Stealing Souls With Photographer Harry Conway


Written by Dont Panic
18 Monday 18th April 2016

A couple of years ago I visited Night On My Mind, a Waterloo-based exhibition centred around graffiti. I met Harry Conway, known to some as the tagger Zerx, and kept up to date with his work; now with his upcoming exhibitions, we catch up to talk...​

Hey Harry. How’re you finding 2016 so far?

Good, I think I'm finally pushing my photography a lot harder than I ever have been.

You’ve been featured in a couple of different zines recently, care to run through them?

I’ve recently been featured in ‘Broken Window Theory’ by Grey Jam Press, Issue One of Threespike Fanzine, Goldsmiths Zine Society Issue One and Inky Needles Literary Journal 2.

I’ll also be involved in a couple of other zines this year. I come from punk culture so zines hold a level of importance to me and I like to see my work printed- something physical you can pick up and touch.

When did it first strike you to shoot in such a stark, confrontational way? 

I’m not always prepared to ask for permission and miss a character or moment; I come from a graffiti background, where I was being chased by police and breaking into places. If I want someone’s picture, I’ll take it and foget the consequences. There are scarier things in life that someone saying 'no' or punching you.

Do you ever feel constrained by your style or format? How do you challenge yourself? 

I think in the past 6 months I’ve come to realise what I can shoot and what I shouldn’t bother with. People are my main focus, I always challenge myself to try and get certain things in the same frame. But I’d say the biggest challenge for me is to think of the next project or series.

Do you have any thoughts on 35mm being such a popular format currently? Are you keen to stick with it for the foreseeable?

It makes aesthetically pleasing photography accessible, which can be seen as a good and bad thing depending on your perspective. I’ll be interested to see if a lot of “photographers” are still shooting pictures when Poundland stops stocking film and there are no estates as backdrops in London...

Not particularly, it depends on the subject matter. Personally I can shoot digital no problem, some people are snobs and confine themselves to one format, which I’m not sure will work out in the long run. 

What are your thoughts on working in the capital, particularly at a time when its going through massive changes like gentrification? 

It needs to be documented so in years to come we can look back and remember. With that being said, it saddens me how a lot of the abandoned buildings I use to explore and paint on are now yuppie fortresses with nothing to offer to the city but soulless glass.

What would you most like to shoot that you haven’t managed to and why? 

I’ve got quite a few series in mind, sometimes it's just a matter of timing/cost. At the moment I’m in the process of shooting for the next ‘Night On My Mind’ exhibition, coming up in September 2016.

Tell us more about your forthcoming exhibition?

I am exhibiting a series titled ‘Stolen Souls’ at MMX Gallery 22nd April – 28th May. It’s a photobook I made last year of photographs I took in the street, in people’s faces without permission. The idea came about a couple of years ago when I began to notice people's obsession with photographing each other without permission on the Tube and street. It seemed so deceptive- so I thought why not inject a bit of honesty into this process and let people know I’m stealing their picture?

I went about walking the capital's busiest hubs - Soho, Oxford Street and Chinatown - at night when people are most scared. I’d jump out at people and scream sometimes. They’d look down the barrel of the lens and I’d own their soul inside my small black box...

Anyone you’d like to shout out? 

The London Vagabond, Ivan Bliminse (@neverseekpermission), Niall O’Reilly, Niall McManus, Ben Palmer, my brother King Headswim and Sofia my love, Molly Manning Walker, BigXTom, Robert Peace. All the people hating on me from day, keep watching me rise.

Cheers Harry.

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