Artist of the month - Paul McDonald
2 years ago
Portrait, Paul McDonald
- what was the first photography book you bought?
SEX - Steven Meisel, Fabien Baron and Madonna, in 1992. I was 17 years old, and my life was absorbed in music, fashion and film. Oh and boys and nightclubbing. Yes, I was dancing every weekend (and most weekdays) illegally in the underground gay and straight club scene in Liverpoool, Manchester and London. I was at fashion college, studying to be a designer. I lived in the fashion world of Gaultier, Westwood, Mugler et al and dreamt of living in a world created by Almodóvar. Living in this creative bubble, when Madonna announced she was releasing a book called SEX, of course I was keen to buy it at the first opportunity. I had to pre-order it from WHSmith and they called me when it arrived. No emails then! I skipped into Liverpool town centre and joined the queue to collect it. I had to take my friend Jason with me, as he was over 18, just in case they wouldn’t give it to me due to my age. But the sales assistant just looked at these two young queer boys handing over their cash and said ‘enjoy’ with a smile and wink.
- what is your favourite colour?
Red - But I don’t own too many red clothes, as it can look awful on me!
- who are your photographic influences?
Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin were both early influences on my thinking about photography. And in recent years Anthony Luvera. I have moved away from being influenced by photographers in how I shoot. Now it is more about why I shoot. So I am influenced by their perspectives on how photography can impact on social change in their communities. Anthony has greatly changed my approach to collaboration, process, consent and the creation of an image, and what this means by all involved.
- what is your favourite museum (or public gallery?
The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool had a formative influence on my practice. It was my haunt as a young adult. I would often go there to think and look at art, sculpture and how male and female roles have been created, portrayed and presented throughout history. I didn’t realise how much of an impact this space had until recently in my career.
- if you could buy any photograph, which would it be?
Without a doubt, ‘Nan one month after being battered’, 1984 - Nan Goldin. Yes, it is not easy to view and doesn’t sit well in most living spaces. But it is a photograph I keep coming back to year after year for the last 15 years when I was first introduced to it. It is powerful on so many levels. The power of the photograph and how it breaks through language and community barriers. The self portrait, and the importance of this process for both the artist and viewer throughout art history. It speaks to how you can use the medium for self process, communication and basically telling your ex …. Fuck you. You need to take time to understand the layers of this self portrait. For me, everything in the frame is considered, it creates a dialogue with the viewer and will challenge most. There is strength in Nan at this stage of her life, and she is not hiding or covering up the fact she has been battered. She is taking back control of her life. She has presented herself with pride, but not hiding the bruises and blood shot eye. Makeup, earrings, pearl necklace and, oh, the red lipstick...
- your favourite holiday destination?
Hmm a hard one, I have only been once but Lord Howe Island was amazing on so many levels. A small volcanic island, perfectly preserved, and it is like stepping back in time. The swimming and snorkeling is out of this world, coral, turtles, stingrays. The rainforest is stunning and the walks are breathtaking. They limit visitors on the island at any given time to 400, and all food fresh from the ocean. It is heaven, and a pure escape.
- if there is one living person you could photograph who would it be?
Ghislain Pascal ……. Do I really have to say why ;-)
- what is your guilty pleasure?
Check out page 31 of Madonna’s SEX book and work it out ;-)
- what is your favourite city?
To date it would have to be Barcelona. I loved the architecture, food, sun, and nightlife (what I can remember of it) A perfect combination of all the above.
- which charities do you support?
Over the last 15 years in Australia, I have developed and delivered a number of participatory programs. These programs are designed to provide an opportunity for youth (queer, indigenous and marginalised youth) to be heard through an exhibition or publication. I use the medium of photography and storytelling to teach them how to create a narrative and a dialogue which can then be viewed, by stakeholders and the local community. These skills often continue to develop after the program, providing them with an ongoing creative process to communicate how they feel, and an ongoing dialogue with the community and peers. This has been done in collaboration with a number of local charities and community groups based in Australia focused mainly on LGBTQI youth and asylum seekers.