University: University of Sunderland
Statement: I am a visual artist working in the north east and to date I have published one book as a limited edition. The Ghost Project follows the emotional journey of caring for a terminally ill relative through the iconography of near death experiences and ‘ghosts’. The premise is ‘If I died tomorrow and became a ghost, what would I do and where would I go?' More books are in the planning stage but they’re not ready quite yet.
What university did you attend and when did you graduate? MA Photography at the University of Sunderland and I graduated in 2016 with Distinction
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? Minimata by Eugene Smith. It took me ages to track down a copy but it was worth it. I’m also really partial to Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig. Such fab structures, I wish we had bus stops like this in Britain.
Direction: This project is really special to me and it’s very much one that led to me becoming a photographer. Up until this point I had taken lots of photos but they were pretty much just of things I found interesting, there was no real conceptual underpinning to my work. This was the turning point for me. That said even 6 years after I started it, it still feels like the project chose me not the other way round. It was inspired by my mothers fight against cancer and my own journey as her carer. After she passed away I took the decision to go back to University and do an MA in Photography, starting down a new career path. All thanks to this project.
Considerations: This project is very much about a journey, and has a loose narrative that lends itself really well to the book format. It also feels very much like a tribute to my mother and the courage she showed during her illness. I would have loved it to be hard back, beautiful heavy weight paper and hand stitched, but realistically that cost too much.
Interior: This work was very influenced by the aesthetic aspects developed before my mother passed and her opinions on the project. Text has been interspersed throughout the book but the dominant factor is the images. A psychiatrist wrote the introduction and my own words were placed at the end. I didn’t want to influence the viewers’ interpretation too much by presenting my own story too early on. Although this is a personal project it’s also a subject shared by many people, all of whom have their own journey which is just as valid as my own.
Inspiration: This project has probably been influenced by other artists less than anything else I’ve done. The main influences came more from accounts of near death experiences and ghost ‘legends’, with a touch of religion in places. These were then combined with my own emotional state to create images that often only started to make sense when I returned to them months later. This project was very much about absorbing what was going on around me and then trying to shut down the conscious part of my brain and letting my subconscious coming through when taking the shots.
Advice and Future Goals: I have two more books planned, the first of which will be published in 2017 although a date is not yet set. I learnt so much from the process of putting this book together, the next will be very different.
Tips? Well…. If you’re putting a book together remember it’s your book. Retain control (or at least approval) of as much as you can. Other people probably don’t share your vision and will have their own agenda, don’t let them hijack or bully you into compromises you aren’t comfortable with. Get to know your printer. A good printer will want your book to be a success and will be prepared to help you learn so you can make informed decisions. Consider your outlets and marketing in advance. Again, take advice but remember this is your book.