Interview with No Labels photographer, John Stiles by volunteer Psy Seiki

Posted by Sue Burgess · 3 min read

Psy – Hello John, thank you for doing this interview for the Seaview newsletter. Have you always been into photography, is it your profession, passion?
John - It’s not my profession, I have always enjoyed photography and have always had a camera, more so since I retired from working in mental health.
Psy - So you have worked in a profession that is affiliated with the work Seaview does?
John - I was around when Seaview started, working in various mental health teams. Apart from a gap of 10years when I was in Tunbridge Wells working with the Community Drug and Alcohol Team. Ending my full time work in The Mental Health Crisis team in Hastings.

Psy – So when you retired…………..?
John - So I thought about how to keep my brain going in retirement and thought that I liked photography and had always enjoyed it, so I went on a course which also encompassed an academic aspect. During this time I produced a documentary using Seaview. I called it No labels because I wanted to explore the personalities and character of individuals rather than respond to the labels that exist. I came in regularly so that people could get used to me taking photographs. The people were great and I ended up doing 3 shoots.
Psy- When was this?
John - About 3 years ago.
John - Sue then spoke to me about doing the exhibition.
Psy - So you got ‘roped in’.
John - Well, as a photographer to do an exhibition is another feather in you cap. So I re-produced some of the photographs I had already taken, and did a few more shoots to incorporate other people, I also involved another member of Seaview to do a Photo-Story consisting of 5 photos to tell a story.
John - Yes, my idea was that you can go to firms and people can nod off during ‘talks’ but the DVD only last 6 minutes.
Psy - So now that you’ve done Seaview, what next, are you going to retire again?
John - (laughs) I’m not sure, Sues talking about other projects and the exhibition moving to the Hastings Centre, also the possibility of a Brighton Festival. I may do another course? I’m running a photo course here at Seaview to teach people how to use a camera properly, showing them the basics.
Psy - Were you happy with the exhibition?
John – Yes but I had my concerns about the photographs.
Psy - Would you say you were a perfectionist?
John - I think I’m no different from a lot of photographers, I look at something and go back and think differently, like pushing yourself.
Psy - Do you like doing your own photo developing?
John – Yes I have done some wet-room stuff and of course on the computer.
Psy- You say the exhibition is moving on from the museum?
John - Yes it is moving to Kings Church on The Ridge, on to Hastings Works, Robertson Street and we are looking at the possibility of The Jerwood Gallery.
Psy- So you will carry on?
John - Yes, I hope so, I get on well with the people here and it’s very enjoyable. You have more time to do the things you enjoy when you are retired. I’m comfortable with the people from Seaview.
Psy- Was it a big stress setting up the exhibition?
John - Not really, the only stress was getting the photos printed and being happy with them. All I needed to do was make sure the prints were acceptable. Sue and other people here made lots of arrangements and the museum staff hung the pictures.

Psy - So you’re now rearing to go with the next project?
John - Yes this new photo course will be different, I have to produce a programme for it.
Psy - Have you done any kind of teaching before?
John - When I was in Tunbridge Wells with the Substance Misuse Service, I did some teaching within this subject. With the photography course, we will be going out to take photographs and coming back and putting them on the computer. There will be new computer software for editing etc.
Psy- Are you looking forward to this?
John - Yes it will be a bit of fun, less pressure.
Psy - You are not about to set up any new big exhibition soon?
John - My idea is to see if Rye library will put on an exhibition putting showing the chronicle of Military Road and the people who live there. Whether anything will come of it or not, we will have to see.
Psy – Thank you very much.
John – My pleasure.