At the point of the hand-in for consolidating practices ii I had started to add the layers of depth to the body of work focusing on prisoners. This depth though nested in general thought primarily resided in context from a specific piece of text, Foucault’s Panopticon and its associated ideas. This really helped me to understand the work, myself and the subject matter I was working with in a different way and underpin the nature of my practice for this body of work. The hand-in provided a watershed for my life in more ways than just for the work.
I can only explain how I moved forward with the body of work by talking through my personal life. I had left my job of four years and my girlfriend and I had split in the time leading up to this. I had decided to take a role assisting a commercial photographer for at least the summer and dedicate myself to making a financial career out of photography. This assisting role did not go well, despite having got on with the photographer in the interview I quickly realised that he was not the sort of person I would like to work with. Rude, temperamental, and frantic, he created a working environment that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I did however continue for a few weeks as I needed the money to survive. It reached a head with being blamed for multiple problems that were not my fault and being told on a long car journey why I didn’t understand the photographic world. I am not oblivious to the fact that some of these problems stemmed from the fact I am not a fresh faced assistant ready to give myself to a photographer, but the persistent blame games and power play’s made by this photographer were the main root of the problem. I was sat in the sun one lunch break thinking of how much I wanted to get out and make my own work and that working for Jason six days a week was negating that. I quit at the end of the Job we were working on and decided to try something else.
I thought I would take a part time job to support myself and allow me to live. One week later I had an interview for a part-time role in a warehouse, this seemed mindless enough to me to allow me to focus on my work outside of the job and the money would be topped up by the different freelance bits that I do. Then later that day the interviewer rang me to offer me a role as assistant managing the warehouse (funny right). Better pay, the same three-day week, perks etc etc. They said I could take this role, or I could take the role I originally applied for, the only caveat being that I would have to do a one-month full time training period for the better job.
At this point I sat down with a bottle of wine and just thought for a good few hours. I worked out my money (which was painful) and thought about every option imaginable that I had. Where was I? where did I want to go? how could I get there? An inkling of an idea came into my head. The week previous I had gone to visit the Captain of the ship I went away with and he had loaned me his sisters old Pentax 67. I had already checked to make sure that it worked, and I found that the pictures it made resonated with me in some way. I always try and own two cameras as we know they can often break, especially film cameras, and if someone needs you to take photos you need a camera you know and understand. Most of my new work had been made on a waist level Mamiya, and my Mamiya rangefinder had been sitting there for months. I swapped this rangefinder out for the Pentax and decided to sell it to the University. This would cover me for three months of living/submission/film. I rang up the warehouse manager and apologised and said I couldn’t take either role he had offered me. Rather than dedicating myself to someone else’s photography or workplace, I was going to dedicate myself to my own work. For the first time I had a small financial cushion which meant the entirety of my time was my own.
If you make lists, then you understand others who make lists. I had been building up a list pretty much since starting full time work, one that I could not seem to reduce. Things would be added to it quicker than I could cross them off. I wanted to clear and consolidate this list before continuing with my work and in less than a week I did. I moved into a new apartment, re-decorated it, and in down time got through all the minutia that had been weighing me down. I also found myself reading again, a mixture of things, novels, articles, some related to my work, some not.
When all this was done, I put my work up on the wall and tried to make sense of what wasn’t quite working for me. It’s funny, you can be excited by work you are making but when something is off about it, it consumes you. I cut all but five photos, five photos which contained the backbone of the work and where it resided in my heart. From there I went out and shot. I don’t fully understand why, but I know that if I spend enough time in the world, I will find the moments I need. I removed all stigma about the circumstances of making images for this project. I did not need to meet any new ex-prisoners at this point, I did not need to be in the areas surrounding prisons, I did not need to be alone on long thought out journeys, I just needed to be out shooting as much and as often as I could.
These periods of time are rare, I have felt it before but not had a vocation with which to apply the feeling to and as such have been left with a lot of photos which are a minefield to make sense of. This time however I was guided by a directed mindset. I was still trying to make sense of these men I had spoken to, I was still trying to make sense of myself through these ideas. Whilst out shooting I even came across two men who provided further insight into the subject matter, purely by chance. Over the following months I shot around sixty rolls with the pictures spanning the width and breadth of England. I set new parameters to get me out in the world, hunting for areas thick with history, ancient trees, folklore. It was not that these were places that would eventually end up being the photo, but they would allow me to be out, searching for something. Please find documentary evidence of this below.
The depth of the work became vastly more varied in an organic way. Ideas I previously had been revised. Reading Criminal Conversations by Tony Parker was a goldmine of further conversations with the types of prisoners I would never get access to and really freed me up to make the work without as much pressure on any research purposes of the conversations. This also led me to revise thoughts of mass inclusion of text/the conversations with prisoners within the work itself. This is not to say I would not include the conversations, but I am now open to the idea of not needing quite so much context.
The idea of the tower was still ever-present however with further thought I knew the phrase created too much of a sinister edge to the work. Through my shooting I had researched Folly’s as one of my exploration tactics. These are often tower’s and are an architectural term referring to buildings that are constructed for ornamental instead of practical reasons. I found this referenced the tower yet also referenced the very nature of the work itself. Further reading of Herman Hesse, John Stuart-Mill, John Berger, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre all added to my considerations around Epistemology and its associated constituent parts which are integral to a lot of the searching in my work.