I’m happy to present an interview with Quinnford and Scout aka Colin Quinn and Oisín Share, a couple from Manchester that since last year is constantly supplying a growing community of fans with beautiful pictures they’re taking of themselves. Although in the beginning I may have been a bit sceptical about their decision to post pictures online that might otherwise be considered private, I quickly realised that their photography posted on tumblr and flickr is much more interesting and visually exciting than most of the pictures of the dozens of so-called artists doing self-portraits that circulate through the gay blog world. We got in touch a few weeks ago and decided to make an interview online – here’s the complete conversation.
When you started the whole project together you just got to know each other and lived in different places. So at this time, did you already feel that the whole thing (both your relationship and the photo project) could grow into somthing bigger? And who came up with the idea?
Colin: We had never intended it to be what it has become for us today. Granted, I do think that we put more emphasis on it than anybody else does.
We depended on our relationship growing stronger, as I think any couple expect when they spend time together, and in-fact see no change coming for their relationship. I still depend on knowing that Ois and I can only become more familiar with one another. I guess, we knew from the beginning that we were particularly compatible despite some white lies I might have told to rope Oisín into being in a relationship with me.
I think I came up with the idea of the relationship and the photographs, they were an accident.
We both had and still have our own flickr accounts (at that time we didn’t use tumblr) but found that a lot of the images we took together weren’t at-home on our personal flickrs, so we created a joined account.
Oisín: Yes, I think being apart as we were gave our whole relationship a big ‘air of ambition’. Because for the first year we could only see each other after booking flights and planning weekends off work, everything we started to do became so very heavily personal and invested, I guess. So, I did feel that we were going to start doing great things together initially, I just didn’t know for sure what that would be. We knew that once I graduated, it would mean that we’d be able to be in the same city as each other, but in between that, we needed something to keep us ‘together’ whilst we were apart.
So, the photos grew and became popular and before we knew it, it was like a project we were both submitting to each time we returned home to either Manchester or Limerick. Photos would be developed, and then uploaded for the other to see. I think it was initally my idea to start a blog about gay illustration and photography that we liked, but in the end it became all of our work! Too self-centred we were. Colin, though, got us started with using 35mm film – I had never even considered it.
From outside to me it looks a little bit as if Quinnford and Scout no longer seems to be just a project but an actual trademark. Doesn’t that put a certain pressure on your relationship sometimes, that the whole thing only works when the two of you are part of it?
Colin: No. I don’t think so. It does, however put a good-bit more pressure on my photography skills. Oisín and I know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not to produce a camera. We’re used to one-another and we also have been prone to reaching for a camera at the same time.
Granted, we’re always aware when we’ve not contributed any images to Quinnford + Scout for too long, but I always rest-easy knowing, they kind-of make themselves.
We’re just over a slight photography break, since London took a lot out of us both, and for a short time we had no camera, then for a longer time, no film.
Quinnford + Scout has become a brand. I’m fond of this, because Ois and I are both graphic designers, it was pretty-much inevitable; it couldn’t have been helped. Quinnford + Scout has the aesthetic, the branding and the website that it does, simply because of the attention Ois and I pay to our work, and from a Q+S point of view, our work in design is something we’ve talked about much in the past.
Yeah – It makes me smile, that we’ve gone ‘all out’ on making it how it is. It’s so commercial in a way, but in a cute way, because it’s pseudo proffessional.
Oisín: It’s true, that as designers, inevitably we did start to attach a type of ‘branding’ to this. We recognised our visual style, and alongside doing things like the website or distributing photography prints, a logo and, yes, I guess a trademark emerged. We do try so very hard to stick just to the core ideals of the project however and if something like selling prints or illustrating for tshirts does start to deviate from our initial ideals, then we make sure we’re doing it based on instinct and want, rather than trying to make us more of an entity (if that makes sense).
I don’t think it puts a pressure on it too much…we know that the project also doesn’t exist without us both together. Any photos that are taken without the other around are instinctively odd to us, and don’t make sense. So, for that reason, we are both very much aware of our individual wants and stylistic approaches – these are seen within our individual photo accounts. Colin’s personal work is a world away from mine, and mine from his. We’re very different people underneath it all.
Of course, this project does tie us together more than we imagine would be the case for a regular couple – we want to do so much together as it means we can take photos of each other in different environments, or situations. It’s all part of the thrill.
How do you deal with the fact that Q&S is becoming more and more popular and a lot of people even know your real name now? I mean I personal think that you perfectly manage to combine the sexual side of your realationship with all the other aspects, but I guess a lot of people perveice theses pictures as very explicit. Potential employers for example.
Oisín: I get the feeling that Q+S is certainly laying the groundworks of things and times to come. It’s not separate enough from our lives to fully make any changes to our professional lives should someone we work with see it…those who do find it very explicit aren’t usually in our circle. And those that may, we do our very best to make sure we are professional about it. We think we’re ok at that…many of the clients we do design for aren’t even aware we are a couple. but, like you said, it’s out there and getting more popular. Some people have let us know that by bringing us up in conversation with other guys, they know already who they are talking about! Also someone we met recently said they already knew about our photography. Stories like this are exciting novelties though. In the end, it’s not as big as a project as it sometimes feels, which is nice. Monumental, making a mountain out of a hill atmosphere. But we get down to reality very quickly and very easily.
Colin: I’m completely aware of the information I share on the internet, and I think Ois and I knew a while back that we had to consider how we were going to feel about these images when we began uploading them.
Maybe my answer has a huge air of naivety about it both Ois and myself have been working hard these past years to ensure we’ll only need to work in positions we’ll be comfortable in.
For now, the clients we have that are aware of the images occasionally joke about them. As for people knowing our names, I don’t have a problem with that, perhaps because I feel so strongly about what we’ve got. We’ve always been accessible and never planned it any other way. You could say that people knowing our names is pointing out the great friends we’ve made because of these images. The people that have talked to us and that still do, on a daily basis, and the ones we visit. All those people share so much with us too (Not forgetting the previous conversations we’ve had), so it really doesn’t feel like we’re throwing our lives into a dark abyss, the internet.
What do you think is it that fascinates people about your photographs? And what do you think is it that makes them special?
Colin: I think it’s how they’re not special that really fascinates people. They’re images of the things we do and all we aim to do is entertain one another on a daily basis. Oisín and I dance a lot these days, more than ever. Just in our little flat in Manchester, we dance and we laugh, so I think there are more images of those in undeveloped rolls. What I love about our images is how they’ve not been planned or constructed. I guess that is where the strength is in these images. Colour too!
I don’t like psuedo emotional trash that I’m seeing everywhere, I like repitive living with turns and concepts that keep us fired up.
Oisín: That’s a question I rarely consider! Though I should. I guess I initially thought it was just general responses to the ‘sex’ element to everything, but most feedback comes from photographs that may lack all of that. I think most people like the overall project much more than specific photos.
I think people like the accessibility of the work; it has the appearance of something that anybody can insert themselves in, should they wish to. All or most of the things we capture are everyday, enjoyable, and expressing what makes us who we are. There is also a lot said about what we choose to capture, such as brushing teeth, eating bananas or cycling through forests. I think gay photography isn’t void of these things, it’s just not normally presented on such a human level.
Our emphasis on place and colour is what I think makes them special. Also I like our ability to photograph some pretty ex-rated sex and turn it into something that can be discussed amongst friends. That’s pretty fun.
Where would you say for you are the constraints of what you want to share with people? Have you ever had discussions about a picture. Or could you imagine to share pictures that show “negative” things?
Truth is, when we take a roll of maybe 37 shots sometimes we get 35 nice ones and 2 confusing, dark or blurred or plain shit images. Sometimes we might get as little as 15 that we would be okay sharing on flickr or tumblr. It’s also worth saying that Oisín and I take shots for ourselves, for himself or me for myself; images we’ll deem unsuitable for Q+S. Those images are usually more like landscapes or friends or, well, with me, it’s probably going to be my feet. I take a lot of pictures of my own feet.
What we don’t share? We don’t usually take more than two or three photographs of one situation, or place. Not like with a digital camera, well really there are a couple of reasons but I don’t want to get too boring with this. We take few images of one scenario because getting images back from the lab is exciting, and flicking through is a month of wonderful reminders, so having only two or three is perfect. Also, I think having five consectuive images of the same moment from different angles is both boring and contrived, from personal experiance. Waste not, want not.
Oisín: We wont share anything that will expose our relationship to the point that there is nothing left for us, as a couple. So, there’s nothing that is overly explicit (in our eyes), or will make our friends very uncomfortable or even make people who find the photos interesting, uncomfortable. An interesting thing has happened is that the more people get to know us, the less they follow the photos. Some close friends who met us through the photographs now only look at them every so often, I guess because they may now feel separate from the normal audience. I especially like when we spend a long time with someone who is unaware of our photographs, and then researches them, and then writes to us telling us how they think we have captured the atmosphere of what it is to spend time around us perfectly! Though this isn’t really answering the question…sorry!
We do certainly have discussions over certain photographs, there are many that don’t make it into the project folders. There may be one of Colin I truly love but he wont like it for a particular reason, and he has a ‘veto’ there. I have one too! Though sometimes I don’t get to use it, because he assures me it is a good photo.
We would really like to show some ‘negative’ things, and I believe we have though a lot of people may not be aware. There is a photo of Colin crying, after an argument, and there’s photographs of days we’d really prefer to forget. It’s as ‘negative’ as it gets, I think. We could photograph the not nice view from our back window, but it would be a waste of film… I think though there are lots of places we are in, everyday, which we have never photographed. I’d like to start doing that, it would be negative but very interesting to see these places like the supermarket or ugly bike track in a new, colourful context.