[ Journal 2017 – January ]
(TL;DR – Mould, planning, horse costumes, Trump, Women rally and march, Tony Ray-Jones, the pull of film)
Meanwhile, in London …
The mould in the bathroom persists, as it does on the frames of the windows and the skirting around the base of the shower; the heating comes on twice a day if we’re lucky, and if we’re luckier, the hot water will stay on long enough to wash the soap and shampoo off in a shower. The last couple of Winter’s have been pretty mild, with only the occasional dip into minus figures during the night, but nothing to be concerned about. It’s almost Spring. Soon, the first official day of Summer will arrive and with it, my plans to start other parts of project will be looked into more extensively and I’ll decide on what it is that I need to do.
I often plan my photographic outings with as much detail about an event at a particular location that I am preparing to go and photograph, that I possibly can – in that half hour before I actually run out the flat. This means I have to do as little roaming as possible and allowing myself to be in the position where I am not at a complete loss. There’s no right or wrong when heading out to photograph something, although purists will try to tell you otherwise – I just simply work in whatever way feels comfortable for me in whatever it is that I am trying to achieve. Sometimes it’s nice to simply go along and see how things are and have an element of spontaneity about it all, in what it is that I get to see, but quite often, and because I tend to work pretty quickly, I’ll spend half an hour having a look at what has been taken of the event in the past by others and where they were placed. Then I’ll Google Map the shit out of the location so I’m not fucking around with myself once there.
I’d like to get myself in a position where I am at ease and at comfort with both myself and what I’m doing. At the moment, I am not. At the moment I am at a complete and utter loss. And in that, I’m leaving myself open to making stupid decisions, lazy decisions and making mistakes, in both my work and in my personal life.
The pantomime horse race is in Greenwich. It’s pretty cold but I know where I’m heading. A small crowd gathers outside an old admiralty building, so I guess it’s all going to kick-off there. After a while, various people dressed in different stage attire come out and prepare. There’s not much to photograph so I sneak inside where most of the people are getting changed and ready with their horse costumes. I’m still not comfortable with what’s on offer and those that do see me, want to pose for me. I take their photograph but wait for them to get back to their thing before grabbing a shot I may actually want. It’s meant to be a race, but it’s more of a procession – a 50 meter walk with trumpets and people dressed up. It draws a crowd of a few hundred and so I jostle for position at the front. I didn’t get anything, at least, nothing I am happy with. Next year.
The protest series – I had pretty much resigned myself to having finished the project after photographing different protests in London over six years – I’d started to look through all the photographs again, discard some, adds others, generally try to have four from each outing. From there, the plan this year is to produce a zine. The idea of having a zine has been a long one – I’d already printed something out a couple of years ago to see how things look in print, but it was rather rushed and not really to my liking, so I left it alone. I’ve made a mock-up of the zine, which can be seen in the video on the page (http://www.marcfairhurst.com/PRECIPICE) but since making that video, the design of the zine has changed somewhat. Not overly so, but a removal of titles – I’m going to put the titles back in but use thick black marker pen, something that will reflect the nature of the signs and wall-writings I have seen that were done by hand. The colour scheme throughout (red and black) is a reflection of the anarchist’s flag that I saw many times. I have a test print of the zine arriving soon and once I have marked it with ink etc, I’ll update the video and add a buy button for anyone that wants a copy.
Two major protest / rallies this month. One at the U.S. Embassy and the other was a Women’s March on London. I have quite a number of protests down at any one time on Facebook, but I only go to the one’s where the attendance reaches x-number of thousands and where the ‘outcry’ as it were, is nationwide. Those protests tend to offer up more opportunities for me.
Trump Inauguration – There’s quite a crowd built up by the time I arrive. Various tables are set up with information, leaflets and literature being handed out. I always take the flyers. I’ll use them in my zine. It’s a little cold but I prefer cold weather over heat as I tend to sweat quite a bit whenever the sun is out. I wonder the edges and head to where most of the photographers are congregated higher up. It’s a bit of a squeeze so decide to continue my milling within the crowd. I’m using the new flash and it seems to be performing okay although the refresh time is shit as it takes triple-A batteries, and that sucks a little. However, I don’t tend to take many shots when I find something, so the refresh time of the flash isn’t too bothersome for me. I try to stay away from anyone shouting, as I have far too many of that kind of shot – the open-mouth protester shouting. There’s plenty going on and I decide to focus on those dressed up as Trump or displaying any form of over-saturated colours – I also focus on the ephemera on the stalls – a bit of a Parr nod. After a few hours, my legs start to cramp up and on trying to step up onto a higher platform, I hear a rip between my legs and know my jeans are fucked. I try to hide the hole on my journey home through London.
The Women’s March on London grows and swells to many thousands in a very short period of time and for some reason I’m hesitant to take too many photographs up close. I don’t wade through the crowd to where things are tightly packed so stick to the outer edges of the rally. After an hour, I head for the road where I think the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square is to start. Just as I get there, they set off and this is where most of the photographers and press are, so it’s a crazy-mad jostle for a shot of the women at the front. After failing to budge my way in to get a shot, I decide to walk ahead a little to get the shot as it’s moving – this tends to spread out the photographers, so I think it’s a better time to grab my shot. After ten minutes of getting shots of the those at the front, I immediately turn my attention to those on the sideline, along the pavement watching things as they pass. I’m more interested in those people once the business of getting actual shots of banners etc has passed. I won’t waste time filling my memory card up of the same thing, so I turn to the public who watch. There are two shots that I saw when I first started out that made me think to concentrate on the onlookers of events, and those two photographs are by Tony Ray-Jones. The first being from Wimbeldon and the second, from The Boat Race.
These two photographs stayed with me, the idea of them that is – it was the first time I thought that photographing what is actually happening at an event may not necessarily be the only thing going on, so I then focused on the onlookers.
With Trump becoming president, I feel 2017, and much of his four-year term in office, will be quite controversial and with that, I imagine that there may be quite a number of different protests popping up in the year. My only problem now is choosing which one’s to go to and if it’s actually worth doing so as I have anti-Trump shots already. As said, I’ll most likely go to those protests where they are on a national level and draw thousands – other than that, I am going to put Precipice to bed.
I know what kind of work I want to produce, it just seems I can never quite get there – I can never quite produce the quality that I crave, and this seems to forever plague me. It also pushes me forward and becomes an aim and a drive, however, I’d love to get to a point where I am content with my work and can focus only on documentation, and not on the lack of quality or the camera and other gear choices. I don’t really do the whole gear-thing, so I need to feel completely comfortable with what I am using when out. If I am spending a lot of time fighting with a digital camera when out, then it reflects on my state of mind, which in turn, has a knock-on affect with the way I work. I want to eliminate and cut through the bullshit. I’m tired of the struggle in so many aspects of my life. I just want to be a peace with it all; to find comfort in something, in whatever form it presents itself.
‘I’m going to sell the Fuji and go back to film.’ is what I keep telling myself, but I never actually get around to doing it. I always think that having the 35mm mjuii will be enough. It’s not that I crave more, I just want to feel comfortable. In all these years, I have only ever felt comfortable with one camera, the Mamiya7. I’d like to have that camera again. But for now, I think I should be content with what I have and to make the best with what I have.
* * *
An environmental officer arrives – one of the neighbours had phoned the landlord and complained. I let her in and let her inspect the flat, saying nothing but only responding when asked something, which was little. We can live with most things and we have a good deal on the rent for London.
‘Everything okay?’ She asks.