MISFiT | Ganesha Lockhart. Perfection, tracking family down and our relationship with the built environment.
"There's no point trying to get things perfect as there's no such thing as perfection."
After a short hiatus, MISFiT is back! And who better to signal our return with than Ganesha Lockhart, a photographer, multi-disciplinary and the co-founder of EYESORE & Houseplants, who I had the pleasure of catching up with recently. This one was particularly enjoyable for me as I learnt so much from Ganesha who seems to be able to express himself in a way we rarely find these days.
Enjoy and see you next time,
Ganesha is a photographer who works with both analogue and digital photography while also assisting as a studio and lighting assistant. Raised in London, he’s fascinated by the ‘built environment’ and the way humans operate around the spaces they create for themselves. Because of this fascination, Ganesha also co-founded EYESORE magazine.
Ganesha’s photography is intimate, comforting and often grounded. He shares moments in time, small details which amount to deep emotions. I always feel in awe when looking at Ganesha’s photographs. He makes his subjects feel like friends of mine and his settings feel warm, known and homely.
EYESORE “started with friends talking about cities”; they share the philosophy that “the built environment should be understood not by what it looks like, but the experiences we have of it.” The work is submitted by creatives of all kinds and is pretty fascinating in its variation and breadth - you’'ll spend hours rifling through their online ‘Quarantine Space’. They focus on not using one medium to confine their work and let their creativity flow in an organic way, pulling them in various engaging directions.
“I had the realisation one day in the darkroom that I love this thing called photography and I want to follow it as a career path”
Images courtesy of Ganesha Lockhart
D: Let's start at the beginning; what got you into photography?
G: I fell into photography. My dad's best friend is a photographer and my dad gave the craft a go at some point. I ended up borrowing his camera and taking it wherever I went. This led me to study photography at A level and in turn studying it as a foundation degree at London College of Communication and then a Bachelors at LCC too. I can’t lie and say I was obsessed with it at the time...
My passion laid with music; attending and running music events. But I got halfway through my bachelors and had the realisation one day in the darkroom that I love this thing called photography and I want to follow it as a career path (cheesy, I know). At first, it was just to pass the time and do something fun at university but then as I delved deeper into the art of it, my passion got deeper which has led me to do what I do today.
“I want the person to feel comfortable and at ease as if they were invited into my own home and welcomed like an old friend”
You mentioned to me that you're half Mauritian, a quarter African-American and a quarter English. I know for me, my heritage plays a huge part in my creative process, but this isn't the same for everyone; some creatives don’t like to have their creative process entirely defined and constrained by notions of heritage.
Please correct me if I'm dreadfully wrong, but when I look at your work I feel like you're often celebrating people of colour. I can't help but wonder; are you inspired by parts of your heritage and background in your work? If so, tell me more about this.
You're right Dalia, my background influences my work. Many of my subjects are friends or family and as you can see they're a mixed bunch of individuals that I love, respect and is reflective of my heritage, something I try to encapsulate through my photography, even when I'm meeting someone for the first time. I'm quite a tactile person, and I feel this comes across in my photography through the feeling created by my use of lighting and composition. I want the person to feel comfortable and at ease as if they were invited into my own home and welcomed like an old friend, something my mum has instilled in me. On the other side, when it comes to how my personal heritage inspires my work it's a little trickier to answer...
I've never been to Mauritius and my mum hasn't been since she was 18. The only connection I have to the paradise island is through my nan and the family members that manage to make it over to the UK for holiday. I've heard stories and seen photographs but we never managed to make it as a family. My mum had to raise four kids from a young age and as far as I'm aware she was brought up British, so teaching Mauritian identity, heritage and culture weren't at the front of her mind and in turn mine. She does have a deep love for India, more so than Mauritius, due to getting into yoga and meditation alongside my Dad, hence my name.
This definitely had an effect on me until recently when I read The Good Immigrant (I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it already). It made something click in my mind and I realised I had no idea who I was and I knew nothing of my Mauritian heritage apart from the short stories told at the dinner table at my mum's grandparents. I came to the realisation that Mauritius meant more to me than India as it's where my grandparents are from and that's where many of my family members live. My parents had been to India many times but never Mauritius together. I was pretty confused by it all, to be honest with you, and I still am.
The Good Immigrant is an incredible book and I’m so glad you also love it - I think that book was an identity awakening for so many second-generation immigrants or families with an immigrant past like you and me.
And confusion is such a normal feeling when confronted with identity and heritage growing up - What do we associate ourselves with? What group do we belong to? How do we define ourselves? I don’t think it’s about answering these questions but learning to live with and embracing the contradictions; that’s been my coping mechanism so far anyway!
And what about your father’s side?
My dad's situation was even more of a mystery. I rarely see my grandma as she lives in Manchester and their relationship seems to be a bit ambiguous, so we haven't visited in a long time. She's a difficult northerner to deal with, as my dad likes to put it, weathered from living in a deprived area of Manchester for so many years. He got out when he was 18 and never went back. On the flip side, he never got to meet his African-American father. He was in the American airforce and had to fly back on duty before my dad was born, never to return.
Although, over the past few months I managed to locate my unknown grandfather's kids through a DNA test and have been in contact with them, sharing photos between us. Showing my dad a photo of his dad for the first in his life was a special moment, but sadly he passed away a little while ago. It still hasn't helped me make sense of my own heritage though so once we can start travelling properly again, I'd like to visit Manchester, Mauritius and America with my camera and see where it leads.
I don't expect to have a resolute ending but I hope to learn a little more about myself through family communication and image-making. Until then, I'll continue researching, planning and refining my craft as a photographer.
Thank you for sharing that story with me - I find it fascinating. Every diasporic person of colour goes through their own very unique journey of re-connecting with their past. But your story is somewhat rather special. And as you said, there is no resolute ending really!
I find that a photographer's work is very complex in that whoever looks at your work is looking at the subject through your eyes. Tell me, how do you want people to view your work?
When you've been looking at the same image for a while, along the whole process of shooting and editing images they start to become distorted and you start to see it in a way no one else will most likely ever see it. It's once I reach that point that I have to try and distance myself from that mentality to then be able to release the image into the public. To be conscious of the fact that each person will see it in their own way, based on their own lived experiences, is something I have to remind myself every time, which I've only truly come to terms with recently.
To be honest with you, a lot of the time I'm not happy with my work but when that mindset creeps in I try to remember a quote from Martin Luther King's book 'Strength to Love' when he talks about Jesus not getting caught up in the "paralysis of the analysis" when a lawyer questions his answers on "loving thy neighbour". There's no point trying to get things perfect as there's no such thing as perfection. One has to make mistakes to learn from them, move forward and continue to grow alongside their personal conviction.
With that being said, I would love it if viewers felt a sense of honesty from the personal subjects I shoot reflected by their expressions.
Image courtesy of EYESORE magazine
I'm loving your work on EYESORE magazine. Tell me about the motivations behind starting EYESORE and a bit about your role there.
EYESORE was started by myself and a few friends from various circles of my life whom coincidentally all seemed to be working on topics of space, place and the built environment while London was going through some dramatic changes during uni.
This was way back in 2015/16 and a lot has happened to the city since then and continues to do so. With this in mind, we've cultivated a community of multifaceted individuals who all share a passion for the city, the environment, community, politics, art and culture, to name a few. We wish to share the lived experiences of the communities and individuals who make up all the incredible cities we have on this planet and the places they all inhabit. I'm personally involved in the photographic side of things which includes documenting and archiving all of our events as well as helping with any image-based works we deal with.
“We'll have to evolve and adapt to if we wish to live sustainable lives”
EYESORE stresses the focus on the 'built environment'. What is so important about the built environment to you, and do you think that it's meaning is changing as we delve deeper into a climate crisis?
Considering the current predicaments in cities around the world such as the housing and climate crises, trying to encapsulate and share ground-level experiences of some of the amazing work people are getting up to is more important than ever.
At the same time, trying to highlight the dire situations we're in and advocating for further conversations between institutions, local governments and communities through photography, film, journalism and other methods is important. These mediums aren’t necessarily always deemed useful enough for such "serious" conversations but they can have a profoundly positive effect on mentalities towards these circumstances.
The built environment is something that we all hold dear as we all live, work and travel in it. It's becoming increasingly apparent that we need to deal with the climate crisis head-on without holding back and our relationships with our cities play a key part. We'll have to evolve and adapt to if we wish to live sustainable lives, something we'll be talking about extensively in the next issue.
What are your goals for the future, with both EYESORE and your personal photography?
I wish to continue learning about myself and the spaces I inhabit through conversation, people and photography. I hope expressing those experiences can help me to understand them and instigate some kind of critical reflection, and in turn change, in myself and those that view mine and EYESORE's work.
I always ask my interviewees to recommend some things they've been enjoying recently; what are some things you've been watching, reading, listening to, or doing that have inspired you lately?
I gotta shout out Arman's recent solo mix as well as the dutch part of the crew, Eden and Edgar's most recent show.
Finally, I've gotten back into Connan Mockasin's first album 'Forever Dolphin Love'. Absolute banger of an album to just weird out and vibe too. Highly recommended!
House Plants // listen here
Connan Mockasin, ‘Forever Dolphin Love’
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