Our ninety second interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Philip Parsons from Cardiff, Wales. You may know him from his popular Instagram account @hereinmyownskin. “Mobile photography became a passion for me in early 2012 thanks largely to Instagram. Initially I shot with their filters and exploring Instagram, I became hooked discovering what was possible with mobile art. After a year or so I opened a second Instagram account @hereinmyownskin and I started experimenting with colour”, explains Parsons of his mobile photographic career, to date. Parsons images present a combination of natural and landscape scenes but also some relatively dilapidated man-made scenes from around the world. This is an intriguing interview in a sense, reflecting the cyclical nature of life. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine HalsørPaul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert Jana Curcio, Mary Lorincz Amado Ergana, Francesco Sambati and myself, go here.
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
The earliest memory I have of wanting a particular path in life was after watching the ITV crime drama Cracker staring Robbie Coltrane. I would have been about 15 and I wanted to be a Criminal Psychologist. In reality it was probably the flawed, yet still brilliant Fitz that I wanted to be, but I wanted to study Psychology for many years after that.
When I was eight, I won first prize for a painting of a badger I entered into the Yealmpton Agricultural Show. I don’t think I knew I was even entering a competition. I had a trophy too. I started getting into photography as a teenager. I remember borrowing a book from the library on composition and played around with a film camera for many years. When I got my first iPhone something about mobile photography excited me and I started entering competitions.
My mother was always keen for me to gain some independence and learn the value of money. So, when I was old enough I had a daily paper round in the local village. From Monday through to Saturday I delivered newspapers and earned £7.50 a week. It let me save for things myself and I learned the value of things isn’t just in their monetary value.
Private or State school?
I went to the local Comprehensive School. Most of my friends went there from my Primary school, so I never really wanted to go anywhere else. I did my GCSEs and A Levels there.
University or Work?
After Sixth Form I went to Cardiff University for four years to study MPhys Astrophysics. I graduated with a 2.1. When I was thirty, I trained as a Clinical Scientist in Radiotherapy and as part of that I did an MSc in Medical Radiation Physics at Swansea University. When I did my first degree, I was a typical student, spending plenty of time in the pub. However, when I went to Swansea I was being paid by the NHS and I wanted to do the best I could. I graduated with a Distinction. I am thankful that its lead me into a career that I enjoy and is worthwhile too.
Who was or is still your mentor?
I don’t have a mentor. There are a few people on Instagram (@pictrola, @sunflowerof21, @b_kidwell, @atler, @vivoarch, @komeda to name a few) that I follow that always impress me with their ability to produce outstanding images again and again. These people encourage me to keep striving to produce images that I am happy with.
How physically fit are you?
In the last few years I’ve taken up road cycling. I love the freedom of getting out on the road and cycling through the Welsh Valleys. I occasionally run and I play badminton regularly. I have quite a sedentary job and spend most of my day in front of a computer, so I wouldn’t say I’m athletic. I do find cycling a great way to clear the mind. When I go out taking photos I love to disappear up a mountain and just wander around until something catches my eye. Changing how you see things is the best way to inspire yourself I think.
Ambition or talent: What matters more to success?
I would say the answer to this question depends on how you define success, but ultimately it has to be a combination of the two. I do wonder how much talent has been wasted due to lack of drive, but equally, I would also say that ambition can only carry a person so far. Good intention and desire can improve performance, but to be outstanding requires more than just these.
How politically committed are you?
I wouldn’t say that I’m politically active, other than the odd Twitter rant. However, I am interested in politics and the direction the country is taking. I’m disappointed that testimony from experts has become just another opinion to consider and how words like ‘globalist’ seem to have become swearwords. I’m frightened by what I see as increasingly insular, inward thinking. I believe that we need to look at ways to deal with the climate crisis and that might be growing and using local produce, but I find that increasingly people only seem to care about others if they’re from the same group and location. People are people. The difference is that some are privileged to be born, through no decision of their own in wealthy countries and some are born into poverty.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I can’t think of anything material that I’m particularly bothered about owning. There are always things I’d be quite pleased if I was given them (Leica, Lambourghini etc), but more than anything else I wish I had more time to do the things I wanted to do.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I’m not sure to be honest. I purchased an XPro2 a couple of years ago which I love.
In what places are you happiest?
I’ve really come to love being out on the road on my bike. There’s something quite meditative about flying through country lanes, enjoying nature and exercising at the same time. I also love to go back to the village I grew up in, although I don’t get to do that very often. When I’m travelling I feel that I take most of the photographs I’m happy with. I find it easier to capture something new than to look at something I’ve seen day in, day out with a fresh perspective.
What ambitions do you still have?
I didn’t know how to answer this initially. Then someone asked me the question, ‘what would you do, if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ I thought this was such an insightful and interesting way to phrase this question and something I hadn’t thought about for a long time. I think I’d love to do travel photography or photojournalism. I can’t see myself ever giving up my job to do it, but I love the thought of traveling off the beaten track to find and capture scenes and moments that say something about our world. I’ve always been fascinated by conflict photojournalism and the desire from those photographers to show the lives of people so alien to most of us in the west.
What drives you on?
I love taking and making pictures that I feel proud of. I spend a lot of time sitting on them and deciding if I’m happy with them. I love to get out and wander around taking photos. I enjoy the solitude. I’d love to say that my photography makes people see things from a new perspective and evokes some sort of feeling.
What is the greatest achievement in your life so far?
One thing that constantly nags at me is the fear that I’ll leave no legacy. I am aware how few people are remembered after their death; however, I’m not interested in being remembered for the sake of fame. I’m not sure what I’d love to be remembered for and I think I procrastinate far too much, but I feel that my greatest achievement in life so far has to be my son. He’s such a caring and brilliant boy. I’m not sure how much credit I can take, but I like to think I’ve had some positive influence somewhere there! He is such a kind person. I am very proud of him.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
I have to say that I’m increasingly finding social media frustrating due to the number of posts that have absolutely no references or credibility, but are passed around as factual information. I wish people would think a bit more before they repost (especially political information) or at least fact check what they’re posting.
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would he think?
I think I was quite arrogant in my 20’s. I’m not sure he’d be overly impressed, but I like to think that if we had time to talk, I could convince him that I’d done something of at least a little worth with my life so far. I think I’d tell him to work harder and not procrastinate as much. Life passes so quickly and so easily wasted.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you’d still had?
When I was about two I lost a small cuddly penguin on a bus that devastated me at the time. My mother rang the bus company, but it had already vanished.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Globally I think we have a number of challenges. I’m sure that picking a single challenge isn’t adequate as we need desperately to deal with poverty, clean drinking water and sanitation, climate change etc. I listened to a Podcast called Ways to Change the World with Krishnan Guru-Murthy where he interviews Richard Dawkins. I don’t always agree with Dawkins, but I felt his desire to start teaching critical thinking to children was spot on. The world is full of complex problems that often need complex solutions. We need find a way to get people to think problems through. I don’t just mean mathematical and scientific problems, but social, economic and political issues. Unfortunately, thinking is difficult, and thinking in a logical and rational way is harder still.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
No. I grew up as an atheist and converted to Evangelical Christianity. I spent ten years in Church before I realised that I didn’t really believe it and needed to have some integrity and leave. Many of the people I met there are still close friends and I believe they are sincere in their motivations if misguided. Unfortunately, there are far more people in churches that haven’t engaged any rational thinking and base their beliefs on half-truths, anecdotes and poor logic. People clearly need the concept of an afterlife, maybe for comfort, but that does not imply any reality to the idea.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Something like a six. I’ve been privileged to be born in a wealthy country and had a comfortable life, but I think I could have done more with what I’ve had. I am responsible for what I do with what I’ve got.
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