INTERVIEW: Ian Robinson – Apocalypse When, Apocalypse How | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having studied filmmaking at uni in Hull in the 90s, Ian Robinson turned to photography when a friend lent him an early digital camera in 2003 and it clicked (his joke, not mine). Having worked as a self-employed photographer since 2015, Apocalypse When, Apocalypse How is Ian’s first creative project, and his photobook and exhibition launch as part of the Crossing The Tees Book Festival was developed through a connection with Lisa Lovebucket and The Post Apocalyptic School of Teesside.

Born in Thornaby, raised in Middlesbrough, Ian has lived on Teesside all his life. He didn’t have to go far to find the right locations with a post-apocalyptic, Blade Runner feel (he’s a huge fan of Blade Runner and of course, Ridley Scott was influenced by Teesside early in his life), explaining: “From where I lived, on my walk into town, there was a whole housing estate that had been demolished, at least emptied, so there were a lot of empty and deserted streets. I managed to creep into some of the houses before they were demolished and take photos, but then there’s also a lot of industry around Teesside, the derelict old Town Hall, the old blast furnace at South Gare…with a wide lens and orange filter, it all became different.”

Stanley Kubrick’s comment that real is good, interesting is better” is Ian’s favourite quote; he has always found a beauty in industry and wasteland, in destroyed/demolished things, where others can’t see it. He’s photographing with a sense of urgency, capturing images of industrial landmarks before they’re gone forever, saying: “I mourn the loss of things like the blast furnace. Maybe there should be a memorial or museum or something. There’s an irony about the time and money that’s put into demolishing things but not building things – and how they seem to demolish the wrong things.”

Art is the hope we will survive together when giant corporations and governments ignore us and leave us to our own devices. Art is the bonding of people together

For Ian, the apocalypse in terms of environmental collapse and virtually a Mad Max scenario is not far away. “Give it a generation and I think we’ll be looking at a vastly different landscape,” he comments, admitting, “I think I read too much science fiction.”

However, this photobook and exhibition is as much about the present as the future. He believes that any dystopian fiction is about the concerns of the present. This imagining of a post-apocalyptic world invites a tongue in cheek look at austerity. Growing up on Teesside in the 80s and 90s has shaped an idea in him that once you’re not useful, you’ll just be cut off and then Teesside will become the derelict place his fictional photography is warning of.

So will there be a space for artists in this post-apocalyptic world? For someone with such a bleak world-view, Ian’s response is inspiring: “Art is looking to a brighter future, when you get into a place of darkness. Art is the hope we will survive together when giant corporations and governments ignore us and leave us to our own devices. Art is the bonding of people together.”

And so Ian continues to make art. Look out for his next project, Tomorrow Maybe, a short film set in the near future. Until then, let Apocalypse When, Apocalypse How fire up your imagination and see where it leads you.

Ian Robinson’s Apocalypse When, Apocalypse How is launched at Base Camp, Middlesbrough on Saturday 11th June

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