Hello and welcome to my photography blog. I’m a documentary photographer and writer from Manchester in the UK. You can email me at: email@example.com or watch a short film or three here on vimeo and you can read my own publications here at Issuu.
My ‘BIG £ANG / BOOM & BU$T’ flags went to London to be put down the gun barrel of Stompie the Soviet T-34 tank that is sited in a community garden in Bermondsey (I think this sort of thing is usually called an ‘intervention’). For those of you asking, “Why?” The flags were made for my ‘Flag of Convenience’ exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery, and use the phrases “Big Bang” and “Boom and Bust” for their meaning in economics, rather than the pop-art noises of a child’s pop-gun. They are supposed to illustrate AJP Taylor’s assertion that:
“No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic.”
Stompie was in the Czechoslovakian Army and was used in the putting down of the Prague Spring Revolution of 1968. Later, it went on to be used in Ian McKellen’s 1995 film version of Richard III, and Russell, who owns it now bought it from the film company. It regularly gets repainted by graffiti artists and was due to turn XR Pink the day after I took these photos, but alas a weather forecast had other ideas. Thanks to my friend, advertising photographer Toby, who did all the clambering about.
My CCTV installation, ‘You Have Been Watching’ will be part of new exhibition that opens in 4 October 2019. ‘Exposure’ at Altrincham’s Air Gallery, explores experimental photography and camera-less methods of capturing an image at the cross over between photography and other art mediums.
The piece was first shown in ‘Loitering With Intent, at The People’s History Museum. It’s an installation of two ViewMaster Stereo Reel Viewers – one shows photographs of CCTV cameras from around Manchester, the other shows the various CCTV Control Rooms which monitor the cameras shown on the first reel. The ‘game’ is to match the right camera with the right control room. The idea was to show that in the city at least all our moves are automatically photographed without us knowing. There is a booklet with the answers and a QR code which if scanned would link to a video of people looking at the exhibit.
Some photographs I took in the late 1980s have been published in volume 5 of ‘Foxhole’ a photozine – The theme was Youth, and believe it or not I was young once (though as the headline says, “I’m Glad I’m Not Young” now. The photos have been seen out in public before, most recently in a past edition of the Didsbury Arts Festival.
If you asked me “Do you like landscape photography?”, I’d just say “No”. But when I met Tristan Poyser last year at RedEye’s Photo Symposium and asked him what he was photographing, he didn’t say “landscapes” – He told me he was photographing the border between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. After Brexit, this will be the border between the U.K. and the E.U. It might also be the thing that brings about a united Ireland and the end of the United Kingdom. I’ve heard Poyser say he is not political, but what he has chosen to photograph is. At the time I was working on ‘Flag of Convenience’ my own take on issues of nationalism and patriotism through the Union Jack flag, which inevitably led me to Northern Ireland.
The border between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland is rural, if you were describing it as it as ‘pretty’ it would be as in ‘pretty unremarkable’. Poyser chose to photograph it on uniformly dull days, of which there seem to be many —
But the photographs are anything but dull, they have a melancholic beauty, a sadness even that to my eyes hints at the history of this troubled area.
There is an obvious obstacle photographing this border – It largely exists as a line on a map, or in people’s memories, but has little physical presence on the ground. After the Good Friday Anglo Irish Agreement and membership by both countries of the European Union there was no need for Customs Posts. A hugely symbolic moment in the Peace Process came with the dismantling of the British Army Watch Towers, which were dotted along the border. These had been memorably documented by Magnum photographer Donovan Whylie, but were gone by the time Tristan Poyser set up his tripod. His photographs are captioned with the grid references (something I did with my photographs of CCTV cameras in ‘Reality TV’).
But Poyser eloquently shows the line of the invisible border and moves the work onto a new level by literally tearing his pictures in two along the line the border takes. It perfectly illustrates the absurdity of a such a seemingly arbitrary line and points to the violence re-imposing a hard border between the two countries might provoke. 250 people from different parts of the UK were given photographs and asked to rip them where they imagined the border to be. They stuck the two pieces back together and wrote about what the separation meant to them. ‘The Invisible In-between’ is (perhaps unconsciously?) psychogeography as much as photography.
The project has been exhibited in Northern Ireland, and will be shown in Liverpool as part of the Look festival from October to December, but don’t wait until then to see it in book form. This has been self-published in a numbered edition of 250. The design by John Polowski folds out like a map — clever, but perfectly complementing the subject. An illuminating essay entitled ‘No Way Back’ by Garrett Carr concludes the work is “…more eloquent than one hundred newspaper articles about the border.” And I would agree.If there are any copies left buy them.
I’ve been invited to take part in a group exhibition marking the 50th Anniversary of the the first manned Moon landing. ‘The Moon @ 50‘ is at Ilkley Manor House, Castle Yard, Ilkley, West Yorkshire LS29 9DT on Saturdays & Sundays 11am to 4pm throughout August 2019.
My piece takes the form of an 400x210mm American flag made from transparent acrylic and polythene bubble wrap.
A couple of years ago, a story shared on social media speculated that the six red, white and blue American flags left on the Moon by the Apollo missions had probably faded to white with the intense Ultra Violet radiation. This thought caught my imagination and seemed a perfect metaphor for how the future turned out to be a pale shadow of people’s hopes and dreams.
It turned out “the space age” wasn’t the future, on 20 July 1969, it was the already becoming the past. There were no manned missions to Mars. And 2001 wasn’t like the film, although many would describe the events of September 11th 2001 as like something out of a movie.
A plaque was attached to the descent stage of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, which remained on the Moon. It read: “…We came in peace for all mankind”. But there was no peace on Earth – There was the Vietnam War, like “the space race” very much a proxy Cold War.
My bit in the Didsbury Arts Festival, which runs at various venues until 30th June, is ‘A Proclamation’. It’s another piece about silence and is about… well, why don’t you just read the leaflet? If you want a pdf of it please message me, if you want a print copy ask me nicely.
It’s displayed in the side room at Home Community Cafe, which is part of the Emmanuel Church, 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester M20 6TR (not open weekends) and is being shown alongside photographs by Sue Langford. To find out more about the festival visit: https://www.didsburyartsfestival.org
A new video which features several of my pieces about silence, including an explanation of ‘A Proclamation’, and ‘All Quiet’, which I did for the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War. It also includes some field recordings of places where it should be quiet but is fekkin’ noisy: The Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the reading room of Manchester Central Library and Tate Britain and last but by no means least, ‘100 Breaths Per Minute’.
The exhibition had its formal opening last week, thanks to everyone who made it. I was interviewed about the show in Now Then Manchester Magazine. If you’ve still not been it runs until Friday 28 June at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery.
My new exhibition, ‘Flag of Convenience’ has opened for a preview week before its ‘proper’ opening on Saturday 1st June (tour at 2:30pm).
You couldn’t have an exhibition about flags without having some flags – Here’s the story behind a pair I’ve had made by the flagmakers to the Queen no less, in a piece called ‘£IG BANG! BOOM + BU$T’. And here are some photos of them being made…
The two flags are double-sided, and the designs are appliqued – none of your digital printed stuff here, mate – sorry – Your Majesty. Nice bit of overlocking stitching on the lettering too, you’ll note.
Anyway, if you’ve read thus far, you’re probably waiting for me to explain what it’s all about…
“No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic” – A.J.P. Taylor
National flags developed from the banners carried by armies into battle. Capitalism, deregulation and globalisation mean money and the power and influence it wields has no borders.
The phrase ‘Big Bang’, was used to describe the deregulation of the London Stock Exchange by Margaret Thatcher in 1986.
It was notable that one of the first things Thatcher did when she got in power in 1979 was to abolish limits on how much money you could stuff in a suitcase and take out of the country.
A ‘Boom and Bust’ cycle is where economic expansion is followed by a rapid contraction, leading to recessions, collapses in the market, and mass unemployment. This repeating cycle seems to be a constant feature of a capitalist economy.