John MacLean, Gainsborough Studios, London N1 5EB.
I am a British artist-photographer who spent his formative years in the USA.
I make photographs that engage with subjects I find fascinating: the limitations of language, the absurdity of modernity, the encroachment of the virtual into the real, the predicament of originality, the psychology of seeing… but above all, photography itself.
Photography is my all-consuming obsession. The camera is a room where I lose myself in search of images and adventure. My playfully serious, mischievous pictures strive to refract the outer world through my inner world: to become facets of myself.
I avoid simply recording what I encounter. My art is one of subtle persuasion: a quiet revolution that demonstrates how photography can help us better understand how we perceive the world—and ourselves within it.
Nothing is final in my pictures; nothing is solved. Art is a strange way to try to connect with someone else. It is like a conversation between two people who will never meet. And as we all know, the best conversations are open-ended.
Keywords: Anti-art, Appropriation, Architecture, Art history, Assemblage, Biography, Colour, Culture, Death, Digital art, Diptych, Emoji, Existentialism, Flash photography, Flusser, Globalisation, History, Humour, Instagram, Homage, Institutional critique, Internet art, Intervention, Kitsch, Language, McDonald’s, Memento Mori, Montage, Nature, New Topographics, Participatory art, Photobook, Picture Plane, Postmodernism, Psychogeography, Pop-art, Sculpture, Serial Art, Social media, Surrealism, Still-life, Structuralism, Tableau, Typology, Urbanism, White Cube.
‘As a medium, photography has its strengths—but also its linguistic limitations. Audiences are bombarded with images every day—we get used to absorbing rather than reading photographs, forgetting that they form a culturally encoded, often politically charged, language. MacLean’s work aims to jolt us out of this complacency.’ Camilla Brown, Former Senior Curator: The Photographers’ Gallery, London.
Each of my eight projects starts with a simple idea which unfolds into a distinctive series:
Hometowns presents layered images that consider how artists are influenced not only by their place of origin but by the art they encounter.
Conversations invites the language of emoji into photography’s digital realm. It wryly visualises the psychological impact of our virtual, online existence and the erosion of our belief in photographs.
Outthinking the Rectangle intends to show that the camera’s viewfinder, the picture frame, and the art gallery are ideologically charged spaces—rather than merely inert image containers.
Two and Two is a series of diptychs that deconstruct conventional photographic rhetoric—whilst undermining the time-based convention of ‘the decisive moment’.
New Colour Guide scrutinises the building blocks of digital colour. Strategic use of electronic flash creates flattened, colour-centric images which continue a surrealist tradition of delving into the reality of what we see.
A to B reinvigorates photography’s historical connection with death. It retraces the 18th-century route of condemned prisoners across London to the gallows at Tyburn. Each picture paradoxically makes darkness visible—whilst lending absence a sculptural solidity.
City proposes a detour from Street Photography’s stereotypes. It is an allegorical photo-essay that portrays loneliness and existential boredom within the impersonal architecture of modernity.
Your Nature weaves the subjects of human nature, nature and ultimately the nature of images into a project which suggests that our evolutionary past shapes all our actions and interactions—both good and bad.
Selected Recent Exhibitions
2023. Views. The Photographers’ Gallery. Small Files / Unthinking Photography.
2023. Conversations. ABC Office. FILET Gallery, London.
2022. Conversations. ABC Office. DZIALDOV Gallery, Berlin.
2022. Hometowns. No Place is an Island. Photo 50, London.
2021. Two and Two. Small is Beautiful. Flowers Gallery, Mayfair.
2021. Views. But These Forms Need To Be Created. Sakakini Cultural Center, Palestine.
2021. Two and Two. Send Me An Image. C/O Berlin.
2020. Conversations. Small is Beautiful. Flowers Gallery.
2020. Conversations. PhotoLondon. Flowers Gallery.
2019. Outthinking the Rectangle. Moving the Image. Camberwell Space.
2019. Your Nature. Contemporary. Flowers Gallery.
2018. Your Nature. Unseen at ParisPhoto.
2018. Hometowns. Grand Prix Fotofestiwal Lodz, Poland.
2018. Hometowns. Homeward Bound. Curated by Aaron Schuman.
2017. New Colour Guide. Oxford Photo Festival.
2017. City. Trabojos de Artista, Galeria La Puntual, Barcelona.
2017. Hometowns. Format Festival, Derby.
2016. Outthinking the Rectangle. Out of Obscurity. Flowers Gallery, London.
2015. Hometowns. Paris Photo Restaged, at Flowers Gallery.
2015. Hometowns. Unseen Amsterdam with Flowers Gallery.
2015. New Colour Guide. Radical Color, Newspace Center Photography USA.
2014. Hometowns. Brighton Photo Biennial.
2014. Hometowns. New Galerie im Hohmannhaus (Germany).
2014. A to B. On Landscape, (London).
2013. New Colour Guide. Dispara Xestion Cultural (Spain).
2012. New Colour Guide. Uncommon Ground. Flowers Gallery (London).
2011. City. For Japan. Hotshoe Gallery (London).
2011. City. Flowers Gallery (London)
2011. City. Continuum, Intervention Gallery (London)
2010. Two and Two. Solo Exhibition. Flowers Gallery (London).
Selected Recent Bibliography
2023. Der Greif Magazine. Views.
2022. Der Greif Magazine. Conversations.
2022. Flora Photographica. Your Nature. Thames and Hudson.
2022. Insider Magazine. Full feature and interview. City.
2021. Assembly. Sakakini Cultural Center, Palestine. ABC.
2021. Send Me An Image. From Postcards to Social Media. Steidl.
2021. Great Photography. Edited by Gemma Padley. Published by Quarto.
2021. ABC. Proposals for Paris. Conversations.
2020. Source Magazine. Outthinking the Rectangle Review.
2019. Camera Austria. Outthinking the Rectangle.
2019. Newsflesh. Gnomic Books. Hometowns.
2019. Yet Magazine Issue 11. Outthinking the Rectangle.
2019. There There Issue 3. Hometowns.
2019. 1000 Words Issue 30. Outthinking the Rectangle.
2019. OurCulture Magazine. Outthinking the Rectangle.
2018. GUP Magazine. Hometowns.
2017. Closing Ceremony Magazine. Two and Two.
2017. Photoworks. Hometowns.
2017. Another Magazine: 8 Photographers You Need to Know About.
2017. British Journal of Photography. Hometowns.
2017. American Suburb X. Hometowns.
2017. European Photography Magazine. Hometowns.
2017. Elephant Magazine. Hometowns.
2016. Yet Magazine. Hometowns.
2016. Landscape Stories. Hometowns.
2015. Photomonitor. Hometowns.
2015. Der Grief Magazine. Hometowns.
2014. Camera Austria. Hometowns.
2014. Paper Journal. New Colour Guide.
2014. Thames and Hudson: Photographers’ Sketchbooks.
2014. Gomma Books. A to B.
2013. SeeSaw Magazine. Hometowns.
2013. GUP Magazine. New Colour Guide.
2012. Source, The Photographic Review Issue 73. New Colour Guide.
2012. LPV Magazine. New Colour Guide.
2012. Photoworks Magazine. Showcase.
2011. Source, The Photographic Review. A to B.
2011. Album-Magazine fur Photografie. Two and Two.
2010. 1000 Words. City.
2010. British Journal Photography. Two and Two.
2010. Francis Hodgson review ‘Playing games with Real Life’. Two and Two.
2010. Source, The Photographic Review. ‘Neighbourhood’.
2009. IANN, Contemporary Art Photography Magazine (FOIL Japan).
Awards / Selected Book Exhibitions
2022. Views. Material, Zurich.
2021. Interiors. Printed Matter NYC.
2020. Interiors. The ICA. ABC Days.
2020. Interiors. Centre for Artists’ Publications, Bremen.
2019. Your Nature. FT Weekend Pick. PhotoLondon 2019.
2019. Outthinking the Rectangle. Photobookshow, Lithuania.
2018. Nominated for The Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize.
2017. Winner: Yet Magazine Issue 11 Open Call.
2017. Finalist: Renaissance Prize.
2017. Winner: Kassel Experts’ Best Photobooks.
2016. Winner: Best International Photobook 2016.
2016. The Photobook Exhibition, Benaki Museum, Athens
2015. The Luma Book Awards, Arles. Special Mention.
2014. Photobookshow, Tokyo, Japan.
2014. Infocus. Phoenix Art Gallery, USA.
2013. A Fair, Kansas, USA. Curated by Travis Shaffer.
2013. Paris Photo, LePhotobookFest.
2012. Flash Forward, Boston. June 2012.
2011. Krakow Photomonth,
2011. Flash Forward (Boston),
2011. The International Book Fair (Kassel),
2011. Berlin Book Fair,
2011. New York Photo Festival