by Garry Loughlin
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, Irish but Belgium-based photographer Garry Loughlin took to bicycle to travel on his very own version of the well-worn American road trip. Between Spaces is the series of work that resulted from his journey, focusing on Louglin’s interest in “documenting the beauty of banality”.
The images are quiet and subtle, but in them Loughlin has fantastically composed moments and scenes which reveal the American landscape. We particularly love the often strong graphical visuals, the straight lines, balanced compositions and low lighting that make the images seem almost too perfect, as if they were computer-generated.
First things first, please introduce yourself!
My name is Garry Loughlin and I’m from Ireland. I relocated to Belgium at the start of 2015 and I’m still living and working here.
Why did you move to Belgium? How are you finding it as a photographer and generally?
My girlfriend and I were looking for a change of scenery, and opportunities arose for us both in Belgium towards the end 0f 2014.
Moving country always requires a transitioning period, particularly when you don’t speak the language. I was lucky enough to pick up some retouching jobs and photography assignments within a couple of months of moving here, which has led to other work.
The first year was a bit rocky at times, but that was to be expected. Antwerp, where I’m based, isn’t short of photography-based galleries such as Tique, Stilll, Stieglitz 19 and Gallery FiftyOne – FOMU has had some good exhibitions in the past year.
What’s your story?
When I was young I used to play around with my parents old photos, rearranging them and categorising them. I didn’t actually get into making photographs until later in life. While studying engineering in college, I decided to take a year out and attended a portfolio course. After working with a tutor, (Mark Curran) I discovered how to use photography as a tool to get a better understanding of the world around me.
What is Between Spaces about?
I was inspired by Hemingway, who said “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
I wanted to see how traveling by bicycle would affect my way of seeing the landscape around me and how I interacted with the people I met along the way. I felt that traveling by my own power gave me a connection to the places I was passing through that I wouldn’t have gotten, if I had been driving. I also believe that it made interactions with people a lot easier; for some reason, the sight of the bike caused people to instantly let their guard down. I guess it might be because I seemed so exposed on the bike, that they found it easier to open up and allow me to photograph them.
How easy or difficult was it to organise and carry out the trip? Tell us about one challenge you experienced, and as well, one of your best experiences on the trip?
There was very little difficulty organising the trip; the hard part was convincing myself that I was going to do it. Once I got the visa and booked the flights, I knew there was no backing out of it. I did some training before I left, but I knew the first weeks of the trip would be training in itself. The majority of the time I camped out. Once you get away from the East Coast, a lot of small towns will allow camping in their parks, which made life easy in Kansas where it’s near impossible to hide a tent. Warmshowers.org was a great resource, as well as well-timed appearances from some good samaritans along the way.
In terms of deciding what I wanted to shoot, I shot whatever interested me or caught my eye. The fact that I was on a bike made it easier to stop when something grabbed my attention. As the weeks and months went on, I noticed that what I shot and how I shot it became more and more focused. Once I got into the rhythm of working day after day, my process became second nature.
Kentucky drivers and dogs were a challenge. Forming a gang with nine other cyclists in Lander, WY and the couple of months most of us spent together was a great experience. At first coming home felt good, but after a week I struggled with staying in one place. It took me a while to readjust to not being constantly on the move.
What inspires you?
William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Alec Soth are major inspirations. I’m a little late to the party, but I have just started using Instagram. It’s a great resource for discovering new photographers and following some old favourites. I’m also a big fan of podcasts and I’m happy to see that the photography community are starting to get in on the action, Bryan Formhals’ The LPV Show is great, and A Small Voice is a new one on the scene hosted by Ben Smith which I’m currently enjoying. Reading and hearing about local micro-histories inspire me to go to areas and shoot small personal projects.
What are you up to next?
I have been working on a project following the river Scheldt, reading up on its history shared between Belgium and The Netherlands. I’m also waiting to start working on a new project connected to an older piece of work based in Ireland. Earlier on in the year I started posting a project called Reciprocity to get photographers talking to each other about their work and process.
One last thing, what was an important lesson you learned from your trip, that might be good advice for others thinking about doing something similar?
Tell everyone what you plan to do. The more people you tell, the harder it is to back out of something.