Whenever I don’t know what to take a picture of, I tend to take a picture of rocks. Point the camera at something without trace of human interference. Texture, process stilled in time. Then I look at the picture and think, I like it, but this is a bit old hat, isn’t it? But I keep on doing it. So I made all these pictures into a slide show.
It’s Mount Olympus, 1994; Point G, Bamako, Mali, 2004; river Niger, near Bamako, 2004; Constantine Bay, Cornwall, 2004; Hackney, 2005. Shown in Unhuman.
An exhibition I organised with the splendid Matthew Kolakowski and Christina Johnston. I thought our work would go well together. It did.
I showed London Beach and My Inhuman World.
It was on at Brixton East Gallery on 17 to 20 October.
Taken a bit after this one, but a bit more my own. I love rock formations. All those metaphorically pregnant geological processes, and, ironically, the echoes of Futurism and Constructivism. Also, I think there’s something of the Philharmonic Hall going on in there. That building must have been etched into the visual and emotional systems of my brain quite early on – I would have been four when my oldest brother started going to the school prizegivings there.
My first morning ever outside Europe, my first trip anywhere abroad on my own, I opened my hotel window and saw this. Now I understand that my response was just an exoticising projection. I sometimes wish I could still feel that way, though.
As you can see, I was under the spell of Ansel Adams and the 35mm lens, equally. Maybe I liked this one because it looked like the kind of image they printed in how-to-do-photography books to train you to salivate at the sight of the enticing mysteries of mid-tones and the satisfying correctness of a full tonal range in black-and-white prints. As I write, I’m thinking about the typography of Ilford paper boxes, the sophisticated green of the Multigrade FB label, that took on some of that fetishistic desirability. I doubt I’ll ever aspire to know that much technical stuff about anything again. It’s a long time since I found the Apple logo remotely alluring.
Three photos that I had in a show called 14 x 14: 14 artists, each showing a few pieces 14 inches square. I added some pragmatic white space for the show, obviously. It was at the long-gone Mafuji Gallery, on the second floor of a Victorian workshop building on Shacklewell Lane, Dalston (possibly Shacklewell – not sure where the boundary runs, strictly). It ran from 17 November to 15 December 2001, back when Dalston was the throbbing pulse of the obscurely avant-garde, a club I was unqualified to join, despite living in a bedsit on Evering Road. It was fun to go to exhibitions in semi-derelict post-industrial spaces, though, and try to work out what was the art and what was the debris – a confusion that I think was deliberately fostered. It’s still a popular gambit today, as I saw at last year’s Liverpool Biennial in the old sorting office on Copperas Hill. Last night I saw that it’s trickled down to post-retro pub design for the thirtysomething middle classes in Walthamstow, if the updated Chequers on the High Street is anything to go by. Anyway, these pictures now seem to nicely sum up some of my persistent obsessions. The numbers came from a bag of spare cassette labels that I’d been keeping for about 20 years by that point, sure that they must come in useful some time. I was right.
Thanks to the splendid Cinzia Cremona, in February 2005 I got to play with the cool kids for once. This was in a group show at Project 142, which was living quarters and studios for artists and musicians in a Victorian factory complex on the Lea Bridge Road in Hackney. Now, of course, redeveloped. I didn’t have much money or time, so I contributed one of my periodic attempts to get away from cameras – although this is the only work I’ve ever shown that was made without one. Without the machine itself, that is, though as you can see I could think of no topic more interesting. You can see more of it here.
This was fun – full set here. There was an entirely different story to be told at the Hippodrome, too, as when we first visited there, was a riding lesson for little French girls in progress, complete with their steely-casual mothers. But neither of us wanted to do something about expats. I was quite pleased with my pictures. Some of them got taken by BBC online for a horribly compressed gallery, with quotes from Lara’s story (and a weird headline about “desert horse-racing”. Bamako’s pretty hot and dusty, but not quite a desert). I also sold two to a photo agency, but they’re not here, as they chose the most boring ones. They always did.
So the RCA didn’t want me, and I didn’t take any photos for a while after that. Then Stephen and I decided we needed a project to get us each going, so we decided on London monuments. He picked five, I picked five, and he wrote poems and I took pictures. I hired a Pentax 67 with a huge 500mm lens, then bleached and toned the prints. No more aimless street photography for me. Planning, consistency, craft. That was the way to get people to take you seriously. Continue reading Monuments