Get Familiar: Charlie Birch
Seeing an artist grow before your very eyes is inspiring and motivating. There is something special about seeing someone become more like themself. One such artist is Amsterdam-based Charlie Birch who has just released his debut book entitled "Avondklok" at Mendo Books. We caught up with the emerging young image maker as they open this new chapter of their creative journey to get familiar with the roads they have been on and to find out where they are going.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers, let them know who you are and what you do?
What's happening guys, of course I can. I'm Charlie, an image maker and artist from a small village just outside of Liverpool, England.
So what made you stay in Amsterdam after the Covid-19 breakout and Brexit finally taking place?
Having lived here for almost 4 years, I've had ties and responsibilities that kept me in Amsterdam, it definitely feels like my second home at this point, so felt only right to ride out the madness here.
How has it been here?
It's been alright, obviously difficult being away from family and friends in the U.K, but by design, I find Amsterdam has a really enjoyable day to day in terms of its balance with the built environment and nature. I get a lot from being outside and isolated in nature, so I found myself in Amsterdamse Bos quite a lot, either swimming, cycling or running. I believe it feels so rewarding because it feels like home, I'm from a pretty isolated village so I’ve spent similar time exploring in the same way as a kid.
What keeps you busy when you’re not behind the camera?
Kind of answered this in the last question but other than in the forest I'm concentrating on printmaking techniques and collaging with my images, trying to take my work off the screens you know, I'm obsessed with making images but after a days work I don’t want to turn on the computer. I enjoy making a bit of music here and there as well.
So the new book centers around the event that took place in the Netherlands in early 2021, what key moments did you manage to document?
I went to the Koffie Drinken events on Museumplien that happened late January/ early February. They where intended to be peaceful protests but they where overrun by angry rioters. I spent some evenings on the PC Hoofstraat talking to joiners who fit the wooden shutters over the designer stores, interesting conversations as you can imagine. I also found myself accidentally at an anti Rutte march when the child welfare fraud news came out, that month or two felt like people where on the streets every week. As part of the project I researched a lot into the happenings around the country and found many social media videos documenting the events, so I was able to be physically present in Amsterdam and digitally all around the country.
Were you ever in any dangerous situations during the making of this book?
At the last Koffie Drinken event the police seemed to of had enough of large gatherings mid covid so they began to push back peaceful protesters with flash bangs, dogs and water canons. That whole experience was pretty bizarre and felt so against the grain to anything I’ve grown to learn about the Netherlands in recent history, that experience was a key moment in deciding to make the project.
After creating the images you employed some pretty interesting printing methods, what techniques are the components book compiled from?
Yeah I often opt to diversify techniques within one project, it creates an element of depth that I love. I used risograph, laser and digital printing. Playing around with the paper types for the book really helped the final outcome too. I print and reprint multiple times to create this sense of tangibility that I always seem to warm towards.
How is your approach to photography changing these days?
That word tangibility comes up every time for me, as things change and the way we perceive and digest images alters, avoiding this frivolous mentality towards images is really important to me. The more an audience stays with an image the better, creating that depth and intricacy plays a key part in that. This is a topic I could chat about all day long, the change from when I began taking pictures at 10 years ago up to now is exponential.
I went to one of your shows on Zeedijk many moons ago and you’ve been very busy since, what else have you worked on since that show?
Yeah you've watched me grow creatively for sure, it's been a while. The past few years I’ve had my hands full working at the concept store OALLERY, getting it going from the ground up and growing it to what is today. I've been a lead creative there, focusing on photography, brand identity and creative direction. The challenges throughout that process have for sure helped me to mature as a person and an artist.
Do you believe that photography belongs in print or can it translate in this digital age?
Going to neutralise your question and say both haha. There's no getting away from the digital age but I think there’s a really interesting nuance between the two, how print can be shown digitally and vice versa. I'll always be a print fan as this is my craft, but I can appreciate that both have there place. I do believe as people we will naturally go towards print again with some things, especially post covid. Use the analogy of the way music has come full circle on the topic of vinyl as an example.
Losing control of where your images are, does viewing them through screen give your audience the same feeling?
With this project definitely not, I suppose with the fashion work a lot is being made specifically for screens so the feeling doesn’t alter so much. Currently I feel that this photojournalism work of mine should be held, experienced and revisited. That's the beauty if print right? I have particular techniques to help bring that print physicality through to screen, to be honest it feels like an unsolvable puzzle knowing how to balance the two but I'm happy to keep on chugging away at it.
What would your audience feel when they see this latest book from yourself?
I'm a big fan of the 20th century Surrealism and Dada art movements and their attitude towards making work and how it can be perceived. I aim to add an underlying element of that in everything I do. I hope the work frightens you whilst making you laugh at the same time. I want it to act as a resource for social and political history and help us digest and remember the past year or two.
What can we expect from Charlie Birch in the near future?
More of this type of thing, I'm working on a project based on my home city Liverpool. Trying to merge both sides of my practice, fashion and social documentary. Liverpool oozes with character and is know to be like its own country inside of England. I've been fascinated with its spearheading mentality towards fashion and its ability to start its own trends that undoubtedly spread across the whole country, I want to chase that and find out why.