University: Falmouth University
Genre: Research Based Documentary
Artist Statement: The Dark Figure* is an ongoing documentary project, mapping the immediate surrounding neighbourhoods where victims have been held as modern slaves across the UK.
My practice is concerned with human rights and social issues. I am drawn always towards stories that raise awareness of issues that are lesser known, mostly ignored or that have something impactful and necessary to say about who we are as human beings.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I graduated in 2016 from the BA (Hons) Press & Editorial Photography course at Falmouth University.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Ok so I’ve numbered them for you!
1) The moment I was told outright (and this was very early on) that my practice and development as a photographer was far more important than the piece of paper I would get at the end, it made me really start to take my practice seriously and my whole approach changed.
2) Throughout the first year of university, we were made to shoot black and white film manually. No digital! I believe this is at least part of what has made me a considerate photographer. Black and white film is also the reason I fell in love with photography 13 years previously back at high school. So it has certainly treated me well through the years!
3) Being introduced to multimedia - video, sound, interactive storytelling, was certainly a good moment for me. It was as though the flood gates opened up and anything was possible.
4) Finally, I’m in agreement with Ashley Bourne, also a Falmouth graduate of the same year (but different course), that some of the most inspiring moments of the three years took place during visiting lecture programs. Not only is that outside, non-biased industry perspective so crucial, but I always came away from these talks remembering that there’s no right or wrong way of “becoming successful” - whatever that means. I feel as though I’ve heard every possible journey, which is important when trying to navigate your own.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I think I often find myself exploring human struggle in one form or another. I enjoy learning about how we deal with various issues or events that are involuntarily flung at us. I try not to think as to why these themes interest me. It’s probably some subconscious form of self-preservation. But I also think I just like trying to understand different kinds of humans and their various realities.
Your images are void of people and seem to be shot from the perspective of a passer by. Have you tried to create a certain atmosphere in these images? I’ve tried to encourage a kind of layered reaction from the viewer by suggesting through photography that little seems to happen in these quiet locations. There are no people, no sense of danger. But then through the use of text I reveal the reality of each location’s dramatic history, which I hope will inspire a juxtaposed sense of unease. Suddenly the lack of people given the context, make the images incredibly sinister.
Can you tell us how your use of text supports your images? Text is of equal importance to the photographs in The Dark Figure*. As briefly discussed in the question above, it is the text which allows the viewer to access the image with a mind loaded with inexcusable crimes and the brutal experiences of vulnerable innocents. It is then the image which allows the viewer to feel how close to home these atrocities exist. One cannot exist without the other.
Were there any photographers who influenced you when making The Dark Figure? I wouldn’t say “influenced” but naturally I find inspiration from various sources, not just photography. I remember during the developmental stages of the project I was interested to look at projects such as Chloe Dewe Matthews’ Shot At Dawn, a series which documents sites where British, French and Belgium troops were executed for cowardice during WW1. Also The Landscape Of Murder by Antonio Olmos, which tracks down sites in London where people had been murdered, within days of the incident.
What encouraged you to create a newspaper to show this work? Did you always have this output in mind when making the images? No not initially. It was only after I had a significant body of work that the idea of a newspaper came into fruition.
The 2015 Modern Slavery Act is a new and complex piece of legislation and with it comes an array of equality issues, particularly for migrant workers. Although my captions allow a wide open space to discuss legislative issues, I wanted to create something that would enable me to talk about all the various elements in more detail, in a digestible graphic format.
I am also hugely inspired by street art and wanted to create something that could be read and shared in the community, like the daily Metro. Included in the newspaper come instructions on how to rearrange the pages to form a street art exhibition. I like the idea that people can pin or paste up pages on the wall and become part of the community to help raise awareness of modern slavery.
What was your choice of camera equipment for The Dark Figure*? Did you choose it accordingly or is it your usual preference? The project is slow, considered and highly detailed, so I guess I knew film would make sense for it. In this case it’s my go-to medium format kit, because sadly I’m just not rich enough for large format colour film!
What are your future plans as a photographer?
Get rich and buy some large format film.
For me it’s just one step at a time. I am still working on The Dark Figure* and have a few small projects starting up in Canada, which is where I’m currently based. I think I find it really hard to look into the future when it comes to photography because it’s such a slow game. Or maybe I’m slow. Either way, I intend for it to last my lifetime in some form or another, so I’m pretty excited about that.