Amber Film and Photography collective

Amber Films, Side Gallery, Side Cinema Newcastle, England

Interview with collective member Graeme Rigby

The Amber film and photography collective’s work is rooted in social documentary, built around long term engagements with working class and marginalized communities in the North of England. Through the gallery, cinema, festivals and screenings, the group makes connections with inspirational productions. There is an integrated approach to production, publication and distribution.

Amber is making it’s collection of about 100 films, 20,000 photos and 10,000 slides and accessible onsite and online.

Another long interview-- this one was 90 minutes but I have cut it down to 11 minutes.

“The mainstream of Amber’s work has always been about celebrating the ambiguities but its never been, its always been of the left, but never been dogmatically so, its capitalism in the raw and the edges around those things are interesting.”

“The significance of it is that those stories tend to be erased, deliberately and accidentally, and that creates problems in terms of community sense of identity. Making those stories accessible to the communities and to the body politic so that in a sense those stories are not erased from a sense of where we have come, and where we are going.”

“Steward, I don’t know, I have not thought about the name particularly. I think it is that you recognize the importance of certain things. Amber is a collective, I don’t mean there is a collective line, but people start talking about ideas. It is one of those things that when somebody suggests, this would be interesting,  there is remarkable consensus, sometimes because you can see it. One of the difficulties within the community in that situations they don’t often see what you see as important, initially.”

“The arrogance… of that neoliberal political line is quite extraordinary, and the cumulative affect of that undermines people sense of, belief in their own lives, the importance of their own lives, importance of their own experience…  as well as that there is something that is familiar you don’t often think about, and those two things combined-- that is what feeds into this sort of participative development. You notice certain things but out of that contact an exchange happens as things begin to develop.”

Documentary film and photographers are attracted to subjects just like any other artist in apart to do with things that are going on inside them their experience things they are trying to deal with in their own lives.  Within the community there is a mixture of things. People are sometimes deeply frustrated in the way their lives have been marginalized, they find that troubling. You can see the affect of them looking at their lives through you.  We interviewed some fisherman who had been involved in the fishing film in 89 in about 2005. One of them was saying you got it right, we did not think about it at the time, it was about over fishing. He said “you were right, we could not see it really.” There is this thing about time, in this, as well. They bring stuff, they see themselves and that is something, because it is a document, that you can then revisit. You can revisit, 5 years later, 10 years later, 20 years later."

“The quality are at such that what is captured in terms of the kind of the conflicts and ambiguities the nuances of gesture at a very very high level. I think that matters a lot. Cuz then that informs people’s memory in a deeper way. The collection has become a unique thing. I am not aware of another multi-artist project that has been sustained this long, 45 years. Another unique aspect of the collection, is that there is kind of a network of connections  and relationships between these different bodies of work… so you are not just showing the work as well as you can, but you are providing a context so that its meaningful.”

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