On graduation from BA Photography at Camberwell College of Arts last year, Felix Xifel won a month residency at the university. The residency gave him and two more students access to the new building site at Peckham road during its last phase of refurbishing. This unique experience inspired him to develop his most recent work that will be on exhibition across the college for the next two months. The exhibition is part of the events taking place this week during the launch of the new college building.

Tell us about your experience during your residency at Camberwell

The new building was closed during the whole of August because of the summer break and the construction team were working really hard to deliver the site on time for the new academic year, so basically we had the whole building for us and had access to all this big empty spaces. Through this residency I wanted to carry on with my previous project which was about camera obscure but I kept an open mind to develop new ideas, because working with camera obscure is a process that can be very tricky to achieve and quite time consuming. I had to consider that I had to book specific times to entry the building as we had to be accompany and supervised and this made the camera obscure idea more difficult to achieve.

However, I had a backup plan in case the camera obscure idea failed. My process of capturing images resides in my interest in the early processes of photography. I am interested in removing the camera as a conventional object as we know it, and think more on the deconstruction of the camera as it can be any object or material of any shape or form. With that in mind, I took that process and applied to the residency  at the new building site at  Camberwell.

I wanted to use the resources and materials native to the site, things that are not conventionally perceived as cameras that I could find lying around the construction site, such as tools or a pipe. I wanted to explore how these objects could be turned into cameras or adapted to function as a pinhole camera, I call them ‘made cameras’. I was trying to use objects that were going to be part of the building’s structure and create a result image that could express the relationship between the building, the objects and my practise.

I tried not to interfere with their original state of the objects because I wanted to preserve their identity as much as possible, some of them were made of copper, aluminium or thick plastic. Consequently when the pictures where taken the original shape and material of the object is reflected on the result image. The bounce of the light reflecting on the inside of some of the materials is evident on the final image.

Would you be showcasing the result of this experimentation during your exhibition at Camberwell?

Yes, I created a range of images that I took during the residency and they will be placed across the college as well as having the original ‘made cameras’ on display. I would like new students to see that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on an expensive camera to work with, you can create your own out of objects you find around. I would like them to think that anything can potentially be a camera, you don’t have to put boundaries to your creativity.

I have asked BA Photography course leader Duncan Wooldridge to help me curate the exhibition. The biggest image is about 3X1 meters, both landscape and portrait depending on the display space. They are digitally printed from the 35mm negatives I processed at home. I had to create a darkroom in my flat which was a learning experience in itself, especially trying to control the temperature of the water and the colour printing chemicals. This is when you really missed having the college facilities to work with!

What other projects have you work in after graduation?

I was part of group exhibition with other UAL graduates in Greendale Park. We were asked to portray the gentrification of London, as there are plans to construct new luxury flats in the park. The invited artists made pieces of work related to the park, I made some pictures and printed them myself. It was great to make pieces that were created and exhibited without the constrictions of walls.

Anything lined up for the near future?

At the moment I’m working on some pieces for a light/photography installation on a church which will be open to the public this April. It will be a site-specific work, so I’m still testing things to create work that relates to the space I’m exhibiting. I work producing experimental industrial music as well so I’m working doing some videos for my music.

If you would like to see Felix work at Camberwell College of Arts please email info@camberwell.arts.ac.uk

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BA Photography