This past year of lockdowns has been especially difficult for creatives, because so many things have had to come to a standstill. How has it been for you?
Well you know, quietly I’m really pleased. I’m always working on multiple projects simultaneously, because I’m always looking for opportunities to use my camera. So I had a lot going on before Covid-19.
I was making a book about festivals across the UK, so I was charging around everywhere, from Glastonbury to the Wilderness Festival in Oxford. I would be there with my large format camera for about 12 hours a day meeting so many people. It was the most perfect place for casting. I’d be working in intense heat and then I’d throw myself into the river and have a quick swim and then come back again. I loved it so much.
I was also working on Guernsey Island with the farming community there, as part of the Guernsey Photography Festival commission. Additionally, I was doing another substantial piece on social inequality and poverty. All the work came to a very abrupt end because of Covid-19. I’m halfway through with it, but it’s just been sitting there for a year now.
It’s a difficult project as it’s really personal for me and very politically driven. There’s unparalleled poverty out there and it’s unbelievable. I do struggle with how to photograph people’s poverty with consciousness and integrity. How do you do that? I still don’t know. The trouble was that I was on a tight deadline because it was commissioned and needed to be turned around very quickly. So I was left with this very difficult tension around the work that I never got through.
I felt that to point my camera at poverty was dehumanising for the people I was photographing. So I really struggled with it and I’m quietly relieved that it stopped, because now I can invest the time that I need to make it work. I need to build relationships with the people I’m working with, and when I return to the project, I’m going to give it years in fact.
Nowadays, I get up and do an hour of yoga online every morning. Then I have my French lesson. I love France and I’ve been wanting to learn French all my life. So I’m doing an hour every day with a teacher and I’ve written the verbs all over my kitchen wall. I guess that’s kind of what this year has been about. I don’t want to waste time.
My son has also just come out of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery where he spent two years. So I’m going to be working with him on a piece about his transformation and I’ll be working again on a large format camera. It’s about his transformation in the time he’s been away, but it’s also about our relationship. I’ve never been able to photograph my older son. He’s really beautiful and ethereal, but I don’t know how to get close to him because he disappears in the frame energetically. People have got to occupy the frame in order for us to see it. But somehow he’s not there. It’s kind of an energetic response to having a camera pointed at him by his mother.
Anyway, it’s been going on for years. But the project is going to be very layered in terms of our relationship and where we’ve come from, and it’s also going to be about the world and the environment. I’m really excited about this project and we’re planning it every day.
I think there’s this call to consciousness at the moment. For me, this whole slowing down process is shining a big light on what I have and what’s important. I’m trying to occupy all the space around me and create meaning from this intimate context.