More often than not, the photographs I make are driven by my need to explore artistic possibilities of analogue/alternative/cameraless processes, and this is fundamental to the meaning of it all. This series revisits a favourite theme of mine – using landscape both figuratively and metaphorically to express either physical or introspective journeys, solitude or isolation and a sense of place. Throw into the mix the unpredictability of the process and you end up with images that are technically pants, yet with ethereal atmosphere and emotion.
Using the Sharan pinhole camera I mentioned previously, I took these photographs in the hills known as Les Fenouillèdes in the Catalan part of France. Craggy, sun-baked, exposed, windy. Using my head instead of handlebars this time to balance the camera while I kept the shutter open, no scientific calculations of exposure times but just trusting the gut is good enough for me. Lo and behold, the combination of being buffered by strong wind and blinded by bright sunlight on a rugged hilltop blurred the images into a surreality. The white blob in the tree in the below pictures is a sheep skull bleached by the searing sun, that someone hung high out of reach in a tree branch. A totem? A trophy? Or just for fun? In my hurry to get down to it I tumbled and slid down a gravelly path, holding my pinhole aloft to save it’s life and grazing my arse for my trouble. Now that’s dedication for you.
In April when I was back in the UK I saw Ori Gersht’s “Evaders” at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, a film about the Lister Route. I was 1200 kms away and the effect it had on me was in part due to the deep connection and love I feel towards the landscape of my home here. Seeing it in this context was like looking with newborn eyes. During World War II this difficult path was used by those escaping Nazi-occupied France into Spain. It was closed the day before Walter Benjamin was to cross, resulting in him choosing to take his own life rather than be captured. It was a film that stayed with me for a long time and I know it was floating around in my woolly subconscious when I made these pictures.