The Format International Photography Festival was established in 2004 and is the UK’s leading contemporary festival of photography and related media. FORMAT21 is the open call for submissions under the title of ‘Control.’
I have submitted ‘every bird I see will be a part of you’ as the current state of my FMP. Entries go in by September 14th with winners notified in October and the festival in March next year.
‘Every bird I see will be a part of you’ were amongst the last words I whispered to my wife, Karen, before she died in Switzerland in January. Ten years before she lost all feeling in her lips and breasts. Five years ago I had to vacate the marital bed as the slightest move by me lead to painful spasms in her body.
My work is a response to my experience of the last two years as Karen progressed towards total paralysis and then died. I asked my life long best friend Robert Kyprianou to describe what my response is about.
‘Len throughout his life has been a success. His education, his professional life, his family – he took on responsibility, took charge, he always found a solution, he did the right thing and did it the right way. They all turned out beautifully, so much so he became a counsellor professionally and personally, even to people who were regarded as successes.
And yet when darkness struck the one he loved the most, his soulmate, the mother of his beautiful boys, he could only standby and watch the darkness resist all his best efforts over many years to resolve it, to cure it, to just stop it and make it go away. Something so dark yet he could not better it. ‘I am not controllable’ it would shout at him, making him madder, more frustrated, more desperate. This cruel illness was a daily reminder, over many years, over decades, that it was in charge and that you are helpless – and hopeless.
It is surely enough to have to deal with the slow, painful, inevitable destruction of your beloved’s body and, worst of all, of their hope. But for the controller to be unable to control takes you to your own dark place where the darkest thoughts carouse and revel and end up taking control of you.
Man. Dad. Head of the household. Provider. Protector. Defender. Solution provider. Boss. Counsellor. Disciplinarian…
… you were not, could not be in control.
These are bad memories. These are deep scars. These are dangerous moments’
I will work with the exhibition curator to put an installation together that works with the overall theme and presentation of the show. The images can be arranged in a number of ways. I am keen for some of them to be up to A1 size and some much smaller. There are a number of ways in which the images can be cropped. They can be hung in a traditional gallery manner. I will bring voice and video work to go with the images. This additional media is not to explain the work but to immerse the viewer deeper in the overall experience.
I am currently completing an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. The work presented here is titled ‘every bird I see will be part of you’. It is my response to experiencing total loss of control during my wife’s chronic illness with Multiple Sclerosis over thirty years and then her death this year. It is a continuing enquiry into what it is to be human. In 2010 I completed an MSc in Psychology at UCL London focussing on cognitive and decision processes. This showed me how little we know about how we function psychologically and has kept me interested in understanding more. Photographs are one of the most enigmatic attempts to capture reality. In my own process of turning the camera on me and what is around me has lead me to deeply question how much I know about myself.
Prior to my current enquiries I worked for thirty years in the International Energy business living and building Trading organisations in the UK, Belgium, USA, Singapore and Spain. After that I created an Executive Coaching business coaching executives at board level. My work was based on asking questions that my clients themselves heard their own answers to. Only then could they change to help themselves. My original degree many years ago was in Mathematics and back then my dream was to be a Mathematics professor at a university. Somehow my head got turned.