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26. December 2017

Christmas Day 2017 on Stokes Croft…

I was on my own this year for Christmas and after having spend Christmas Eve in the company of my great friends Chris Harper and Victoria Bourne (aka incredible The Husky Tones) sampling dark ales in the centre of Bristol. I knew Christmas Day was going to be very quiet for me. Having been spared by the angry angels of hangovers and with the taste of dark, sweet expresso ale still lingering on my tongue, I had spend much of the day editing photos from my 24H OUR CITY shoot.

I needed to walk and and I needed air. As the rain came and as dusk began to fall I took my Canon and my 50mm lens, wrapped them in my (my until then never used before rain cover), put my skiing jacket and a pair of waterproofs on and walked into the falling night, over to Stokes Croft. I am glad I did.

Not only had the city fallen into a deep, exhausted silence – a silence as if it had waited for these past three hundred and sixty-four long, frantic, endlessly tiring, dogged and laboured days to finally be put to bed by the Spirit of Christmas as it dutifully descended upon each and every home and every one:  the ghosts of Stokes Croft had also taken hold of and cast their spells upon every slab of pavement, the bricks, the mortar, the dark, aged roof tops and the glistening street.

They had thrown a light made of absence and memory, like a veil made of a melancholic alcoholic’s delerious dream around every corner, over every building and through each and every window and my camera and I were determined to catch some of it as it fell on these so familiar places, into my willing eyes and my grateful lens…

There was no-one but me so it seemed for a while, but then shadows of strange men began to drift past me, many looking as if they did not really have a place to go to, balancing on the precarious, wet pavement as if they might fall off it at any time: down, down, down – down to the end of the world, determined yet carefully rushing from a close-by nowhere place to a far away somewhere place, un-known in time, to them and to us.

Khair at the 365 day a year chippy SLIX – open even when no-one comes just because someone will, some time – Khair and I stopped to talk. About religion. Islam. Christianity. Judaism. How they are all the same. Jesus. Mohammed. Abraham. Peace be upon them. And the message is love and respect. And he let me take his photo and he gave me a can of tango.

Jeff Knight,  the 365 days a year Big Issue vendor – much loved by many of us for his hugs, his fist pumps and his indomitable spirit – he is the Living Spirit of Stokes Croft: Jeff was there, selling his Big Issue to the ghosts of the night street. They passed him by, unforgiving. But Jeff did not care and kept on selling. He gave me a fist pump. This, is his street.

An old man, sitting down on the wall by Turbo Island, resting.

He walked the slowest of slow walks. He and his silver walking frame, crossing by the lights at the junction to Jamaica Street over to Hamilton House, stopping again to rest, making his way towards Café Kino, the junction with Ashley Road, always staying close to the tall walls of the battered buildings he passed. He never turned around as I followed him on his way. I could not get enough of his silhouette as it battled the darkness, the rain and the headlights of occasional, oncoming traffic. I lost him when he turned the corner at The Arts House Café, wondering if he too was coming from a nowhere place to make his way to a somewhere place or, whether – at the pace he was proceeding – whether he might indeed eventually fall off the pavement: down, down, down – down to the end of the world. But, he was more determined than all of the others. He knew where he was going.

I found the grim reaper embossed on a wall in crack alley. Colonel Sanders smiling down at me from the window of a ripped open telephone box near Lakota. A cash point doing what only cash points can do in the abandoned darkness of Jamaica Street. And the Spirit of Christmas imprisoned in the glow and haze of Christmas lights, slowly penetrating the fogged up windows of the houses I past as I walked home through Montpelier. When I arrived, even my flat was in an embrace with the blackest darkness.

All there was, was the pitter-patter of the wettest, heaviest rain on my windows  – the loneliest I had heard in a very long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17. December 2017

It’s been two weeks now since I finished my 24-hour portrait photography shoot early on the morning of 6. December 2017 in Stokes Croft here in Bristol.

I first had the idea to do 24hour portrait shoot with the people of Stokes Croft around five years ago. I wanted to reflect in the photos a sense of belonging, a sense of the people passing through or living in a unique urban space that plays a pivotal part in their lives – much like our homes and in particular living rooms do in our private lives. What could could be better than building one then right there on the pavement where people walk past to work, to go shopping, to spend their nights out, to come and create or indeed to live like many of the homeless people who live on Stokes Croft.

I ran the idea past my friend and installation artist Sarah Middleton, for whom I had worked in the previous years as a photographer on a good number of art events she had organised. Sarah was immediately taken by the idea and we agreed to make it happen. Initially we had planed to make it happen in the spring of 2015 but it took until December 2017 to realise our plans.

So this October Sarah went to work and bought up used furniture that she would paint and modify to make our set. While she also acquired the necessary permissions and police consent I went to look for volunteers who would be willing to work with me in six hour shifts over the 24hour period. Having contacted the University of the West of England here in Bristol, I met a fantastic group of volunteers who are all studying for their Photography Degree at UWE. We were also lucky to graphic designer Eva Gilder and photographer Marco Cedrola on board who were also both very generous with their time and talent.

On the day of the shoot everything went as we had planned: Sarah’s set was a perfect fit for the location and with the help of our volunteers the photography element went extremely well with sitters being ushered into the set, having their picture taken, leaving their contact details and having conversation with us about what we are doing. When these conversation went a little further than the what and why of our project, we often had the chance to quite quickly learn a lot more about people’s life stories.

There was the humble and very likeable, animal rights campaigner who had been sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment for conspiring against a multinational corporation and had only recently been released on probation.

The homeless lady who came to be photographed four times, drawn back each time to our pop-up living room:

” This is something I don’t have in my life…”.

From being antagonistic to begin with she grew quite fond of us and heartfelt warm words and embraces were exchanged in the end.

There was the white-haired old man who stopped to tell me about how he used to work just round the corner from here – born and bred in Bristol, he now lived the other side of town, the recovering addict on his way to rehab which he was so enthusiastic about, the graffiti artist who invited me to a secret interview who would only be photographed with his hood down, the two young men who had spend time behind bars and told us much about what life is like in prison

Thankfully other than drunken stupor and drug infused deliriums of the late, late night regulars we didn’t experience any of the dark side of the Croft and stayed safe. I do say though that the witching hour begins around 3am and ends at 6am. Trying to move on a group of hardcore drug users and alcoholics will remain forever an impossible task!

It was a great experience to see the street change as the hours went past. To see it as  a very busy commuter street in the early hours, a relaxed communal walkway through-out the day, to meet the people who work there, those who return home in the evening, the ones that go out to party into the night and those who live there on the street hustling for money, food, drugs, attention and company.

I did enjoy the shoot very much, despite being tired for days after and look forward to editing all of the photographs over the Christmas holiday!

 

25. November 2017

 

At the beginning of October I had a shoot with Chloe Wykes with whom I had worked before in 2016.

Her and I had no particular plan but I knew that I wanted to shoot using daylight in my studio and photograph her against black. Chloe came with a quiet intend to give herself over to the direction of the photographer and so she created an atmosphere, where we both could look in earnest at ways to photograph her. Working with her was beautiful, because she was so attentive and willing to feel herself in the places that I found for her and I love the depth and honesty of the resulting photographs very much.

Chloe had also recently begun studying Japanese Butho dance and when I asked if we could also produce some video together she very naturally begun to perform. The soundtrack that was playing in my studio was a perfect blend of slow electronica and organic sounds – I wish I remembered what it was now!! – and when we started filming Chloe just gave herself over to the movement and the music. The resulting footage is stunningly beautiful and I really look forward to editing a little film from it.

Chloe has now left Bristol to keep on travelling but I do hope we will get the opportunity to work together again.

 

5. November 2017

Welcome to my blog.

Outside, cold winds and wet skies ring the bell for autumn and the winter ahead.

After sending off two of my photographs to be shown at Nude Nite, Miami, USA next weekend they arrived safe and well in the hands of the curator Juliana Davidson on 30. October. So far un-wrapped from their layers of bubble wrap and cardboard everything appears to be OK. I hope that is still OK when the box is opened and the framed photographs are taken out to be hung. Broken glass would be a sad sight. Fingers crossed…

Two weeks ago I had the honour of photographing my friend, inspirational person and poet extraordinaire Isadora Vibes for the cover of her poetry collection soak which is due to be published in 2018.

We arranged to shoot in her bathroom – in her bathtub to be precise and we were both mesmerised by the luminous images we created on the day. A single, steady light was fantastic – gifted by my friend Duncan Parker from Falcon Productions for the day. It sculpted Isadora’s features beautifully and bathed the scene in a glowing light that gives these photographs just the kind of radiance that is needed to introduce her powerful poetry…

 

 

 

 

I will also be releasing a video of Isadora re-citing one of her poems floating in a milk bath.

You can see more images from the set in the New Work section of my website.