Most of the time, for most of us, nothing much happens. Life is elsewhere. We're stuck immovably in the familiar of every day. Living in a town on the way to nowhere and feeling that we're not getting out of life what life has to offer. Taking Philip Larkins' poetry and the writing of Ian Nairn as a starting point "These are the Places That Makes Us" takes us on a personal journey through the heartland of the English Midlands. In the last line of the poem "I Remember.I Remember," Larkin writes, "Nothing, like something, happens anywhere." This notion of the nothing that happens anywhere is the central theme in these photographs.’
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your introduction to photography?
I was born in Marston Green, a suburb of Birmingham. I usually add to this, as mostly but not always, people look at me blankly - "Marston Green, by the airport."
As kids we would ride our bikes down to the barriers, watch the planes taking off and talk about being somewhere else. These days, for me, photography is an escape and a dream. No matter what is going on in my life, I still go out and try to make work. I'm drawn to the edges of things, people and places that might commonly be overlooked. If I can express something meaningful, then this, in turn gives meaning to my own life. No matter how many pictures I make, I still have an insatiable curiosity about who and what is around the next corner and far from being assuaged by seeking this out, it only fuels it. The dream is one of redemption. Making a success of this work will, I hope, in some way, off-set the years that I've wasted doing nothing particularly productive.
Apart from documenting life in the midlands, what inspired you to depict this in a series of photographs, or triggered you to begin this venture?
I didn't begin with any defined ideas. On the back of an especially bleak period in my life, where I'd made some pretty rubbish decisions and was financially broke, my partner suggested that I could possibly make some work around the area that we live. With nothing to lose and no real expectations, I began to make pictures. Quite quickly themes and ideas began to emerge from the work itself. I was extremely fortunate to have discovered a subject that I very personally connected with. Parts of this series are in a sense, autobiographical, in that these areas are the same as the area where I grew up and I directly relate to the people and situations that I depict. I think that these suburban areas are central to contemporary culture and understanding this subject is an integral part of understanding everyday life today. In many ways, associations of suburban privilege and squalid inner cities are blurring and merging, if not entirely reversing.
Can you tell us the story of one or some of the photographs? Introduce us to your subjects.
The pictures here are part of a larger series - I have a wide edit of about 200 pictures and am presently looking for a publisher to work with. They form a narrative that runs throughout the main narrative. The idea of including pictures that depict the same people, but in different locations and different times, was again something that emerged as the series was evolving. One of my favourite parts of this whole process is hanging around with a group of people and intermittently making pictures. I've met most of the people in the series over time and slowly built relationships and trust where they know what I'm doing and why and are entirely happy to collaborate. Sometimes I feel that in order to validate making a certain type of picture I need to be engaged in the situation itself. With the picture of the kids smashing down a stud wall in an abandoned building, I handed my camera and flash unit to one of the kids, said take a picture of me, and then took a running leap in an attempt to smash a different piece of wall.
What photo is most important to you and why?
On a personal level, the picture sums up something of the scenes reminiscent of my own time growing up. Whilst from the aspect of making work it illustrates the idea that what is implied in a picture is often more interesting thann the events that occur either side of the moment depicted. The type of photography that I'm interested in acknowledges the fragmentary complexities of the world and therefore allows for contradiction and ambiguity in the work, like so many departures, journeys and roads that go on forever.
courtesy ADRIAN SAKER
interview KATE BISHOP
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