Paul Hutchinson
Pictures and Words

Copyright the artist; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf; Photo Paul Hutchinson

"When looking at my work, it’s useful to bear in mind that I am purposefully creating my own system of references to reflect my inner emotions and my perception of our reality. Within this system metro stations can exist next to butterflies and next to trainers because they all have a similar air to them and they reflect the mindset with which I approach the world: naivety. Revealing this and to be open about it, as well as the experiences that come with it – on the one hand a profound belief in all that’s good and positive in life, on the other failure and the aggression and despair that come with it –, is what defines my voice."

Paul Hutchinson

In his work, Paul Hutchinson deals with phenomena that permeate the immediate environment of his own living environment. His works are silent observations of a world pervaded by moments of intimacy, a delicate imperfection of reality and an urban attitude to life. Hutchinson's paintings are imbued with an urge for reality that recognises the ambiguity of this reality and does not level it. Between this poetic fragility and a certain rawness of existence, his pictures precisely examine the meanings we give to socio-cultural phenomena on a daily basis, some of which are outside the sphere of the individual. At the same time, the individual, with all his vulnerability, fallibility and not least his beauty, is often the focus of interest.

In Hutchinson's work, whether in pictures or, as here, in texts, a realism is at work that draws out the potential for a larger narrative from seemingly fleeting moments.

For the last three or four years I’ve kept what I have written. I’ve been writing for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve afforded it space and allowed myself to take my efforts seriously; it was a similar process with my photography. I had never really felt represented in contemporary German literature, neither as the person that I am nor in the culture that I come from. With all these books and texts, I was unable to see myself in them, hear my language or the language of the people that surround me. So I felt an urge to address this and tried to find words of my own.

The more I produce the more I realise myself that almost anything I engage with is, if seen from a distance, politically motivated. Engaging with social inequality, the hierarchies of language, the motif of uprisings against so-called authorities. That is the prevailing mood of my work, which carries everything and holds it together.

Today, as then, photography to me is always about a consciousness of “being in the world”. It is a possibility of reflection. I am here. I am doing and experiencing this. I experienced traveling through writing and through photography. At first it had nothing really to do with the pictures. As I said, I was guided by an inner curiosity about the world. And taking photographs was only a symptom of this attitude.

The artist’s awareness of street life and tenderness not being mutually exclusive is also found in his texts that have accompanied many of his photographs since 2016. Here, the artist writes in a language familiar to him from his youth and from the streets of his neighborhood, lending the texts lyrical form. He wants to proceed in a way similar to his photographs: creating stand-alone works of art filled with their own magic and without need of any genre ascriptions. Similar to the photos, with his poems Hutchinson intends to “push and exert physical pressure.”

For his poems, the artist favors a language evocative of the slang of hip-hop and rap. There are parallels in terms of content as well, such as when topics like class differences and discrimination, but also the propensity of youth to hang out, mooch, roam about, and wait without a concrete goal, are described. The idea underlying the poems is to bring “non-academic language” into a literary form and to publish it in places where people are convinced that this cannot be called “German.”

Paul Hutchinson lets the linguistic and artistic exploration of his own origins flow into his work in many respects, which rein- forces the impression of a highly subjective artistic approach. 

[…] The establishment of such de-pictions of emotional worlds in their own semiotic system enables Hutchinson to create his own kind of matrix. Perhaps this is what gives rise to the impression that the artist is conveying his own inner freedom—or maybe state of liberation—through his work.

[…] Hutchinson thematically incorporates transitions within society and in photographic discourse by constellating, again and again, low- and high-resolution shots together. The images stand alone without hierarchy, together and above discourse on analogue and digital photography. Through grainy and noisy “poor images”6 taken by a smartphone camera, along with high-resolution photographs, Hutchinson purposefully allows visual dissonance to arise, resulting in multiplied materiality. The coexistence of moments, events, and feelings becomes formally visible and tangible.

How did you end up photographing butterflies? Is the butterfly series (2016) ironic or socially critical?

Ironic, yes but critical of society, no. The series was largely created in Asia. It is about the connection between nature and urban space, and about poetry. It's a side story that came into being precisely because I followed my feelings, quite intuitively. I wanted to allow myself to do something like that. It's a small nuance of what corresponds to my work in the larger context: to see a certain fragility and beauty in something rough.

Publication, Texte und Bilder / Pictures and Words, 2018

I find that small details can also be used to illustrate larger statements about our world. For example, the new motif I am currently thinking about: The shoe that almost steps on a flower. For me this is a political act. Or the picture of my old Reebok sneaker: it contains so many aspects of the culture I stem from. And every boy on the street could relate to that. The tough Berlin winters that have worn this shoe down twice, hip hop, street culture, aggression. However, this picture is titled “vorwärts” (transl.: onwards). So it’s also about social mobility, about a how do we get out of here, where do we go, motion, progress. A large part of my work and of my thinking is concerned with class differentiation, the questioning of alleged authorities, rebelling at feelings of exclusion. 

How have your childhood and youth influenced your photography?

 PH: I believe that everything I do, all my activities, are somehow linked to where I come from and the experiences, I have been able to make since.