Starting new bodies of work can sometimes be a daunting experience, but before you can do that you at least need to establish some possible ideas to chose form!
I often create lists to help determine which area of my interests to explore photographically. It’s something I’ve done ever since I read On Being a Photographer a few years back (when flickr was more of an educational resource for me). I categorise ideas and interests with various variables: how interested I am, whether it would interest others, how visual the subject is, how accessible, what sort of cost implications there are and what my knowledge of the subject is.
It may seem a touch overzealous, but I feel it really does help me to logically understand whether a project may or may not really work for me.
Car boot sales have always been on my lists as something I’ve been interested in – both photographically and outside of that world as I love a good bargain. They also meet my other criteria. I know other people are interested in the subject as it’s a national thing, it’s an extremely visual subject given that what everyone is selling is a physical object! I’m fairly knowledgable of the subject, I’ve been both a buyer and seller at various sales, but more importantly I know where I can learn more about it if I feel I need to. The cost implications of the project are almost nil as it’s something I’d be doing anyway. But despite this, there is an issue around the accessibility.
Twin Oaks Car Boot Sale, Junction 29 M1, Derbyshire, UK – 2010.
Whilst I don’t need special passes to some sort of restricted area as some projects may dictate, and it’s definitely not geography which is a limiting factor, it is still an extremely limited project in terms of it’s access. Car boot sales only occur on weekends (well in most cases) and the occasional bank holiday, and you have to add to this that the weather and ground conditions have to be right too! With this work being done in the UK, these stars align all too rarely, but this is only a small negative on an otherwise highly positioned project on my ranked list and it’s why I’ll be aiming to complete the work this year and exhibit it towards Autumn (more details coming in recent weeks).
But planned weekend of shooting being abandoned due to a bit of drizzle – not my decision- and the whole off season left gaping holes in what could have otherwise been productive time made me think I needed something else to fill the void.
A body of work that is currently titled “The Walkers” began almost accidentally and is one which has been filling these spaces.
I suffered with pain in my knees when I was about 15 years old, it was a football injury where muscle and joint damage occurred through repetitive impact on hard ground during matches and training, my knees never really recovered. I started walking recreationally (3-6 mile circular walks in the peak district) with my girlfriend in an attempt to build the muscles back up after years of neglect, not to mention it was something she really enjoyed. But I wasn’t a fan.
Mam Tor, Castleton, Derbyshire, UK – 2011
Initially it just wasn’t something I was that interested in. I could obviously see the benefits of a healthier lifestyle which walking could bring, not to mention the fresh air and the amazing views of the countryside which surrounded the area we live. But it just wasn’t something I cared about until I started doing it.
We started going for walks as something to do after a morning of visiting car boot sales (most of the venues we tend to frequent are situated in villages not to distant from idyllic country scenes) but it later became more and more of a passion.
We now go for walks when we have free time, we plan days out and have even started planning walking weekends away.
I’m hoping with this work will document more than just the landscapes which have been pictured a thousand times before. I it to look towards the way we interact with the countryside landscape, how we use it recreationally and what our relationship is with it.
I’m drawn to the people and their lifestyles. It’s little things like the way walkers make each other feel welcome. A simple hello as you pass a random person on a mountain top may seem like the most ridiculous of genstures, but at the same time it’s a lot, it’s an acknowledgment that you’re part of something.
This sort of random interactions used to be much more prevalent elsewhere in my life, I’m not saying that they don’t exist anymore, but I definitely feel that the world has changed in my 28 years. Living in a city with half a million or so other people niceties such as this can sometimes get lost in translation. But out on the countryside hills just about every person who crosses you path does it with a smile and a hello.
Being who I am it was inevitable that a camera would occasionally be in tow on our journeys, but The Walkers was never an idea I had for a project until I was photographing it. It never appeared on a list I’ve ever made and yet I can fully see the potential the project could have.
Thoughts like this made me go back over my lists and one consistent subject cropped up, Sheffield. It’s the city I was born in, where my parents were born, where we were all grew up and still live. It’s a geographical location with the most significance in my life and that of my family and girlfriend.
Shirebrook Valley, Sheffield, UK – 2011
Going back to my lists I could see I’d always ranked it lower on my personal interests than other ideas but now knowing that a subject I’d never even considered was now something I’d rank highly if I were to start a new list, I felt it was only right to give Sheffield some more attention.
I’m now actively working on this project (along with my other projects), researching, photographing and developing the ideas I have. Sheffield is a subject I have access to on a daily basis, it costs me nothing to work on, gets me out walking and my interest is growing in it ever time I press the shutter. In some sense it is the perfect project for me. No differing amount of weather, light or time of year will change the fact that the subject is still there, ready and willing to be documented.
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes it’s hard to understand where projects can come from and whilst I’ll always believe in approaching things as logically and following my interests as much as possible, being receptive to new ideas developing and changes naturally occurring, even if it’s something you aren’t interested in, is possibly more important.
I’ll follow up this post with more thoughts on my new work in the near future and occasionally share pictures as I progress.