University: University of Westminster
Genre: Fine Art
Artist Statement: I grew up in a small village seductively called Lover. We had a nude man who lived a conventional 1960’s bungalow, ‘but it was his mother people felt sorry for’. His accepted presence has always fascinated me, but perhaps being invited in for lemonade was not as innocent as I remember. The boundary hedge of the property began my naked man’s habitat; the impenetrable thickness of the hedges added to the secretive nature of what went on inside and is implicit in the symbolism of hidden stories that you should not tell.
The series attempts to create a journey back to my childhood through the uncertain terrains of teenage sex, religion, and the sexual politics of the 1970s to connect each of us back to those first fluttering heartbeats of desire.
I am not a documentary photographer, but my work begins as a document about a place, a memory, an explanation of a feeling, that form a relationship with the past. I am present in the work I have produced, it’s partly a self-portrait.
My work explores the fallibility of memory and using documentary, constructed images and text, these memories are described and manipulated. Lover, becomes a stage for real and imagined events and the fictions created between truth, reality and invention.
Where did you attend university and what year did you graduate? I recently graduated from the University of Westminster following my MA. They had to prise me out with a stick. However I studied fine art at Brighton many years ago when it was still an art school, beginning as a painter and transferring to what was know as, ‘alternative practice,' in the second year. I then began working with photography and text which I continued in my masters.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I would have to say the opening night of my final exhibition and discovering how to make ‘glow in the dark’ screen printing ink workable on my images of naked men is high on the list!
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I consider myself primarily a fine artist who works with photography so my work crosses genres. I use texts, embroidery, painting and of course screen and photo polymer printing.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I am obsessed by the inexplicable nature and comedy of life, love and sexuality. The representation and fallibility of memory, and how truth and fiction can be manipulated in storytelling.
What inspired you to make work in the place you grew up? How did the series unfold? The small village I grew up in is seductively called Lover. Its name is irresistible. The starting point for this work was my desire to revisit memories of a nude man, a resident of this superficially dull country idyll. His accepted presence in the village has always fascinated me, but perhaps being invited in for lemonade was not as innocent as I remember. As the project progressed it has become a wider conversation with my teenage self. Photography can comprehend and represent memory in a different way to text. However, I find the combination of both images and texts are tools that work in my storytelling. The work reflects on what it means to be this teenager in the 1970s, the crushes, the dreams and the realities and the things you maybe didn’t tell your mum.
How do you think making a series in a place you're so familiar with changed your final body of work? The combination of the narrative realities and the fictionalised memory in some cases, builds layers of interpretation for me as I try to understand and make sense of my local history. I am not a documentary photographer, but my work begins as a document about a place, a memory, an explanation of a feeling, that form a relationship with the past. In Lover I am attempting to explore the blurring of lines between what is fact and invention. Initially taking a metaphorical approach to the subject I began by photographing the boundary hedge of the property where my naked man’s habitat, the impenetrable thickness of the hedges added to the secretive nature of what went on inside. This boundary is implicit in the symbolism of hidden stories that you should not tell.
Tell us about some of your photographic inspirations. I spent 20 years on a newspaper where truth is so often fictionalised that I am intrigued by artists who manipulate truths such as Sara-Lena Maeirhofe for her manipulation of the fictional in her book, Dear Clark. Max Pinckers mixing of documentary and fictional storytelling and the curious first-person work of Sophie Calle, in particular Double Game, Calle’s reclaiming of Auster’s fictionalised version of her as, Maria in his novel Leviathan is inspirational. Films which include Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, for its unrelentingly strange fiction of family life, inappropriate sexual behaviour and almost inexplicable narrative.
You state "I am present in the work I have produced, it's partly a self-portrait"; did you ever consider photographing yourself for this series? I considered it, however I feel I am so present in the story I don’t feel the need at this point.
Have you exhibited this work? Yes, its shown in China and Korea so far but ready for another outing from behind the sofa!
You recently completed an MA in Photographic Arts at the University of Westminster. Tell us about the course and what encouraged you to study further. I had wanted to do a masters for many years and the course at Westminster in Photographic Arts was the perfect fit for me. Lucy Soutter had moved from the Royal College of Art to head up the course and I’d known David Bate for a number of years. My image making process developed over the course and specifically in the lead up to the exhibition and has definitely helped bring clarity to how I want to produce work as I move forward. The journey has been uncomfortable, joyful, and rewarding filled with the complexity of challenges of self-discovery.
Tell us about your role as Photography Director at the Telegraph Magazine. The position of photo director of the Telegraph magazine offered me an unprecedented opportunity to use my knowledge of, and passion for, photography. The magazine changed under my direction. I worked with globally significant photographers both photojournalists and fine artists and I tried to put my stamp onto the visual language of the magazine, to keep it relevant and provocative. The remit was extremely broad and the daily life of the magazine was fast paced and exciting. I am happy to have given many well known names in the industry their first commissions.
What are your future plans? I also work as a curator and editor and I have been working closely with the Gaia Foundation to commission and curate, We Feed the World, a photographic global adventure documenting the lives of family and peasant famers for an exhibition which premiered at the Barge house Gallery in this October. I worked with fifty extraordinary photographers globally and it was a resounding success. The show will now travel to exciting destinations. I’m also curating 209 Women, a project which will be in exhibition in parliament and celebrating 100 years since women were given the right to vote. It's 209 female MP’s being photographed by female photographers.
I’ll continue working on projects ideally with a social conscience whist allowing me time to work on my own practice. I also teach and run a mentor programme in Oslo. I’m working on a couple of book dummies including, Sick in Bed, created from my collection of archival images of women on their sick beds which I’ve been collecting for a number of years. Also a new series inspired by and using archive images from a 1970s newspaper story which plays with a certain mythology of fame and was very much part of my teenage years. The 1970’s have a great deal to answer for!