Photographer Sam Irons is evidently a bit of a romantic, but then he pleads: “Don’t make me sound too teenaged.” The son of the actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack is trying to explain his eerie, faintly threatening photographs, now showing at Jacobson Space in London alongside works by other emerging artists as well as such heavyweights as Andreas Gursky and Gerhard Richter.
A deserted French art fair, unpainted wooden booths free of art or the blank-walled back of a flashy New Mexico casino — empty of people, action or life of any kind, Irons’s images are stripped of narrative in an attempt to capture what he says is his experience of being in the world: “knowing but not knowing, belonging but not belonging, understanding but not understanding”, without the benefit of hindsight to really comprehend the significance of any given experience. Bumbling through life, essentially, as we all do.
Irons, 30, describes his overarching theme as “fairly teenagey existentialist angst”, which he feeds, to an extent, by heading off on road trips on his own, armed with his beloved Hasselblad camera, a tripod and a tent, to see what he can find. He admits that there is a certain romance to it (enhanced by his refusal to shoot with a digital camera, citing the superior tonality of film: “I’ve never seen a decent digital picture of a grey sky”).
“I went to Japan on my own and I had a really lonely, terrible time staying in a capsule hotel for an entire month — there’s an element of self-flagellation. I went out every day and shot, shot, shot and then I got home and found that my Hasselblad had a light leak the whole time. I got about a film and a half, which was a stab to the heart. But I still shoot on the same camera.”
The pictures have something of the stage set about them; perhaps not surprising when you consider his day job — a film location scout — and of course, his parentage. Didn’t he ever feel tempted to take to the boards in their wake? “I did a film when I was 9, but I just never got the bug,” he says. “I love actors, I love being around them, they’re great fun, if occasionally … exasperating, but I find it much easier on the other side of the lens. Growing up with two quite well-known parents you feel you’re being looked at a lot and I wanted to turn the tables.”
Nowhere … do we go from here? is at Jacobson Space, 6 Cork Street, London W1, until Jan 30