Dear Chris, can you explain your work in its preparation and production?
What were your intentions and how pleased are you with the results?
I try to keep things as simple as possible, always, I am a documentary photographer, so really it is about "recording" rather than interpretation. I am looking for preserving a mood or atmosphere that I think is unique to that particular place. Maybe subconsciously I am thinking about places that are about to change forever. This change may be imminent or inevitable, but I usually photograph something at the point It has started to look like a photograph. Light and climate are important factors and I prefer "bad" weather to bright sunshine, but that may be particular to a northern European sensibility. I am not looking for gloom as such but a flat even light it is more sensual. I dislike the term nostalgia intensely but I think I am vulnerable to being called romantic but thats ok with me. I am vaguely concscious that my images may take 20 years or so before they become interesting, I am addressing an audience that has not assembled yet.
I enjoy playing with the idea of anticipation in my work. The photos I am making this year will look great in say, 2035, I want to include elements that will interest and surprise those future folks. I am not that concerned with how people see them today, they have enough things to keep them stimulated.
What were your priorities, technically and ethically, when you worked on that project?
I still am working on this project so it is always redefining itself, there is no manifesto and no rules. Though I do have a set of formal structures in terms of how the pictures are executed that are just too boring to go into. I have never really considered a project "finished" , I just keep adding to a roster of projects which remain ongoing. These are film , photography and audio. Sometimes I will take a break from one if I am bored or run out of ideas and move to another.
The project "The Corners" really started in the early 1980's but I stopped it for a number of reasons and re-started it in 2005. So for 20 years I just thought about it, without making an image. I was just waiting for them to invent the equipment to make it possible. As far as technical issues are concerned, I always try to use the best equipment I can afford but one that I can remain mobile, so I don't use lights, assistants or heavy cameras, apart from that, anything goes. I stopped using film in 2003 and moved to digital and I haven't regretted it or missed using film at all.
You mentioned when we last met that there is a Love and Hate relationship in the whole Olympic rejuvenation. Can you explain that mixed feeling?
I think it is a personal and political gut reaction to the relationship that sport has with power and money. I really like watching athletics, swimming, football and cycling, there is a real
fluidity and sensuality in seeing the body moves in extreme and skillful ways and I find it both intellectually and sexually arousing but I really detest the way that sport is controlled by a certain kind of fascistic and paternal philosophy, and that goes for the kind of people that want to control it. They used to wear blazers in my youth and they killed my competitive instinct at school. Seb Coe is an example of this uptight Britishness, it's like he has a stick permanently jammed up his arse. He should smoke a joint now and again and chill out! Oddly enough though, he was a very graceful athlete and for a middle-distance runner quite nice to watch..... I don't see the point of winning a game, but I love to play them. It is the same with the Olympic park, I am looking forward to the event happening in my neighbourhood, but I will not enjoy the rules and regulations imposed on a place that I have personal affection for. As for the way the Olympics is being used as cover for a naked land grab and a quick buck, well I have no admiration for those people. Most millionaires are humourless and a bit thick if you ask me. On the whole I was glad when London was awarded the games, but I do miss the place that has been erased. But we will find new places to misbehave in.
Looking at some of your previous works it seems that the East has a special place in your photographic investigations. Why is that?
I am very interested in the notions of "class" and the way people aspire to different status during their lives. My family grew out of this part of London, but wanted to leave it and become part of another world. Everything that I value in personal relationships, humanity, empathy, humour and compassion seems to remain alive and imporatnt here. It is really about love and camaraderie and I find it all here. I don't need to travel and make images, it makes me feel like a tourist which, to me is not a very creative perspective. Though hats off to the brave and adventurous types who do it well, I am just not one of them.