University: Middlesex University
Genre: Documentary, Portraiture
Artist Statement: This series is a visual exploration of my Father’s life. I have been investigating and observing family members, places and objects that have a connection with his past and our present.
At the centre is the figure of my grandfather who repeatedly absconded from the army to be with his family. He died aged 20 in a car accident a few days before my father turned one and 10 weeks after being discharged from service.
I was also 20 when I first came across my grandfather’s portrait. This encouraged me to trace my family history up to my great grandparent’s generation.
Through this project I am trying to disentangle the strands that have shaped my father’s life and therefore mine.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? The first thing that comes to mind when reading this question has to be the numerous talks we had from different photographers at university. We had people such as Tim Walker, Richard Billingham, John Blakemore and many more come into our studios to talk about their journey, old work and current projects they were working on. It was always so great to hear first hand about the work and to learn new techniques on how to enter this industry.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? Throughout this project I have been exploring all family members who are still with us and those who aren’t, as well as places and objects. The places represent times in my life which link to my fathers and the objects being things that belonged to my Nan which would have surrounded my father during his childhood. Nothing in this series is by accident, every image is linked somehow to the next and all the tiny details in each have a meaning and reason behind it.
How do you think your juxtaposition of portraits and objects allows you to portray your Fathers life? All the portraits were shot in different locations, but all with a similar framing and quality of light to them. The repetition throughout the project is to let you solely focus on these things in the images. I believe these portraits and objects portray my Fathers life because they are all items that built up his world around him as a child, right up until today. An example of this being,the self-portrait, this is myself wearing my great Nans cardigan. This being a representation of her. The woman who raised my Father, as well as sitting as myself, connecting both Nan and me and my Father.
Have any of your family members had any input into this series or have you worked on it and explored your family history at your own pace? My Father and myself first looked into this together. We had moved house and discovered a picture of my Grandfather; this was the first time I had ever seen his portrait. Along with this portrait, a box full of photographs, letters, birthday cards, and toys etc. A small box from my Fathers childhood, something I have always been so curious about but never had the chance to see, as I was always told he never had any of these things. I asked if we could go through it together, which we did now he felt ready. This led me to discover photographs of my Grandmother, Great Grandfather, and my Dad as a kid. All things I had never seen and always thought about. There were letters written by my Grandfather in the box too. This really gave me an insight into the person he was which was so wonderful. This led me to want to investigate further, meaning I began to explore this box in more depth by myself. But still with my Fathers input from start to finish.
What do you hope for your work to say to your viewer? I hope that the viewer can look in depth to each photograph displayed in my series and try and find the links and connections from the details in each, relating them to the same project. With this I also just want people to explore the work how I explored my subject, and wonder what each place entails and how the relevance of the objects and people are connected.
Do you think you’ll continue to add to this series of work as you grow as an individual? I definitely think this is something I can add to. It is such a huge subject with more places involved, objects and of course more people who will be added as the years go on. This is something I would definitely like to add to in the future.
Would you ever consider photographing more relevant places in your Fathers life, as opposed to, or as well as, capturing the people close to him and some of your family emblems? My Father has influenced many of my projects, this being from various stories and memories he’s has told me over the years. I would say my Dad is my muse when it comes to my photography and the subjects I choose to photograph. I am always photographing him and trying to develop new projects. I am definitely looking into photographing more relevant things in his life; on a new project though, not linking to my latest project BLUEBIRDS.
Many of us would be able to name some photographers who have probably influenced your work, but can you name any who we may not have instantly thought of? Two of my favourite, and I believe most relevant projects and photographers I researched for this project, were Phillip Toledano's When I Was Six and Mariela Sancari's Moisés. Both of these projects influenced my work in different ways. Other photographers I looked at include, Taryn Simon, Melissa Spitz, J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Collin Avery and Patrick Fraser, among many more.
Were there any books or films that influenced your series? There weren't any books or films as such, but there was my Granddads journal, which I guess you could call a book that influenced my series. This was a great thing to keep referring back to throughout my project. The scanned pages you will see throughout the project are from this. Looking through this helped me build up a picture of my Grandfather; his handwriting, and his mindset, and just his way with words opened up a whole new insight into what this man was like. This is also where I got the title BLUEBIRDS from as well as the cover for my book.
Can you tell us about the camera equipment you used to make this series? Do you think it’s relevant to the way you work? My whole project was shot on my Mamiya RZ67. This is my favourite and most used camera for my work. I think this was a fantastic way to shoot this project, as for me it’s a slower process and a more calming way to work. This project was about exploring people and places and that’s exactly what I could do by working with this camera, as I had to work slowly with the camera and examine every detail through the view finder before firing the shutter.
What are your future plans as a photographer? Is there a series you’d really like to make? I do have a series in mind and have now for a while. This time a series about myself. I am currently looking at the work of Charlie Stanhope and Cindy Sherman for research. As well as this I am looking into a location to shoot the portraits I hope to create.