In 2010 after I completed my degree at Liverpool John Moores University we left Manchester to return to North Yorkshire where I was born and lived for the first 20-odd years of my life before moving to London in 1984.
In Manchester my photography had mainly been about street life and the city. Once we moved to North Yorkshire, after the initial couple of years, I started to repeat myself and struggled with finding meaning in the subject which was mainly landscape. Around 2019 I almost stopped photographing completely. I had reached a point where I couldn’t see the woods for the trees – literally! I started writing music and spent my creative time playing trumpet and composing on the iPad.
Over the last year, what with the pandemic and not been able to travel far, I began re-evaluating my photography and realised I was stuck for ideas. I needed something to kickstart my photography again. The darkroom had became a storeroom as I hadn’t the desire to print anything and a lot of my equipment was in the loft. I ended up using the iPhone as my main camera throughout this time just taking snapshots.
So, my first job at the beginning of this year was to re-establish the darkroom – I made some alterations to the layout and tidied it out and then I started looking for ideas.
I once heard a saying by Tod Papageorge that if your photographs aren’t good enough you’re not reading enough! I always read before going to sleep but had been finding it difficult to finish books. But, I got my head around it and started reading more – anything – thrillers, biographies and at the same time I discovered the joy of listening to podcasts. I’ve always preferred the radio to TV so podcasts appealed to me and could be listened to anywhere at any time. I particularly enjoy the New Books Network for a broad spectrum of ideas and thought provoking topics – perhaps not relevant to me or my photography but nevertheless a way to promote thinking and ideas.
One podcast I did listen to was Creative Pep Talk. I was looking for answers how to get out of this creative block and one of the ways Andy J Pizza (founder and host) talks about is revisiting the time when you started your particular creative journey. What was it at the very start that got you going, that inspired, excited or moved you to take up a brush, pencil, camera etc?
I began to look at my sketchbook and journals that I kept throughout my University studies and found work I hadn’t really considered since then – photographers and artists work that had moved me enough to make a note of them but I hadn’t really looked at them in any more depth.
I also came across some work that I’d done in my second year which I had thought about in the interim but given no time to exploring the topics further. At university I had decided I wanted to experiment with photography – I looked at it as a time when I could make mistakes, try things out and explore all sides of the photography genre. I did two projects in particular that have stayed with me.
One was a conceptual piece about the re-use and re-appropriation of buildings (I had some ideas of becoming an architectural photographer back then as a way of earning money in photography). I’m not sure, looking back, that they quite achieved what I wanted to say but the influence of Thomas Demand (who was making photographs of three-dimensional models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces) is very apparent! My project certainly gained a lot of “Tony, what exactly are these about” comments from fellow students and did gain me some good marks for the project.
The other was a book called Palimpsest. I had become interested in the notion of the palimpsest – the idea of layers left behind over time and covered over but not quite erased altogether. I particularly looked at it both from an architectural point of view but also at family photographs and how the passage of time adds layers of meaning to them which is apart from their original intention. (My dissertation was titled Found Photographs in Art and Literature).
In particular, looking back, I want to build on the palimpsest work and I have an idea for a couple of projects I want to start working on.
In August there is an ‘Open Studios’ event taking place over two consecutive weekends in my area. I am going to take part as I haven’t exhibited any of my work since moving back here in 2011. I have started looking through my older negatives but I would like to introduce some new photographs so I’m hoping I can go some way to presenting these two new projects at that event. A big ask but I’m always up for a challenge!