University: London College of Communication
Statement: The project I have just published, Tulip, is the story of the last year of my mother’s life. After her cancer diagnosis we decided to record her treatment, it was very much collaboration between us, but when the diagnoses turned terminal the project shifted to one of recording memories. I didn’t want to remember my mum by images of hospitals, instead I looked at the things that made her uniquely her, the details in her house I thought I knew so well, the things that would also be gone when she was. I completed the project shortly after her death in 2010, and this year, after a lot of deliberating, decided to make it into a book.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? I don’t have a favourite, too many to choose from. The latest one I’ve bought and really love is James Pfaff’s Alex and Me. I like the mixture of photos, type and painting; it’s given me ideas for my new book!
Direction: I did a BA in Graphic Design, and had always had a big interested in photography, so I incorporated both for my final project creating my first photobook. From then onwards I was obsessed with photography; taking images, visiting galleries, buying books, having small exhibitions. Though I never really thought it could be a career, more an issue with my self-confidence than a statement about the photography industry. But whilst working as a picture researcher I thought I have to get out from behind this desk and go do what I love. So I did, I joined the MA at LCC in 2010 and have been a working documentary photographer since. That year proved to be a very significant year in my life, just before I joined the course my mum was diagnosed with cancer, so I started my Tulip project whilst on the course, I think I may not have done it without the support I received there.
Considerations: I received so many supportive messages from people who had seen my project online, saying how much they appreciated the work, many had been through similar situations. It was this more than anything that made me want to create a book, to share the story. Books are these lovely private objects you take home, sit and look at and return to when ever you like. That’s how I wanted mine and my mum’s story to be treated. I made a dummy book and approached the publisher Dewi Lewis last year and we began a conversation about publishing it. We edited the project a little, and changed the cover; we choose to use a delicate white textured paper one with no type on that reflects the story well.
Interior: What I love about books is you can create a narrative with the design; the order you sequence the images, the way images interact with words, how you use the images, these can all add to the story.
Tulip needed a delicate approach, so I paced the story throughout the book with large images of flowers. They were something I photographed lots within my mum’s house; she loved flowers, the house was always full of them. As I photographed them I realised they were symbolic of what was happening - they represented happiness, love, but also decay, and finally death. I wanted to show this transition through the book, rather than just showing images of someone getting more ill.
I used text throughout the book, which was taken from a blog I wrote whilst shooting the project, it was very intimate details of that year. I felt it was important to include some of this within the book. The words add another layer, and give a new meaning to some of the image.
Inspiration: I really love photography work about small personal stories, such as Léonie Hampton, Sian Davey, Elin Hoyland. All produced beautiful stories and photobooks. I’ve always been a big fan of Jessica Backhaus’ work, I love details of everyday life, Jessica focuses beautiful on these.
Advice and Future Goals: My advance for publishing is decide straight off why you want to publish the story. What it is you want to say with the book? and why book form? Then you need to think what is the best way to do that. Self publishing may well be the better option for your book. If you are convinced you want a publisher then make sure you find the right one, make a great dummy, get them to see why it should be a book. It’s important to get a publisher who gets the project, will support it and someone you can work with and trust. Immerse yourself into the photobook world; visit photo festivals, look at loads of other books, meet people.
I’m currently working on my next book, I’ve shot most of the material and am now trying to work out the form and format of the book, it’s fun this stage. My goal is to try to publish it next year sometime.