University: Manchester Metropolitan University
Graduation: 2012 & 2017
Artist Statement: Father Please is a photographic exploration of a strained father, son, relationship, the objects within the images are transitional objects hand me downs, gifted to the character by his father, this act of trivial gifting has had a stifling effect on the character within the images, who is desperate to reach out and communicate with his disinterested father.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I finished My BA in Photography in 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University, and then took a few years out to work independently on my art and photography. I then returned to MMU and began studying for my Masters in photography in 2016.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? My BA studies were quite underwhelming, I did not apply myself as well as I could have done, but also my understanding and appreciation of both my own art and of art in general was still quite immature and under-developed, so my time there was not as memorable or productive as it should have been, however after taking the time out between my MA and BA the level of work I produce and knowledge and appreciation for the art world had increased massively, and I threw myself head first into my MA studies in September 2016.
Standout moments for me so far from my MA has been the exhibition I put on at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre earlier this year with other students from various courses at MMU. The exhibition was entitled Loss and Inheritance and was a group study of ageing and our perceptions of age, it was received well, and we were very busy both days that the show was on.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? The photography that I produce would be classed as fine art photography, as there are no elements of documentary or journalism within the work I produce, however as an artist I think my work would also fall into the conceptual art. I wouldn’t say the images that I produce are particularly ‘pretty’ in the traditional sense, and they rely on the idea to carry them in most cases, my photography is usually accompanied by something external to the images as well, such as sound, literature or moving image, which also helps carry the works concept.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? My work is very much routed within the confessional art movement. Confessional art is a form of contemporary art that focuses on an intentional revelation of the private self, and has been popularised by artists like Tracy Emin. My work explores, mental health, relationships, substance abuse and the everyday, always drawing from my own personal experiences with these issues, the work is very autobiographical, but yet carries theme that I think many people can relate to themselves.
What encouraged you to go back to the same university you completed your BA at to now study for an MA? When I left MMU after completing my BA, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, so I started working through various dead end jobs, random office jobs etc. but I was never happy as I couldn’t devote myself 100% to my artistic pursuits. I had also become very isolated when it came down to working on artistic projects, I have many talented friends who are extremely creative and we bounce off each other quite a lot, but I was yearning for some kind of structure or routine in which to work on my art, the MA at MMU offered me that, as we had a strict routine of weekly meetings in place, where we would gather and discuss our work.
The only reason for my return to MMU was for the familiarity of the place having studied for my BA there and its locale to myself, as I just live outside of Manchester, it sounds like I am underplaying the university when I explain this to people, but I couldn’t recommend the university more to people looking wanting to study on a creative course. The history of the school of art there is rich, with a great list of notable alumni, the working spaces and facilities are fantastic and it even has its own art gallery open to the public, The Holden gallery.
Can you explain the title of your current body of work? My current body of work is entitled Father Please. The work is an exploration of my difficult relationship with my father and our attempts and failures at communicating with each other. The work uses a very simple aesthetic to put one of the characters of the relationship into a torturous and submissive position, their identity stolen by the act of meaningless gift giving, the title is a plea for the missing father figure of the relationship.
How did you choose which items to include in your images? All the items within the images are items given to me by my father. Throughout our relationship we never really connected on an emotional level, but he tried to reach out over several occasions and the way he would do this is by giving me hand me down objects, and objects that he no longer wanted himself, as this isn’t the kind of connection I was desperately seeking. The act of giving me these ‘gifts’ and also the objects themselves began to represent the broken and failed relationship, the objects themselves became repressive.
What significance do the items in your images have? Do they all hold certain memories for you? It’s not so much that they hold memories, but more of what they have come to represent to me, the objects themselves are fallout from a failed relationship, thrown haphazardly around during the maelstrom of an emotional battle between two large characters, but also they could be seen as something that the characters wishes to hold on to, as they remind him of the father, but also they are used in a very obstructive and domineering way within the images, robbing him of his identity and his voice.
Which photographers influenced you when making Father Please? Louise Bourgeois is an early inspiration for this piece, although you won’t tend to see any aesthetic connection between her work and mine. Louise's work details the relationship with her mother (Maman) and her father (Destruction of the Father) have been great inspiration when considering how to use our own personal experiences in our art. Grayson Perry was someone I looked into extensively and especially his recent study of masculinity (All Man) and his book (The Destruction of Man). Someone whose inspired me massively through my art career is Tracey Emin and her use of confessional art, and finally the poetry of Billy Childish and his novel My Fault.
Why have you chosen to include sound bites with these images? What additional information do they provide your viewer? I’ve always been fascinated with the emotions that a photograph is able to stir up within the audience, and a part of me at the beginning of Father Please was curious about different ways to get that emotion out of the images and deliver to the audience. Upon transforming the images into sound using audacity, I realised that I had given a tortured voice to my character within the images, the images seem so silent without the sound, and they are not silent, these are images of a tortured and frustrated character, which needs to have his voice finally heard.
You mentioned briefly that you like to accompany your images with external elements, such as sound or literature; can you tell us about these and your reasons for doing so? I like to add different elements to my work to help drive the message; I feel that if you stick to just one medium, you are unnecessarily limiting yourself. I use a lot of sound in my work, as I find sound can be the most atmospheric of media, and nothing is silent, not even art, I like to give a voice to my work and allow it to address my audience directly, for inspiration with sound I look towards the work of Laurent Grasso, and Susan Phillipsz.
I used literature extensively through my series Paradise Lost which was an exploration of depression. I think you need to be very careful with literature or using words alongside your art, as I think its very easy to give too much away, you want to leave something in your work that your viewer can consider in their own mind, giving too much away makes the work too easy. For inspiration I look at the work of Willie Doherty, and primarily Beat writers, such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski, I like to keep the words used cryptic to develop intrigue and debate.
Have you ever exhibited Father Please? How did you or would you present the sound clips with the images? At the moment Father Please is going through testing exhibitions, it has a lot of elements, so using them all together has to be done correctly otherwise the piece will fail and not be effective. Father Please on show at Sloe Gallery in Manchester. I'm hoping for another showing in June, and then a final showing before my MA graduation. All the dates I will place onto my blog if people would like to come and visit.
Have you got any advice for new graduates? When you graduate you quickly lose that guidance and security of regular deadlines, and set briefs, so it’s very easy to sit back and not work as regularly as you have been throughout your university studies. Find time each day to work on your practice, set yourself regular briefs and keep reading about your practice, stay engaged, the real struggle starts when you leave university.