My name is Chris Mear, I’m a photographer from the Staffordshire University class of 2011. The majority of my work to date makes up an ongoing exploration of the post-industrial landscape in which I was born. Coalville Photographed is a series of short films and photographs presenting almost two years of observing an individual move through that landscape.
Coalville Photographed exists mainly online, but I’ve always held a desire for my work to exist primarily outside of the internet - in the real world. So I always wanted my interpretation of Coalville Photographed to result in print. It’s the most personal project I’ve made to date though, I was working on it completely independently and I was fearful to even mention it to almost anyone until the very end. One of the biggest practical problems with that is that the publication is completely self-designed and self-funded - by an almost laughably sized budget. Nevertheless, I simply felt it overwhelmingly important to get this work into the world now, as best I could.
In the final months of the project I stopped filming and rediscovered the motivation to photograph. And as I began to make photographs again I realised the possibility photography offered me to be more candid, and more intimate. When I was filming it seemed people were always very aware of myself and the camera, and they would always, to some extent, perform. I found it difficult to be invisible. Whereas when I began photographing again I found myself able to disappear. To just listen, patiently, allowing the subject to relax into the environment within which they found themselves. This observation is the reason I decided to include photographs in the final work, and why print eventually became a viable opportunity.
The films were the central part of the work and the photographs are perhaps the most important. Personally, I think the combination of the two are very successful on their own, and therefore I didn’t want to bog the viewer down with words. I feel increasingly, as my work develops, that I need to avoid writing to much about my photographs. So the majority of the text in the publication is from other people, usually photographers who have inspired me over the years. But the text is always hard to spot on the page. A lot of what Coalville Photographed is, for me, is a homage to the underrated act of listening.
For the most part, I think the layout of the publication is reasonably traditional, just one photograph in the centre of the page. But occasionally I play around with the image placement. I wanted to try and keep the viewer active. Starting and stopping. Looking around. Asking why, and thinking. Rather than just flicking through and falling asleep before they make the final page. The QR codes are further examples of this. Placed alone in the centre of the page. The hope is that the viewer stops and watches the film before continuing. The relationship between the films and the photographs are integral to a complete understanding of Coalville Photographed.
Coalville Photographed and the man behind it were my inspirations. This project was something of an attempt to escape, or at least an attempt to retreat to a more innocent way of being, acting and making work. So I tried to throw away most of my inspirations. Not to forget them and the profound impact they’ve had, and will continue to have, on me. But to move past them and get on with doing my thing.
Just be honest and offer us something. But don’t rush. Be patient. Don’t just make a zine or a book, or whatever, for the sake of it. The important thing should be the content and that should take significant time to produce and understand. Don’t do photography just for money or a career. Never stop asking yourself why you’re doing what you doing. Don’t follow the fashions and trends. Don’t try to follow footsteps. Don’t be scared of getting lost, and certainly don’t be afraid of failure.
The best piece of advice I can offer anyone though, is don’t ask me for advice. Because I don’t know what I’m doing either!
I’m planning a few events in Coalville to introduce the people to the work. After that it will be time to move on. I’ve been aware for some time now that the projects I‘ve been producing so far are not individual bodies of work. They’re all related and are slowly adding up to a whole. I feel there is one more chapter to complete before this project is done. And oddly, it’s the project I shamefully handed in as my final project at university. I couldn’t make it work then, but I have to go back and make it work now. So wish me luck.