I am always a bit anxious before finding the first photograph. It is not something that I like to admit but which I have had to learn to understand. I am restless and grumpy. After the first photograph, even though it might be the only one for that day, I feel better. Exhilarated almost.
And it is always about finding the photographs. Stumbling upon them. Then when and if I do I ask myself whether I should take the shot or not. Is it a photograph or not? Like I asked with this one. I feel that I have gone quite far from where I started with this project (I don’t like calling it a project for a start) and this decision, whether to take the photograph or not, nowadays comes with different expectations and priorities than it did in the beginning. I was uneasy and uncomfortable and yet I almost believed -and in doing so almost sentenced myself- that the reason for this change was because the project had developed.
When I took this photo I hesitated because it told a story. Two bottles of beer underneath a bypass, against its concrete column tell of a human presence which always alludes to a story. Who, what happened, why, when, where? I quickly read that two guys have been sitting there, having a beer. Instantly we are in the fogginess of my assumptions and prejudices. How differently would a person from a different background to me read this view? I have gendered the view as male, presumed that they must have been fairly young and assumed that there were two people when any other possibility could have been true as well. It could have been just one person, male or female, having two beers underneath the bypass, two women, a man and a woman and they might not even have sat there but simply had decided to leave those bottles there. I just don’t know. And yet this image contains a story.
I was drawn to it or noticed it because of those two bottles. I have walked underneath that bypass many times but not stopped to photograph it. I had not noticed the texture of the concrete, the lines, the symmetry, the shades of brown and grey. I composed the image looking down the viewfinder but still wondered whether to press the shutter or not. In the end I did but that hesitation revealed much to me.
I have since seen just how tangled I am in the Art School way of thinking. Post-structuralism, research-based art, conceptual art, critical thinking. It suffocates me and it does so by placing me in a position or a role as an artist that is forced and unnatural to me. Sadly I have already learned its language and the way it thinks. I think that way, on their terms although I disagree with it all. I originally wrote a couple of paragraphs about it, my rambling defense against those demands and charges, but decided to not to include them. I have said it a thousand and one times already. I realised that unless I investigate everything that I do with a different vocabulary, a different creed almost, I will only keep stirring the pot of the literal, conceptual view of the Art School. It is essential that I should turn away to something else but what it is I don’t yet know. I don’t believe that I would find that solely from within myself either. I am not that big of an Artist.
It all boils down to what I think Art is, with a capital A, a question that overwhelms me as much London does. It is a question with no satisfactory answer.
All that for two bottles of beer that I didn’t even drink. I wonder what their conversation was about.
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.