An interview with Richard Kaby
"RICHARD KABY has supported and exhibited with THE ARTS PROJECT for over seven years, photographing events and presenting slideshows, installation and set design as well as exhibiting his artwork. Exhibitions he has been involved with include “The Shapes and Lines of Beauty” in 2016, “The Joy of Colour” 2018 and “Casa Chromatic” in 2021. When we first met, Richard was recovering from health issues and his camera eye was drawn into the spiritual lives, shapes and colours of flowers."
THE ARTS PROJECT
EIGHT POINTS OF INTEREST IN AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD KABY
Tell us more about the relationship between the camera lens and flowers.
“In 2014 I suffered a heart attack and subsequently had open-heart surgery. Previously I had been dashing around with constant stress over responsibilities, deadlines, and meetings. However, the months of recovery after surgery and retirement found me wandering round the streets in Spring, with a renewed sense of wonder at the beauty of nature all around me. I was on extra time and taking time to appreciate little things such as the patterns and colours of tiny flowers. I started snapping with my old iPhone and this turned into a project which, in turn, helped me to regain strength as well as a sense of purpose and a glow of happiness. The flower of the day became much anticipated and I was honoured when Peter Herbert asked me if I wanted to exhibit a selection in an exhibition. I couldn’t believe it when, by chance, I noticed one of the visitors looking at my photographs was Jeremy Corbyn! We had a long chat about the importance of health and the NHS as well as flowers!"
2. Richard has developed an interest in the creative possibilities of working with fabric. Tell us how this came about?
"I taught Product Design, Technology, Graphics and Photography for 40 years and this often involved Textiles. I used to love creating OTT costumes for themed events and in 2016 I met a bunch of wonderful crazy arty people at an exhibition which opened my eyes to the joy of wearable art and living my life with colour."
hats and embroidery
"My goal was the sartorial splendour of everyday life. Besides trawling thrift shops for “fabulousness” I started to make my own clothes from recycled materials to produce a style of my own. In order to do this, I rejected gender stereotypes (“women’s?") so embroidered jackets and bright silk scarves and accessories were from then on flaunted with panache! I also strutted my stuff in the monthly London Colour Walks, which have grown from a few friends meeting up to 50+ attendees featuring in a two-page spread in newspapers including The Times."
colourful hand panted clothes and Colour Walk
"I enjoy collaborating with the fabulous young designer Anne Sophie Cochevelou creating large structural show pieces. The energy and enthusiasm applied to her art gives me additional confidence to express and experiment. I was also ideally placed, with my technical background, to help bring her often crazy ideas to fruition. The first was a costume called the “Wave”. It was a strong statement on waste and pollution and featured in a Tim Yip extravaganza at the Royal Festival Hall. This went on display at the Southbank then onto China. We have now collaborated on nine more costumes including six for Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World at the Globe Theatre. One of these was a walking art gallery which we displayed in The Joy of Colour exhibition for the Arts Project and a Barbie House dress created for the exhibition Casa Chromatic last year. Sophie is a hugely creative and talented dynamic driving force whose vision is truly spectacular, and so this year we were overjoyed to win a coveted award in a gold themed 50 year extravaganza attended by over 1200 people, including many celebrities, featuring on Channel 4 and live streamed over the internet."
The Wave” “Art Gallery” “Barbie House” & AMW costume collaborations.
"In Casa Chromatic I exhibited my digital doodles as well as two mannequins “Super Colour Swinger Sisters” named after the Polaroid cameras which were included as adornments. They explore the way material can be stretched over frames to create “other worldly” forms through seamless extensions to the body and head. A BBC London News camera man filming the exhibition was entranced and included footage in the news item."
“Super Colour Swingers” from Casa Chromatic
Digital Doodles from Casa Chromatic
Your work has a strong base in the properties of photography. What is the background to this eye for detail, colour, composition and the content of your work?
"I was originally involved with photography for over 40 years specialising in theatre, jazz and world music, which led to photographing eccentrics and unusual characters with portrait photography in a range of street events.
This has developed into a form of photojournalism and I have been a core member of the “Humans of London” team since 2015, with portraits featuring in the Humans of London book in 2016. I love having an excuse to ask people to tell their stories and contribute towards helping to celebrate our differences and value what we have in common."
Jazz musician photos, fashion photo and Humans of London Book cover
Tell us more about the best and worst experiences you have had photographing people.
"My best experience photographing people must be when I captured the great saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders with his son Tomoki on stage at the “We Out Here” festival in August in 2022. He died a few weeks later. The series of images showed mutual love between father and son, inner strength and respect as well as the inevitability of passing on, the nature of joy and continuity to the next generation. He died just a few weeks later. I could hardly hold the camera still and I was crying as I knew it was an historic moment."
"My worst experience was when photographing a wedding and my friend, the groom, who had been warned not to do anything stupid on his stag do, turned up to the Church with his leg in a caste and a crutch! He had been drunkenly walking on top of a high wall and had been in A&E all night. The bride was angry so that when I was trying to take romantic soft focus, intimate images in an apple orchard the photos reflected full-scale war mode."
Do you think as time moves on and we feel the consequences of the way we treat the planet, are there any thoughts and ideas here that impact on you as a multimedia creative person with a passion for flowers, fabrics, people and colours?
"I am acutely aware of the inevitable consequences of the way we, as over-consumers, treat the planet. But there is only so much that can be achieved in countering this destruction on an individual level and, although I do try to lower my carbon footprint by such things as cycling, recycling, repurposing and by refusing to buy new, I also felt it necessary to join others in more powerful actions and so I joined Extinction Rebellion and made costumes to help add impact to various peaceful protests and performances. These succeeded with encouraging people to ask questions, get involved and featured in national and international newspapers including The New York Times, with an “anti fast fashion” action at London Fashion Week which featured in Vogue online."
XR Red Rebels and Carmen Stop the Oil costumes
If you could have a dinner party, who would you invite for the ultimate company, networking and conversation involving both big issues and small talk?
"Sebastião Salgado is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and environmentalist. He is particularly noted for his breathtaking images exploring and celebrating the lives and ancestral traditions as well as plight of Indigenous tribes and exploited workers."
If you had to choose one photograph from your collection which would it be and why?
"It is a scene from a Greedy Pig Theatre Production produced, directed and choreographed by my daughter for her company which tackles challenging and important issues such as toxic masculinity and gender identity head on. I was proud and privileged to be at their “locked down” production to take this image, which was a challenge as the lighting was very low and the movement was fast."
Photo of Billy Kidd in “Be” by Greedy Pig Theatre Company
Can you tell us more about your ideas behind digital prints on display in the current Arts Project exhibition PIXELS AND PIGMENTS. "I had produced drawings almost every day of my working life, which I never referred to as art, more as technical graphics. When I retired, I started experimenting with drawing people and especially faces realistically."
Charcoal sketch 2015
"Then I discovered that I could paint with my finger on the iPad which enabled me to virtually go back to childhood and regain the kind of freedom that comes with play, exploration, and imagination.
The first three are simple doodles exploring issues which affect many of us these days. They are almost primitive simple pictograms and restricted to primary colours and basic shapes and lines."
American Horror Story
"As a contrast I included a digital sketch called “American Horror Story” which depicts a distorted nightmare about a US president and Botox that mixes photography with digital marks in a painterly style."
"During Covid lockdowns people were talking with optimism about a new greener start now that there was a fresh perspective on the important things in life. This was my more pessimistic vision of three smiley faces venturing out cautiously."
Smileys Welcoming the New Dawn in a Green Peasant Land
The Rhythm of Life
"Everyone has their own heartbeat which accompanies them until one day it doesn’t." Richard Kaby
photo by Peter Herbert
We thank Richard for his informative, revealing and candid interview.
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