An interview with Ian Cox

Posted on March 01, 2017

On his own blog Wallkandy, photographer Ian Cox is documenting the world. With this blog, he is sharing some of the moments he has captured through the camera lens together with other things he finds of interest from the worlds of art, design and counter culture. While capturing artists and their works, Ian gets in touch a lot with creativity. During our interview, and also during the conversations before, Ian turned out to be an interesting, friendly and honest man.

“You have got your own blog, which is called Wallkandy. How did you get the idea of starting this?”

“It all started twelve years ago, by accident! I was on an art forum, because I was already interested in art, and there I did speak with the founder of Nuart festival. He invited me to visit the festival in Norway, and I did accept the invitation. For some reason, I did take a pocket camera with me: not that I ever photographed on events like this before, normally just birthdays and stuff like that. When I arrived, the artists were busy with painting the walls or preparing themselves. While I was there, I got to know the artists and started taking pictures, just to be sure the day was getting documented. At the start I had no idea what to do with the pictures, I just shot them. After this trip, someone in London has heard that I did take photo’s, so he did ask me for his own event. So, when I look back, Norway was the starting point of me documenting art. It was before there was any social media we know nowadays, and to get my own identity on the internet, I created Wallkandy.”

“When you are documenting the events and artists, you are able to get real close to them. Is it still easy for you to get that close?”

“I think that in a lot of cases it helps that I am already doing this for so long. The world of (street) artists is a very closed community, but it is also a community in which everyone knows eachother well. Whenever you have got the opportunity to work with an artist, it is all about trust and respect. For me, when I am documenting, I always ask before if it is oke if I am taking some pictures. This sometimes means that you as a photographer have to wait, watch the people work and hope that you’ll find a moment to shoot. Personally, I didn’t face any difficult moments, because I am not a distraction to the artist.”

“How do you manage to take all the photographs and meet during the holidays, knowing that you have a job and family?

“I spent all of my holiday and spare time with doing this. The nature of the job i had before, was about combining working and travelling. So whenever I was travelling and had some hours of free time, I started to look for the right places and persons. It has turned out to be a combination which perfectly works.”

“You already mention the element of travelling: you did a lot of street art projects worldwide. An interesting one is the Wide Open Walls Project in Gambia.”

“Wide Open Walls was founded by Lawrence Williams, one of the owners of Makasutu, a conservation project home to a set of magnificent river lodges at Mandina in Gambia. He wanted to get people into the local communities. For that reason, he did bring some artists out, to make a sympathic action for the community. He let them paint there, and from that point the project was born. When the people saw what was happening with the walls, It did bring them into the community. Over time we have come to realise that the artists are able to easily facilitate simple projects and achieve small goals that can make a huge difference to the lives of the people within the villages they are working with. Everyone came together, wanted their houses to be painted and started developing projects. For me it is the most amazing project I have participated, because I have had such great interaction with the locals. Together with Komafest (Norway) this is the best project I am involved with so far.”

“You just mentioned it: Komafest. What can you tell about that project?”

“The background about Komafest, is to highlight depopulation problems in the northern regions: the young people are leaving the island, while the older people stay and die. With this art project, they wanted to bring some life and some hope to the people. The most amazing thing is arriving there and seeing that the whole community comes together. Everyone is ready to help in each way they can and interested in what the artists are doing. The effect is enormous: with this project, a lot of people visit the island, it raises awareness and it inspires the younger people to create something for their community.

“A trend we see in the last years, is that museums are buying street art, but also that museums are created that are focussed on street art.”

“You are mentioning two things out here. In my opinion, musea that are buying street art is absolutely wrong. It places the work out of their context, and makes them disappear into archives. A museum that is focussed on street art on the other hand, is a good thing. It captures the history and context of street art, and shows the public that they should take street art serious. When I think of the form of a street art museum, I think it needs to have temporary and travelling elements. I also think that we should not call it a museum, which are mostly conserving antiquity, but an exhibition space.”

With this, and other interviews, I am trying to find a definition of creativity. Ian: what is your definition of creativity?

“Creativity for me is an action of someone that causes a reaction to me. It is someone’s vision of using tools and materials and turn it into something different. Creativity always comes back to the reaction it gives to me. So, for me, creativity is about emotions and actions that create a reaction to me.”

Text ©: Mike Warrink / Capturing Creativity