Based between Bristol and his hometown of Shropshire, Joshua Sneade’s work depicts an adventure, and yet is strikingly nostalgic of a bygone day spent frolicking in the summer sun. The visual story of reconnecting with nature and friendships is a frequent theme present in his work, and in the endless days of the last lockdown he turned the camera on to his own life and his pastoral surroundings in a romanticised documentary photography style. This body of work is from Joshua’s new book, On The Idle Hill of Summer, available now.
Q: What are three things you need in your life?
Camera, Baggy Trousers, Oowee Burger
Q: What are two words that describe your philosophy?
Q: What is your idea of a perfect day?
Honesty, pretty much the type of day that this series is attempting to capture – sunny days spent outdoors in the company of good friends without a care in the world
Q: How did you come across the collection of poems by A. E. Houseman’s poem and what about the descriptions of the countryside in this poem motivated you to pick up your camera?
We were given a copy of this book in secondary school to read. I wasn’t much in to poetry at school and so I think I overlooked a lot of what he was trying to convey – but the book’s existence stayed in my memory. As I started to explore more of Shropshire during this period I started to read more about it’s history and eventually found my way back to the poems. This time around, they spoke to me a lot more, as the bucolic themes resonated with my change in mindset towards the benefits of the country side. I was already taking photos whilst out and about before reading the poems, but it was the way that I connected with the feelings evoked by the poetry that helped me to focus the type of photographs that I was taking to also capture a specific feeling.
Q: As you mention in your open letter water served as a source of inspiration and an important element, why is that? What else do you weave into your visual narrative?
Water really is the key element in this series. We initially started swimming simply because of how hot it was and because we live close to the river. However, we all soon found that the cold water had many positive properties – mostly in terms of mental health. I have since read a couple of books on the subject which seem to reinforce the idea that it is intensely good for you. Needless to say, we became addicted to the feeling and this gave focus to our exploration of the county, as we simply wanted to find new places to swim. This book documents that process, combining photographs of the places we found to swim, the landscape of Shropshire and pictures of the people who were there with me. These really are the key elements of that summer for me.
Q: Has this been a cathartic process for you? If so, explain why.
The summer itself was very cathartic. Swimming and exploring really gave us all a simple purpose to focus on which cut through the pretty anxiety laden times we’re all living in – and gave us a reason to actually leave the house! Putting the book together has obviously been hard work, but looking through these images whilst in the grips of the second lockdown as well as in winter did make me really glad we made the most of it. It hasn’t been much fun this time round I’ll say that much.
Q: Your earlier work, NOMADs and Tokyo, revolve around travel and culture. As the lockdown has allowed you to explore the beauty closer to home, do you think your outlook towards the subjects of your future work has shifted?
This is one of the main things I wanted to convey – a new found appreciation for the fact that you can have a great time close to home. I feel like a lot of people I know had similar epiphanies during lockdown as well. I will definitely consider doing project similar to this in the future as I liked that it is much more personal, but I would love to do more travel series as well.
Q: Could you talk a bit about your style and development as a self-taught photographer?
I came to photography through just taking photographs whilst just out and about, never with much intention (It is interesting that I’ve come full circle with this series which essentially started through just that). This eventually merged with my passion for clothing into me doing fashion shoots and the rest is history. I’ve always shot on film (not a lot I can say about this that isn’t a bit of a cliche nowadays) but I think that obviously affects your process as it is slower, more expensive and most importantly physical. All the colour images in this series were hand printed in the darkroom for example, which lends them a quality unique to this process. I did intend to do the black and white images in the darkroom as well but lockdown two made it impossible. Everything I’ve learnt has been on the job, but I’m now at a place where I’m moving towards having my commercial style for work and my own style that I will explore in my personal work. Nomads was the first test of what would happen if I dipped my toe into documentary photography and the overwhelmingly positive reaction led to me wanting to do more documentary photography which has led to this project.
Q: How do your life and creative process influence each other?
I’ve touched on this in the previous question, but my creative process has been sculpted by working on jobs for clients or by saying how do I get to a point where I could produce work for this brand etc. I’m really in to streetwear and skate culture and this translates into the type of brands that I try to work for as well as the general look I strive for in my work.