West Yorkshire is my home and, no matter how far I’ve travelled, I’m always glad to be back.
In early 1980s, I formed a punk band with schoolmates in Dewsbury that took us all over Europe and America and fired my interested in photography. I left my job as an art director in Leeds around ten years later to take pictures for a living and my first commission was to promote older people’s involvement in the arts. It was a great start.
Working with the local community is still important to me, whether I’m making a fundraising film for the local football team, or inviting ten amateur sports clubs to make up the 500-strong crowd for an Olympic sponsor’s advertising campaign.
I understand the potential of the region and know something of the tales it has to tell. WYQS is a wonderful opportunity to create an important record that should both inform and inspire.
While searching my archive for projects to illustrate this proposal, I came across Suresh Singh, who I photographed for a ‘Faith in the Home’ project late last year. Suresh was very hospitable and I spent the kind of afternoon at his house that makes me love my job. Over lunch, we talked about his family, the pictures on his walls and how, as a young man, he played drums for band I might have heard of. It turned out I’d seen them play in Bradford in 1980. Suresh himself made a striking subject but there’s something special about being invited into someone’s home that adds another dimension to the photographs.
The second set of pictures I found was a longer term project for the East End Trades Guild in London. It’s a group of independent businesspeople in London that I’ve been helping with publicity. I visited a number of members at their workplaces and learned something of what they did as I took their photographs. Being at work, they had much less time for me than Suresh but I like to work fast.
My work for Barclays and its Spectrum Allies initiative in London and New York has a lot in common with the previous two examples. It might have been commercial (and as corporate as can be) but still came down to me working sensitively with real people to tell their stories. The feel of the pictures had to be more reportage than portrait but I really needed to understand the dynamics of the relationship between two people and how personal conversations around LGBT issues could take place in the office environment.
While I’m very happy to photograph people in the studio, I much prefer working in a location that’s part of their lives. It doesn’t have to be home, or work, it could be the park or a cafe. Or somewhere inbetween, like the bus.
The production side of things - both pre and post - is the foundation of my work and I’m very happy to fulfill the requirements of the brief.