Clayton interviews… Dom Agius

Dom Agius - From Here To Eternity, Without Inbetweens

Clayton interviews… Dom Agius

How many years have I known Dom? Ten? We met in the Freedom Bar on Wardour Street. I was doing a reading and when it finished I noticed this handsome guy standing in the corner by the bar. He had a cheeky grin. He was taking photos. A mutual friend introduced us and, many nights out later, here we are, friends, in 2015. 

Dom is one of these people who is instantly likable; easy-going, considerate and prolifically creative. When we first met, creating music was his main ‘thing’; that and DJ’ing. But gradually it’s his photos that are getting the publicity. Dom is a photo diarist. His Facebook friends will testify to his observational skills in that, each day for the last 5 years, he posts a photograph of an everyday situation. But it’s the way he captures that situation; the shadows, the angle, the framing, scenes we pass by, but fail to notice – it’s the way he puts all this together that makes his photos so err, ‘Domish.’ 

The evening of the interview I’m in Surrey and Dom’s in Sussex, so the phone is our only option. 

Clayton: ‘Drug of choice in each decade of your party life?’

Dom: *laughs* ‘Oh I’ve ‘ad the odd sherry here and there. Matthew Stradling will testify to my cocktails too.’ *laughs*

Clayton: ‘How old were you when you fell in love with a man? Who was it? Can you remember how you felt?

Dom: ‘Fourteen. Best friend at school. Devastating. Big one. Took a long time to get over that one. Not sure I did actually. You don’t do you?’

Clayton: ‘Your house is burning. You can save one (non human) object. What would it be?’

Dom: ‘My camera. Not necessarily because of the camera itself, but I’d want to capture the house in flames.’ *laughs*

Clayton: ‘Musical heroes – one past, one present.’

Dom: ‘Pet Shop Boys. And my brother Harry actually. He DJs and produces aching electronic music as Midland. He’s about to release his first album with his friend & singer Robbie Redway as AKASE. It’s a beautiful record.’

Clayton: ‘Literary heroes, one past, one present.’

Dom: ‘Nancy Mitford? Her edge and pith have always … fitted my mood somehow. There’s too many to umm … Oh, Chris Heath, the Pet Shop Boys biographer. He was a Smash Hits journalist and colleague of Neil Tennant’s whose quiet, minimal, dispassionate eye and way with prose matched … framed their laconic Englishness. Especially on tour. His first book with them, Literally, is, along with Nancy’s  Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love Compiled, my most read, reread, treasured, travelled, thumbed and battered books. I could not choose between them. I’m a heathen. An arch, Anglophile heathen it seems. *laughs* 

Clayton: ‘Art heroes, one past, one present.’

Dom: ‘ Evan Bachner the WW2 photographer. His book At Ease is a black and white masterpiece. My present one? … Even though he died recently is Eric Watson. He was a photographer colleague of Neil Tennant’s at Smash Hits, took all the Pet Shop Boy’s early promo shots, album covers (Please, Actually – with the  yawn) and directed their very best videos ( West End Girls, Suburbia, Heart, Domino Dancing, So Hard   etc). I think he was implicit in establishing their air of shy, English separation. The instructions they gave him, ‘We don’t want to look airbrushed and happy like Bros or Kylie. We want to look real, tired, ill, whatever the moment says. Every photo should look like a scene from a film – what happened before, what happened after – that is all that matters.’ This became my late teen mantra. His cinematic eye, and the way he photographed, almost … graphically, stripping an image down to it’s leanest and barest, and most honest elements, became a cornerstone and foundation for me. West End Girls really was like an open door for me.’

Clayton: ‘Recurring nightmare?’

Dom: ‘Falling off a bench. Or being pulled off one backwards.’ 

Clayton: ‘What famous man did you sexually fantasise about when you were young?’

Dom: ‘*laughs* ‘Ummm … Oh my God. I don’t know. My friend’s Dads. Someone gruff usually. Lee Majors?’

Clayton: ‘What about the cast of Bonanza?’ 

Dom: ‘That’s a little before my time.’ 

*both start laughing*

Clayton: ‘Woman you would most like to be? Why?’

Dom: *pauses* ‘Joanna Lumley. Love her whimsy and chic. I love her way with words. She’s a total enthusiast’.

Clayton: ‘What makes you stop in the street and think, I need to photograph that?’ 

Dom: ‘Everything. Everything and nothing. Usually nothing. It’s usually the space around a tiny detail which grabs me. It’s the balance of the moment. I’m the least mathematical person. I failed my Math’s O Level five times. But, more and more, I’m aware that, constructing a photo in a frame is like an algebraic equation. And sometimes it just clicks, pun totally intended, and it’s the best feeling.’

Clayton: ‘Favourite horror film. Why?’ 

*line goes dead. Calls back* 

‘I don’t know what happened there … didn’t you like the question?’

Dom: *laughs* ‘American Werewolf in London is the only horror film I like. When I was growing up in Africa, there was no TV but we had five video cassettes. My family lived in Tanzania from 1980 to 2000. In the first 5 years, we lived in the bush. I went to boarding school in Kenya, and then England from the age of 11 and I saw my parents and four siblings, three times a year in school holidays. So we had no TV during those holidays (bar the crackly BBC World Service on radio). And we shared a video player with twenty families in the middle of nowhere, with only 5 VHS tapes: American Werewolf In London, Flash Gordon, The Rocky Horror Show, Christmas Top Of The Pops 1984 (Frankie, Duran Duran, Spandau) and Grease. Me and my brothers and sisters can recite all those VHS videos, virtually verbatim. We watched those five videos, again. And again. And again. And the guy in the American Werewolf film was kind of hot. There’s a scene in it where he ends up naked in a zoo and he runs past a little boy holding some balloons. And the little boy looks exactly like me at the time. He grabs one of the boys balloons and the look of that boy … is literally my clone. ‘

Clayton: ‘What do you need to do before you die so that you know you’ve had a fulfilling life?’

Dom: ‘Nowt. If I died tomorrow I’d be happy. I’ve had a great time. I’ve been loved and loved loads. I’ve met amazing people and done some amazing things.’

Clayton: ‘What drives you creatively?’ 

Dom: ‘I don’t know if I am driven.  I’m more of an observer. I either feel it or I don’t. I’ve never had a career plan. Nothing has ever been intended. *says carefully* I just can’t not take the photos I take. And share a few of them. A fraction of them. Like you with your diaries.’ 

Clayton: ‘Your idea of hell?’

Dom: ‘Deafness. Being trapped with my own thoughts. Muted. And no conversation.’ 

Clayton: ‘Your stuck in a lift for a night with someone. Who and why?’

Dom: *laughs* ‘Mick. My boy. We’d probably argue. A lot. But I couldn’t imagine being there with anyone else.’

Clayton: ‘Define love?’ 

Dom: ‘A hundred daily forgotten kindnesses. When you just do things on a whim. When you do things quietly. Not for a reaction. Just for the nature of them. Just leave them there and move on’

Clayton: ‘Your life starts again. What would you do different?’   

Dom: ‘Nothing. Wouldn’t change a thing.’