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Sam Cornwell – Photographer

Sam lives in the Scottish borders with his wife and two young children,they moved from the South of England where he was raised, to enjoy the fresher air and quieter roads. He is happiest making, sharing & inspiring.

He has had the opportunities to be able to study different subjects at Wales, Portsmouth and Edinburgh universities. Before art & academia, he worked with computers, running a large company in Portsmouth.

What or who is inspiring you right now?

Trump & Brexit. We’re living in an age where every fucking idiot gets their say. For a more positive outlook, the new space race.

How did you come to work in your creative industry?

At the age of 29 I decided to go to university – arrogantly not to learn but to experience the life of a student. Within months my brain had been rewired and the artist’s light had been turned on.

How have you developed your career? What are you doing now?

Forever I have been afraid of pigeon holing myself to one idea. In the last year, through worry of being labelled an artist and not more, I returned to university and gained the qualification of Master of Science in Material Practice – An immensely enjoyable programme discovering different workshops, processes and tools.

Describe your creative process

I try not to rush thoughts. I let ideas ferment in my mind long enough to feel enough authority to answer challenges by colleagues. Although working on many things at once in my mind, in the physical realm I concentrate on one thing at a time. These may take weeks, months or years to realise. Importantly, I work hard to fund my own creations – that way I don’t have anyone else to answer to.

How would you define your style?

Sometimes frenetic, sometimes over-styled, always different and never obvious. Thought provoking. This isn’t for me to say.

Paint a picture of where you live/describe it

If I leave my house and walk to the end of the garden, climb over the stone wall and walk uphill to a natural spring I am blessed with an unbridled view of the Scottish Borders. The Eildons, Minto hill, the Trafalgar monument and Ruberslaw beckon from the North while the air over England can be seen in the South.

What is your favourite era of design?

Bauhaus, pure abstraction, post-postmodernism, whatever that is.

Who has been the most inspirational person for you?

Many inspirations over my life time.

  • Mondrian & Kandinsky
  • Duchamp & Piero Manzoni
  • Penelope Umbrico & Joachim Schmidt
  • Richard Billingham & Andreas Gursky

What’s the project you are working on right now that you feel most passionately about?

I’ve been at the helm of Solarcan, an astronomy camera capable of capturing the path of the sun for a couple of years. I love the community we’re building and the results everyone is producing.

Describe your “typical” daily routine?

At this point in my life, my day revolves around my children who are at the beginning of their school lives. I fit my creative and work time in between theirs, whilst the evening is devoted to my wife.

What project of yours has inspired you the most?

I promised not to turn my children into art projects, but I failed. A Second a Day from Birth has always meant a lot to me.

What are your beauty secrets?

Don’t have children.

How do look after yourself mentally and physically?

An egg a day and speak to friends often.

What’s your favourite film?

Drive (2011) – I vividly remember seeing it for the first time at the cinema expecting a bad action movie about cars, but instead found my generations Taxi-Driver, the strong but silent man’s love story, a timeless masterpiece.

Special runners up would be Harold & Maude and Nightcrawler.

Anything by Villeneuve or Nolan

Do you have a favourite quote that you try to live by?

I collect quotes. Here’s some of my favourite that resonate with me,

“It’s very, very clear that, With 1 billion cellphone cameras in the world, with 60 billion photos on Facebook, 750 million images uploaded New Year’s weekend alone, that it’s not just enough to add photographs to the world we have to somehow add the world to the photographs and connect in ways that are both useful and helpful.” – Fred Ritchin

“Anybody who will eat that kind of food, for that kind of money, will never look at a painting of mine” – Rothko

“If you don’t take their money, they can’t tell you what to do” – Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

“Nearly right is child’s play.” – Alfred Stieglitz

“Unprinted negatives have the attraction and drama of buried treasure” – Mel Brandt

“An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid.” – Carl Sagan

“Have you noticed Instagram is doing for photography what microwaves did for cuisine?” – Jim Carrey, 2012.

“One never sees things, one always sees them through a screen. The multitudes of photographers now intensely staring not at the surrounding world, nor their loved ones being wed or graduating, but at their camera backs or cell phones searching for an image on the small screens, or summoning the past as an archival image on these same screens, is symptomatic of the image’s primacy over the existence it is supposed to depict. It is as if we have banished the actual experience and instead flattened it into a small rectangle, preferring its commodification as a picture show.” – Fred Ritchin, 2009.

“When I was a little kid I was really scared of the dark, but then I came to understand that dark just means the absence of photons in the range of visible wavelength 400-700nm.” – Elon Musk

“Art contains everything that one has experienced since childhood. The artist creates from the unconscious, he makes it visible. The musician makes it audible, and the writer makes it readable.” – Otto Muehl

What makes you nervous?

I struggle with disappointing people.

Is there anything in your career that you regret not doing?/regret doing?

When I was a teenager I sent a mixtape to all my favourite DJs – I was heavily into happy hardcore at the time, a form of UK rave music. Darren Styles, one of the top DJs of the era phoned me and invited me to his studio – I never went. To this day I regret that decision and have consciously accepted all invitations since.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

That is terrifying and I choose not to answer. But pushed; with a healthy & happy family.

Do you dream?

When I’m anxious my dreams intensify. I shouldn’t be afraid of being anxious, but it scares me and slows me down.

If you were a perfume what would you smell like?

I’ve worked a lot with a synesthete who has lexical gustatory synaesthesia (he can taste sounds) and he once told me that my name tasted of salami. I’m happy with smelling like cured meats.

What’s on your playlist right now?

When I hear a song I like for the first time it goes on repeat for days on end, much to my wife’s dismay. Right now :

  • Jubel – Klingande
  • Sky and Sand – Fritz & Paul Kalkbrenner

Can you describe what you are doing now , with your life and work?

Teaching photography at university whilst simultaneously working on Solarcan. In the future I would like to spend more time thinking about art in space.

See more on Sam’s instagram



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