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The Velvet Cell

Eanna Freeney on how he took photographs to combat the isolation he felt after moving to London

Named in tribute to a song by electronica folk-rock dudes, Gravenhurst, The Velvet Cell is an independent publishing house specialising in releasing small-run books which feature the night-time and city-based work of different international, underground photographers.  Set up by 24-year-old Irishman Eanna Freeney, after moving to London in 2009, the operation has, so far, released seven books. Dazed Digital recently quizzed the founder and photographer on all things Velvety and, er… Cell-y?

Dazed Digital: Tell us a bit about your history as a photographer, Eanna.
Eanna Freeney:
I only started taking pictures after moving to London when I was 21. Shortly before coming over, I bought a camera. It was the first time I’d ever lived in a city and so I’d often just find myself walking around in an attempt to make sense of my environment. I felt very dislocated because I didn’t know anyone. It was strange being in a place so full of people but feeling so isolated; I felt it was something I had to ‘crack.’ I started taking pictures because of this. 

DD: And what inspired you to set up the Velvet Cell?
Eanna Freeney: 
There were a few different reasons; it wasn’t completely altruistic. I partly wanted a platform to show my own work but I’d also had ideas for a while about publishing others’ work.  I simply set about trying to make it happen. Before I did, I was finding that a lot of the places and publications I looked to submit work to were interested mostly in portraiture or certain types of landscape. I’m into city-based, night-time photography.  The Velvet Cell ran for a year as an online magazine and the first of February this year saw the first published release – Thomas Albdorf’s book. Some of the work I’ve published has been through submissions, but most is work I’ve found myself through the internet and stuff.

DD: Can you detail a bit about the sentiment of the work you publish in general?
Eanna Freeney: 
If you look at the publications as a whole I think the common thread is that they’re about alienation and its link to the city; the affect urban space has on people.  I mean, one of the guys I published, Luke Swenson, did his work on housing blocks in Brooklyn. In the booklet he talked about his relationship with them and the way they informed and helped shape the surrounding environment.

Another book was by a guy called Sander Meisner. He’s based in Amsterdam and he’d spend a lot of time going to the outskirts of the city to find the industrial areas at night-time – spaces devoid of people. That’s a theme you’ll find in a lot of the work – people are usually conspicuous by their absence. Y’know, I think a lot of the work is really sociological; essentially I see it as sociology through a lens.

DD: It does seem quite a lot of the work you publish crosses over into being both art photography and also more traditionally informative, architecture or structure photography…
Eanna Freeney: 
That’s a good way of putting it. I certainly think it’s important to find that balance between pure aestheticism and communication.  I mean, I’m not interested in point and shoot photographers. I like photographs where it looks like people have stopped, really looked and thought about what they want their image to say. I don’t want it to look like it was some off-chance thing… I suppose all I want is for there to be a message that the photographer wants to deliver.

DD: Future plans?
Eanna Freeney: 
In the immediate future we’ve got our first planned show on 26 January, which will be in Brick Lane, London and is an overview of the work that’s been published so far. In longer terms, I’ll be putting out more books, with a wider focus too. There’ll be larger format books in the near future and I’m working on a secret big release for late next year!

London Stockists: Fourteen-Nineteen, Beach London, Donlon Books, New Gallery