Christmas 1973- I’m pretty sure it didn’t snow. This was the year I was given my first camera and if it had snowed, I’m certain I would have taken a picture of it.
I was 8 and my brother was 9 and we were both given identical cameras as a present. They were coal black and petrol blue – the kind of cheap oily plastic that wouldn’t glue back together when we eventually dropped them and they cracked. We were also given a roll of film in a Kodak yellow packet. My dad, worried that we would run out of film by boxing day, gave us a piece of advice; “make every picture count.” He would repeat this mantra every time we were about to release the shutter and I think it became so deeply ingrained that I’ve been following his advice ever since.
That’s probably why my photographic work looks like it does. I’ve arrived at a way of working where I put every frame on display. The entire film is visible. The numbers underneath each frame show that each picture is taken consecutively. Perhaps subconsciously I’m trying to prove to my dad that I haven’t wasted a single shot.
My pictures are painstakingly created frame by frame on 35mm film. I get the whole film developed, scan it, then piece the final image together on the computer, making a large contact sheet. It's only when the completed film strips are laid out side by side in the contact sheets that the final image appear.
Each work usually takes months to complete, as each frame is obsessively taken in sequence. No pasting together after the event, no cheating in Photoshop! If I make a mistake or take a frame out of place I start the film again from the beginning.
The works are all records of real journeys, the visual remnants of hours walking or cycling round town, bringing to life the unheard voices of the city.
My Swiss grandfather was a watchmaker. He also yodelled while he was shaving. Sadly yodelling is not a talent that I have inherited, but I have recently discovered a fascination with making 'timepieces'.
However, these artworks mark time in a very different way to the precise chronographs that he created.
A number of my works can be used to tell the time, but I wouldn’t use them to time a soft boiled egg or tell you when to leave the house to catch a train! There are no divisions for fractions of a second or even for minutes. Instead time is given visual form by pattern or colour. In most cases one moment looks much the same as the next, but glance again a while later and you may see that a colour has changed, or a pattern has shifted.
Other timepieces don’t attempt to tell the time at all but instead record its passing by drawing a line - often very, very slowly. Movement may just be detectable, but the direction of the line is usually pretty unpredictable. The lines move in loops and curves, repeating or nearly repeating themselves until patterns emerge from the chaos. However, I actually find it more interesting when the simple systems of varying cogs sizes and motor speeds somehow produce chaos from the order. I’m just not sure if my Swiss grandfather would approve!