Where and why
There is an idea within photography that the primary interest is where you point your camera, then next is the question why. This is a deceptively simple idea, but as is commonly the case, one that can become much more complex the more you look at an image or series of images.
In recent months, with the onset of coronavirus necessitating a change of plan back in March, I have been somewhat forced to rethink what I choose to look at. At the start of the year, I had the idea that I was going to get to London on a much more regular basis and continue to develop my street photography work there. Over the last 5 years I have spent a reasonable amount of time there for work, and had taken to wandering the streets before and after work to develop my people photography skills. For the most part it has been mainly a case of just walking and capturing what might spontaneously appear before my eyes. It’s certainly something that I love doing, and will no doubt return to again, once I have an opportunity to get to London. However, I had this nagging question at that time where I wanted to do something more with my time up there.
Trafalgar Square, London
I tend to work in terms of projects, which has allowed me to focus my energy and time in specific ways. The main idea is simply to develop my creative eye and work on different themes in order to increase my photographic skills and interests. I was hoping to do something in a similar vein in London. Then, of course, in late March England went into lockdown.
During this period, we were only permitted out once per day to go for exercise. Having a dog who needed walking, I chose to head out at night and shoot the consequences of the lockdown in my local town of Salisbury. I chose the night for two reasons, firstly as it was very quiet and there was less chance of meeting people and secondly, I have held a long interest in shooting life at night. During this time, I created a zine-based project called ‘Empty Spaces’.
Salisbury at night during lockdown
Also, at this time, I focused on photographing my young family and how they lived (and continue to live) under the impact of this pandemic. Like many photographers with a young family, our cameras are pointed at them as much as the projects we embark on.
Towards the end of May restrictions started to ease and we could head out again. As soon as I could, I headed to the coast, initially taking the usual seascape shots, but very quickly the ‘where’ I was pointing my camera changed. In the first month or so as I was pointing my camera at the sea, I kept looking behind me and wondering what was going on in the communities that live by the coast. As time progressed, I turned my camera around 180 degrees and looked to build a broader picture of coastal regions.
Mudeford Beach Huts (The most expensive beach huts in the UK)
This has led me to where I have got to in my thinking now. Over recent weeks I have started visiting costal towns and documenting the activities that happen on the coast. My focus is very much here the interaction between the people and the coastal landscape. My ideas are evolving as I develop this work. However, at this point in time, I am focused on the recreational use of coastal regions. Over time this will develop into other ideas but right now this is where I have started, given the restrictions of social distancing.
Family eating fish and chips, Weymouth
In addition to this, I have additionally started on a second project. Whilst I grew up on the coast (which, of course, is a major driver for my interest in coastal communities), I live nowadays in Salisbury, which is very much inland.
The Shape of the Land project
My second project, which has the working title ‘The Shape of the Land’ allows me to develop other ideas about how we as people interact with and use the English landscape. Both projects are longer-term in their nature, as I want to give time to them to allow me to explore and develop ideas.
This blog is where I hope you will join me in this process of exploration as I develop and shape the work (and ideas) that guide these projects.
With each blog I aim to include an audio file of varying lengths where I talk through some of the reasons why I am visiting a location, why I think it is important to me and my thought process as I take images.
The audio file below is not particularly edited, but it does cover a short scouting trip to one of the Handsel sister trees at Grovely wood. In the audio recording I explain how this tree fits into my current thinking about my (very) new project. It’s about 30 minutes long, so you’ll deserve a medal if you get through it all. I am coughing a little at the start, but don’t worry it’s not COVID related – I have a minor chest infection!
Any thoughts, comments and reflections are always appreciated on this blog!