A new year has started and as much as I don’t really go in for all that ‘new year new me’ bullshit, 2016 was a particularly draining year emotionally and physically, and even though calendars are a construct (and time is objective and all that other condescending pseudo-intelligence people regurgitate onto others that are trying to feel positive about something new and a little bit exciting) I have to admit I was glad to see it over.
2017 does feel different, at least for now: I feel relief, I feel excitement. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few months about our relationships with ourselves - about how we treat our bodies and our actions and ourselves as people. It’s something I’ve only come to consider recently - that how you treat yourself and prioritise yourself is just another kind of relationship with somebody. And it’s not cool to be an asshole to anybody, yourself included. I have a whole discarded draft post about how fragile human relationships are, perhaps most meaningfully with ourselves. For the longest amount of time I have refused to forgive myself any kind of small failure, any kind of awkwardness, any kind of mistake, anything I’ve said that revealed how a lot of the time I’m really quite furious, anything that equally made me seem pathetic or lazy or dim. And it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting being so self-critical and disappointed in your perceived mediocrity because it’s just you against you - the part which is trying so hard to make the other part satisfied is tired, and the part that is so fed up of the other part occasionally falling short is even more so. And so without going too far into the rabbit-hole of learning to be gentle to yourself (as you would be with other people) - this year I’m feeling quite good.
Over Christmas I had an entire fortnight away from work. I was able to travel back to Devon for the first time since 2015 and got to see so many friends and family members, so many hillsides and cliffs and stretches of ocean. I took my cameras with me and shot a few rolls of film, I walked a lot, I discovered some cracking new podcasts*, I baked bread, I ran 3 miles along the beach on christmas day. Jake even took me to Dartmoor, to where we think was Wistman’s Wood (although with my below average navigational skills we can’t really be sure). It was probably the best Christmas break I’ve had since school - the key point being that at no point during the week I was at home did I think ‘there’s nothing to do’ and instead I was met rather abruptly with a ‘oh dear I’m leaving tomorrow’. NYE was your typical montage of cheap white wine, quite expensive white wine, trying to get a beer garden of people in Camden to all sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, failing to do so, more cheap white wine, crisps, crisps, olives, forcing other people to eat olives, beer, realising your ability to convincingly socialise is plummeting and then waking up in the afternoon to a house you don’t recognise, drinking water from the tap and squinting outside at torrential rain, trying to find your phone and then eventually, when everything just feels like you might one day feel ok again, having a milkshake. My first NYE in London was courtesy of Chanti - thanks again, for everything.
Flash forward, back in Edinburgh, I rush to A&M to get my films processed and 2 rolls get ‘left in the machine’. They come back pretty much ruined, given to me as two uncut strips, folded into four and put in a bag. Most of each roll is fog from being over-processed. But here and there you can make out bits of the moor - and in one corner, you can see the ghost of Jake’s face. There’s a very rough edit of these below so have a gander. They’re actually quite beautiful I think. Like looking through a net curtain, or looking back at something you can’t quite remember. Like the year behind has been washed with light.**
I did get some 35mm back with no problems and I’ll upload that somewhere soon. There’s an absolute cracker of an image of a dead mouse in a freezer bag. That sounds sarcastic but those of you who know me will be able to imagine how delighted I was sat at the computer seeing that little mouse scanned upside down and leaping airborne out of the screen. But perhaps that’s just me. Almost definitely just me. Give me a few days to scan them properly and you can have a look and make your own mind up. I’m going to try to post here more in the coming months because I have three drafts that I started before christmas and chickened out of posting, which is sad. It’s better to post something people might think is stupid than to post nothing at all. Oh, and after a year of wondering how a particular body of pictures and words fitted together on a wall I’ve realised they don’t at all - I’m making a book!
The coolest thing to happen to me last week - getting photographs taken of the back of my eyeballs. Not only do eyeballs look like beautiful planets, or eggs during incubation (and nothing like the white, opaque ball I had in mind) - but the back of my own eyeball is something that would be completely unseeable and unknowable without cameras and very clever opticians.
Sure - I could have, theoretically, pulled someone else’s eyeball out and had a look at theirs (though it would probably look entirely different ripped out of its socket), but to see the reverse of our own living SEEING mechanisms (USING those exact living seeing mechanisms) blew my mind. So much so that a week later I risked a trip down Prince’s Street in the middle of festive panic present-buying hell wielding a USB stick in order to get a copy of this magic.
Hello internet, and thank you for finding yourself here. I hope this November evening finds you warm and happy or at least somewhere around ‘fine’. This post *may* come across as slightly giddy, or perhaps rambling (CUE long sentences and repetition) because it discusses probably the most exciting thing to happen to me professionally and personally this year - the release of Jake Downs’ new mini-album Fracture!
I have been close friends with Jake since the age of about 13, so I’m fortunate enough to have a fierce personal connection and involvement with his music and career. I shot the cover for his previous two EPs, Seize the Water and Crave, and together we created a small selection of video portraits during the lead-up to each respective release. Jake also composed Shard and Shard II for my short-film Self / conscious (screened for the first time by Perspective Cafe earlier this year). Our past work has been a privilege (and often a learning curve) with us both finding our creative feet and forging our respective styles. Shooting Fracture was the first thing I really put my mind to after graduating last summer and was our first entirely analogue shoot. The shift to film felt natural, having used 35mm since I was teenager and shifting into the realms of 120mm in my final year at University. * I’m really grateful that Jake appreciated and embraced this process, considering the shrinking capacity for processing film adding time to the turnaround of images. Perhaps worse is the inability to show your sitter what you can see through the lens. I hope he would agree however that it is doubtful the same work would have been made on digital; the reflected light of the sun, soft on the mysteries of a mill pond and what lies within, seeming to belong to the ‘unknowable’ nature of analogue photography.
Fracture is incredibly important to me for personal reasons I won’t bother to bore you with and which are too complex to really even try and dissect. Jake’s incredible talent needs no affirmation - it makes itself known the moment you press play, the moment he takes the stage. I guess what I want to try and get across, in my clumsy, wordy way, is the intense authenticity in everything that Jake makes. Trying to describe the ineffable (and really digging myself a hole here) I believe there is an emotional urgency somewhere within everyone that they are desperate to share. There is a ‘drive’, akin to imagination and hot like fire, which only very seldom is handled with the kind of artistry that Jake pours into his work. For me, Jake’s music has always stood as a concrete case in point that there is real value in putting yourself and your vulnerabilities into your work. This album, in all its visceral earnestness, flies in the face of emotionless corporatism. Everything about it has been crafted meticulously in order to celebrate and lament the complexities of the heart and mind that make us human.
However, it is inevitably more difficult to make something intimate in an industry dependent on commercial appeal and sales figures. As with all creative endeavours, sadly this dependency means a lot of work never gets heard, appreciated or even realised. Jake has managed to make Fracture a reality, but this record needs support. Head to indiegogo to pre-order a copy of the CD now, and bag yourself one of many great perks from Jake Downs, gifted artist Jessica Poole and myself. If you love the cover artwork as much as I do (see video teaser below), you can choose from two options to claim a 20” print of it as part of your bundle. ONLYFIVEDAYSTOGO, so don’t hang around.
I shall shortly be updating the structure of my website and will be adding an entire gallery dedicated to my portrait work. There will be a couple of unseen shots of Jake, so look forward to seeing more of him them.
In the mean time, you can find Jake on the various digital platforms below:
And you can see more of Jess’s beautiful artwork here.
*Here I have removed a long-winded exploration of why I choose to shoot on film, which will potentially form another entry in the next month or two. Or perhaps it will disappear into the ether. Either way, it was very badly worded and on a second read rather introspective and uninteresting so be thankful.