from point and shoot cameras to SLRs to medium format cameras.

Tell us how the idea for Aloneliness project came about, why did you choose to shoot with a 35mm?
Ben Pobjoy: I've always used film and shoot lots of it. I prefer film because I arrange prints in the editing phase to stitch together photo essays and exhibitions. Over the years I've amassed tens of thousands of prints; most of which have sat in albums away from the public eye. It wasn't until I read Matt Mason's Pirate's Dilemma and Mitch Joel's blog that it occurred to me that I could use blogging as an interactive platform for both sharing my content and accessing a larger audience. So I started Aloneliness in 2010 to breathe new life into photographs that existed outside of my photo essays and exhibitions.

DD: Your latest project 'War of Spoils' features images from your archive what made you want to revisit existing work and curate it into a new collection?
Ben Pobjoy: This year I turned 30 and it dawned on me that some of the polaroids I had shot had been taken almost a half lifetime ago. While the polaroids are stupid and immature, I think they're a unique documentation of a time in one's life where exploration and getting into trouble is a regular occurrence. It was this belief that inspired me to start War of Spoils; I thought the project would resonate with viewers since everyone's youth is peppered with moments of idiocy.

DD: You use a blog format to present your images for both projects. How significant are internet / photo-sharing in showcasing work and why?
Ben Pobjoy: The internet is this giant voyeuristic cesspit where users have an insatiable appetite for content. So for me it was a 'no brainer' with regards to contributing to it through the sharing of my work. However, it's a bit of a boner observation but anyone can post anything online, and it doesn't mean it'll find an audience. So, I tried to do things a little differently- namely posting an original image a day (which is different than a lot of blogs that simply repost others' content), and trying to organise the photos I posted so there was a narrative. The internet allows outsiders to look in, so I purposely posted images of certain subjects regularly so viewers got a sense of their personalities. Strangely, certain viewers came to 'know' some of my subjects and would inquire about them. In a way, I thought of my online projects like an ongoing sitcom where people would feel invested in the characters within my work. So in terms of these expansive projects where hundreds of images are posted, I find the internet very significant precisely because you can release content 'image-by-image' that's episodic in nature.

DD: What equipment do you use and why?
Ben Pobjoy: For portability, I always carry two 'point and shoot' cameras with me- a Leica Minilux that's always loaded with black and white film and a Yashica T4 that's always loaded with color film. I carry these namely to capture the unexpected things I come across each day. However, for projects I always shoot with an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic; a SLR and a Bronica SQ-Ai; a medium format camera. I shoot projects with these cameras because they're manual and therefore give me greater control over the images I shoot.

DD: Tell us about what up and coming projects /exhibitions you are currently working on.
I'm currently working on two long form photo essays that will result in new books and exhibitions. One, titled the Apostate is an ongoing look at an ex-Jehovah's Witness who had a 'grow op' that burnt down. The project is a photographic examination of how individuals struggle with consequence and the heavy price of human resolve. The other project, titled Father, Son and the Holy Ghost is a collaborative project with my Dad. It will pair photographs he shot of Northern Ireland as a Paratrooper in the 70s with photographs I'll be shooting of the area today to create a multi-decade spanning look at the Troubles. I'm also in the early stages of ideating how to turn the War of Spoils into a book.