Lisa Furness

the construction of the modern shopping precinct of Cabot Circus in Bristol’s city centre played a prominent part in your City Magic Day and Night exhibition. Do these images play the role of some kind of counterpoint to those of industrial ruin and urban decay?

LF: These scenes are just as alien and fascinating for me as the desolate buildings at the other end of their lifespan. They are places out of context, not yet one thing or another: as yet possessing no function, and only skeletal in form. They are buildings laid bare, making a whole area of the city feel unfamiliar and pregnant with possibilities. In the photographs they are permanently suspended in this in-between state, open to aesthetic exploration and ready to be built into anything we can imagine.

Photography by Lisa Furness

SDk: Returning to your time at university now, do you think your studies in film, television and English literature have helped you with your later creative endeavours in your chosen medium?

LF: I think my time at university had a huge impact on the person I am and how I understand the world. This in itself defines the nature of my photographs. All creative and communicative mediums are valuable because they convey ideas. It is the message in them that is important, the medium used to convey that message is much less relevant.

As well as the books and films I studied, the people I met at university – the friends I made and the conversations we had – broadened my understanding of the world immensely. For me, the true value of university education is the way it takes people away from the surroundings in which they grew up and transplants them in a place with people from hugely varied backgrounds and ideas. It is the expansion of mental horizons, the awareness that there is more than one way of looking at things. The vast quantities of books and the efforts of the lecturers to impart some information to you is just an addition to that process.

Photography by Lisa Furness

SDk: In addition to commercial photography, you also do portraiture; what is the appeal of this genre?

LF: I’m a social creature and people are interesting but I don’t shoot portraits very often. Sometimes I’ll photograph my friends but most of my portraits are the results of commissions or part of specific projects. I know quite a lot of local actors, musicians, DJs, promoters, etc who need decent photography but who work on a really limited budget. I try to do my bit for the arts community by providing them with pictures.

SDk: One rather unconventional portrait stands out to us: the one of the man who apparently uses holes in his bedroom wall to store tools. This shot strikes us as somewhat in the Arbus tradition – is that the case?

LF: I suppose so. This picture was part of a series about single men that I did at college. I worked in a “locals” pub and got to know a lot of the regulars. They were overwhelmingly divorced men or long-term bachelors and I set out to photograph their home lives. Each portrait was both intimate and anonymous as the sitters’ faces were never revealed. Like with all of my work they are intended to be seen as part of the overall human experience and not confined to individual identities. SDk

Lisa Furness