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Sunday, 9 April 2017

PhotoBook sharing at PHOTOCAFE

The next Photo Cafe is this Wednesday at 1000Trades.    
Our invited speaker is Mark Wright.
We will also be sharing photobooks.    
Please bring along one or two from your bookshelf collection for discussion.   

PHOTOCAFE Wed 12th 19:00 1000Trades, 
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham.    
Free event.  Open to all.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Mark Wright, warming up questions.

The Fireside and the Sanctuary is the title of the body of work you are presenting at FORMAT this year in collaboration with Grain. The series is made with the communities affected by fracking decisions in northern England. Can you tell us a little more about this work and why this title? 

The title was built up from my interactions and understanding of what it constitutes to be in a place of sanctuary, safety and a sense of deep presence and sense of place. As my conversations with local people went on, it struck me that the simple act of conversation, can create a sanctuary, within one’s self. It’s incredibly insightful to just listen and put yourself in someone else’s position. As for fireside, or the hearth, is the heart of a place of safety and comfort. The fireside is the nucleus of the house. But also, the two are transferable to walking through the natural environment. Eckhart Tolle, a philosopher and spiritual teacher, speaks of the importance of seeing a forest, for example, in two ways. Firstly, the way we might know the names of certain trees, flowers, fauna and wildlife etc. But also, in a way that can’t be titled, named or even described sometimes. And this is a deeper respect and deeper level of understanding where you are. Even the former, which is fact and exists on a physical level of knowing something, is no longer taught or passed down exclusively. 
This in turn, dictated what I choose to document and how I presented the work. It’s about something greater than us and greater than the facts presented to us. For me the work is about presenting an ideal or way of life that existed in the past, one which should continue to exist but won’t survive alongside economic growth. It’s very difficult now days to justify a place existing just because it should exist; the counter statement is one that involves a financial forecast and profit margins. Progression should never mean destruction of something old, nor should this mentality be passed down for younger generations to inherit. 

One of the items/objects that accompanies the series is a scan of a list of birds. What is the significance of this list and the way in which it is presented? 

While working on projects, and as a photographer, you are collecting ‘stuff’. By this I don’t just mean images, it’s a conversation you have with everything and anything. This could include, and isn’t limited to, physical materials like notes, books, and bark from a tree. Then there are the nonphysical, like ideas, conversations with people, and even without people but with environments. Everything is important and a possible inclusion to enhance the story. You never know when something will make sense in context of the work which is why it’s important to be in-flux as a photographer, in a state of fluidity. 
The list of birds was a gift from Nick Danby, one of the people who live near one of the proposed fracking sites. I found the list to be a delicate, subtle statement and evidence of the landscape and its inhabitants. This list contains all the birds that Nick has spotted just in his garden. It’s a beautiful reminder of human and animal conversation, one which is unspoken but doesn’t need measuring or even explaining. 

The Fireside and the Sanctuary showcase a series of portraits, along with the landscape images. The work gives us an idea of an idyllic but also very fragile territory. The atmosphere of those images is almost blocked between present and imminent future. Something is going to happen very soon and a sense of anger and resignation is always present in the imaginary. 
Can you make a comment on the way you decide to document and report this story? 

I think it’s important to note that I am inspired greatly by literature, specifically older books around travel literature, poetry, philosophy and nature. A lot of what I read forms my vision and approach. 
When starting out on this project, it became apparent very quickly that it was a heavy subject with regards to opinions, facts, data and information. As with most news now days, specifically in light of the recent Brexit vote, news and information can be presented by several different people/organisations and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s right. There’s a saying, ‘There are three truths. There's my truth, your truth and then the truth’. 
So, from this, I decided to avoid including geographical, political, and subject context within the photography to present something that wasn’t bound by any straight up facts. I want people to see a dignity between the portraits and the landscape that is equal, one that doesn’t override the other. That’s important to me when I work, that we are equal. In addition to this, I want people to see the world for what it is and conclude that we can let things exist for that very reason alone; to simply exist because it is beautiful and spiritual. That it can provide us with something. Unfortunately, many decisions made when ‘regeneration’ or ‘progress’ is concerned, measures its usability and functionality based on its economic return. 

Mark Wright is a West Midlands based photographer working on self-directed projects and collaborations. Interested in both the subjective and objective approach within photography, Wright explores social, political and historical issues and themes through delicate and thoughtful practice. 

The exhibition The Fireside and the Sanctuary is exhibited at Format International Photography Festival 2017 and is accompanied by a limited edition photo book with newly commissioned writing by Gemma Padley and Simon Constantine.