Monday, December 5, 2011

‘WAS HERE’ (The story of an abandoned series)


A few weeks ago I was invited to write a piece for the excellent photo-website fototazo.com about one of my images (which can be seen above). Below is the article which has now just been published there. My many thanks go to Tom Griggs fototazo's creator and curator. Follow the link at the end of this post to explore fototazo  further.

‘WAS HERE’.  (The story of an abandoned series) 

It was the end of the first week after Bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals and this issue of Time Magazine was out on the news-stands everywhere and I found it both unsettling and powerfully symbolic to see his face juxtaposed openly against a backdrop of everyday American vernacular. Since moving to America in 08 I have discovered that the fear of Terrorism and Bin Laden seems to have become so much part of the American psyche, that over the years following the tragedy of 9/11, weather we would like to admit it or not, Bin Laden has become part of the group consciousness of the nation as a whole - standing as the ultimate universal archetype of evil and the biggest, most insidious threat to national and personal security. Now seeing this face crossed out in blood red ink on the cover of this latest edition of Time Magazine, this private and individual terror that so many people carried around within them every day had suddenly been externalized and it could be now seen almost everywhere I turned, mirroring in the same way that his presence was felt internally before hand. It was like a great national exorcism had taken place.

It was after seeing this issue of Time Magazine that I then had the idea that I wanted to photograph its cover whenever I encountered it, naming the series ‘Was Here’. The project would be an attempt to explore and acknowledge this dark power (and the diffusion of it) had over so many individual’s outlook and ideals. Unfortunately though, my work and school schedule was so busy at that particular time that I just did not have the chance to get out to record this image in the exhaustive manner I intended and the week the magazine was out sadly passed me by without me making a single photograph.

Luckily I did have a long road trip planned at the end of the following week which I envisioned would give me a second chance to work on it. My Mother and Brother would be coming to the USA from England to visit me and my wife and we were going to meet them in New York City where we would then rent a car and drive back to Kansas, where we live and I decided it would be here I would be given this second opportunity, but this time I would be able to explore it on a much wider geographical scale. The Magazine was no longer on the news-stands, but I had bought myself a copy and my idea was to photograph it in as many places as I possibly could both in NYC and on the long drive back to Kansas.

This particular photograph is one of the first images I made for this series and which ended up being the most successful photograph, I think, that came from. It was made on the plane somewhere between Kansas and New York City.

This project, which was actually abandoned later on the trip for various reasons, was a departure from the usual way that I work and it was partly because of this that the project ultimately failed. Usually I am not one to externally alter or set up any of my photographs, preferring to record images as I find them - to instead walk around, stand back or get close to whatever my subject may be in order to get the viewpoint which resonates as true to my personal vision as possible, always in search of a balance or harmony between self and subject with the end of hopefully transcending both. This photographs stands in contradiction to this usual way that I work and I found as time went on, that it became increasingly more difficult for me to make pictures in this way without them looking horribly contrived.

The project was also abandoned of other reasons too. I discovered, whilst shooting, that it was perhaps - after 10 years, just still too soon to be dealing with this as a subject matter somehow and I became more and more uncomfortable taking the magazine out of my satchel to set up photographs with this face in it, in spite of the presence of its big red cross and I began to draw some unwanted attention, disapproving looks and unwanted questions and also some knee jerk reactions which were at times aggressively charged. In these situations explaining what it was I was doing did not seem to help in any way either. I found this especially while I was at Ground Zero itself and also outside NYC in some of the small towns. This image above now remains as the only image from the project which I feel has truly worked.  

'Was Here'

The original article and Fototazo.com can be found here: 

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