Book chosen for me by James at the end of the seminar.
I was wary of this book, this artist more specifically, as I had previously looked at his work and not found any connection to it, but being able to hold the book in my hands and feel the aura surrounding it gave each image so much more meaning.
The way the book leads you through the narrative is so telling of the consideration of the editing process of the images; Spinks’ work spans 15 years of returning to his childhood town and documenting it and so the images are reworked, considered, careful.
‘A long slow time of looking and looking again, during which photographer John Spinks submitted the village he’d grown up in to a process of revised scrutiny, imposing his own form of watchfulness as a way of coming to terms with the place and the life he’d once led there’.
– What Are You Looking At? Accompanying essay by David Chandler, March 2017
I found it mesmerizing; Spinks starts at the periphery of the village with the forest, visual metaphors such as pathways ‘leading’ you towards the village (maybe not so metaphorical…) the forest coated in unease, I find the images very chaotic, the busyness of the overlapping, overgrown nature is overwhelming, they feel lonely, yet they show humanity. The images that follow, stark, empty portraits placed next to facades of houses allow us to make connections between the two, but the portraits with negative space and a sense of real ‘place’ make you question – the gaze is so strong, they feel inquisitive; but guarded.
I find the mix of portrait and landscape really paints a full picture for me, I like Spinks’ work, it is familiar, some of the rural landscapes could be from around the area I grew up, they feel like home, I can recognise the uniformity of the British countryside, and even the architecture speaks to me.
I think bringing some of this mix of landscape and portraiture into the next project would be insightful to explore the surroundings of my subject, even if the landscape images do just become background studies to supplement the main subjects.
Spinks, J. Chandler, D. (2017) The New Village, London: Bemojake.