University: University of Creative Arts, Farnham
Artist Statement: In order to reconnect with the unknown places surrounding a 90 mile driving route I decided to walk home, consciously following the road route as closely as possible I made the entirety of the journey by foot. The walk, spanning 5 days from my University house in Surrey to my childhood home in Essex would take me through four towns that would be my milestones for the journey and a place to stay.
In order to consider my relationship with these places I wanted to completely exclude everything that encompass’ my car journey and delve into this incredibly slow walk. I used ordnance survey maps to navigate my whole journey and chose not to use technology that may interfere with my connection to these places. It was particularly important to me to take my photographs on a large format camera to bring this inherently slow process together, resulting in a series of nine photographs that question the relationship I have found within these surrounding places.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? For me, every single part of my time at university had a very big impact on me, but a few particular moments would have to be when I came to find my feet with my Walking Home project at the beginning of my third year along with the progression of my dissertation. I really began to acknowledge the theory of photography and how it can be incredibly informative within my work, it was like a little lightbulb was switched on and the rest fell together piece by piece.
Towards the end of my final year, achieving a first on my dissertation was easily one of the biggest highlights of my time studying, having the acknowledgement that someone else understands just where I was coming from with my writing was particularly rewarding. I then spent a lot of time reflecting on the progression I made throughout the three years I studied and through this came to realise that I couldn’t have fallen on my feet more with the course, everyone complains about it at the time but I truly believe I couldn’t have picked a better place to study.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I find that my work has allowed me to explore a number of different themes, this having been part of the process that I have worked through with my BA course, but with regards to most recent body of work Walking Home I have been exploring psychogeography, home and the landscape. The work allowed me to question my relationship to the landscape that surrounds my home as well as the psychogeography surrounding these locations.
Currently however my focus is still on that of the landscape, but in fact the impact that we have on it and how we shape and change it according to our needs. This, as well as how these actions change the course of its path and the inhabitations that live and thrive in such locations. I am currently at the basis of a new project so hope to establish these themes further as the work progresses.
Tell us about Untitled Collective. Why did you decide to work on this project and what are your goals? Untitled Collective began when myself and fellow peer Paris Wood decided that we wanted to create a platform to support, connect and collaborate with aspiring photographic artists by publishing their work in creative bi-monthly journal. We decided on it as a creative release, both for ourselves and the work of fellow aspiring photographers and from there we have been able to learn greatly from those we have published as well as provide them with a platform to showcase their work. Our goals for the magazine are to produce it regularly in print, starting annually but in time we hope to be able to print and distribute every issue!
How do you go about making your images? Why does using large format play such a vital role? As it comes to the creation of my work, I can’t really say that I’m very strategic in that sense, I have a close eye for detail but the image making process tends to come in leaps and bounds with the progression of the project, when I do come to the stage where I am ready to make my photographs the use of large format is incredibly valuable as it allows me to slow right down and consider every individual step with utmost detail. I believe the consideration for each individual step towards the making of every photograph is incredibly important and so the use of large format allows me to be very precise with each decision that I choose to make.
What do you think your journey from your university house to your childhood home in Essex represents? In a way, the journey that I took from my University house in Surrey, to my childhood home in Essex represents the journey that I have been on throughout the past three years of my time studying at UCA. The walk was about the exploration and relationship to the landscape surrounding the route of the regular car commute I would make between these two locations. The journey that I made on foot is in fact a parallel to that of my time spent studying, learning and exploring my chosen creative outlet and where my work comes into play within this.
Why did you photograph the particular scenes you show us in your final 9 images? What connections did you make? Each of the chosen photographs within my final series of 9 came at a poignant moment within the walk, whether this was a particular high or low or just before I ended up majorly lost I can pin point exactly what was running through my mind at the time of each exposure.
I decided on the final 9 as I wanted them to work well together in order to tell the narrative, I needed one to lead into two and three to lead into four and so on and so forth, so whilst the selection process was particularly important, the order in which they are viewed in was just as essential to the narrative, I made the decision of the selection and ordering together to build the narrative in the way that I wanted it to be viewed.
Because of a series of factors that went into the planning of the walk, the journey was formed in a particular way, these being; the time scale, the time of the year, the weather and even the budget all meant that whilst I was walking I was constantly pushing myself physically and mentally in order to complete the walk successfully under these conditions. Bearing this in mind, whilst walking through fields and getting severely lost on fogged down hillsides with soaking, blistered feet, I found myself allowing a connection to evolve to the places that I had navigated my way to. Through the pain and the push to complete each day, this connection was formed, a connection to places that were unknown to me before but were suddenly places that held my worst fears and an unbelievable amount of pain.
Who visually inspired you when making Walking Home? Photographers such as Bobby Mills, Richard Long, Alec Soth and Stephen Shore have all been big inspirations. Bobby Mills, actually a former student of UCA worked in a similar way on his project The Road Not Taken, where he spent time walking around the banks of the M25. I came across his work as a recommendation for research by a tutor, this was at the very start of the project where I was spending allot of time researching into the M25, which was actually where my fascination began with the idea of not wanting to stick to the beaten track as well as the idea that a micro adventure could lye right outside my doorstep. As well as Mills, visually Alec Soth’s work has always been another big influence on me, particularly in his series Sleeping by the Mississipi, where I was specifically drawn to the way he focusses on both the landscape as well as the people that he met whilst spending time in the particular location of the Mississipi River.
You mention Alec Soth as an inspiration so can you tell us why your images are void of people? Is this just a coincidence? That is a very good question and has been a big topic of discussion and thought with regards to the project. The people that I met and spoke to along my walk were personally very important to the making and thought process that coincided with the physical aspect of the walk, making the journey exactly what it was. Among other things there were a couple of main contributing factors as to why my project did not include any portraits as much as my initial intention was to photograph the people that I met and interacted with along the way.
On several occasions whilst talking to various people I met I wanted, so much so to ask to take their photograph. My problem starts here, the land can wait for you but some people cannot and for this reason I find it incredibly difficult to ask for 20-30 minutes of someone’s time. The process of asking them isn’t even the part that I find difficult, it ends up being the actual process of making the photograph with them because of the incredible amount of time and attention that large format photography requires. It is not only the setting up of the camera and shooting of the photograph, but the cost aspect too, when it is just myself in the landscape I don’t feel pressured or rushed, but a set of eyes and a considerable amount of someone’s time I feel, is too much to ask.
I made one photograph of a couple Marion and Paul, who I ended up in conversation with because of my camera, Marion had with her a DSLR and was clearly interested in what I was shooting with. We spoke for a while and as my camera was already set up I figured I had nothing to lose by asking to take their photograph, I was really pleased with how the photograph that I made of the both of them turned out and thought allot about the inclusion of it within the series but as the only one portrait it stuck out too much to even seriously be considered as a part of the work, never again along the walk did I come across the right opportunity.
Were you influenced by any theory? As mentioned before, the project came about through my fascination with the M25, I spent allot of time researching into artists, photographers and writers that had explored it in a number of different ways. I began by reading a piece by author and adventurist Alastair Humphreys called Walking a lap of the M25 something that I can imagine would fill most people with dread and question as to why on earth someone would want to do such a thing but, to me it only made the fascination I had grow all the more. I then began to research further into psychogeography, The Situationist International and the artists and writers that made up this organization. My research into this led me the writings of Merlin Coverley, Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, given the short space of time I had leading up to walk I made sure to read as much as I could in order to gain as much of an understanding into psychogeography as possible. Following the walk, I continued to read, not so much theory but books by writers that I would classify as psychogeographers such as Robert MacFarlane and Bill Bryson, all of which have been extremely relevant to the creation of the series of work.
Have you exhibited this work? If so, how did you display the images? I have exhibited two of the prints from the series at a few different locations such as The Lightbox Gallery, Retina International Photography Festival and at my graduation show. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to see the whole series on display together but the prints that I have exhibited have been classically framed and at quite a large scale which is as I would want them to be if I were to put the whole series on display together.
What do you think the future holds for your work? As I said before I am currently at the basis of a new project so at the moment my concentration is on the progression of this along with my every day job to make it possible. In September I will be starting an MFA in Photography as I feel as though I still have so much to learn, and with this I hope to progress on with my current project. As long as I am able to make work and travel I am happy enough to see where it goes from there!