Yesterday I had a meeting with the Artscape group in Oxford. They are a group that operate out of the Warneford Hospital in Oxford and provide creative projects and services for the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. We discussed the possibility of me working with the group to document and contribute photographically to many of the projects that are run by the group. A number of checks need to be completed, not least a CRB check, but essentially I hope to be working on a number of projects starting in the short term. I was at pains to describe what my motivations were, that I wanted to develop a long term relationship with the group, to be able to build a body of work that will inform what I believe my practice will turn out to be and also to build a base both in network terms and at a skills level that will help my degree piece based around breast cancer.
It was an inspirational and very exciting meeting for me on so many levels: One of the projects that we discussed is the new building £22M project that will be replacing an existential facility (ies). The builders document the building progress but I would delve deeper into the building’s use and operational needs. Equally, perhaps even more exciting, is the real possibility of recording the emptying/decommissioning of the old facility (ies); I am sure there are stories in the spaces that will be left.
I will be able to develop skill sets that will inform my later projects; for example,Tom the leader of the group suggested that I might interview some of the people who participate in one of his personally directed support groups – the dementia group (it has a name, but I won’t mention it until and unless I start) – part of their activity is archaeological digs, with archaeologists; which I thought was a beautiful activity given their condition.
Tom has a fine arts degree from Brighton and was very interested in what I was doing, how my studies were progressing and offered lots of cogent advice which I am sure will help me during the period up to my degree, and hopefully beyond. He also passed the contact details of the arts coordinator for the Oxford who has replied already saying she would pass my details to the cancer care people, but also mentioned that she has a new gallery being constructed later this year and hoped that my work might be shown there.
I expect a lot of the Documentary course to be fuelled by this venture as there are so many possible avenues to explore.
The realization feels right; these last few years of wandering around with camera and an apparent lack of purpose seem now to be leading me in a direction that I becoming to feel at home with. I have lost the fascination with the glorious landscape, I am happy to view it and, without wanting to appear damming, see the decorative work of other photographers who want to beatify the great outdoors or the glamour of the studio advertisement portrait or still life.
Documentary is where I feel at home in myself currently. To be able to depict situations that need to be recorded, to bring awareness to subjects that are either overlooked, ignored or without voice is starting to compel me to record, to open a discussion, both visually and orally.
I have a nascent queasiness about wanting to appear to “do-good” , but I shall have to overcome those fears and be prepared to not allow my voice to colour the work that I think I need to do, but allow those ‘other’ voices to be heard free – as much as can happen through an interlocutor – or tainted by how I represent them.
These last couple of years seem to have pulled a number of threads together; I have always had high regard for reportage, the influence of image based magazines in the 1960’s and ‘70’s still rest in my memory. There is a strong liberal tendency in me that needs to bring awareness to social injustices, and whilst I don’t think the photographer can make very much, if any difference, I feel compelled to use whatever means I credibly have to highlight them.
I started on a piece of work last year that I thought I had worked out in my mind, it is an especially important subject to me and soon after I started I realized that I wasn’t equipped to handle the project very well. By nature I would set about any new venture without being fully prepared, most of the really valuable things I have created have been done from a basis of knowing where the end is but not sure about the navigational requirements. But this project needs to be done well, and whilst I don’t think that I will ever be fully ready to start the work, I do want to be better “tooled-up” for the job. In readiness for that work I am contacting a number of local charities and trying to get involved with their work and their needs – it is difficult to get traction and maybe the season of the year has held things back. But I feel it is vitally important to develop this burgeoning need that will I hope develop into the practice that I feel is as much a calling as anything else I have felt for a very long time.
As for the picture, a little like me at the moment – underdeveloped and without a clarity of vision.