“If you’re going to make a creative space you have to think about it creatively.” ~ Jeff Moore
Britain’s creative industries are thriving and the arts are producing a wealth of cultural capital for the nation each year. And yet, we are facing an epidemic in terms of artist studios. Due to soaring rent prices many artists are relocating out of London, with some even relocating abroad. REMI.C.T Studio is asking, how can we combat this?
Jeff Moore has been a photographer for over twenty years, covering major events worldwide including news, royals, politics, fashion and sport. Having worked for every UK national newspaper, he now specialises in editorial PR and advertising photography. The former chairman of the British Press Photographers Association of over ten years is now an active board member on top of being a member of the Association of Photographers.
We speak to Jeff about the contemporary failings of British creative industries, what makes a studio space work and how we can bridge the gap between artists and developers.
So, what is your definition of a studio?
“A studio for me, well, is a huge workspace- but could also just be a window in a building because of the type of work that I do. It could be a bit of pavement even. But generally a studio would be a large space that allows freedom of movement, and has to be comfortable as well- you have to be able to relax in it. Most of the studios I would use would contain the photographic side of stuff but would also contain sofas, chairs a TV, normally a shower room wardrobe room, sometimes Playstations, so its a combination of stuff, because sometimes you might spend 9 hours in that room doing something or even longer so it has to be multi-purposed.”
Collaborative workspaces are on the rise within London, bringing a different energy into artist studios. Do you believe this formula could work?
“I think it can work. I think its quite good for creative people to be in the same space and bounce ideas of each other. For me personally, photography generally is quite a solitary thing. We’re all slightly egotistical and bossy and all the rest of it… I’m not saying its bad for photographers, but I think photographers generally are more insular in their work. But being in a creative environment is always a good thing, you might just walk past someone’s door and the signage gives you that bit of inspiration. I think creative collaboration in those spaces is always really good.”
Solitude is important to many artists as you say, but how important is this isolation in a working environment?
“I like to be alone. I don’t even really like having assistants around. It depends what you’re doing. Quite often if I’m photographing talent, a famous person, there’s just so many people involved. So literally you’ll have the talent, their make up artist, probably their manager, maybe an assistant, then you’ll have PRs from the brand you’re working with, PRs from the film company, a TV crew as well, so your alone time ends up being 25 people. But personally, for me, working alone is being alone. Quite often my photography is about me being out, walking around and taking pictures, so I am alone. And for me thats when I’m most happiest, when I don’t have to talk to anyone else.”
Artists are said to bring cultural capital, and subsequently gentrification, as a result of this we see many artists relocating not just out of London, but the UK. Over the next 5 years, there is a predicted loss of 3500 artist studios around London. What would be your concepts to ensure that artists are a part of the future of London?
“[Studio spaces] are crazy expensive. I lived in East London for like 25 years. I used to live in Hackney, and we had an office in Hoxton Square before it was trendy. Tracey Emin was our neighbour and it was all full of gangsters and prostitutes. It was a very different place to how it is now, but thats what gentrified it. In the last 10 years, the whole of the creative arts has become massively upper-middle-class to upper-class people. I’m not saying working class people aren’t creative because they quite clearly are, but their opportunities have been taken away from them. You might be going on for 10 years before you even make a penny, and how is that possible when you live in a one bedroom flat with your mum?”
So do you believe having affordable studios would address that issue?
“Well I think so, if there were like a group of kids who could get together and afford to have a studio. I mean there used to be community studios in Hackney where kids would go and create music. Its very much tilted against working class kids getting into the creative arts, and something needs to be done about that. I’m from that background and when a creative mind comes from a background thats struggled, the thought processes are completely different. They tend to challenge more, and be more sympathetic. If you look at some of the greatest artists, they’re all working class kids.”
What conversations do you believe could be opened up between developers and artists?
“I think they need to think more about the people that are going to be using the spaces rather than the profit. Quite often you go into these places and they have crammed a lot in. I know space is at a premium; space is money. Maybe just to let things breathe more. I think people being happy in their space helps creativity. But its difficult because you can’t say to a developer make your studio spaces bigger but sell them for the same money… They’re not going to do it, are they?
But I think they do need to think a bit more about what the end use of the space is. Maybe work with creative people when you’re at a planning stages. Speak to your users. If you’re going to make a creative space you have to think about it creatively.”
Gentrification is alive and kicking, on both a local and global level. Within our laboratory- the city of London- there is no doubt that the rising costs of studio spaces will have a detrimental effect on a new generation of working-class creatives.
This stab at our human resources and loss of studios could redefine our city’s creative landscape.
Is there a way of reshaping the fabric of the future?