Inside this issue
I am a creative photographer from Cheshire who now lives in East Sussex. Using my camera as a paintbrush, I am usually to be found wandering the South Downs, often into abstraction.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Instagram’s thrown up a treat this time, in the form of Jan Gray. It can be hard to fully judge someone’s photography on the platform (others may disagree) and at the time I contacted Jan in August there was no link to a website. Serendipity obviously played a part, as my email found her putting the finishing touches to one, and I had the pleasure of selecting images from it before it went live. I’ve loved putting this together - Jan’s humour permeates her answers. Although you can guess at some of her formative photographic influences, there are many other sources of inspiration and Jan has clearly reached the point of knowing, and going, her own way. Even if you think swooshing a camera around isn’t your thing, I’d encourage you to read on; we are all so much more than just the sum of our pixels.
Would you like to start by telling readers a little about yourself - where you grew up, your education and early interests, and what that led you to do?
Right, well, first of all thanks so much for asking me to do this, Michela. I was amazed when I received your invite and it arrived at a time when I finally feel ready to unleash a website, so great timing.
Anyway, my wonderful childhood was spent in North West England - mainly in 70s flares, very long hair and with a well dodgy fringe - about a mile outside the rather gorgeous walled City of Chester. My home was a terraced house in a working class row of three streets that housed lots of kids so we all played and schooled together. My mum worked at the local Playgroup and my Dad was a Milkman. I was good at school, had lots of small rodent pets, resisted eating meat as often as possible and became transfixed by David Bowie. The only photography in my life came in the form of holiday snaps on Agfa or Kodak film and those heinous school shots that make you want to die.
Art, on the other hand, was a different matter. I was never without a sketchbook or a ‘life of an artist’ book from WH Smiths and I dreamed, in an almost tragically spiritual manner, of becoming the muse of a Lucian Freud or of meeting a like-minded group of painters and going to live in a commune where we would paint, grow vegetables and smoke pot.
Mercifully, I stayed at school instead and became a teenager (and importantly, a lifelong vegetarian). As much as art shaped my thinking, so did political ideology. My Dad was very left wing, a Labour man and Bennite, and I followed his thinking. I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists at 14 and became a very active member. The time was perfect for someone like me: Thatcher’s Britain, CND, The Miners’ Strike, The Troubles, Clause 28, Militant, Apartheid…I was angry, furious actually, but so so happy. Even today, I am never more ragingly delighted than when I am ideologically fuming about something.
My angsty life was also always filled with music as a backdrop: Bowie, Nick Cave, Iggy, Velvet Underground, Bunnymen, Talking Heads, Billy Bragg, John Peel’s seminal radio show in bed under the covers, that sort of necessary thing. And reading, anything and everything: Orwell, Marx, Vasari, Bronte, Tressell…