"It was a world where you could get lost." | Photographer Stephen Gill | Louisiana Channel



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“I started to wonder if a single fish would contain the whole world, the entire universe in an infinite proportion”. In this video, the acclaimed British photographer Stephen Gill takes us on an extraordinary journey into a fish through stormy open seas, mountains, and valleys.

The idea of going into a fish with his camera had been in Stephen Gill’s mind for a couple of years. By early January 2020, he had assembled a microscope, optics, Petri dishes and built a worktop. Still, it wasn’t until the world was in the grasp of the pandemic in February 2020 that he felt he had the courage to say, “now is the time to go on this other journey into this fish”. He started by catching the fish, a seatrout which took him like 30 hours and ten trips. “On the day of capturing the fish, I would have to work very fast because it was a race against time as the fish was decaying and for ten solid weeks I was travelling through this fish”.

The experience for Stephen Gill was extraordinary: “It was nothing I ever experienced and will probably ever experience again. It was literally encountering something you would not believe”. While the fish was decaying, Gill photographed the inside of the fish with his optics “literally shaking” while he saw incredible landscapes of “valleys, mountain areas, caves, labyrinths and stormy open seas, it was quite overwhelming” because “It was a world where you could get lost and spend years.” But Gill was also shaking for another reason because he became quite ill during the work and “till this day I don’t know if I had poisoned myself or it was corona because the symptoms were quite similar.”

He was never able to retrace his footsteps, “there were times where you would see like stalagmites or caves or kind of jewels or a volcano, and then I accidentally taped the slide a few millimetres, and I lost it and simply couldn’t find my way back.” “I don’t think there was any part of the fish that I didn’t explore. A violence of the stormy sea, and a cliff edge, all you want to see, you find out you are projecting onto the fish. You are finding things that are recognizable: That is the moon, you see a nightscape of a city. Even if I would put the fish in the fridge each night, it was a race against time.”

“The images themselves actually tell very little. We often think photography reveals, but perhaps this series is quite ambivalent: the information is dialled down, you are left with these incredible colours and shapes and lines, and sometimes we recognize things we know, or half know, but other times then you go into this other world. The feeling and what you are seeing and the experience and what you encounter is quite open for me, like a breath, something breathing. Often pictures are these one-liners, and you are steering the mind: I like this idea they are wide open for interpretation.“

Stephen Gill’s (b. 1971, Bristol, UK) photographs are held in various private and public collections. They have also been exhibited at many international galleries and museums, including London’s National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Museum of London, Agnes B, Victoria Miro Gallery, Christophe Guye Gallery, Sprengel Museum, Tate. In 2021 Arnolfini – Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary Arts – features a large retrospective of Stephen Gill’s work celebrating more than thirty years of work.

Learn more about Stephen Gill: http://www.stephengill.co.uk/portfoli…

Stephen Gill was interviewed by Christian Lund at his studio in Glemmingebro, Sweden, in October 2020.

Camera by Rasmus Quistgaard
Edit by Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling

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