Forgotten

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Previously exploring dwellings that are lived in,  I then had a desire to explore buildings that had deteriorated or outlived their original purpose, being abandoned by their inhabitants.  In a sense I was photographing what has been overlooked visually and historically.

My travels took me to an abandoned Mobilisation centre.  Source:  http://www.undergroundkent.co.uk/north_weald_redoubt.htm

“In the late Victorian period (1889-1903) mobilisation centres were constructed around the London area in order to provide ready ammunition in order to defend the city. These centres were not designed as forts themselves, although they could have been armed if the need arose. Being a mobilisation centre, if the need for armament did become apparent, the North Weald Redoubt would have been armed with whatever guns were seen as appropriate at the time.

North Weald Redoubt is one of these mobilisation centres and it’s structure clearly shows it’s purpose as an ammo store. Viewed from above, the redoubt forms a rough D shape. The arc at the rear of the redoubt is comprised of the magazines. The second building consists of a caponier giving covering fire into the ditch and further casemates known as the gorge casemates that could have been used to either barrack troops or as further storage space for shells. Under normal conditions this would have been utilised for the storage of other equipment.

Within the magazine arc, each room is clearly defined as either a cartridge or shell store and has excellent lighting provided from multiple lamp recesses in each store. As in other similar magazines, the cartridge stores were accessed via a shift lobby.

The redoubt underwent many changes during it’s use and during the Second World War it was fitted with two Allen Williams turrets. These would have been used to protect the nearby Ongar radio station.”

Again I felt like a detective, looking for clues from the traces that were left by previous human activity.  I felt uneasy as I approached the site but once inside I felt sadness at the complete disregard for a part of our history, where the area had been abused by fire, graffiti and theft of lead from the roof.  However, I was satisfied that I was able to record part of that history on my camera as I knew that I would never go back again.

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Pockets & bags

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What lies in men’s pockets and women’s bags?  Nobody knows until a possession is taken from within and is observed by someone briefly.

Pushing the boundaries even further into seeking to find out about people’s personal lives, I wanted to explore the personal possessions that people find essential and carry around with them, going about their day.

I asked a selection of my friends to participate in this exercise. This request seemed to form into 3 cateorgies:

  • ‘I haven’t got anything to show you of interest’. –  They didn’t want to share with me what they had;
  • ‘I can show you a selection of what I have’.  – The person was choosing what I saw;
  • ‘I can show you what I have, its not a problem’.  – They were very open and obliging.

All of the above reactions was an indication of how comfortable the person felt, sharing a personal part of their life that I wouldn’t normally see, unless they happened to temporarily retrieve an item from a bag or pocket whilst I was present.

What I was shown related exclusively to that person, which was a contrast to going into someone’s home as the homes I saw weren’t  exclusively theirs but they have to share it with a family or pet.

This selection of items indicated to me that the person concerned was a fan of ‘real ale’ as had tokens and a membership relating to beer.

Contents of a lady’s bag who stores all of her receipts in her purse, which consequently is crammed full of papers. A sort of a filing cabinet for receipts.

This person had a mound of keys in their bag and preceeded to tell me what they were all for.  This was all I shown from the contents of their bag though.

Photography Workshop (Identity)

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As mentioned previously back in the Summer I went along to a shelter for teenagers to take their portraits and recently went back to show them the results and display the portraits around the centre.  I wanted to continue with the photography theme with them so decided to run a photography workshop for those that wanted to attend.   I based it on ‘identity’ following on from the portraits I took of them.  I decided on the themes for the day but let those that took part do what they wanted to do with the camera they were given.

Themes:

A group shot

Take 6-10 shots of yourself

Possessions (take a photo of something that means a lot to you)

Take 2 photos of your surroundings

Choose 3 emotions

The first theme ‘group shot’ we did together.  They decided where they wanted to go and what pose and I took the picture.  This is the result.

Some of the residents didn’t want to be in the picture so turned their backs, away from the camera going against the tradition of facing the person taking the picture.

I have left the residents to take the other photos in their own time.  I am hoping they will want to take part but I have been warned that they may not.  I really look forward to seeing the results in a few weeks.

One resident has responded and taken part in the photography workshop.   I was blown away by the thought provoking and powerful shots that were sent to me.

The results of these photos will be in my written journal as they are very personal to the person that completed this for me.

Following on from the group shot I decided that as the response from poor from the other residents I would work with the image I had.  I decided to transfer different backgrounds onto the image and then email the revised images through to ask the residents and asked them to let me know how they linked themselves into the photos they saw.  I got 3 replies in total.

One resident said that he felt like he was currently banging his head against a brick wall. Another said that he was behind other people he knew in his achievements and had a long way to go but he knew what to do so put himself in the windy road picture.  Another one felt trapped and choose the wall picture either side.  Another interesting exercise and since posting this I have received a further 6 responses.

Taking this one step further I wanted to compare this set of results with a different group of people and ages to obtain a comparison.  I approached 16 students to be surveyed, with one refusing.  From these results I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what background you have in life or who you are, we can all suffer from the same worries, fears and anxieties as everyone else does.

I have recorded the results in table form. Link here: Results from photography background survey

I have been fortunate enough to show my work through The Furtherfield Gallery, London.  http://www.furtherfield.org/your-art/different-backgrounds-photography-workshop

What lies within?

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Expanding on the theme of  ‘Sudden Departure’ I wanted to explore other people’s lives behind closed doors so I embarked on asking friends whether I could go into their homes when they had left for work to explore their domestic environment and see what they had left behind.  Again I felt like a forensic archeologist, a voyeur, looking for clues about that person’s existence.  I felt a sense of anticipation when entering their homes as to what I might see, a natural curiosity, but also felt uncomfortable as I was intruding on their privacy.  I was surprised at the complete contrast I found in some of the homes I visited which gave me a good insight into that person’s personality and how they lived eg. (a cluttered or tidy existence).

Upon reflection every object that I saw in that person’s house was equally a form by which they had chosen to express themselves.  They have put up ornaments, laid down carpets and got themselves ready for work.  Some things may have been gifts or objects retained from the past but they had decided to live with them and they are an expression of that person or household.

Sophie Calle

Whilst researching, I came across the photographer Sophie Calle and her work entitled ‘The Hotel’ where she was employed as a chambermaid and took photos of people’s belongings within the hotel rooms, when cleaning.  She was also a voyeur and detective in her work and through the photos she also got an idea of who that person was.

http://www.iniva.org/dare/themes/space/calle.html

Detritus

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Definition from Wiki:  “Detritus means any rock fragments or disintegrated material that has been broken or worn away from a larger mass. This breaking away may occur by accident or by erosion, through wind, water or glacial ice” or by detoriation through time.

With this set of photographs I am looking at a ‘breakdown of systems’ where corrosion sets in through constant use and exposure to the elements or the decomposer of something.

My work explores themes such as re-use and the impact of exterior forces like environmental conditions, the aim being to demonstrate to the viewer the inevitability of entropic change.

By documenting varying states of being, I aim only to capture a moment.  Although the emotive power of photography leaves the results open to interpretation, the fabric and form of the subject matter continues to change ineluctably as it deteriorates through time.

Sudden Departure

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With this set of photographs I am exploring Entropy within possessions.  In physics terms it means the slowing down and eventual standstill of all phenomena and inevitable drift from order to disorder and breakdown.  I am  displaying the normality of a situation which can quickly turn to chaos within my photography.  I have felt like a forensic archaeologist and voyeur, as I have been seeking out clues to a person’s existence.  Where they have been, the marks they have left behind through the years of maybe sitting in the same chair and what they were doing before they left.

Most of us fear our eventual death and dealing with family sickness has led me to confront issues of mortality.  ‘Sudden Departure’ is my response to a situation over which I had no control when a family member was taken into hospital.  It is a piece that wasn’t planned but just occurred; I simply documented what was happening.

Here a close relation was rushed into hospital with no time to sort their possessions. The normality of their life broke down into a more disordered and chaotic existence.

I am demonstrating the impermanence of the environment in which we live.  I have created a hybrid space, constructed using actual items of the person’s furniture, replacing their possessions with photographs to represent the fact that photographs live on as a constant reminder but the environment in which people live can change.

At one point everything had a purpose in this room but now I the situation may change.  What does the future hold?