In conversation with

In Conversation With: Victoria Louise Doyle

For our "In Conversation with" column, we are so happy to share with you our interview with emerging British photographer, Victoria Louise Doyle. Read below to discover Victoria’s fascinating world of photography and her exploration of social distancing as an artistic model for rethinking the relationship between viewer and photograph.
5th December 2020 | Image Curators Advisory
The Touch of Unfinished Light, 2019, Hand Printed C-Type, Konica Color PC Paper Type SR (Glossy), 10x12 inches. Unframed. Courtesy: The Artist.
Victoria, You Are An Emerging Photographer, Artist, And Writer. What Are You Currently Exploring With Your Work And Does Your Research Vary According To The Medium You Use?
To date, my practice has developed around a fascination with photography and advanced through an ongoing investigation into the ontology of the photograph. (Every single photograph is visually unique with regard to the content. Unique in the sense of time and light: as no two photographs can be said to have captured the same light from the same moment, they will forever contain something that is only specific to them. However, all photographs share a fundamental similarity: every photograph participates in a condition in which light is transformed into an object. The photograph is used as a term to express this.) The work that I produce dismantles, dissects, and reassembles the photograph to test and re-examine my working hypothesis. As such, through each piece of work I create, the photograph unfolds to reveal itself anew.

Over the last year, the photographic image has been the primary component of my inquiry. Having previously established the photograph as not just a slice of time but as a slice of space too (within my body of work The Photograph), I set about creating work that applied this knowledge whilst simultaneously reflecting on the effect it has upon reading the photograph. This resulted in The Fugitive (After Levi), a body of work that examined authorship, readership, and the creative process and culminated in the discovery that the photographic image is moving. Within my current work, I have been exploring this realisation and have produced a series of pieces, which function as experiments that chart the development in understanding this movement.
Light Will Tell, 2019, Hand Printed C-Type, Kodak Endura Premier Metallic Paper (Glossy), 5x7 inches. Courtesy: The Artist.
These pieces have manifested in a range of forms that span across mediums. The first piece in the series utilised a moving image and a chance encounter with an 8mm camera in Paris. I had intended on visiting Foucault’s pendulum (both in the Panthéon and at the Musee des Arts et Métiers) with the desire of studying movement and its intrinsic relationship with time and space, so when I fortuitously found that camera at my disposal I felt it was kismet! This instigated and encouraged research within a new area that fed into another piece generated during a residency in September 2019. I wrote a text in which I endeavoured to describe the movement contained within the photographic image. The text was inspired by A Sign in Space, a short story in The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. Within the story, [the narrator] Qfwfq uses mark-making as a means of time measurement. The aim was to observe how long it takes for the galaxy to revolve, or in other words, discover the length of movement from A to A. The sign both is and indicates place, much like the photograph. This was then developed into a performance piece that employed the use of chalk, graphite, pastel, charcoal, and voice. I had been reading a lot around that time and began to think about the act of reading itself. How as a reader you allow yourself to be taken by the words, grasped, following the flow as you progress through the text. This lead me to conceive the action of reading as an unfolding, an un-concealing of what is being read, in this way the written image develops, it moves. From this, I moved on to assessing the quality of light inherent to the photographic image. The piece is simultaneously the medium and the research.

So, yes, no, maybe? I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that it is an incredibly fluid process. Typically, the medium varies according to the research, but at times the research is led by the medium, and in some cases medium and research are indistinguishable.
Installation view of The Fugitive (After Levi), exhibited as a part of The Royal College of Art Degree Show 2019. Courtesy: The Artist.

The best advice I’ve received manifested itself through the process of actively pursuing an artistic career.”

As You Regularly Curate Conferences, Workshops, And Write Extensive Articles, Do You Feel That They Influence And Form Your Artistic Research? And What Are Your Other Influences?
Absolutely. They definitely influence and form a part of my research. Previously, I considered these strands (the teaching, workshops, and articles) to exist separately, in spite of my practice. On reflection, I used to have quite a reductive interpretation of what practice could be. However, over the last year or so my perception has shifted and I’ve come to understand that all of the aforementioned are indispensable facets of my practice.

The work I produce never settles for long. It tends to shift state from output to input, that is to say, it goes from being an outcome to becoming source material, relatively rapidly. In that way, I would submit that all of the work I produce returns to research and impacts my trajectory. As for other influences, aside from embracing chance, intuition, and the unknown, I am rather fond of painting. In particular, I adore the works of Francis Bacon (his conflation of photography and painting), and Vanessa Bell (her use of significant form). Sculpture too holds me rather tightly. The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (aka. The Large Glass) by Duchamp is a constant source of light in my life. Scientific methodologies and devices inform my research too. I am drawn to science both because of its use of the experiment to learn and its reliance upon the imagination. Which brings me to literature, my ultimate influence. Literature provides a space that enables me to extend my mind further than its limits. It permits a certain fluidity that I find conducive to revelation. My long-term loves are Clarice Lispector, Italo Calvino, Sarah Kane, Jorge Luis Borges, and Anne Michaels, to name a few.
A Body Flares With Light, and Still It Moves, 2019. Courtesy: The Artist.
Tell Us About One Of The Biggest Challenges You Faced During Your Career.
Not being able to create/make/produce work is the biggest challenge I’ve been confronted with. It is also the most frequently reoccurring one and arises for a variety of reasons: creative block, lack of disposable income, having no spare time, restricted access to facilities, the list goes on…

For a while, I truly thought I could only be an artist inside of an institution. That I required a predetermined structure, direction, those deadlines, in order to be creative. This was difficult to reconcile and actually, it took me going back to university to realise the irrelevance of those factors. I learnt a lot from this experience, for example, I struggle immensely starting a new body of work. I thrive in the middle but beginnings and ends are dreadful. Talking openly and honestly about having no ideas is incredibly liberating. Making first thinking later is an excellent way of powering through. I imagine that a distinct lack of confidence in myself hindered the situation, but now standing firmly on the other side of that period I recognise that it instilled a belief and trust deep within that will be there for the rest of my life.
"Time and money are interlinked, and when there is a lack of money I have no time to make, and when there is a lack of time, its because I have no money to make. The cycle is vicious but one that I’m coming to terms with and learning to manoeuvre."
Divorcing my artistic career from money (in the sense that I do not rely upon the work I do to generate income) helped alleviate the insane pressure I felt and subsequently assisted with my creative paralysis. This was a tough but necessary move. It means that I can progress at my own pace, focus on exploring my interests, and create what I want, rather than striving to produce work for others, sellable work, work I am not invested in. It has promoted a mindset that is conducive to creativity, one that fuels and satisfies, so much so that I don’t resent working other jobs to sustain myself and my practice. Of course, balancing my time between work-work and practice can prove a challenge to maintain. Time and money are interlinked, and when there is a lack of money I have no time to make, and when there is a lack of time, it's because I have no money to make. The cycle is vicious but one that I’m coming to terms with and learning to manoeuvre. I’ve been developing a series of exercises that seek to combat creative blocks. I hope that these can be delivered as a workshop in the near future so that I might help others facing similar struggles.
How Did The Current Pandemic Affect Your Photographic Work?
Unsurprisingly, it had little effect on the content of my photographic work, what I turn my camera towards (although it is possible this could be latent). However, it has invigorated my thinking about photography, specifically in relation to the theory I’ve been developing over the last 5 years. Part of which revolves around formulating an alternative approach to viewing photographs. I’ve started exploring social distancing as a model for rethinking the interaction between viewer and photograph. Focusing on the prescribed physical parameters of social distancing, I’ve been musing over how the body has been extended as a result of its boundaries being shifted and examining how this has impacted the way the body manoeuvres in relation to other bodies. This line of thought was instigated after an encounter with a sign of cosmic proportions on the day lockdown was announced. The sign stated: We’re Not Meant To Be Together and since entering my consciousness has led me to meditate upon the notion of togetherness and what constitutes being together.

I am also obsessed with the panels in Tesco that are located between the cashiers and are used to separate and guide customers throughout the store. They have been marked with the phrase: “Together we can do this” which could be interpreted in all manner of ways. Is it the panel and I who can do this together? What is “this” that we can do? It has thrown up a lot of questions, which are all rooted in coordination and cooperation. I need to carve out time to write through these ideas, I know that I would benefit greatly from this, but we are living in peculiar times, and as such my priorities are different. Next year maybe…
Still from In The Same Time. Courtesy: The Artist.
Do You Have Any New Projects You Are Working On At The Moment?
I tend to have a couple of projects on the go at any given moment. At the present, I am working towards producing a series of articles for Revolv Collective. I envisage each article to be conducted via email correspondence and to take the form of a dialogue between an invited artist and myself. There will be no set or reoccurring questions other than the opener, ‘so you want to be an artist?’ which shall provide the focus and concurrently be the title of the series. I am still working out a few of particulars but I hope to undertake and publish these over the course of the coming year.
Alongside this I have been hard at work with fellow Revolv members devising, trialling and perfecting a series of darkroom workshops, which we shall be running at SW Darkroom in London next year. I am ridiculously excited for these; they are going to be marvellous especially as they provide an opportunity to share the wonders of the darkroom with others! I thoroughly enjoy developing workshops and have begun to explore how to translate and transform the content of previous workshops (which I ran IRL) for delivery within the digital realm. Over the last three months or so I have been gathering feedback from students, tutors, and practitioners alike about their experience of digital learning, teaching and participation. I hope to synthesize this information with my research around learning to create bespoke exercises and activities.

I’ve started work on a new piece; provisionally titled I met her in a screen, which shall form part of my ongoing body of work, a body flares with light. I am rather slow when it comes to creating work and this piece has been no exception. The idea was in incubation for quite some time before evolving dramatically. It feels right now and ready to realise. I’ve had much still to do but the design has been finalised and so I can indulge in making from this point out!
What Is The Best Advice That You’ve Received About Your Artistic Career?

My father consistently proffers that there is a place for me within Photography if that’s what I want. I find this to be incredibly reassuring, especially given the uncertainty that I dwell with most of the time when considering my career in a wider context. And by that, I suppose I mean within the contemporary. I imagine this stems from being constantly posed the question: how is your work relevant? To which I responded appropriately, in different ways at different times. As for if you asked me this now, today, at this very moment, I would offer this: the relevance of my work is multiplicitous. The Artist (myself) derives relevance through its capacity, its ability to help me understand. The Artwork (itself), which on this occasion I will speak on behalf of, finds relevance in its own potential. As for the Viewer (yourself), I defer to you to determine its relevance.

The Screen. The Window. The Chair. (In That Order), 2017. Courtesy: The Artist.
I suppose ultimately the best advice I’ve received manifested itself through the process of actively pursuing an artistic career. It’s not the kind of advice that anyone else would find particularly helpful. It’s born from my individual desires, it is a unique mix tailored towards me and as such only I can impart it to myself (which is ironic as taking my own advice feels like a serious feat and one that I have yet to master).

I would put forwards that it is not always logical, or necessary to vocalise but when I need guidance it appears as though by magic. Maybe it is something like stumbling through a room with the lights off, I know the room well now, we are old friends, I can find my way through.

Victoria Louise Doyle

Victoria Louise Doyle is an artist based between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and London. She obtained a MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art and was the recipient of the 2019 RCA X Metro Mentorship Award. She also holds a First Class BA (Hons) in Photography from the London College of Communication. Victoria recently became a member of Revolv Collective, an organisation that seeks to champion emerging artists through alternative teaching, collective working and collaboration in photography.

She was a member of The Collective Studio 2019-20 run by The NewBridge Project in partnership with Newcastle University & Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice, and currently holds a studio at the NBP. Victoria is a member of ‘Planetary Processing’, an artist-led Peer Forum previously funded by Artquest and hosted by The Photographers' Gallery, and Writing Photographs’ a strand of The Photography and the Contemporary Imaginary Research Hub at London College of Communication.

Portrait V, 2020. Courtesy: The Artist. Photo credit: Sophie Jade Willison
Recent exhibitions include: 3rdWave (Online 2020); SCRAMBLE Pineapple Black (Middlesbrough, 2020); Have A Word With Yourself Mate, ArtLacuna (London, 2020); Writing Photographs III, The Art Academy (London 2019); Quivering Horizons, 10a Bridge Street Carpark (Berwick 2019); Statement of Being, Deptford Does Art (London 2019); Royal College of Art Graduate Show, RCA (London 2019); Keep Your Eyes Peeled V, aff Galerie (Berlin 2019); Intro:spective, Seen Fifteen (London 2019).

Instagram: @victoriadoyle