Archive: Jan 2012
I have been digitizsing a lot of my archive in the last year. Well, I say ‘a lot’ but really I’ve bagged up maybe 5%, something like that. I worked on film for 16 years before I switched to digital photography, so I dread to think what it would be like for someone 30 years older than me whose entire career is on film. When I contemplate the magnitude of the task, I close my eyes and picture myself standing there, all little, with a dull eyed Charlie Brown look of puzzlement, anxiety and fear on my face. In this imagined tableau, there is, in front of me, the most enormous fucking mountain you’ve ever seen. Far bigger than Everest. In this scenario Everest would fit on to a cereal box.
However, to alleviate this fear of the big task, I should spend more time reminding myself about the forgotten work I trip over and re-discover every time I submit myself to the process. I’m not afraid to admit this but I’m getting to the point where I enjoy the process of looking back as equally as I do the process of looking forward. I suppose it could be considered the opposite of a midlife crisis, in that I have reached a point where I’ve grown into myself and have come to accept what I am with magnanimity and gratitude. I know what my faults are and I know what my strengths are. I know how to deploy one in the suppression of the other. Looking at old work causes me to confront the mistakes I made in arriving at this juncture. After all, wisdom is, I believe, nothing more than the accumulative lessons learned from a lifetime of mistakes.
This series of fashion portraits of Elizabeth Jagger I was commissioned to do in 2002 by Steven Baillie for Surface Magazine is a good example of the simple pleasure to be had from rummaging around in the crates of my past. I had utterly forgotten that I had done them until I found a set of 11″x14″ black & white selenium toned fibre prints in a box in the storage unit where I keep it all. The storage unit is a 24 hour, remote access kind of place. It’s cold, it’s desolately eerie and I don’t like going there. There’s always something banging and clanging out of sight. I worry that bad stuff could happen.
Of course as soon as I had spent a few minutes rediscovering the pictures it began to meander back. Milk, the big New York studio, gave me one of their spaces for virtually nothing. There was a casting call for a very old school type of bodybuilder. We really wanted a pre-steroids era kind of guy. I had just bought an iPod, they had only been around for a few months. It was set to random shuffle. Early in the day it threw up ‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones. I remember being mortifyingly embarrassed in the presence of the daughter of a Rolling Stone.
As for what I said earlier about confronting the mistakes of the past in the endeavour to build a better future, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that, looking at these images now, there is nothing about them that I would have done differently. There is nothing they can teach me. I just like looking at them, I’m not ashamed of them. Writing about them here is an indulgence. But that’s ok, there’s loads of other crap in my rear view mirror that I can learn from. But it can also be said that it’s possible to turn a good career into a great career merely by employing the services of a brilliant editor.
I searched for all the negatives from the shoot but I couldn’t find them. Maybe they got lost when I moved back to London from New York in 2006. Is that bad? Or does it make me value these 3 perfectly flat and preserved fibre prints even more? I like to think that it really does.