THE EVERYTHING ROADTRIPS
The Everything Roadtrips bring together documentary photography, performance and fictional narratives.
In this work I invite different artists/activists/poets to have a conversation with me about wisdom, where it can be found and to ask together 'What should we be doing for/in this world?' From this we devise a collaboration, a 'road trip', where we explore this question together.
Historical figures walk among us as in the work with artist Laura Robinson where we invoke the modernist Scottish writer Nan Shepherd (1893 - 1981) on a pre-Covid trip to Ullapool, Scotland by dressing as her, by ‘being Nan’. We embody Nan as she embodied the Cairngorm Mountains in her book The Living Mountain. With Nan and Laura, I learn to not separate from the subject, from the landscape, from the act of photographing, subject and photographer both.
Gig is the landlady, community activist and artist from the Golden Lion Pub, Todmorden. In our road trip we travel during the Covid restrictions of 2020/21, through the attic of the pub into a secret room. Gig enacts Thai rituals that symbolise the giving to community, the feeding and acts of ritual food offerings, the role of the colour yellow in her art and community activism. I am transported to a childhood reoccurring dream of a secret room and this becomes a part of the work as well. The work is permeated by the virus and its impact on our lives.
At the end of 2020 I photographed Winter Solstice in The Kielder Forest; the darkest day (of the darkest year), under the darkest sky in Europe.
The photographic ritual recorded an act of welcoming the returning light, of saying goodbye to the darkness of 2020 with large format pinhole exposures lasting the whole of the daylight hours. The collaborative element here, under lockdown and without the possibility of working with a collaborator, was with photography itself. The cameras forced me to travel to an elemental place of photography, of light, time. It was a reset, a renewed relationship to my practice and tools. In standing with cameras for exposures that were hours long photography taught me the lesson of slowing down.
This photograph is made with an 8x10 pinhole camera. It is a photograph of the sunrise, December 22, 2020. The exposure time is 3 hours with an f stop of 429. The camera belonged to the photographer, my friend, Clive Egginton. Clive died before he was finished taking pictures, before he was finished with everything else that this beautiful life offers us. I have named his camera The Beast of Burden because it is an awkward pain in my ass. It was so Clive to have such a difficult thing, a simple thing. Sometimes things are both simple and difficult. It is sat on a log for the exposure. I sat along side it.
This photograph is taken with a 4x5 pinhole camera. The exposure is of the whole of the daylight hours (7 hours, 6 minutes, 52 seconds, f stop 280), on Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year, December 21, 2020.
The camera was made by photographer, print maker and educator Rick Marriner. Rick, with a camera tattooed onto his arm, lends me his own pinhole camera while also making me one. I have worked with Rick for as long as I have taught. He is always generous, knowledgable, patient. I am so moved by this when I ask him to help me. That is the thing about teaching, It is so profoundly generous. I am extremely lucky to have spend these last 18 years in art school with people who want to share what they know.
The pinhole cameras, with their f stops of 429, had exposure times that ran into the hours. I stood by them while the light reached the film surface, the dark boxes, the pinhole of light, the forest. They laughed at me. me who can’t sit still, can’t wait, always moving. They laughed and said ‘Sit still. Stand by. Light and time, light and time.’ Photography said, ‘OK, you want to know what to do and how to be? Start by slowing the fuck down.’ Photography laughed at me and I laughed at me too.
I never wanted to make pinhole photographs or set out to do this but as I was researching this work, speaking to people, one thing leading me to another and there we were, me and the boxes. They said ‘Start at the beginning, come back to the elemental, the pinprick, the darkness and the light.’
I followed and sat with what I had forgotten. I remembered. Light and time. I felt my way in the dark, the darkroom and darkslides, the film; seeing with my fingers, feeling my way.