Inside this issue
Even the birds were afraid to fly
life is always chaotic and uncertain
I'm a photographer based in the north of the UK working on long term landscape photography projects. I have been published and exhibited both in the UK and abroad and am co-founder of the Inside the Outside photography collective.
Landscape photography is the perfect vehicle for narrative and storytelling. I'm interested in the history of landscape and human interaction and alteration of landscape. The long departed people who have shaped that world sing songs. I'm slowly learning to listen.
I’ve always loved the sound of crows cawing. It has been suggested that they may even have their own language. Every Summer, when I was a small boy, rooks would nest in a tree in a neighbour’s garden. I would lie in bed listening to them talk and try to imagine what they were saying. Why make a noise at all? The sound of crows cawing remains incredibly comforting to me
Writing about work is such a strange thing to do, for me at least. Especially a few years after a series has been finished, made into a book and exhibited, etc. But at the same time, there is perhaps a clarity and focus afforded by the passage of time. At the beginning, the reasons for creation are always very intense and difficult. The ideas ebb and flow; there's confusion and self-doubt amongst other scatter-brained moments of bewilderment. But show me anyone who doesn't go through that process. I think it's inevitable; it's just some people hide it better than others. So, coming back to this work has been a rather enlightening experience for me.
There were numerous original reasons for making it, all interwoven with my life at the time, and while these reasons are still incredibly personal, I have found a little peace since then. A few people played a part in the creation of this work, albeit indirectly and not always in a positive way, however, their inclusion, while not immediately obvious in the photographs, is nonetheless there and, in a small sense, is a goodbye to them. We also had a global pandemic while I was making the work, plus the inevitable Brexit fallout.
Maybe I should talk a little about the work itself? I'm often asked what the white line is in some of the photographs. Life divided. We'll touch on this later on. It's actually a fold in a print of the work, which was subsequently rescanned for those of you who are interested. The handwritten notes that I included were usually attached to deflated balloons, which, thanks to a prevailing wind, seemed to make their way to where I made most of the work.
To begin with, I didn't connect the notes with the work I was making, I just started to collect them whenever I saw them (occasionally going to great lengths to remove them from high branches or generally difficult places. I still have scars but at the very least I picked up some litter). After a while, it became clear that the words in these notes were narrating the story as it was being made, so with some subtractions for sensitive words or names, I incorporated them into the series. They were mostly messages to passed loved ones, which fit almost too snugly with my own reasons for making the work in the first place.
So on we went, and it slowly became something tangible. Then, thanks to a few very kind people, it became a book, which I think is the perfect vehicle for the work. Making a book (and I've been lucky enough to do a few now) is such a strange process as it affords a full stop to making the work and the opportunity for other people to bring their own ideas and thoughts to bear upon it. I purposely didn't include any introductory text (there is some at the very back) because I didn't want to lead anyone or fill their heads with any preconceptions. I felt that was the very least I could do. And if I'm honest, this is probably my biggest 'Marmite' series to date. I realised a long time ago that I'm a Marmite photographer (you should see some of my direct messages), but then I've never quite fit anywhere in the photographic pantheon, or at least I've never felt like I've fit in anywhere. And I'd like to keep it that way. .
The 'birds' work started before the pandemic, then continued during (albeit in a limited fashion). While the world was starved of human contact, I honestly didn't find that aspect of it difficult. But solitude is always just a tiny stumble to loneliness. Anyway, it's all there in the work if you want to take a look. Of course, there were moments of pleasure and hope. I think the murmurations I was lucky enough to see really helped. I would go to a specific place at a specific time, and while it didn't always happen, even the starlings coming home to roost in groups was a pleasure to see. It became such a grounding experience amongst the chaos and uncertainty of life during a global pandemic. But life is always chaotic and uncertain. I think the biggest aspect of the 'birds' work is realising that fact and accepting it.
Someone much more poetic than I could ever be said, 'Loneliness is a great place to visit; just don't take any friends'. As photographers, we largely work alone, and I suspect while we're all looking for something different, there's more that unites us as a community than divides us. By and large, people are great, and I think, in simplistic terms, making photographs is simply a fantastic way to live life. To be privileged enough to show them to a wider audience in the form of a book is, for me at least, a pretty mind-bending experience. It's something I never thought for a second I would ever get to do. But there we go. There are a few copies left if you're interested. There should be a link knocking about somewhere.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please keep them to yourselves. Ta.