John Duncan is a co-editor of Source and one of the co-organisers and judges for the Solas Prize. To help anyone submitting work for the prize get an idea how it works he has conducted short interviews with fellow judge Natasha Egan and runner up in last year's award Andrea Gruetzner. But it's only fair that he answer the questions as well so here, in a sort of auto-interview, he has answered some of the questions he has put to the other judges.
What got you interested in photography?
I studied photography at college and university, I thought I wanted to be a photojournalist so I went to Newport to study with David Hurn from Magnum who was course leader. Once there I was introduced to a whole range of other work by other tutors like Paul Reas, Peter Fraser, Ian Walker, Ron McCormick and Keith Arnatt. Peter Fraser had just come back from assisting William Eggleston and switched me on to that work. American Images was remaindered at the local Bargin Books and it was a focal point for late night discussions in my student flat. After that I went to Glasgow School of Art to study with Thomas Cooper and again got exposed to other work through tutors like Roger Palmer.
And what kind of photography interests you now?
We get a lot of books sent to the Source office for review. I guess I tend to take home the more critical theory or histories of photography publications I enjoy the overview and the broader trends they examine. Outside of that and in my role as co-editor of Source I am always on the look out for new work. It's the bread and butter of my job. Although it often feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. When I look at new work I am subconsciously cross-referencing it against all the other work I have seen. If it’s too close to something I have seen before it’s of less interest. I am drawn in by work that is visually interesting. Although there has to be something to engage me critically as well. I do still take my own pictures so I bring that experience with me.
Are there particular themes that have consistently been of interest to you?
At Source we always say we are a ‘broad church’ meaning that we try to remain open to as wide a range of photography as possible.
What advice would you give artists on accompanying text?
Keep it straightforward and to the point. Don’t be afraid to include some basic information about the subject you are addressing, including who and where and why?
What is your view of the general standard of contemporary photography?
If I look hard enough I can still find work that's fresh.