George Byrne’s work resonates with a quiet, deductive intensity. Borrowing from the clean, vivid clarity of modernist painting, Byrne also references the New Topographics photography movement via a subject matter firmly entrenched in the urban everyday. Byrne’s oeuvre is to spin L.A.’s most disposable architecture and redundant landscapes into seismic moments. He seeks the subliminal and sublime in the everyday.
Born in Sydney in 1976, Byrne graduated from Sydney College Of The Arts in 2001, travelled extensively, and then settled in Los Angeles in 2010 where he has been focusing on his photographic practice.
Byrne started using Instagram as a visual scrapbook in 2013, his gallery – @george_byrne – has evolved to become an important and popular extension of his broader art practice.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I was 14
What role does the photographer have in society?
So many roles right? Photography is used for everything from recording crime scenes to making conceptual art. It’s all over the place, we are all photographers.
What themes do you pursue?
Beauty & mystery.
Tell us about your recent exhibition series New Order.
The New Order series was (for me), a more abstract / formalist approach to color landscape photography. I was looking to take this idea of reclassifying ordinary urban spaces and distil it further by focusing more on the colors and surfaces (of LA) themselves. When it comes to photography, if you choose to you stop utilizing depth, you are basically left with flat shapes, color, contour & texture – much like a Matisse cut-out – in employing this approach I found I had more freedom with composition. It allowed me to look at and combine elements in a more expressive way. While the images remain portraits of the city, they also become more abstract in their intention – based on a true story but open to interpretation.
What other photographers / filmmakers have been inspirational to your work?
What do you think makes a memorable photograph?
Well that’s very subjective but for me its one that stops me in my tracks, redirecting my thoughts. I think great photographs work in a similar way to great paintings. There is just a collection of choices made by the creator of the image that’s results in a particular alchemy.
What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
Bliss & a hopefully a new perspective. I also love the idea of people wanting to live with my work, to hang it on the walls of their home and have it as a part of their lives – that’s ultimate compliment.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
At the moment in my creative career I feel like I’m on a bit of a wave. I’ve found this vein of creative material that I’m just enjoying so much and its really driving me hard to not stop. But broadly speaking what makes me want to have this very odd job? I honestly have no idea, I just love doing it.
How has social media played a role in your photography?
It’s obviously played a huge role in my ability to promote myself but beyond all that I also found the practice of posting a photo every day over years helped me to refine my skills and my way of seeing. It’s been a really interesting and unexpected collaborative evolution.
What advice would you give yourself if you started in photography all over again?
I’m actually pretty happy with my choices looking back so I’d probably just whisper the names of a few horses to bet on and leave it at that.