In the 1990s, Nick Waplington cemented his place as one of England’s great modern artists with era-defining photographic projects like Living Room and Safety in Numbers. Since then Nick has produced a huge body of work and in 2015 he became the first photographer to command a solo show at the Tate with Working Process, a set of pictures he made in collaboration with Alexander McQueen.
Joe Talbot meanwhile is the totemic frontman of British rock band IDLES. Born in Newport in 1984, Talbot’s passionately delivered lyrics deconstruct multiple aspects of contemporary culture, drawing the crosshairs on 21st century Britain’s retrogressive tendencies. Having recently released their third album Ultramono, IDLES are buzzing with the cult adulation of a devoted fanbase who benefits from the band’s death-or-glory attitude to live performance.
Nick and Joe aren’t at first the most likely people you’d think to bring together to record a podcast, but that’s just what we did for the latest episode of Joining the Dots as we meet in Nick’s Studio in Hackney Wick on the day that the Notting Hill Carnival should have been peaking.
Nick Waplington on failing in public
“I think I have always been fairly confident about what I do. I am happy to fail, and in public, if that is going to enable me to continue and get to somewhere else. Very few artists I know have kept trying to change things and keep it dynamic. And that for me has always been the drive. I am excited every day to get up and make work again because I am always moving the goalposts.”
Joe Talbot on learning to play
“It was that frustration thing, of when you are about five or six, and someone says ‘draw a dog’. Your brain is going, ‘This is what a dog looks like’, and your hand is going, ‘This is what a dog looks like’. But it doesn’t look anything like a fucking dog. That’s what it was like for us until we started really speaking our own language, which takes a long time.”
Nick Waplington on the power of ugly
“The work that I make often is quite ugly and brutal when I make it to most people, but ultimately it is the ugly and brutal work that survives. If you think about the early 80s, the bands that the major labels were promoting at that period, who knows who any of them are now? But all the indie bands like Joy Division, everyone is still interested in those bands.”
Joe Talbot on honing his craft
“I have just kept my head down and worked on my craft, until it wasn’t a craft anymore, and it becomes an art. I think it is just starting to transition into an art form now, I am starting to speak it properly. I want to be in love with what I do until I die, and that is it.”
Nick Waplington on the moments he lives for
“Often you can be painting for months and the work is shit, but you are trying to go somewhere new. Then something happens and you get a breakthrough. These are the moments that I live for.”
Joe Talbot on the beauty of the broken
“For me, the most interesting and beautiful people are the broken ones. I like realism. I think that is what we are trying to bring out, the mundanity of everyday life to see the beauty of people.”
Anaglypta, a new book collecting 512 previously unpublished photographs from Nick Waplington’s career is available now from Jesus Blue.