I had fully intended to write about my little trip to Berlin last month with some friends, but honestly there isn’t really much to write. Other than, we got drunk. We took some pictures. We got more drunk. And we also had the chance to pop in and say hello to the lovely people at Impossible HQ – thanks for inviting us! We booked a very cool apartment that was just perfect for shooting in and communing; something which I think we would have struggled to do in a hotel. Rather than spam this post with all of the resulting images from the trip, instead you can find them here on my website and all over the usual social media feeds.
Other than having a nice break from the UK in new surroundings, I guess the one thing that Berlin has cemented is my feeling that I’m on the right track with my work. I don’t feel quite as frustrated as I used to, nor do I feel that impending ticking clock of doom over my shoulder. I think I’m progressing at the speed I should be and that I’m doing alright, really. I don’t think my work is great, but I feel content about what it is I am aiming for, even if I haven’t achieved it yet or I fail at it. I expect that it appears as if I don’t shoot a lot in comparison to some people, but I’ve made over sixty self-portraits this year alone. I could never have predicted my self-portrait work going where it has gone, but it’s testament to the power of simply picking up a camera whenever the light in my flat looked pleasing: and I’ve learned a lot from doing that. I feel that I have much more confidence in exactly where it is I am looking to head with my work and who I shoot is also determined by that knowledge. My vision is crystal clear and this week in particular, has been even more of an inspiring experience.
Faye and I struck gold earlier this week with a new project, which I can’t really write about too much yet since it’s very much in a pile of bones on the floor state at the moment. I suppose that’s why I find it exciting! Even when building a new project, you never know where it’s going to end up and I like that. It’s hard to explain, but for me, photography is about condensing all of the things I love into an image, and most of them are nostalgic references. I never realised quite how sentimental I am about my childhood and its surroundings, until I picked up a camera and found myself looking for things like that to capture. It’s really only been Faye that gets what I mean when I talk about those aims and who also shares them. It’s hard to give people the credit that they’re due without sounding massively saccharin, but I feel half of the reason I’ve gained more clarity this year is down to Faye. And I would rather come across as a bit soppy than not say thank you to someone for helping me with my ‘vision’.
We spent a couple of days treading the ground around where our project will be created, and it brought up lots of other realisations. I’d always thought that my move to Manchester was about location and that feeling I got whenever I travelled into the city on trips before moving here. However, that location thing is much more of a photographic nostalgia than just about it being easier for me to get around the UK being based in Manchester. One of my friends really doesn’t like when I use the term ‘working-class’ because he feels that it separates people rather than bringing them together. I’m not trying to build a barrier between myself and other people at all. For me it’s a background which very much influences my work and whilst it doesn’t define me as a person, it’s where I’m from and what I draw on in images. It’s difficult to do that without fetishizing it. I very much don’t relate to the ‘It’s grim up North’ expression. You can even buy it since it’s sold on things like postcards and t-shirts. Whilst those may not have bad intentions, the roots of the expression does, and I don’t feel it fits with my image of area and the image I create and want to create.
I’m not from Sheffield or Manchester, but I do feel an affinity to them when I’m walking around shooting and talking about the locations with Faye. In an unintentional way, I think I’ve sort of stumbled back home when I moved here and it wasn’t just that the people remind me of Scottish people, but that the surroundings make me feel like I’m home too. One of the last conversations I had with my Dad when I visited him a couple of months ago, was about growing up and his memories of that. He said to me that he doesn’t regret anything and that really struck a chord because I feel the very same way. My Dad’s stories are always filled with humour and nostalgia, and not one ounce of bitterness. I would like to think that I do the same when I speak about where I grew up, and in some way I would like to capture that in my work by seeking out remnants of those forgotten places to photograph. Where you’re from can shape you as a person, I feel that’s true of both myself and my Dad but more than that, it has very much shaped my vision.