Stephen Monger was born in Basingstoke in 1972. His first experience of photography was from family holidays recording his impromptu piles of stones he created on beaches. This unknowing ‘land art’ could be seen as an early foreshadowing of his approach to the medium, that involved the staging or making of things for the act of photographing.
On completing postgraduate education in Derby, UK in 1998, and securing space at Banks Mill Studios in the city, he embarked on a series of large scale photographs (1200x1400) of cardboard gallery interiors. These photographs focused on the gallery fittings as monumental art in themselves, and where shown under the title of Switches and Other Works. The work was selected for East International in 2002 by Lawrence Weiner and also exhibited at the Lisbon Photography Biennial VIII in Portugal 2004. The idea of a ‘switch’ goes to the heart of photography’s ability to stand in for something, and the making of a substitute in cardboard performs a transformation into a further reality.
In 2006 he moved to the west of England, and embarked on a body of photographs which became the touring exhibition Urban Documents for the Architecture Centre, in Bristol. It looked at the process of change within the form of buildings that had been converted, extended or developed over time, and in doing so had produced unique urban sculpture that embedded its own history. These documents of change were sometimes created by individuals with their own architectural visions and others where as a result of wholesale re-development as an area became redundant. One such area was the Victorian mansions in Weston-super-Mare that were divided up into flats in the 1930s, by adding external staircases. The work combined documentary photographs and those shot in the studio. Cardboard models were used as a way of unifying forms and tones, and emphasising detail that was otherwise inaccessible.
Since 2008 he has been documenting aspects of the regeneration of Weston-super-Mare seafront. This was a period of uncertainty with the global banking crisis and subsequent recession, and had a visible effect on the content and aesthetic of his photographs that favoured darker mono tones. One significant event from this time informed a new series of work later called Weston Phoenix. The Icelandic volcano ‘Eyjafjallajökull’ erupted in April 2010, sending a large amount of ash into the atmosphere effecting air travel, but also creating intense sunsets. This deadly, but beautiful event coincided with a number of hotel fires within the town. The themes of regeneration and fire, either real or metaphorical, were linked in a series of photographs, some cardboard models shot in the studio with orange light and smoke, and others shot on location.
In 2012 he was awarded a commission from the Phoenix Gallery in Exeter and the Centre for Additive Layer Manufacture (CALM), at the University of Exeter. This was used to produce some 3D prints of building fragments in white nylon. One later development stemming from this commission utilised the process of digital file making to make a series of 2D digitally drawn c-prints. These prints were of demolished hotels from Weston drawn in outline and informed by archive photographs.
The idea of change whether through events that are: social or political; local or international; catastrophic or evolving; and how they are made visible within the fabric of our world remains a predominant theme within his practice.