The Reaper

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As I slept that night I had no idea The Reaper was in my house. I remember locking the doors and windows so I don’t know how he got in. Maybe he slipped through while I wasn’t looking. At this stage of my life, I didn’t believe in Reaper’s so it didn’t occur to me to check if we had one in the house.

So I lay asleep that night, cosy and comfortable in my bed, blissfully unaware there was a Reaper in my home and completely unaware that I had seen my father for the last time.

Dawn breaks.

Several days and nights come and go but I don’t remember them. I can’t remember much of what happened, I will not remember, I don’t remember, I do not want to remember what happened.

So it’s just me now, a wreckage in the modern world. Every and every morning begins with the realisation that he’s gone.

Forever.

He’ll never be there to watch me become the man I’ll eventually become. He’ll never know me, who I’ll be after I’ve finished growing up.

I’m supposed to say goodbye.

How do you say goodbye?

Do I hold his hands? Do I cuddle him? Do I sit with him and drink a cup of tea? Do I say everything I never did but always wanted to? Do I tell him I love him and I want him back or do I say nothing?

If I never say goodbye, he can’t really be gone.

The Reaper made a mistake.

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A Decisive Moment

A Decisive Moment
Everything I’ve lost
Everyone I’ve hurt
All the times I lied
All the moments wasted
All the things I’ve done
All the people I wronged
All the times I hushed
All the moments wasted
All I never changed
All the dreams I had
All the things I could change
I would change them
I would make right what I’ve done wrong
I’d change how the future becomes
I’d take hold of my enemies, love their obscenities
I’d kiss them, (then leave them like lovers who’ve gone)
And now the moment has come…

Trapped

Trapped in darkness, an artist looks into the light.  Unable to hold a camera, he is left to his other devices

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…Broken

Previously, I had decided to highlight that photographs cannot be stolen due to the method and creativity which underpins each photographer.

It is stimulating to take inspiration from another and recreate a derivative or new work of art.  What then is the difference between stealing or copying an idea or paying homage to another artist?

We all see the world in different ways and from the outset that was a core theme.

This project, enabled me to realise that just as I sometimes dismiss others photographic work, it’s ok for others to do the same of mine.  In fact, I encourage it.  This is just what I do, and there is a need to do it.  Who cares if it’s accepted or not?  It’s ok to photograph the mundane, the depressing and the state of our world today which for many is of personal routine and the uninteresting.  What then of destroying the artistic ideals of others when attempting to display an emotion.  Not an emotive image, simply shooting a replacement photograph to break the original idea.

I consider it impossible for viewers outside an extremely small collective to fully appreciate these photographs but different conclusions and questions may arise nevertheless.

We all see things in different ways, two different people can view the same object, or have an affinity for a thing, a person, an event or a way of living and process their experience differently, eliciting a difference in perspective.

The difference is in the way in which things are seen, not just visually but the way we see things mentally, and how we respond, both inside and out.  A humorous photograph may elicit a favourable response, an insulting photograph may cause offence and an emotional photograph may change a mood.   Does the photograph produce a fixed frame of mind for every person or do viewers create them for themselves?  The response to the same photograph is different for each person and it’s different if the viewer knows the photographer.  Insight is gained if the photographers’ temperament is known.

At the start of this project I knew that it would be challenging to combine ideas from 10 different artists and explored ways of harmonising the set to ensure that my presence is felt within the new photographs that I was creating.  That it may be too difficult to combine different ideas from different people and found myself exploring ways to harmonise them.  I never settled on an idea, initially it was to invade the photograph with my presence, with shadows, with fingerprints and even with my own blood.

A sweat, blood and tears overlay concept was considered to visually connect the images together, I found that this did not work as I wanted to convey that photography is more than what can be seen externally as photography really isn’t just about what you can see.

“Way’s of Seeing’s” theme was in conflict until I felt something I wanted to photograph.  I’ve not taken many photos lately, I’ve simply not been in the mood.  Life got to me and I began to shut down, piece by piece.  I became emotionally fractured, damaged and I ceased to be myself for a long time.  I was emotionally broken.  It’s what I felt, and who wants to take photographs at a time like that unless it’s a method to release pain and angst?  In these images I wanted to convey the sense of my own inner conflict, the sense that I am broken and this became the over-arching theme for the final photographs.

The more photographs I take and the critical photography theory I read such as Susan Sontag, Jean Baudrillard and other journals, the more I understand how to think about and use photography conceptually.  I photograph best when I’m in pain, and they are my best photographs.  Not unlike Sophie Calle who has said “Grief is inevitably a better subject than joy”, she argues. “When I’m happy I don’t photograph the moment to share with people on the wall of a museum. It doesn’t translate so well.”

It’s interesting, the more you get to know a person’s motivation for creating photographs, the more you see that reflected in their work.  Not just what’s in the frame, but in the way they create photographs and what people think about before even conceiving the photograph.

I’ve suffered with depression for a long time, I’ve tried medication but it doesn’t work well for me.  I can function though, I don’t need for anything, I work and more importantly, I play.  Who knows if it’s a genetic trait or the product of my terrestrial existence?  Depression is one of the driving forces for creating photographs and you may already understand that depression is a thread that runs though many of our great artists, I believe this is what attracts me to them.

It’s why I’m dismissive of some photography when presented with a sunset, or fantastical landscape, or macro of a small insect on a twig.  These are all technically perfect I’m sure but they just don’t make me feel anything.  My camera is an engine for me to express myself, not a tool to configure.  I don’t care about tack sharp images, I don’t obey the ‘rule of thirds’ I enjoy photographs which make me feel something, and I’m attempting to do the same with my own work.

My own work? – I often take down things, re-organise and dismiss my projects as worthless.  Sometimes I go for long periods without creating anything and leave gaps in places where there should be photosets.  People tell me my work is good, (I’m even qualified) yet I shun any praise because I do not believe it, when people tell me I have something to offer I tend to shut it out and stop taking photographs.

Low self-esteem, withdrawal, feelings of loneliness and worthlessness are all symptoms of depression.  Depressed people don’t function like ‘normal’ people and it’s incomprehensible to people who have never suffered it, you just can’t snap out of it – that would be too easy!

Yet, there I find strength, my inner self – the source of my creativity and if I were ever given the option to rid myself of this fucking disease I would pay harshly because my camera requires me to be this way.  It’s comforting to release myself to the camera (any camera) and let it flow on the rare occasions I do.  It’s not a therapy but it does allow me to see myself in a different light and it helps me to understand the world around me, it’s my way of seeing.

Consequently, these photographs have become very personal to me, even though they steal the idea and invade the visual aspect of others peoples photographs.  I couldn’t have created these photographs without first feeling something, and at the time I was broken.  The final photograph combines parts one and two of this project as it’s renamed to “…Broken”, completing the full set of twenty photographs, “Here I Am …Broken”.

I forgive myself for the erratic nature of my creativity, and I’m glad I’ve got this off my chest!

The Wall

There are times when you just can’t do it. The inspiration which is screaming at you from different directions is blocked by an impenetrable, mental, wall. It’s crippling and prevents you from moving on. You might be having a bad day, week or month and want to travel beyond the wall but they are everywhere, a maze of impasse and deadlock with no escape.

So I say take that wall and smash it down, step away from what you do and cease to think about events which solidify its structure. Society is awash with people who face problems daily, monthly yearly and we all deal with problems and issues in different ways, we all have different ways of seeing and we overcome, social, intellectual, emotional and creative problems differently.

I was pondering the wall this morning as I walked to work with my camera in my hand. I decided, in the absence of the desire to take photographs, or write about photography, I would photograph the literal, the bounds between areas, the psychical walls which separate grass from asphalt, toward from away, left from right, dark from light.

Here’s the journey…

Self Harm

Self-harm is a broad term and covers a wide variety of actions, thoughts and feelings.  People may hurt themselves by cutting, biting, scratching or burning their skin.   Or by taking drugs, or an overdose, or misuse alcohol, or have a pattern of risky behaviour, or… lots of different methods.

Quite often, Self-harm goes on behind closed doors and nobody notices until after it becomes addictive and is part of routine behaviour.  This could be months afterwards or immediately depending on the severity of injury or how convincing the ‘I’m fine’ visage is.

Self-harm in young people is at an “epidemic level” in the UK, according to Marjory Wallace, Chief Executive for mental health charity SANE.  She also said “The ways of self-harm have become more aggressive.”

Self-harm is a way of expressing anguish. People may not even know why they self-harm.  It’s a form of communication which doesn’t articulate though thoughts, words, or sound.  It’s been described as an inner scream, a satisfying or pleasurable release of pressure that is felt, because one is only able to feel sensation during the act.  For a short while afterwards, life seems more manageable yet as the behaviour is cyclic, more episodes trigger and over time can escalate to unsafe levels.

Comprehensive information covering self-harm is available online Mind Self-Harm NHS The Site & SANE

The reasons and behaviours for self-harm are not, however the focus of this 4 part photo essay, these photographs intentionally visualise self-harm, from a different view.

As human beings, we don’t normally enjoy looking at imagery of harm.  For instance, when confronted with a photograph of a victim who has been assaulted, we can see the aftermath of the attack in a cut face, a black eye, or some other form of injury to the person.  What’s worse is knowing the attack actually happened, two people have been at conflict and one has damaged the other.  It may have been quick, or prolonged and with varying degree of pain.  If you’ve seen the photograph, you’ve had the proof. – There is a perpetrator and there is a victim.

Suppose, for a moment that self-harm can be viewed as attack to one’s self.

The attacker and victim are one and the same, and self-harm is instantly stigmatised because the assault is labelled self-harm and becomes ‘Mental Health’.  Stigma breeds fear in those who are suffering which makes ‘coming out’ even more difficult.  It can be challenging to ask for help and the stress of this may also exacerbate the problem.  Many people self-harm in secret, behind closed doors, away from other people.  If psychical wounds or scars are prevalent, they can be covered by clothing or jewellery, if the scars are mental, they may be much easier to hide.  If you can’t see the wounds, you may not know someone needs help.

I wonder how we would react if, during the times when the need to self-harm is strong, we could divide ourselves into two separate people and harm the other.  Because attacker and victim are now two separate people, self is removed and attack remains.

If society could see that self-harm can be is just as serious as other forms of psychological and physical assault maybe there would be more understanding and more willingness to help those who suffer from self-harm.

Self Harm 1, by Tom Robson

Self Harm 2, by Tom Robson

Self Harm 3, by Tom Robson

Self Harm 4, by Tom Robson

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