Last week I had one of those nights when I couldn’t sleep very well. After hours of slumber I was wide awake at 4.15am. I decided that I would get up, go for a run and work on some things; write, scan, edit. ‘Might as well’ I thought and I turned on the other side. ‘Just for 5 minutes.’ Instead I fell asleep and saw such eventful dreams that the well-intentioned 5 minutes snooze turned into 3 hours of sleep. I remembered the odd scenarios of my dreams when I had arrived to work (late) and gotten some caffeine into my system. I had, for example, dreamt that Boris Johnson turned up for a barista shift. It made sense that he would have a day job whilst he was wrecking the country with his Machiavellian grip on power. He was a terrible barista, one of those who think they are the best although their milk quality is lacking. He was also one of those seemed to feel entitled to leave his work station in a mess. Steamed milk of various variety, coffee grinds, dirty spoons and jugs everywhere. I couldn’t stand him. He was, obviously, there just to promote himself as the leader of the people. I told Johnson off for being unkind to member of staff who had made a mistake on their first day. Then I began to perceive that it was getting lighter in the other realm, put two and two together and jumped out of bed having concluded that it was past 7am.
About two weeks ago I decided that I would take a break from writing. I was not getting anywhere. The discipline of many successful writers to simply write a certain number of words every day, despite the quality of the outcome, doesn’t work with me because the reasons why I struggle to write are so closely tied in with anxiety and its causes.
Taking a break felt risky because it would leave me with less time to finish my project. I am often asked how long it takes me to write or to do ‘a photo project’. There is a sense in between the lines of questions such as these that an ability to produce a text or an art work at a fast pace would be a sign of a true artist. I am annoyed at myself for getting caught in these kinds of silent expectations. There is no one, at least no one I would aspire to impress, who would evaluate me on my speed of production, or on anything else for that matter. I had made up a timeline for myself based on an estimated availability of the exhibition venue. Now that the exhibition venue I had my eye on has gone under the radar there is no reason why I shouldn’t make the most of this pause and work with the precision that this luxury of time allows me to do.
I started taking photographs for the London Archive in the midst of a political and a personal turmoil. At one point the project began to have a life of its own and took a direction which would have conformed to the expectations of the art industry but which were not true to itself. This is difficult to explain. Sometimes I have wondered myself what this project it about. I have felt overwhelmed by the immensity of this project while at other times I have condemned it to result in a cute coffee table book. I have wished on many occasions that this wandering around the streets of London and photographing it wouldn’t ever end. It has been exhilarating to discover this city, without ever really capturing it. It is however coming to an end because the period of collecting these photographs of London is determined by the date of UK leaving the EU. Now that Boris Johnson is fanning the flames of the far-right and pushing this country off the cliff I look at this project once again with similar sentiments as I did in the beginning.
I have known all along what this project is about but I have been reluctant to write that what is in me. On the other hand, I also know that I am not yet ready to do so. It is infuriating but I cannot be creative on a command. Therefore, I am going to stay on this pause for a little longer.
© Carita Silander
Preamble to the London Archive Essays
I asked a few friends and members of family to choose a photograph from the London Archive they would like to know more about. As this premise is my own devising, I have taken the artistic liberties necessary in answering this question. Bar a few exceptions, the result is a series of short essays combining a brief outline of historical information, consideration of photography as a medium as well as an account on how I ended up taking each particular photograph.