‘Within the dream of innocence lies the imaginary state of wildness: the natural realm where animals live, which savages were also thought to inhabit. Like the child, this place can hold up the image of paradise lost, or of an unruly and dangerous territory which must be ordered, framed, even consumed. And at the hidden heart of the parcel, in the middle, beneath all the enfolded layers, there’s the secret treasure: the myth of home, which places everyone in relation to Mothers, to Fathers, to off-spring, to here and elsewhere, to time past and time present – and in so doing lays the path of the future, where we may or may not be saved.’
Marina Warner, Six Myths of Our Time, Managing Monsters
Working predominantly with children, the making of my images involves an element of chance.
I arrive at an unfamiliar home at dusk and ask what worlds the children would like to create. They select their own props and I withdraw to observe them from the outside. I invite children to participate in a game but they create the images in the poses and gestures they make.
The work considers the relationship between photography and painting, with reference to chiaroscuro light, the symbolism of objects and the space that exists between reality and perception.
I like to make work that ignites the imagination, both in the process of making and then how this translates into something personal for the viewer outside the frame. Thresholds, windows and membranes that divide the interior from the exterior are important as they explore the separation between the internal and the external, and the boundary between the personal and the shared.
There is a sense of fragility in the work – how the things we establish to protect ourselves can so easily be torn away. The images prompt conflicting emotions, tapping the voyeuristic and the uncanny.
I am interested in chance encounters, the merging of fact and fiction and the discovery of the magical in the mundane.
“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”
My journey into magic realism led me to study Wim Wenders, Wing’s of Desire. The film is an atmospheric and reflective mood piece that relates more to music and poetry than the structure of a conventional film or novel. In the film Wenders would have his audience savor the details of a pedestrian existence and the inherent beauty of everyday experiences. The opening sequence resonated with my own project – the children in the city can see the angels who gently observe the community, the poem ‘When the child’ touches on the elements I wanted to communicate – the lightness of being a child, imaginative play, fantasy inspired by the everyday, inhibition, daydream, curiosity, intelligence and a sense of the ‘envelope of time’.
'David was born in Great Yarmouth between the Norfolk Broads and the depositional sand spit formed from tides divided by the blunt nose of Norfolk. Spending his childhood in Lowestoft from the age of seven, David must have witnessed the steady decline of the herring fleets, and the gradual silting-up of the harbour and degradation of its quayside. He was always wistful in his relationship to such places, whether it was a student site at Rotherhithe or Tenby or his school at Gravesend. His teaching was always grounded in his own experience, whether from architectural practice or a familiar landscape.'
from David Gray: a life of architecture, landscape and friendship by Peter Salter, professor of architectural design at the Welsh School of Architecture
I have collaborated with Exploration Architecture for several years on the curation and production of visual materials for exhibition, web and film projects.
In 2014 Exploration was invited by The Architecture Foundation to design the first solo exhibition of their work in Central London. Four ground breaking projects were presented - The Biomimetic Office, The Mountain Data Centre, The Sahara Forest Project and The BioRock Pavilion - together with a large collection of biological specimens that have inspired the work.
The over-arching aim was to convey the breadth that biomimicry offers as a design discipline – from radically rethinking existing building types to envisioning new concepts and innovative approaches to addressing the major challenges of our age.
The projects were displayed on 3D printed tables, designed using SKO software – a computer programme based on the adaptive growth patterns of trees and bones. The tables demonstrated the potential that 3D printing offers in achieving radical increases in resource efficiency.
Four specially made films - available on the Architecture Foundation’s Vimeo channel - about each of the projects offer further insights into the team's design approach. Wall displays described a wide variety of biomimetic solutions that have been applied in architecture and other fields of design.
Client / co-curator – The Architecture Foundation
Architect / co-curator – Exploration
Headline sponsor – Interface
In-kind sponsors – Ultimaker, Lukas Oehmigan
Photographer / Film producer – Kelly Hill Photography
Lighting consultant – Michael Grubb Studio
'Sensitive dependence' is a series of images that explore our relationship with the natural world as though through the eyes of a child. It is a body of work that looks at the fragility of the world around us, a child's affinity with nature and concerns I have with environmental damage and the legacy we are leaving our children.
‘Sensitive dependence’ refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain reaction culminating in large-scale alterations of events.
The images all relate to the idea of cause and effect and the transience of existence – a bubble floating in the sky, sunlight through a leaf, ripples in water, a child blows a seed. The images are compelling and beautiful but there is a subtext that suggests we hold this fragile world in our hands.
What is it about our hands that tell us so much about ourselves and, the work that we do? Have a look at your own hands – what story do they tell?
What is it that connects the eye to hand to heart?
'Our sense of touch', said Barbara Hepworth, 'is a fundamental sensibility ... giving us the ability to feel weight and form and assess its significance'.
The touch of a hand is what gives us the capacity to communicate as unique individuals – with all our faults - we are not machine made. We are each other.
This project explored recurring themes in my work - the notion of crossing a threshold into a private realm, the tension that exists between what is real and what is imagined, and the creation of a personal space where individuals fashion work that contributes to a wider society.
In 2012 I spent time observing the private worlds of a Composer, an Artist and a retired Architect. All were Camden residents - experts at juggling the domestic with a creative life and each embedded in the local community.
The resulting material was edited into a series of books, each of which told a very personal story about the individual and the worlds in which they inhabit.
The mood is atmospheric and reflective, savouring the details of a quotidian existence and the inherent beauty of everyday experiences.
The books were exhibited as part of an exhibition curated by Millennium Images with the following artists: