This story is from a participant in our ICON project in 2019.
Beginning of a great situation
I thought it would just be a small project, but it’s turned out to be a fantastic thing that I’m experiencing. This is more for me than an exhibition. To me, this is a whole experience, and it’s really done something for me.
Before this I hadn’t done photography for a while so I thought I’d get back into it and see if I still enjoyed it, because my history is very artistic, my mum’s very artistic. Before she retired she was an art lecturer – so it seemed like a natural thing for me to progress with. Rory [Lead Artist] was very amenable, and he was very easy to talk to. From the beginning, he smiled, was naturally encouraging and he showed his passion. I said, ‘I’ve only been doing this for a year or two. I’m nowhere near you’ and he said, ‘don’t underestimate yourself, you’ve got that natural artistic thing that you got from your mum, a good eye’. For the exhibition opening I have to be on my best behaviour because my mum will be there to see it…she’ll be there to inspect what her son’s been up to!
The first one I did, which was actually the first one in the sequence, was Abbey Road – the Beatles doing the zebra crossing. Like with anyone doing anything new you have a nervousness. But I knew I wasn’t going through it on my own. I felt that we were all going into a new branch of something that was going to be very revealing and very exciting. The four of us had this telepathic way of doing the steps, it felt like we had a sort of shared understanding as a whole team. We finished it and we were very satisfied. It turned out really well. Basically, once that first one had been done I saw the relief on Rory’s face, ‘we’ve got something here, we can reach the skies with this’, you know?
I think the Winston Churchill experience was my favourite. Jodie [Crisis Arts Tutor] says, ‘guys, I’ve got someone in mind to do Churchill’. She looked at me and I say, ‘Me!? Churchill?’. She says, ‘You would make a really good Churchill. You can be pretty grumpy at times, so have a go.’ And so I became Churchill for the day. I was taking the spotlight that week. I had a feeling that maybe I was taking too much of it, portraying someone who’s that famous, iconic, but the other guys just basically said ‘no you’re right for it, why not do it?’.
Being Churchill revealed something about me which I didn’t consciously know. Jodie would say something – a key word – and it just basically got me in the frame of Churchill’s mind and feelings- an instinct thing. The double chin and the expression, the forehead. I went somewhere else and Churchill sort of took my body over. It just seemed right. For the first photo it felt like, ‘oh this is happening for the first time’ and then for the next ones it was like, ‘oh it’s come back again’, you know, and I thought ‘ok, accept it, go with it’.
I was far more relaxed on the Miner’s Strike one. That was one of the pictures I wasn’t in, I was more around the periphery of the actual photoshoot – taking the before, during and after shots. It was a new experience for me to be part of the camera crew and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It revealed a lot about me – how relaxed I could be, and how I could take criticism as well.
The next one was Bloody Sunday. I remember the whole team were quite serious. There was hardly any laughing. We were fully aware that even today, after god knows how many years, it’s still a sore point to people. It’s flashing back now just talking about it… the enormity of it, human nature, what people do to one another. Its horrific, you know? I didn’t really have to think much to get into the part of this one. The subject matter was just easy to get into the right mood. This one will be one of the big ones at the exhibition. It’s a different ‘wow’ isn’t it?
Doing the Bullingdon Club picture made me more connected to the family unit – the feeling of being part of a family. We were all getting involved in our different ways with our different personalities, and we each had something to give, all of us. I feel personally it’s made three of us members in particular quite close, and anyone else who wants to join us, they join a merry band of men and women.
So by this time I’d experienced so many different techniques and had been involved in so many different ways. I would love to do it again actually, the whole thing, because it’s taken myself out of myself. The introverted side to me is long gone. I genuinely felt that this could be a beginning of a great situation in my life, around other people’s great situations in their lives. Through such a simple thing as photography.
I first came to Crisis over a year ago now. I was overwhelmed to begin with, not knowing what to expect. I had the advantage of knowing Jodie, so that helped. From there it’s just been a natural progression. It’s happened over a period of time, that’s why I’m so comfortable with it. This building just seemed a natural sort of extension to my life, another step for me.
I’m in continuous recovery. A routine’s great, and that’s what I managed to do with my work, Crisis, and with the Old Fire Station. Some people in recovery can’t find those stepping stones and that I’ve found mine, I’m very thankful for that. It means I can live for the moment, have all my support behind me, in front of me, beside me, and it’s you guys here, all of you, you know?
Before I went to rehab, that was very much the old part of me, the mad hectic person. He ‘died’ at 42 and this is the ‘new me’. That’s how I look at it. If you’d asked me about this project at 42, I would have been… ‘I just want to be on my own and just leave me alone’ attitude, you know? But the ‘new me’, it was as if I was a ten-year-old and you know Rory came into my life saying ‘we’re going to do a huge project. We’re going to take some iconic pictures, and we’re going to put our own interpretation on them,’ at ten I was like ‘wow, yeah I want to do that!’, you know?
I think Rowan [Crisis Arts Co-ordinator] wants me to work on stuff in the future. I take a while to convince, but actually, secretly I enjoy doing what I do. Any new ideas that she might have, I’m quite willing to listen to. It’s a nice thing feeling I’m being pushed in a direction, moving forward.