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.
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.
My new exhibition is called ‘Flag of Convenience’ and it’s at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery from Saturday 25th May until Friday 28th June 2019. Admission is free. Flags and what they are made to represent have been a longtime interest – The exhibition will include postcards and badges from the Dunnico eBay account to put the 40-odd photos in their social and historical context. They’ll even be a couple or more new artworks on show.
Anyway – here’s the leaflet and stay tuned for some background, outtakes and unveilings.
It may be called ‘Dull’ but hopefully this exhibition at the Brighton Fringe Festival will be anything but. For a start, I’ve got a piece in it. The exhibition has been put together by Sightlines Projects and “examines this most ordinary of words and invites the viewer to pause just a moment longer”.
I’ve droned on before about my 2011 sound installation 100 Breaths Per Minute, which has been shown a couple of times previously, but here’s what it says on the latest caption board:
“What could be duller than nothing? But of course, silence is not nothing – 100 Breaths Per Minute is a minute long and is made up of one hundred breaths. The breaths were the inhalations of announcers on BBC Radio 4, taken just before they began to introduce the next programme. There is a golden rule on the radio: The airwaves must never fall silent! This is in case someone spinning the tuning dial thinks there is nothing on – And as has already been stated, there is no such thing as nothing”.
If you can’t get down to Bath, you could always watch it on the television – Wireless radio with pictures!
Dull runs from 25 May to 9 June 2019 open daily from 10am to 6pm – Last day closing at 3pm at 8 Broad Street, Bath, BA1 5LJ.
I’m taking part in this year’s Didsbury Arts Festival, (22nd to 30 June 2019 at various venues) showing my piece ‘A Proclamation’, about the Two Minutes Silence observed during remembrance services.
I’m making a video that will be posted here during the festival and will look at my own interest in silences and how silence can say so much, much of it unintended.