University: Middlesex University
Living our lives at a million miles an hour in over populated cities seems to be the chosen path of many. Never slowing down or taking a moment to be present, rather, consuming and conforming to a materialistic existence.
A certain few however, have embraced a lifestyle of sustainability with minimal resources, built upon personal relationships and spirituality. The residents of Tipi Valley, situated in the heart of The Black Mountains, gently live within the nature they cherish so much.
A personal response to the reality observed, Homeland is an intimate study of this quiet existence, which I have been drawn to by my curiosity of alternative living.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Looking back at my time at university, I am struggling to pick any stand out moments that stick out in my mind. This is mainly down to the fact that my overall time spent at university was fundamental in my development both as a photographer and a person. Whether that was using the unbelievable facilities, receiving feedback on work from peers and staff members, or simply just being submerged in such a creative atmosphere, all playing a pivotal part in making for a pleasurable learning experience.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Thinking about my work and the images I have created, I would be tempted to say my work falls into a social documentary genre, with some fine art qualities. Homeland also begins to explore self-documentation through capturing my personal experience and observations whilst spending time at Tipi Valley.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? The main focus for my recent projects has been people and mainly how they decide to live their lives. What I find fascinating is how this varies and I find joy in using my camera to try and investigate how and why. I do not use my time investigating ways of living to make judgment, as I do not believe there is an answer to the ‘correct’ way to live your own life.
What encouraged or inspired you to make work around the people of the Tipi Valley? My main inspiration began after going to see Alec Soth’s, Gathering Leaves exhibition. I was already a huge fan of his work and seeing it up close encouraged me to attack a project similar to Sleeping by the Mississippi. Another huge inspiration was viewing Soth’s Somewhere to Disappear documentary, which was recorded in the making of his Broken Manual project. His investigation into peoples decision to escape from society intrigued me and I wanted to begin my own examination of whether this exists in the UK.
What did the residents think about you making this series of work around them? To begin with it was a lot like any other person having their photograph taken. Nobody really wanted it taken, seemed nervous and apprehensive, and a lot of the time people wondered about my purpose of being there and taking pictures of them. Over time the people of Tipi Valley became interested in what I was producing and were keen to be involved in the project.
How did you create the intimate and calm aesthetic that your images portray? Did you always wait for the perfect lighting and relax your subject as much as possible? This came from spending time there. I began to build relationships with the people there and I was able to observe their living with a more acute eye. Not only did this help with the photographic aesthetic, but it allowed me to relate to the way of life I was involved and experiencing. I was able to take the time and observe intimate moments that you would only witness through being present.
What theoretical influences did you have when making this work? I’m not sure you can call it theoretical but a fundamental influence was my own curiosity. I often think about my own life and how I am choosing to live it, and learning about the different ways others live theirs fascinates me. I’m interested in trying to understand how and why people choose to live their lives this way.
What do you think this series of work reveals about yourself? I think above all else, it reveals my sensitivity towards people. My acceptance of difference creating interest. An openness to learn and understand what simple values are needed to live a happy existence.
Have you ever considered displaying text alongside your images? Do you think this would add anything to your work? There was a stage where I considered captions of phrases I had noted from some of the residents on my visits. But sometimes I wonder if that is giving too much away to the viewer. I like subtle representations of thing that make the viewer work a little harder in observation.
Alec Soth seems to have influenced your work a lot. What do you like most about his work and his style? His subject matter is always interesting and usually portrait based around people and their varied lifestyles, which is something that I am also curious about. His peaceful and respectful representations allow for an uncomplicated understanding. Usually capturing engaged, quiet moments in life that subtly tell the viewer something about the subject they are faced with.
What are your future plans for Homeland? Is it finished? I think I can say Homeland is complete. It has been hard to get to where I have got to with this project and I feel quite happy with what the series tells about the place and my experience there. After working on a single project for such a period of time, I find it difficult to remain optimistic creatively, so I think it will be good for me to leave Homeland where it is. I am quite looking forward to starting something new and to refresh my creativity in producing images for something else.