Adrian Fisk


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Adrian Fisk
09 Monday 09th January 2012

We’re here to talk more about his iSpeak project, which has been growing and developing over the last eight years.

“I’d been living in India for a few years”, Adrian begins, “and it took me a few years to really come to terms with how many ideas there are out there, beyond those we have in England. My whole perspective started to change”.

“I came up with this idea of getting people to stand there with a piece of paper, and just express whatever they wanted to express” he explains. iSpeak has so far been seen by over 18 million people already, and while Adrian was initially going back and forth between a base in India, travelling in China and living in London, he’s now back in England to devise the next step for the project.

“We’ve now got this wider shift happening politically and economically from the West to the East, the uprisings in the Middle East and issues of global warming shaking our earth’s foundations to the core and it seems a poignant time to go out and see what lots of the world’s youth think”, he continues. Adrian’s in the midst of pulling together a proposal to take iSpeak worldwide to twenty-three countries, all in some way linked to his observations on change in the world order.

“It’s a very exciting and insecure time” he muses, “Everything we assume is now cast aside and no one really knows what’s next, but what we can be sure of is great change”. Adrian plans to shoot in what he calls the more obvious countries: America, Germany and Brazil amongst others, while also flying into places like Greenland and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The common factors for all the nations on his shortlist are those that are particularly economically, environmentally and/or politically charged at the moment.

When I ask which he most looks forward to visiting, he struggles to pin down one choice: “Trying to pick one from twenty-three is so hard because everyone has something to say, but I think some of the countries in the Middle East will be very interesting, as will Venezuela and the DRC”.

He’s curious to discover the effects of conflict or turmoil on the youth, giving those who are illiterate a blank page and descriptive caption of their intended message so as to provide every participant with a voice.

As we discuss the digitisation of photography and the role internet connectivity plays in his work, Adrian grows thoughtful for a second: “I suppose the real beauty is when people can come together looking at the same set of images all over the world and see that actually ‘yes, though we may look different and have different languages, cultures and such, we’re pretty much the same’. That communication becomes understanding, and once you have understanding you have greater tolerance, I suppose”.

Put simply, it seems iSpeak is an artistic extension of an anthropological quest for knowledge, which Adrian and the scores of people he meets can then share with the rest of us. Hey, it’s good to know we can still appreciate the internet for something beyond panda cub videos and Texts From Bennett (though they’re still pretty great).


See Adrian’s earlier work on his site, and we’ll keep you posted on his new developments as and when we hear about them.

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  • Guest: mua
    Tue 13 - Mar - 2012, 08:28
    Gillian Wearing revisited?