In 2007, as I completed my MA, I was also working on a series of images of my father for exhibition as part of Everything Equally. The final seven head and shoulder photographs I called Procession, relating not just to the literal procession of images on the wall but also as a representation of our procession through life, from birth to death. The images on this website are evidence of my procession (and perhaps yours …)
Means of Escape
In Wales, in a caravan, not trailer trash but trashing the trailers. Making a market garden, trying to keep working, connecting utilities, windswept, airborne, flying at it.
Every hour of every day, in digital flat screen wide screen, free to view, impossible to avoid, our western way of life is reinforced by the steady push of media. Attend.
The Weaver Navigations
In keeping with the idea of procession, the images in The Weaver Navigations are really more about my navigations than that of the River Weaver or the canalised sections that are called the Navigations.
The work is about my reaction to living in a new area, rural as opposed to urban, to the industrial history that has shaped that region as well as being about learning to look and see in different ways, with composition that echoes the underlying interests.
It is also about documenting without the work being documentary, more about mood and moment than specifics.
Winter Landscapes Suite
My reaching middle age coincided with the death of my father and the completion of my MA. I had a definite feeling of mortality, of cup half empty rather than half full.
The Winter Landscapes suite is reflective of that emotional state, an attempt at sequencing and bringing together apparently disparate groups of images into a whole, one that works as a group of musical pieces might, carrying an ‘emotional melody’ and theme throughout that acts as the glue. Hopefully the component pieces add up to a larger feeling.
The images in this series recording bivvys in the Delamere Forest are changed on a regular basis as I seek to find a balance between the record shot and the emotional content. These flimsy and transient structures bring to mind the basic human requirements of warmth, protection, safety.
Many are old, collapsed, rebuilt, devoid of form. Sometimes days are bright and sunny, the forest seems cheerful and peaceful. Other days are overcast, damp, unrelenting and the shelters seem unthinkable, the forest dark and threatening.
How many are ever slept in is unclear – the better made ones are created by school children at Fox Howl Outdoor Education Centre. At the end of the day they are destroyed ready for the next class.
Another Kind of World
Sequence is very important in my work, where potentially inconsequential images are given strength and extended meaning by association with other images. Great play has been made of the idea of limnality in modern photography, or work at the edges or boundaries of things. However, whilst I often make images at the edges, my feeling was that it operated in a slightly different space.
To understand this I turned to the work of Raymond Moore, the now much neglected British photographer, whose work and thoughts I find to be a great influence.
In considering his work, and through that my own, I have come to realise that he operates not only at edges, but between edges, in an indeterminate space of otherness, in an interstitial space. Where the limnal, in an anthropological sense, refers to crossing a boundary or edge, such as a rite of passage where we pass from a state of immaturity into another of maturity, the interstitial remains caught betwixt events, offering glimpses of a greater resonance.
To sequence work is to create further levels of meaning in the zones between the images, the interstices, where a combined sense of meaning arises, created in the overlap of perception. I don’t think that this should be taken too literally but it does help to explain the oddness that recurs so often in the work of photographers such as Moore or Mark Power, who find the seemingly commonplace to be full of uncertain abnormality, a distortion that we acknowledge with a jolt of recognition.
“Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is. But I also think it is possible to walk like Alice through the looking glass, observe the puzzles in one’s head and discover another kind of world with a camera.” Tony Ray-Jones, 1968
We have entered an interesting time of financial instability, where the euphemisms of capitalism are being stretched to breaking point as our governments cling on to and prop up corrupt systems that they have failed to control. Self-interested, desperate to retain power, they have helped turn our society into one of disaffected consumer puppets, raddled by greed, uncaring of others, fearful of everything real.
Most of my work avoids leading the viewer with titles for individual images, but in this case it felt appropriate. The way we live should be reflected upon and the eye that gazes on it should be pitiless.
The original series Pleasureland and recent work New Pleasures (during the ‘summer’ of 2008) bear witness to the declining fortunes of our coastal attractions and show the sometimes desperate efforts to keep ailing businesses running.
In contradiction to this, the latest UK Tourism figures reveal that over 17 million seaside holidays were taken in England during 2006, with the visitors spending over £3.3 billion – a figure that is surely set to rise as flying abroad becomes less of an option.
Simple Pleasures is intended to act as a counter to this, to reflect the relaxation of those idly enjoying the seaside experience. Mostly made in Llandudno over many visits, I found that the situations that interested me were often less confrontational and avoided obvious judgement; looking over people’s shoulders, seeing things from their point of view, perhaps sharing their thoughts as we put ourselves in their position.
This is a measurement of length for standard allotments. The images are a record of my time as an allotment holder on a large site at the border of Levenshulme and Reddish in south Manchester.
It is not uncommon to see images that are divided into two halves, but having taken one almost by accident I saw the possibility of using this to produce landscapes that were free of my compositional habits so that they revealed the landscape in a different way.
This series of images of my father was produced as part of the Everything Equally workshops run by Redeye at Touchstones, Rochdale and which resulted in a large scale group show in the galleries. The following text accompanied the work:
Age and the burden of ageing will affect all of us, regardless of our financial or social situation in life. That these images are of my father, taken at the time of his 80th birthday might be important on a personal level, but I am more concerned that the viewer sees him depicted as an Everyman, representative of processes that you and I must, inevitably, undergo.
Bags In Trees, Dog Bags, Dog Balls
There are few moments during the day or night when he is not dependent upon pumped oxygen, the limits of his world dictated by the length of plastic tubing attaching him to the device, or the amount of oxygen available in a portable cylinder. Its flow is as constant as his breathing is in-constant. The shallow depth of field in these images attempts to capture that struggle for air, as if he is breathing in and out of focus.
The title Procession 1 can here refer to the procession of breaths he fights to take or, in a wider sense, to the procession from birth to death. We see so many images in our daily lives, in magazines, newspapers, posters, on television, that it is easy to become blinded to them, to briefly look and pass on by unaffected and without emotional connection to the subject.
By showing a sequence of similar images I hope to increase engagement, to slow the viewers progress and go beyond responses based on surface appearance, so that it might be possible to begin to relate to the subject, ageing and illness in this case, on a shared level of humanity, seeing this human being as a stand-in for ourselves, aware that everything will come to us equally in time.
The Dog Bags echo our best intentions – we want to do the right thing but only manage to go half-way. We will pick that bag up on the way back, won’t we …
Bags In Trees are an endangered species and a spent comment on consumerism now that we have a bag for life courtesy of the environment conscious supermarkets …
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