Please introduce yourself: What is your name, where are you from, what do you do?
Hello, my name is Andrew Ward. I am from Dublin, Ireland, originally but have been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years. It has become my adopted home. I am a photographer based in Los Angeles and have done a considerable amount of travel with my work over the years. My work had mainly been people driven — that was the subject matter I was focused on. I began photographing sofas and abandoned furniture on the streets of Los Angeles in 2012. It is a project that has grown and I am now focused on photographing just sofas and have photographed over 1200 of them in the past 6 years.
What is your relationship with photography? How did you get into it and what keeps you interested or motivated?
I work in the movie business — it’s my career and what I do for a living. Even the smallest movie requires a big amount of collaboration, organization and team effort with others — which is part of what it takes to create that medium. With Photography, it’s much less of a collaborative effort and the responsibility comes down to you create something and get your work out there. That is what attracted me to photography originally — the spirit of independence that it imbued in me.
With photography, I am always looking to challenge myself in a medium that has already been so heavily explored and exploited. We are living in an era where images are replacing language as our primary form of communication. Photography has become so ubiquitous and has developed a certain amount of unruly disciplines — we are living in the age of the ‹selfie› where photographs are disposable and have a limited shelf life, like our news cycle and everyone is a photographer.
In all of this I began to refocus myself as an artist in relation to the medium of photography and was looking for a project that required me to become focused on a particular subject or thing. I wanted to get away from the noise of what photography in the digital age had become. I was looking for something that was quiet and where you could find intrigue and beauty in the obvious and the ordinary.
There are a few quotes that I use to help me focus myself and work:
«Photography is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It’s the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style.» — Chuck Close
«To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them» — Elliott Erwitt
Tell me about your project «The Sofas of L.A.». What was the driving force behind creating it, what was your intention and how did you come up with the Idea?
The genesis of this project came from the blight of abandoned and cast-off furniture that randomly appear of the streets & sidewalks of Los Angeles. It’s as if the ground pushes up a fresh crop of them overnight, like mushrooms. They appear daily and then sit, withering and wilting in the L.A. sunshine unless a seldom opportunist repurposes one but generally they are eventually collected and removed by the city sanitation department. What was once the centerpiece of someone’s home now sits abandoned on a city sidewalk.
What has become apparent to me since I began photographing this cast-off furniture is how some of the pieces blend in with their new and unintended environments. Many of these specimens seem more at home in their new surrounding than what their original intended purpose had been — a specifically designed piece of upholstered furniture with the express purpose of providing a place of comfort for two or more people to sit, in the comfort and surroundings of a home.
I moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1990’s at the tail end of what had been a tumultuous period for the city. Everything in L.A. initially was alien or foreign to me — the endless sprawl and mass of people, cars, concrete freeways, endless asphalt streets, the broken and neglected lonely sidewalks. One thing in particular stood out to me though. The rate and consistency at which abandoned furniture, particularly, Sofas that would crop up on the curbs and sidewalks of the city and its environs. I was drawn to the Sofas as I felt that each one had a personality of its own and a story behind it. It was like random ghosts lurking and drifting loosely on the city streets trying to find their way home. They have become part of the fabric of L.A.; reflecting on one hand the transient nature of the inhabitants of the city in addition to the disposable nature of our consumer driven world.
This project represents an alternate view of Los Angeles and identifies a different element of the many fragments that go into the making of this complex Metropolis.
What are you currently working on, and — if there is — what is your next project or journey?
I am working on publishing my book ‹The Sofas of L.A.› It’s all put together and more or less edited — there were over 1000 Sofas that I photographed, so it was a challenge to get it down to 60 or so for this book project. I want to get the book out this year. I have been working on this project since 2012.
I’m continually photographing new subjects — all in Los Angeles right now. There is another series which began before ‹The Sofas of L.A.› – a project called Alternative Accommodation which focuses on the make shift accommodation that homeless people string together in order to make it by. It is tied into the sofa project as it is a project that I photograph on the streets of Los Angeles.
That's all for now Alexandre — Thank you for inviting me to the project.
Thank you Andrew!
© Andrew Ward