Explore stories and ideas – from Q&As with exhibiting Artists to our ‘Art Matters’ article series.

Q&A with the Winner of the 2021 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize, Ian Skinner

What led you to be an artist?

Art was always around the family home. Dad was a keen photographer and occasionally dabbled in drawing and paint. I think a large impetus resulted from my having a childhood illness that ruled out a lot of typical boyhood activities; so mum and dad encouraged more indoor and gentler interests – including giving me my first camera on my tenth birthday.

How do you approach your work?

I’ve been described as an observational photographer, which is a descriptor I’m happy to carry. It’s quite unusual for me to create arrangements, even in event photography where I usually feel more comfortable responding to the moment rather than managing situations.

And so I move through the landscape constantly looking and composing. Even if I’m not carrying a camera. That said, if time permits, I will return to a favoured location during more optimal conditions.

My working life in building and graphic design also inclines me to apply compositional geometry quite often.

How has your practice changed over time?

I’ve recently felt more comfortable technically and so have more confidence in the likely outcome from the photons I’ve captured – both in terms of capture and likely post-processing. Having this confidence allows more time for creative consideration.

A big help has been using a phone camera because of a combination of its ubiquitousness, its simplified process and the reduced preciousness I have in using it, I’ve become more adventurous.

Also, I’m probably tending to make fewer exposures – possibly as a result of knowing more about what I want to achieve, but also trying to be pragmatic about how much post-processing time I can find in my life.

What is your most important tool as an artist?

My eyes, everything I’ve been told or learnt, and knowing my kit so that thinking about operation doesn’t intrude in the creative process. I also tend to avoid superlatives.

What art do you most identify with?

In photography: Peter Dombrovskis, Chris Bell, David Neilson, Richard Woldendorp, Eliot Porter, Judy Parker.

In painting: Brett Whiteley, Fred Williams, Lloyd Rees, William Charles Piguenit.

Ian Skinner, Ashscapes 04 detail