10 Questions · Si Moore, New Zealand Photographer
10 Questions is a LOOKSLIKEFILM series exploring the hows, whys, and wherefores of creativity.
Please note: The content of this page may contain nudity.
“I hope life never loses the wildness of the immediate, but that I’m always making sure I’m steering somewhere significant.” – Si Moore
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Okay, yeah. We’ve been fan-girling over Si’s gritty and soulful images for years now.
So, granted, we’re a bit tardy with getting this interview to you guys, but we can say unequivocally that, just like his images, Si’s answers do not disappoint.
Read on . . . and be edified.
So, Si, WHAT DOES MAKING IMAGES MEAN TO YOU?
A huge amount. Photography is what both my wife Sophia and I have chosen to do with our lives through our photo partnership, Bayly&Moore. As a discipline, it’s been very kind to us, and the community of people who’ve grown up around us from both sides of the camera are some of our dearest and most treasured friends. On days when you’ve travelled halfway across the world – you’re tired, shooting in a hurricane, and desperate for a coffee – maybe on those days you’re not getting a huge amount of joy out of pushing the shutter, but for both of us the act of image-making has brought us an incredibly rich experience and understanding of humans, their hearts, and the way they love that we couldn’t have found anywhere else.
WHAT IS LIFE TO YOU? WHAT SHOULD IT BE?
I’m about 10 years in on the journey of being a full-time photographer. It’s my second or third really strong run at a creative discipline, and I think that cumulative age and experience of making art from a few different angles gives you a freedom to be pragmatic about how you fit in and what you’re doing with your life that can maybe get lost when you’re a little younger. It’s like the trajectory’s so steep with the skill set, emotions, accolades and everything that you’re experiencing earlier in your career that you forget to take a deep breath and really steer yourself to where you want to go. I’m probably, finally, at a stage of wanting to steer myself towards making some work that can count – the mighty Oli Sansom and I always talk about the desire to want to make something out of nothing, really creating something considered and deliberate rather than just being an opportunist and responding to what’s in front of you (which is one of the curses of such an immediate discipline like photography – the very thing that makes it great can sometimes mean that it’s not well-considered).
So I guess the short answer is that I hope life never loses the wildness of the immediate, but that I’m always making sure I’m steering somewhere significant.
WHERE (OR HOW) DID YOU GROW UP AND HOW DID THAT INFORM YOUR APPROACH TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
I grew up on a farm in the South Island of New Zealand. A sheep farm, just for the record. And I went to a school where there was probably only one decent teacher, and he was a music teacher (who was happy to philosophize on anything at a moment’s notice), so I ended up chasing a music career for a lot of my life before I met Sophia backstage at a festival and we started chasing down the photography dream together.
Years of playing in bands and making records and working alongside some of the finest musicians around gave me a really strong appreciation for how art works for the person on the other side of it – the listener/watcher/experiencer. Like someone with a busted up heart listening to a broken-hearted love song – for them it’s all about the song, or the feeling, or the thing that shakes their heart awake, or makes them realise that it’s okay to feel what they feel. It kinda cured me of the classic artist need to be a virtuoso, or at least to have your virtuosity as the loudest thing in the room. It turns out that someone who’s really mastered their craft, whatever discipline they work in, can always make something accessible that goes straight to the heart.
Like the great Charlie Parker threw down, “Master your instrument, master the music, then forget all that shit and just play.”
THERE ARE A LOT OF PROFESSIONS OUT THERE – WHY BE A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I think I saw so many things in the feeling of making images, in the ‘decisive moment’ vibe that goes with photography that had a wonderful parallel with what I felt from music making as well that it all made sense. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about having a ‘profession’ so much as just doing what makes me feel fulfilled, and doing this has made me feel wonderfully fulfilled at so many levels – the people, the art, the travel and partnership with my wife, all of it. We’d still do this even if we had to get day jobs to pay for it.
Thankfully it’s been very kind to us as a career, but it’s also fuelled us as an obsession. We spend very little time thinking about the ‘business model’ of photography and a lot of time thinking about the ‘human-ness’ of it all, but to be honest that’s mostly driven by the fact that we pretty much solely shoot people in love (or what other photographers often call ‘weddings’). Basically the experience of shooting wonderful and wild people in love all over the world – however they’re celebrating their hearts – has really been formative in how we see this entire practice of shooting for a living. We adore genuine people, we absolutely love them. And when they’re in the midst of marking their love with everyone who got them this far… well. It’s hardly a profession, it’s more of a crazy addiction.
ARE YOU CREATIVELY FULFILLED AT THE MOMENT?
Such an interesting question. Years ago I would’ve answered that question based on my output, but these days it’d be based on what I’m putting into myself. We’re often at workshops banging on about how important your creative diet is (‘You Are What You Eat’ is the eternal catchphrase) and how you need to be throwing really potent stuff into your head and your heart constantly. My creative fulfillment is often linked to the last band I saw live (Fleet Foxes at the Arlington theatre), or the last record I bought (Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett) or the last exhibition (NZ modernist supremo Gordon Walters) or the last book that I ingested on a flight somewhere (‘Green Hills of Africa’) or the last film… so yeah, I’m currently feeling fulfilled. But what I find amazing about that diet thing – as someone who’s a ‘maker’ as a well as a consumer of inspiring stuff – is that I have the potential to make some stuff that becomes a part of someone’s diet and in turn gives them a sense of being creatively fulfilled. I find that to be pretty powerful motivation to get off my ass and get working.
To be honest, one of the things that years of making music taught me was that being uncomfortable and dissatisfied with your own output is a really healthy place to be. Art-making is quite a transitional experience – always exploring new territory or shifting from one idea into the next – and it should feel as unsettling as it does confidence-building. Weird but true.
David Bowie summed it up beautifully, “If it works, it’s out of date.”
Wildly fresh things that shake your heart awake are generally a little bit broken, or haven’t had all of the kinks worked out of them yet. They’re the opposite of safe, but they’re also the opposite of stale.
WHAT BOOKS ARE YOUR READING? OR WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
Fleet Foxes – Crack Up
Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
Feist – Pleasure
Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
Aldous Harding – Party
Will Hermes – Love Goes To Buildings on Fire
J.A. Baker – The Peregrine
James Baldwin – The Fire Next Time
Hemingway – Green Hills of Africa
Todd Hido – Intimate Distance
DO YOU HAVE A DREAM PROJECT OR ASSIGNMENT?
Next year a small gang of us (who roam together often) are heading to a few out-of-the-way outposts in Iran (Baluchistan, Lut Desert), as well as deep in the urban-ness of Tehran, to start a project of shooting some carefully constructed portraits and matching them with ambient audio. It’s been a dream for a while so it’s great to finally be on the timeline of making it happen.
One of the interesting things about shooting people in love all over the world every week is that we don’t necessarily have to get off our ass and make something happen out of nothing. It can be wonderful but it can also be a curse for developing a disciplined process of moving an idea for a body of work through to its natural result. Immersing yourself in a wonderful unfolding story of two people in love as they throw together all of their humans into a wild part is an absolutely incredible narrative to document, but sometimes it’s just too good and too easy to find gold everywhere you turn.
The longer we’re in this game the more I’m aware that my ability to understand and document love unfolding in front of me is really well developed, but that I need to flex a few other muscles and see if I can make that skill-set translate across the board. Hence the Iran idea. Who knows, stay tuned.
WHO OR WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
Our house is filled with loads of classic records and photo books of every influential photographer going so it’d be natural to name check all of that stuff – and it does play a massive influence on us, constantly reading and listening – but I’d have to say that our wonderful community of friends are the ones who influence and steer us more than anything. The work that they make, the conversations we have – either online or in our backyard, the crazy schemes we come up with, when they pull of something insanely great and we pick up the phone and call them at 3 in the morning when we forget about the timezone and shout Feist lyrics down the phone. That’s the stuff.
I mean, we have group text strings that’re 4 years long. And then we have friends that we only see once a year and we come home and they’re on our couch (because they know where the house key is) and it’s as if they never left.
Who are our biggest influences? Our friends.
DO YOU SHOOT WITH YOUR LEFT OR RIGHT EYE?
Right eye. But I often have both eyes open. Or I’m shooting on a Rollei and just looking down…
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
Living in a cabin by a river in the mountains of New Zealand with enough space for all of our friends to come and stay whenever they want for as long as they want and regale us with stories of their latest batshit crazy adventure.
All 6X6, shot on a Rolleicord IV on either Kodak Portra 400, Tri-X, or late 60’s Verichrome Pan. Developed and Scanned by Richard Photo lab.
Best viewed while listening to Feist’s ‘Lost Dreams’ . . .
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