Eden Young Artists Awards: Rainer Weston

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It was a humble Facebook status that caught our eye, when Rainer Weston simply stated, “Forgot to make a post about this ... Recently I won Best Photograph/Digital Work and the Best Overall at Eden Young Artists Awards.” We managed to track Rainer down and asked him a few questions about what inspired him to get into photography and where he's headed in the future. As far as we can see, he'll be one to keep an eye on.

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D-Photo: What inspired your interest in photography and how have you pursued that interest?

Rainer Weston: I was drawn to photography after a compulsory photo studies class in my first year at art school. I had never picked up a camera with manual controls before then, but I was instantly hooked. Photography was always something I had wanted to try out, being familiar with the work of photographers such as Robert Frank, Duane Michals, and Vincent Serbin, among others. However I could never justify spending (what was at the time) a lot of money on something I thought was just going to be a hobby. At first it was the immediacy of photography that attracted me, seeing it as a very efficient means to acquiring an image. Being a technically minded person though, I quickly became obsessed with the craft of photographic image production. I would pore over books, magazines, and web tutorials learning about different cameras, sensor types, flashes, lenses, as well as lighting and retouching techniques. Eventually it just made sense to go with it and I'm now in my third year of study at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design majoring in Photography.

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How long have you been working behind the camera?

I picked up a DSLR for the first time in late 2012, just before my 21st birthday. So it's been about two years now. I come from a creative background of both music and art, but I'm also a very technical person, a tinkerer at heart. Photography is the perfect outlet for me in this respect.

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How would you describe your style of photography?

I dabble in many different styles including traditional street and portraiture styles. The work that I am producing right now occupies a territory that I like to think is akin to a kind of neo-surrealism with a sprinkle of pictorialism. Photography has changed a lot in the last twenty years and it's a strange and exciting time to be a producer of images. The democratization and miniaturization of digital camera technology has significantly lowered previous barriers to entry. Now nearly everyone holds a highly capable camera in their pockets, which means people are creating all kinds of images now that were previously impossible. The amount of images in circulation has also gone up drastically, but the quality of the pictures hasn't necessarily followed suit. In my opinion we are in a renaissance era of photographic craft, which has added value amidst the endless seas of mediocre vernacular photography. Photographic images have also become highly untrustworthy, with intuitive photo-manipulation software available that anyone can use. Yet the internet and social media oriented structures we live by encourage them to disseminate around the world like never before. This circulation gives them a new kind of power, one where truth is intrinsically tied to virility. With my work I try to keep all these things in mind, embracing the falsehood of photographic truth as a stylistic trope through the use of introduced lighting and costume.

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What does winning the Best Photograph/Digital Work and Best Overall at Eden Young Artists Awards mean to you?

Mainly it means having the financial freedom to finish off my current project. As a student, it's hard to juggle real-world expenses with art making, so the cash injection means I can focus on being creative and not worry about whether spending too much money on projects means I can't eat next week.

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Do you have any projects on the go at the moment? Can you describe them?

We live in strange times; a world of drones, complicit mass surveillance, climate change, and increasing disparity between the rich and the poor. Technology has brought the world to our fingertips but I've never felt so profoundly disillusioned, disoriented, and in the dark. This is the starting point for a series that I am developing, working on from the image that I produced for Eden Young Artists Awards. This was always the plan, winning has just fast-tracked the whole process. I can't say much about the specifics of each photograph but I can say that they will follow a loose narrative about contemporary identity and image in this age of hyper connectivity. I'm planning to make three more images at this point but we'll see what happens.

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How difficult are you finding keeping up with trying to post at least one photo a day to your website/tumblr?

Not hard at all actually! The one image a day deal is about letting go of the past, moving forward, as well as loosening up my quality standards. I have a tremendously large library of images that have been gathering digital dust for quite some time. In the past I only ever put up my best stuff, but I found that I became increasingly hesitant to put up work over time, especially as my technical skills improved and I could only justify putting up images that adhered to a certain technical aptitude. As a result I have many images that I love but have never seen the light of day. So it's about cleaning out my closet so that I can embrace the medium more honestly and move onto better things.

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Do you have a goal in mind of where you’d like photography to take you, and in what sort of time frame?

I'd love to be exhibiting work on a larger scale. Being successful with art photography is hard and often feels like a battle of attrition. You put a lot of work in and not a lot comes back your way most of the time. I'm optimistic though and I'm open to expanding my territory into other avenues such as advertising or fashion. I'm particularly interested in film right now and the exciting stuff that's happening on that front, especially with new cameras, like the GH4 and the Sony A7s. I've been discussing potential projects with friends but we'll see what happens.

To see more of Rainer's work, or to follow his photo a day project, head to rainerweston.com