Beachroad Magazine chats with Welsh photographer, musician, artist and writer Syd Howells.
Syd works at the Egypt Centre Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Swansea University and he shares with us some of his images captured on one of many trips to Egypt.
In recent years he has worked with the Swansea,UK based collective, Sentinel Photography and recent exhibitions with them include; "No Worms Head" and "People – Places – Peculiarities". He is currently working on an exhibition of his North African work.
NAME? // Syd Howells.
YOUR FIRST JOB? // Like many of my generation – stacking shelves in a supermarket I'd rather not advertise nor revisit.
YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION? // I work at the Egypt Centre Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Swansea University. Outside of that I'm rarely to be found without a camera.
YOUR GREATEST LOVE? // My wife (if she isn't reading this, my Leica also…).
YOUR GREATEST FEAR? // Running out of time.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY? // Dressing up as the Milky Bar Kid in 1977 at a Queen's Silver Jubilee street party. I'm not proud – my excuse is I was four years of age.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY? // Henri Cartier Bresson – when I first encountered his work while a photography student it spoke to me. I could spend the next several lifetimes attempting to create just one shot of his quality – luckily I'm only too aware of my shortcomings as a photographer. In recent years the work of Vivien Maier – I'm one of those fans who crave to see more of her work and wish the legal issues over her estate were solved. While I love their work, one of my favourite quotes by Raoul Castro is "those who imitate fail". Best I continue as I am.
WHAT WAS THE LAST GIFT YOU GAVE SOMEONE? // A modern canvas print of a Victorian Louis Wain painting. He was an artist who painted cats in human situations who ended his life in Bedlam.
IF YOU WERE 80 YEARS OLD, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR CHILDREN? // Don't indulge in cruelty – it's already one of the most abundant things on this planet.
YOUR WORST TRAIT? // A brain of spaghetti – disorganisation is my friend and frequently my inspiration. I'm informed that I'm also laid back to the point of virtually being asleep – this can cause extreme agitation in others.
THE WORST TRAIT IN OTHERS THAT GETS YOU MAD? // Sound – it aggravates an already confused brain. I tend to play a lot of music to block it out.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOUR ROLE IN A MOVIE? // Philip Seymour Hoffman.
FAVOURITE MUSIC? // There's a lot of it; Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band / Family Fodder / John Coltrane / the Beatles / CAN / Kraftwerk / The Slits / Master Musicians of Jajouka / Dexys Midnight Runners / Nurse With Wound / Crass…I'd better stop here – I could spend the next three weeks listing my favourite noise.
LAST RECORD YOU BOUGHT? // Vinyl reissue of 'Starsailor' by Tim Buckley.
FAVOURITE BOOK? // This is a difficult question as I read a lot and it changes daily. At this precise moment either Viv Albertine's biography or Hunter S Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas".
LAST BOOK YOU BOUGHT? // "Taking Shots: The Photography of William S Burroughs".
WHAT INSPIRES YOU? // Great photographers whose work tells stories. People who are not prepared to blindly follow others. Those moments when a potential photograph begins to come into view and you're blessed with the rare gift of seeing ten seconds into the future.
THE CLOSEST YOU HAVE COME TO DEATH? // I've experienced the 'joys' of being tear-gassed in the past – though this was unlikely to end in death (at least mine). Waiting in any airport departure lounge to go somewhere always feels like death.
FAVOURITE DESTINATION? // Egypt or Morocco.
LEAST FAVOURITE DESTINATION? // Anywhere that reminds me of home. Why bother travelling if you're not prepared to learn?
HOW DO YOU RELAX? // I'll let you know when I finally find out.
WHY EGYPT? // It's warm, dry and beautiful although the dust can cause mayhem with camera equipment. Any country full of the physical evidence of thousands of years of humankinds journey, where you can walk amongst the countryside and imagine how little has essentially changed in millennia is always going to be inspirational. It's a country where there is always a photograph.
ARE YOU SPORTY? // No chance – I'm built for lethargy.
BEACH OR DESERT? // Desert – always desert.
URBAN OR RURAL? // Urban. There are more people there and people are photographs. I don't really do landscape photography – I'd rather leave that to those who are interested in it.
CATS OR DOGS? // Cats.
COFFEE OR TEA? // I like to take a little water with my coffee.
WHAT YOU MAKES YOU LAUGH? // Life.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY? // The deaths of unicorns and the discovery of intelligent life on earth.
YOUR MESSAGE? // Leave idiocy to the politicians.