Perry Ogden sees life through a different lens
2017-07-18 10:34:16 -
Immigration
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By Nadia Marie Al-Hassan

Perry Ogden explains that photography is the freedom to explore. That exploration has taken him to the pages of magazines like Arena and Italian Vogue, as well as the poorer suburbs of his adopted home of Dublin, where he captured his series of images of teenagers with their urban horses in the 1999 project Pony Kids.

Ogden says he was fascinated by the coming together of cultures – Travellers and settled people – while working on that series, which was a landmark in the career of this British-born photographer.

“It was a moment in time that I was fortunate to be around for,” he recalls.

Ogden also found powerful his memorising Connemara portraits from the early 1990s, of neighbours working on the bog, as well as his series of evocative shots of the Francis Bacon studio in Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery.

“I never get tired of looking at them,” he says of the latter. “There’s always something new to see. But that’s because Bacon was an amazing painter.”

Life reflected through a lens

Born in 1961 in Shropshire, UK, Ogden’s love for photography started when he was 13 years old, while taking his first photography class in school.

Throughout his teens, his interest in the art form grew, and he landed and apprenticeship with professional photographer Job Timbers. 

“I’d make the tea, sweep the floor, run messages,” he says of what was the beginning of a successful journey in the medium.

“I love making images and I love the way that in a split second you can capture – or create – a moment. I love that sense of life reflected through a lens,” he says.

Photography is Ogden’s passion, but so are his children. Managing a busy schedule between work and being a father to his three-year-old twins, Isabella and Grace, and his 29-year-old daughter Violet can be quite challenging.

“It’s not easy to manage time, it’s been a challenge because when you are self-employed and passionate about what you do, you devote a lot of time to your work. But I am passionate about my children too and learning how to make time.”

Mirroring that balance between work and life is the balance between photography as an art, and as a job. While Ogden’s love for the camera has never abated, there was a time when he had given up on commercial photography. 

“I found myself doing some jobs that I did not really care to do but was sucked in by the money,” he recalls. “I looked around and didn’t like where I was at.”
Instead, he decided to go to Paris to learn drawing and painting. “I didn’t go to art school but I found different ateliers to go to – one in the morning, the Grand Chaumiere in the afternoon and another one in the evening. 

“I immersed myself in painting and drawing, going to exhibitions and museums. It was a great place to do this. It was only by chance that I started making photographs again.”

Ogden’s next commercially minded job was a shoot with model Cecilia Chancellor in his beloved Connemara. 

“It worked well. Ralph Lauren saw the pictures and asked me to do his advertising campaign. It all kicked off again but I felt in a better place and was looking at things differently.”

Ogden believes that photography holds much power in creating awareness on issues and can connect people together. Although he believes there are fewer outlets for this kind of photography nowadays, with so much attention geared to celebrity, he still finds it interesting to see that what would have once been called documentary photography has now veered into fine art.

“Look at the images of Pieter Hugo, for example, and the Irish photographer Richard Mosse, who just won the Prix Pictet for his series Heat Maps, documenting refugee camps and staging sites.”

Returning to his roots

Ogden first visited Ireland in 1985 but did not make the move across the Irish Sea until the early 1990s. In a sense, however he was returning to his roots: his great grandfather, Cecil Moss, grew up in Ballybrack and went to Trinity College.

“He qualified as an engineer and spent his entire working life in India building railways and bridges. He was a keen photographer, and I have a lot of glass plates from India.”

In 1997, Ogden was asked to get involved in the founding of Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari). “It was the early years of the economic boom and more and more people were coming to Ireland,” he says. “We started to experience a rise in racism and racist incidents. Given the importance of standing up to racism and challenging discrimination it was a no-brainer.

“I had grown up in London during the ‘70s and had experience of these issues. I remember taking pictures at the Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park in 1978, which was headlined by The Clash with Steel Pulse and other bands supporting. 

“But with Sari it’s all about sport and using sport as a tool for bringing people together. It has huge potential for creating social change.”

For a different kind of change, Ogden says he enjoys returning to England for visits, particularly to London, But he does not miss his old life when he is in Ireland.

“I had a wonderful childhood growing up in London and was a teenager when punk happened,” he remembers. “That was a truly amazing time, but I always found England quite a violent society and I always hated the class system.”

Ogden says he found himself much more at home in Connemara and other parts of Ireland’s west. “It’s like a stepping into a different time, and the people have always been extremely friendly.

“Ireland and certain people here have inspired me and the projects such as Pony Kids has helped with my development,” he notes. “Photography has changed radically since I started out, but certain things still apply for those wanting to take up a career in photography – which is hard work and passion.”

TAGS : Perry Ogden London photography Ireland
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