Otis Burian Hodge, The Cornershop Gallery
Hi, I’m Otis (Burian Hodge). My practice is mainly based around photography, with a strong interest in photo books and the design aspect. Searching for books takes up a fair chunk of my time, I think there’s something really special about the book format for photography.
I make images both with a project in mind and other times not, focusing on my surroundings and topics I’m interested in, which revolve around; memory, time, the mind, family / relationships and their ripple effects of them. I enjoy experimenting in the dark room with the intention to push the medium in different areas. I like the idea of adding layers to a photographic project, whether it is found objects, archival images / documents, video etc - I feel this adds depth and can make the work quite intriguing.
The CornerShop is a non for profit space with monthly exhibitions all year round. It is made up of 3 large windows viewable 24/7 and only from the street, so any / everyone can experience and interact with it. As it is not your typical walk-in space, I encourage artists to really think and experiment with ideas when exhibiting.
It’s been running since 2017; at the beginning we exhibited a wide variety of mediums: ceramics, paintings, video work and more. Then at the start of 2019 I made the switch to focusing on photography based work, as that’s where my interest lies.
We have an opening at the beginning of each month for the new show, super low key, stoop session on the corner on milk crates listening to a mix from talented local artists to accompany the works for the opening. I think music is an extremely - if not the most - powerful art form and I am fascinated by what it can add to the experience of taking in the works. I also feel it's a nice way to clear our headspace from all the noise happening around us and in our minds, shifting the focus to the work.
The saleability of the works is not a priority, I’m more interested in presenting a unique show with strong works.
How did The CornerShop Gallery come to be?
It came from taking advantage of what was around me. In this case, my home in which I have lived my whole life, and just running at the idea of putting work in the window. I'm fortunate enough that my parents allowed me to take over the windows (Big ups Mum and Dad). I started off in 2017 by hanging work in one window on Angel street, hoping to give my home environment a positive touch not really thinking about anything else. I was so keen to just do it, I grabbed what I could at the time to get the ball rolling: A large white bed sheet, that just wasn’t white at all (ha) more of a grey tone, hung works from fishing wire and a small lamp for night time. From there it grew, installing a proper hanging system, getting a sign painted (Thank you Georgia Hill), lights and the drop sheets. I then opened up the window on Munni Street, and then at the beginning of this year I opened up the third window, which completes the space. It's been a really nice progression and a way for me to learn as I go. I wouldn’t change a thing about the process , it’s gotten me to where I am now- having a lot of fun with it.
How do you balance being a photographer and running this space? Do you get influenced by the work you are showing?
I’m still figuring that one out. It takes up a fair bit of my time and energy (the space that is) with monthly exhibitions from local and international artists, there's a lot of work going on behind the curtains to organise these shows. So juggling that and my own practice can be a challenge. At times I find myself more interested in working with artists and creating a show than my own work, so it takes a back seat a lot of the time. I wouldn’t change that though, I’m pretty grateful to have the windows as it takes a fair bit of pressure off my own work, as I feel like I'm still doing something. Im plagued with a mindset of always feeling like I need to be doing something ‘productive’ or I’m wasting my time, which can be annoying at times…
I definitely get influenced by the work I am showing, maybe even more so by the artist and the process of putting on a show. I find I am able to learn something new from everyone I work with.
For example, the effort levels alone put in by Jason Koxvold (who is based overseas and was extremely busy at the time) for his show has left a big mark on me and how I should approach all aspects for when putting on a show of my own work… (when that actually happens), Isabella Kerstens idea to frame her work, inspired by a map in her room - genius! (I could rant on about something that has influenced/ inspired me from every show but I won't)
The works I exhibit are from artists I respect and whose practice I admire. So already I'm inspired, to have the opportunity to work with them is super special for me - it's pretty awesome.
How important is it for photographers to show their work?
I think it's important, it allows the artists to look at their work in a different way (not just on a screen), and start to think about how it should be presented; paper shock, framing, layout - It's a great gateway to learning other skills that can really uplift the work from just showing it. Photography is a physical medium and I think it needs to be brought to life to get the full effect of it, whether that is in book/ zine form, print/s or on the walls of a space. It’s a beneficial way for an artist to get feedback and talk ideas about the work, if they are open to that (It’s easy to get tunnel vision and box yourself in with an idea and not see other aspects of it), but also for the public to see it - which I think is a powerful way to connect with others.
When selecting an artist to present a series, what are you mostly looking for?
I'm really interested in bodies of work that portray a narrative or address a specific topic. I'm fascinated by how artists are able to put images together to create something bigger than just a single image. I look for: topics, flow of work, quality of work and probably a lot of other things. How I react to the work is key, I need to be 100% behind the work that I’m showing, so I am fully invested in to it and simply enjoy the process of working with artists. The space is my home- somewhere close and very personal to me and the members of my family so I want to be coming home to work that I believe in.
What is your film stock of choice?
Portra 400 for 120mm and Ilford HP5 for 35mm. - boring I know, I’ve fallen prisoner to being comfortable. I’d like to get out of that box one day.
Thank you to all the artists and everyone who has joined The Cornershop family along the way! It’s been special. Lots of love to Dan Martino, Sam(o) Stephenson and the family….
Everyone’s welcome on the corner:)