University: Falmouth University
Artist Statement: We stood there, scoping the steel birds that flew across Promenade Des Anglais’ blood-orange sky. Life was happening, quiet and unnoticed. The beach’s borrowed spectators grateful to be in the present, or now the past. A never-ending transit of wandering people, without purpose or a destination. Conversation confused within the waves, creating a soft noise that swept over the shore. An innocence was upon us and we were none the wiser.
It wasn’t until returning home that I had discovered what had taken place exactly one week after visiting this location. Eighty-seven people were confirmed dead after a truck was purposefully drove into crowds celebrating Bastille Day. The alternative reality that I could have found myself within hung over me for weeks. If I had I clicked a row down, seven days later, a week in advance… I too could have been amongst the named. It was for this reason that these negatives remained both undeveloped and untouched for several months. I hoped the negatives would come out blank. I wished I had accidentally left my lens cap on, no matter how uncharacteristic. I yearned for these images to be a miraculous failure, for the potential joy of my images was now overshadowed with a survivor’s guilt.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I was always very much focused on creating work that resonated with people that fell into the same bracket as me. Through conversations with friends, family members and course-mates I was able to identify touch points that many people related with in this ever-changing environment, and in turn, pull on the heart strings of my desired demographic. Whether that was through pointing my lens towards 21st century smokers and their new ways of consumption with new technologies such as vaping, producing nostalgic content with my 95 Magazine that gave some sense of community to the new wave of millennials which find themselves increasingly isolated due to social media, or playing my part with LAW which encourages young people to keep their grit between their teeth and have their say, these projects have all collectively made me accept that unity is at the centre of my work.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? If I was forced to give my work a tagline it would come under the romantic everyday. However, if I was restricted to the standard genres of photography I would say that my images fall somewhere between the lines of traditional and social documentary.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? As with all photography it is hard to express work without falling into the many existing clichés, especially within social documentary. I aim to shed light on topics that may be niches to those outside of a certain subculture. I often use my friends as demographics, often explaining work in a simple yet romanticised form, as I want to ensure that my work is easily digestible by a wider audience and not just limited to those with an artistic background. I feel that the photography is at its best when it is unpretentiously understood by all.
The obvious question to ask first of all is, how did you initially feel hearing about the terror attack that happened in this place a week after you make this work? Understandably, I was shocked. Mainly due to the ease in which that I could have been there myself, especially given the ease in which dates are chosen online when booking holidays on a screen. My departure dates seemed more like a lottery ticket number rather than a date, hence why my negatives remained untouched in a draw for a number of months upon my return. I had to retouch out where the film had burnt its name and shot number onto the negative, each week proving to be an ever growing reminder of the survivors guilt that I had experienced upon returning home.
Would you say Departure manifested due to the events taking place in Nice? What were your initial aims when visiting? I would agree that the events turned my images into a more significant project than just visual observations during a leisurely trip. I felt a sense of calm that day at the Promenade, one that I had never experienced before, something that I tried to evoke within my accompanied writing. It was that which perhaps urged me to document the scene, even if I was unknowingly photographing a yet to be crime scene.
Through these unfortunate circumstances, my work was given new life and I felt I owed those who died a service. Even though it is easy to live in fear after being so close to an event, it is important that as a global community that we stay together and prevent the intended terror from the string of recent attacks from entering our lives.
Where did you draw inspiration from when making these images? I have always been a huge admirer of the American greats such as Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Fred Herzog. The way in which they delicately compose a scene yet take the form of snapshots is something that I still greatly admire. Unselfishly and momentarily taking yourself from a scene in order to show others what it meant to be there, at that time, is a parallel that I aim to recreate from the study of some of the greats.
What would you like for your viewer to learn from Departure? I would like my audience to feel a contrast of emotions. The first being a sense of grief and remorse for those who lost their lives on Bastille Day, and that by viewing my intendedly quiet scenes, they are paying a moment of silence to those effected. However I am adamant for this not to overshadow the body of work. I want people to leave with a greater sense of pride within our liberal community that promotes freedom of speech. I was bitterly disappointed with the decision for Britain to leave the European Union and I feel that decision was made out of fear rather than faith. Now is the time to pull together and celebrate who we are, as a global community, and not in isolation. You can live your life safely locked away in a room but where would be the fun in that.
Have you got any tips for finding and working on commissions? With photography's increasing diversity in recent years, nearly every form of the art is now accepted. The rise of contemporary zine culture means there is now an outlet for every artist to be noticed, no matter how small the audience. Stay true to yourself and your beliefs and just keep plugging away. Your time will come.
What does the future hold for you and your work? Having spent a fair amount of time in London, I have decided to return back home to the North West of England to pursue a master's degree in marketing. There is a seemingly unfair prejudice to those outside the south and I wish to, in a Tony Wilson inspired way, bring back some power to the North. With rent prices forcing an increasing number of creatives out of the capital, artists are working harder in order to create work for brands that rely on originality in order to make them culturally relevant. We after all, are the people that bring credit and recognition to these otherwise blank brands and we should ultimately dictate our own terms for their success, wherever that may be. Publications such as Proper Mag have paved the way in showing that it is possible to thrive away from the big smoke and I urge others to follow suit.
Can you explain your series title and tell us what inspired you? The title Departure was derived from observing the never ending convoy of planes that flew over the Promenade Des Anglais. The themes of loss and grievance are reinforced by the scenarios where one would hear the word; most notably in funeral services.
Although I did not know the victims, the ease in which I could have found myself in their situation was something that resonated deeply within me, and ultimately inflicted the survivor's guilt that I experienced upon my return.
There are also deeper underlying political ties made within the title, particularly Britain's decision to leave the EU which was heavily influenced by the fear of national security and immigration. Although these images were not knowingly made with political links at the time, I feel obliged to spread a positive message that teaches my audience to live out of love and not fear.
What’s your biggest achievement since graduating? My greatest achievement upon graduating was my time spent with LAW Magazine. It was here that I was given the trust to prove myself and build relationships with some of the most inspiring artists who shared my same view on the world. Having my work featured within Issue 9 only increased my desire to keep producing work, especially imagery that I wanted to create and without compromise. This new found confidence within my work, and knowing that there is a place for it within the world, has made me optimistic about the future and the collaborations that follow.