UK based photographer Jeremy Gibbs is part of a special breed of people: The tireless. In our first interview in 2009 we’ve learned he has done all kinds of photography, movie editing and even custom qee making and seems to have the ability to be outstanding in all of it. His latest venture combines photographing obscure and abandoned (urbex) location combined with gorgeous models, and we’re not mad at that at all!
The progression to photographing models in these abandoned spaces was a natural progression, it just seemed the obvious way to go.
It’s been a while since we’ve last featured you on the site. How have you been doing in the meanwhile?
I think our last interview was September 2009 and I had been shooting urbex for a while. Well more recently, from around the end of 2011, I started to shoot models in these abandoned locations.
From our previous interview we know that you always move on to new things. Can you tell us a bit on the progression from shooting graffiti to urbex location to model shoots?
Shooting graffiti on the streets turned into shooting art in urbex locations. I was finding amazing art that the artists were painting in these far off the beaten track locations, and hardly anyone was finding them and documenting them except the artists themselves. So that took me away from the streets where everybody and their dog were shooting the same spots day in day out. Street Art had lost my interest, it had almost become advertising for the artists and these ‘artists’ would get in touch and tell me where and when they would be painting and could I photograph them. Wheres the fun in that? The excitement used to be in finding these pieces in unusual spots, rounding a corner and coming across a new piece, not being told where it was and I have no interest in watching them paint, its as boring as watching paint dry. Oh! That’s exactly what it is!
“I have no interest in watching them paint, its as boring as watching paint dry. Oh! That’s exactly what it is!”
The progression to photographing models in these abandoned spaces was a natural progression, it just seemed the obvious way to go. I had been photographing these spaces for a couple years and then decided to book a model and shoot some pictures in an abandoned army barracks, I had a few ideas I wanted to do. I was inspired by the work of the French illustrator Enki Bilal and found this amazing model Becky Burton who looked just like the girl in his book ‘The lady in Blue’. I had hoped to replicate some of his illustrations with Becky. Of course that didn’t happen though, but I still intend to do this with Becky one day in the future. Those first pictures I took in the barracks were some of my most popular and best nudes I have done to date. You have to be lucky with the light in these places and always search around for the best spots and then shoot as fast as possible before the light moves on. We were just in the right place at the right time I guess.
I’ve read that your son helps you in quite some of your shoots nowadays. That must make a father happy?
At first I was concerned that the models wouldn’t be too happy with a young man being on the shoot, but not one has ever had a problem with it and he has been a real help. As the shoots have become more elaborate recently, I have a lot of costumes and props to move into the location and need more than one pair of hands. Our recent 2 week trip to Italy we had a VW Transporter full of costumes and props and it was great to have the company. The year before I did the same trip by myself and staying in hotels and eating by yourself every night wasn’t much fun I can tell you, so yes, it is great to have my son Ellis join me. He also becomes a second camera, I shoot with the 50mm 1.4 on all the time and he shoots with a closer lens so the model has two sets of photographs to choose from. He was ‘feather boy’ on this recent trip, throwing feathers into the air and then clearing frame as quickly as possible.
Your models seem to have quite some character. What is it you look for in a model?
A: I usually have an idea of the locations that I want to photograph in first and then I look for the models that I think will work best in those locations. I’m talking about Italy here, I love Italy! The abandoned locations are amazing, the light is perfect and the women are beautiful! Then when I have found the location, I have to find a model that lives near the location, its not as easy as it sounds. So the locations were in Turin, Milan, Venice and Florence and so I had to find models that lived near or not so far from these cities. I needed a nude for Venice, Nicole Andrea as I wanted to photograph the curves against this very modernist but derelict abandoned Aluminium factory.
I needed a fashion model, Francesca Ruocco, to photograph in this amazing abandoned Palace in Florence.
Laura Gatti, from Milan, who I had worked with before. I wanted to photograph in this abandoned chapel as she is so expressive and emotive in her poses
and I needed a gothic look for an abandoned asylum in Turin, Elena Fortina
With all the shooting in abandoned locations you must have experienced some thrilling moments, anything you could share?
I wouldn’t call them exactly thrilling, but on this last trip there was a fair degree of disappointment. The first location, the palace:
where I was hoping to photograph Francesca Ruocco, who had come all the way from Rome to Florence for the day. Well there was no way in, the original entry points had all been bricked up! Months of planning all the shots had just been a waste of time, and because Francesca needed to be back in Rome for another shoot the next day we had no time to go to my ‘back up’ location as it was too far away,. So……. we ended up shooting some fashion shots in our hotel (not a great location for a shoot) and through the screen of my Transporter.
The second location where I was to shoot Nicole Andrea had been demolished! So I had to find another location in an area (North of Venice) where no one knew of any abandonment. Fortunately, after driving around all day and just about to give up, we found an abandoned Factory/farming complex of buildings which was perfect.
The two locations with Laura Gatti, an abandoned Summer Camp and an asylum, fortunately we didn’t have any problems at all apart from coming across a very long snake in the grass and the asylum near Turin with Elena Fortina was fine, apart from all the entrances being bricked up, we still managed to find a way in.
Do you think you will ever tire of shooting pretty ladies?
I don’t know to tell you the truth. I tend to love something for a couple of years and then move on to something else, something different. Ask me again in a couple of years, but no, right now I love photographing women.
What would be the next step for you?
Watch this space.