An interview with Mads Madison is something that’s been on my to-do list for a while now. With it being the new year, it was time to sort this out so we got in touch and started discussing. Since Mads first language is not English it was much fairer to do this online.
The reason was discussing Mads was coming across his work in Analog Forever magazine (thanks guys). This project he was doing seemed so different I just needed to ask more and luckily for me, he was quite willing. It’s part of my character to be inquisitive (university taught me this) and as a sociable person, I like to interact with people.
So what follows is my attempt to get to know the inner Mads, about his exciting projects and persona.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what was life like, your day job etc (bear in mind viewers could be from a different country).
I was born in Germany and I currently live in a small city with a twisted history of the church and witch hunt. I’m like Bruce Wayne (except for the money and the good looks), working a 9-5 daytime job. At night I hide in my creative cave. My sidekicks tell me it looks like a serial killer hideout due to all the faceless photos. I’m OK with that. That’s all you need to know about me, I want everyone to focus on my art, not my person.
Tell us about the people who have influenced you in life and your career (professional and family/friends).
I’m inspired by kids and old people. It’s the never-ending curiosity and the wisdom. My grandpa was one of those amazing people. Another big thing is music, skateboarding and subculture ethics. Basically everything has the potential to inspire me.
If you want names, I really can’t give you a complete list.
There are way too many incredible artists out there. But here are some: Nils Karlson, his work is basically the exact opposite of mine. It’s quiet and dreamy, it’s slow and well planned. Plus I consider him a good friend. Same goes for Keith Mendenhall who became some sort of Mister Miyagi for me. I also love the work of Jonathon Humphreys (Godsteethillsustration), Jesse Draxler and the team of Casper Herselman (ATTAK). Just look at them and you’ll know why.
I, meanwhile managed to start working on a charity project with Godsteeth, ATTAK and 4 other amazing artists. It will drop soon and the profit will go to the Fire Relief Fund for First Nations Communities. (you can decide whether you want to add that, feel free!)
What is your earliest memory of photography and when did you start shooting regularly?
My earliest memory is b playing with Agfa Agfamatic pocket camera as a kid. I loved that sliding mechanism, but I guess none of those films ever made it to a lab. I started shooting regularly when I was about 13, by the time I got an old Canon AE1 with a really really bad cough. I baked it in the oven and nearly destroyed the camera and the oven
As far as improving as a photographer or artist, what route would you take – art books, fashion mags or photography courses or something different?
Improving. That’s an interesting word. You improve by starting to love your own work. You improve by stop giving a shit about the reviews, comments and standards of other people (especially those considering themselves to be experts). Find your own style, do what makes you happy. Get inspired as much as possible. TALK to other artists. And I mean talking. Try to learn how they do it, then adapt it.
How long before you start loving your own work? This might seem strange, but we are our own worst critics. How did you get past this and start enjoying your work?
Who said I did…. I’m OK with my work, but even though I create it, I need time to get used to each piece. I guess I love working on pieces more than my final work. And that makes them OK.
When did you realise you became an artist? What is the difference between a photographer and an artist?
I don’t really consider myself to be an artist nor a photographer. But the world seems to need labels so everyone started calling me an artist. That was about 3 years ago when I started the wasted films project with a friend.
Every photographer is an artist but not every artist is a photographer. Photography is a subtopic of art.
I think labels are part of normal life and putting is in systems and boxes. I have had people say I‘m a street photographer, but I‘m not, as I‘m not persistent or good enough. Other people just see me shooting with film and accept it, some question this. How do we get past the institution of an order, since like you said you love any process that works for you.
Of course, we would all go crazy in seconds if our brain wouldn’t use shortcuts, stereotypes and labels. My advice is basically the same for many things. Start making shit happen because it makes you happy. I don’t care what others call me, I mean I don’t know what to call myself. Maybe we all should stop being so grim about those titles.
You’ve used simple different processes including instant film? Does the idea come first, then choosing what camera/process?
I don’t use a lot of cameras anymore, I work with found/old /flawed photos I get on yard sales, eBay or from fellow creatives. Those photos talk to me. I got a room full of tools and junk that I use on my photos. I suck at big projects and ideas never really turned out the way I imagined them.
Where does your creativity come from?
Creativity is my coping strategy. It’s a thing that helps me survive. It gives my mind some time to rest. It’s some sort of therapy. It takes me to my inner quiet safe place. Plus there is a creative drive that pushes me to create. For me, it’s more about the process than the result.
It‘s funny you say creativity is therapy, I think this is the same for many artists. I wonder if its a trait /part of a persona? Though I know some street photographers who say it‘s like breathing or a drug, they have to do, is part of their survival. Do you think these are all linked?
I think it’s the element of ‘flow’ that links those. A lot of things can create that altered state of mind. Others need running or whatever to get their mind wandering. But I would not compare it to a (recreational) drug or breathing. I know I can cope without it.
You have some lovely comments from people and had exhibitions in galleries too? Talk about how this happened? Can you offer any tips to people?
And I’m very grateful for every single comment and event. But there were really mean ones to, today I would publish them too. I didn’t have the guts back then and now I can’t find them anymore. My advice would be to stay humble, friendly and interested (that’s not art exclusive by the way). A lot of opportunities emerged from friendly conversations and chats. Offer help, don’t expect something in return. It all comes back to you in the end. I used to write a lot of articles and did a lot of submitting too. Besides that, it’s all about a way of presenting your pieces on social media or on your website.
Do you have a favourite process/camera or piece of equipment you like?
I’m a big TLR fan and I managed to get my hands on a couple of SX70s too. I also use a Mamiya RZ67 too. I usually carry around way too much because I can’t decide…. When it comes to processes, I love everything that can be manipulated, I love to get dirty too. I enjoyed creating the covers for the special edition of my new book ANTITHESIS for example. They are a mixture of lumen prints and chemigrams.
Ooh, lumen and chemigrams, that‘s sound interesting! Can you tell us about these processes and what it involves?
It basically only involves (very old) rc and baryta paper that I bought on a yard sale too. A tray, developer, fix, a door and whatever I can get my hands on to apply the chemicals. I often start in my dark’room’ applying the fix for white spaces. Then I exit said door and start working on the paper in bright daylight. It’s not as complicated as one might think.
I love the “revolt,revolt,reclaim,recycle” but where did this come from and whats your objective here? Where do you see this going?
It’s actually REUSE Revolt Reclaim Recycle. But you actually can’t revolt enough. It’s inspired by the fucked up world we live in and isn’t limited to my book or a piece of art. It’s about challenging rules that actually do no good.
It’s about including, not excluding. It’s about not destroying this beautiful planet. And it all starts small, in daily routines, the way we treat each other. And that’s applicable to art too. Do we need to follow ‘artistic rules’? Does art need to be pleasing? How much waste is necessary and should art be a privilege to the upper class?
The objective is to draw attention, to create a dialogue. And I want it to go big. Not as advertising for me, but for the cause. Maybe I’ll do a collaborative publication using this theme this year as well. We’ll see.
Is there anything missing in your work? Maybe something you want to shoot or improve upon?
Collaborations. I’d love to do more and there is a lot planned for 2020. But to be honest, I had most of it planned last year too…
I’d like to learn how to do mordancage and wet plates and I want to improve my bookmaking skills. Maybe some skills like rizography or screen printing too. It would be interesting to mix that with my current work.
I think I feel your pain and can see you have that thirst for learning. I‘m the same and often wonder, will this ever stop? There are so many skills and techniques out there we‘ve never heard of. What do you think?
I don’t want it to stop. It’s on if my favourite drives. It might lead to me being mediocre at a lot of things instead of mastering just one. But as my work is about mixing, I’d rather mix a lot of mediocre skills than burning out by getting stuck with only one.
Where do you see your photography going in the future (in general)?
I’d love to do more shows and collaborations, plus I really found joy in bookbinding. Somewhere in the back of my head, there’s already another project forming. EXPECT NOTHING.
What is the best thing in a children’s playground?
Tough one. I always liked those zip line slides. But the best thing is being outside, to get in touch with nature. Sticks, stones and dirt.
Godzilla – hero or villain?
What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
Instead of national service, you have to take part in the Olympics. What event would you choose and why?
I’m super happy that we dumped national service in Germany, this saves me from getting destroyed in every single discipline. But if I had to choose, I’d go for ice hockey. Will someone show me how to do that?
Is Elvis still alive?
If he’s still alive, I’d totally understand why he keeps it low. Those horrible fake wigs probably would have killed him by now though.
Links + More information
Sometimes Mads prints work and offer them on his website. You can find Mads here:
Website – https://wastedfilms.de/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/wasted_films/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mads.madison.666
Thanks so much for reading that one, it was a pleasure to bring you information on such a creative person. Interacting with artists like this may help you concentrate on what’s important – not the person, not their gear but their work! Well, that’s what I’ve taken from this.
Hopefully, Mads can influence us all and we think about his reuse project.
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