Project Review | Paul Clements

Having sent my work to Paul, the photographic work was met with enthusiasm. I could reflect endlessly about this however the main point of interest at this point is how i’m going to present the text. Paul highlighted the problematic nature of text and image in perhaps confusing the meaning behind the work. I felt his ideas align with the thoughts of Laura who in my last one to one session suggested further thought was needed in regard to how I present text.  

As a result, when preparing the outcome in the form of a book, I will omit the text from the pages and present them in another way. At present, the method of presentation I find most appealing is the idea of bookmarks/leaflets that slide into a book. The webinar earlier in the week it was suggested by some of my peers that I experiment with Japanese origami paper to emphasise the fragility associated with mental health. 

To conclude this section, the collective feedback all points to the removal of text from the pages. 

Tim Stubbs Hughes suggested that I had succeeded to some extent in achieving a sense of the poetic in the working class vernacular which was pleasing however his observation that the work needed to be a little more dirty with work photographed indoors was really useful. In response I feel that I will add this to the work. 

As a result of the session I feel that I received some critical feedback that will certainly add to the the work in addition to generating an understanding of what to take out. 

I still have some unresolved issues surrounding the balance of the photographic work between the poetic and portrait and how to align them. This will be an ongoing process and a quandary I will seek to resolve in the coming weeks.

Key themes taken from the session: 

The removal and presentation of text. 

The need for more intimate work made in interior settings. 

Latest WIPP Drew Findlay

Thinking about Light

As time presses on and having made the decision to go back and reshoot my project in medium format. I have experimented with Ilford black and white film with improving results as I get to know the camera. which has been sitting in a store room for at least five years. I have had some disasters such as the back of the camera sometimes flipping open in addition to focussing the camera manually which is especially difficult as I am often unsure if I have achieved optimum focus. Using an eye level viewfinder with the weight of the camera is also difficult. Ideally I would like to experiment with a waist level viewfinder however due to financial constraints that isn’t an option. 

Despite the challenges I have fallen in love with the medium format and the emotion I feel when scanning a negative and seeing a sharp portrait with the depth and detail is a great feeling. 

This week I have set about making work using colour film. Having done my research and having a lengthy chat with Phil Hill I decided to go with the Portra 400 film. The reason being that I understand it is forgiving with skin tones and provides some versatility when editing. Being a novice at shooting in this way I felt that I needed all of the help I could get. Remembering the portfolio reviews some time ago with Steph Cosgrove she commented that my work was cinematic in its nature which was interesting to learn. At that time I was shooting digital using a flash to ensure I had a clear light on subjects faces. I grew to like this approach however in shooting medium format I feel that I would still like to encompass this approach although I don’t have the luxury of a flash. In relation to my wider project I don’t think it is totally necessary however it is a technique I would like to pursue beyond the MA. Having had an Instagram conversation with Jooney Woodward on Instagram noticed that she uses a video strip light to achieve a high key light on her commercial work for the likes of the Financial Times supplement ‘How to Spend it Magazine’. When pursuing this type of constructed photograph she is able to align her work with the audience of the text.  

In preparation for working in this way I decided to conduct an experiment with a work friend in the studio based in the college where I work. The objective of this experiment was to understand the amount of light I needed to act as a fill light for skin tones in an environmental portrait. 

Lighting Skintones

In furthering my contextual understanding of the work I’d like to make, I begun to look at the visual language of the band ‘The Streets’ as I remembered the video for the track ‘Dry your Eyes Mate’. The video directed by Johan Renck has a cinematic approach and influence which he describes as coming from his background in photography. In viewing the Streets video I recognised a number of creative choices in addition to a style of lighting that could be described as baroque influenced in addition to chiaroscuro lighting. 

He achieves a working class discourse through the use of vernacular associated with males such as the snooker club and a curry houses. Certainly avenues I could explore further. The ambition in the short term is to produce a portrait using an interior vernacular which is in keeping with the theme of the project. 

To conclude this short post, my project is beginning to align with my personal ambition of how to take my practice further. Shooting medium format will become the new norm while using continuous light will enable me to push the technicalities of my approach further. This represents a huge development from the entry point not just of the course, but the evolution within the FMP. I am not exactly confident that I will achieve my intentions within the confines of the MA although I am hoping this will be the case. The real victory is in the development of my practice. I am increasingly feeling that I have taken what I needed and wanted from the MA course as a whole. My creative choices have developed significantly eventually leading to the evolution of my functional practice and choice of equipment. I have a blueprint for my long term engagement with photography and the pursuit of personal projects. The final consideration I am currently wrestling with is learning to shoot at the 80mm focal length which is challenging as I am tasked to continue to retain a powerful discourse with a tighter frame. In earlier modules I was quite happy shooting portraits at 24mm before shooting at 35mm. I am now working at 80mm and still learning but that journey quickens as I have a capital in working in medium format which breeds confidence in other areas. 

The coming weeks will consist of appeasing my own work. I suspect assessing the many failures and few victories. Outcomes are less important at this stage although I am quietly confident.

Johan Renck [Online] Available at: [Accessed] 27th June 2021.

SK Ascension Exhibition

As a result of making contact with Stockport Art Gallery some time ago, I was recently contacted to ask if I would like to exhibit my work at a group exhibition consisting of local photographers. Of course I agreed and had little over a week to select and print my work. Having one board I decided to exhibit six images, three pairs consisting of portraits and environments.

In addition to the work I produced an artist statement in addition to a QR code which takes the audience through to a web page consisting of the podcasts that I have made. When I attended to mount my work I was able to meet some of the other participants and discuss my work and those of my peers. It was really interesting to hear about the other work which was being shown and discussions soon led to ideas about future collaboration.

The work is all of a digital nature as this opportunity arrived before I had developed any new work using the medium format camera.

Margret Mitchell | Barthes | Hoggart

In preparation for the shoo ting of my final outcome using a medium format camera I have been researching a number of photographers looking at specific projects which might inform my own. I have made the decision to shoot my final outcome in colour as it is a method I haven’t yet used while working with 120 film. I have decided to shoot portra 400 as my research told me that this type of film offers more versatility when working with skin tones. To date, my project has been based around making portraits and I am a bit nervous about the prospect of delivering such an important artefact especially in the FMP. In a sense I wish I had engaged with this process earlier in the MA however my journey through this course has been enlightening in many ways and I wouldn’t change that.

In terms of looking at work to take influence from, I have been aware of the work of Margret Mitchell for some time and her work in Scottish council estates aligns with my own ideas to some extent. I was initially drawn to the power in her portraiture through realism, subject and environment. The concrete vernacular provides a very impoverished platform which allows her subjects to stand out from the frame, working in tandem to produce a very distinctive discourse which aligns with intentions of visualising a concrete jungle. Mitchell states of her project ‘Passage’…

“I want the viewer to ask themselves a question about how society operates, how choice is related to opportunity and environment. To see that sometimes people choose what they do because really, not much has been offered in the first place.”

Margret Mitchell | Passage

Mitchell certainly raises some important questions about opportunity in impoverished areas. I find myself questioning whether I agree with her. As a child from an inner city council estate myself I question my own sense of opportunity and try to draw on my experience of interviewing participants. Mitchell uses powerful statements and powerful work born out of excellent portraiture to encode a discourse of hopelessness. The idea of merely ‘existing’ in a place I find very unnerving although I’m not sure I totally believe the message in totality. The image above serves as inspiration not only in the sense of the work but also in terms of layout and text. The use of white space lends itself to the delicacy of the work and fairly typical of a photo book of this nature. One feels a sense of seriousness within the work with the eye being drawn to the photography. This is useful as of late my feeling were to look to create a range of visual experiences however this approach is driven by the quality of the photographic work. Food for thought going forward with my own approach.

When appeasing the work I’m drawn to Barthes (1977) when he states in relation to discourse and narrative ‘In order to conduct a structural analysis, it is thus first of all necessary to distinguish several levels or instances of description and to place these in sentences within a hierarchical (integrationary) perspective.

Barthes has been useful in recent weeks and insightful in learning how to look at an image and scrutinise beyond the obvious subjects. Understanding that the studium of a photograph such as that of Mitchell offers any number of visual clues about time place and setting. Their use in a sequence allows a project to move in a specific direction as Barthes puts it ‘intergrationary’ or hierarchical. This will be important in making my own outcome and I am mindful of having work that hooks the viewer in the early stages culminating with a powerful finish.

In order to plot my way through a narrative which has a cohesive discourse Haggart (1957) offers a plethora of useful assumptions regarding a working class vernacular. including shoddily uniform houses intersected by dark alleyways, shades of dirty grey without green or the blue of the sky, gap toothed terrace houses with brick spattered bits of waste ground. Works and grimy pubs. Giant factories and services which attend them and finally ‘The green stuff of the region forces its way where it can’.

One could quote Hoggart’s descriptions almost endlessly and his discourses align with the work of Mitchell. What I am able to establish is a place or setting to direct my work. This is somewhat of a relief as I feel I am able to see in some respects where my work will travel.

Barthes, R. (1977). Image, music, text. New York: Hill and Wang.

Haggart, R. (1957). The Uses of Literacy, Aspects of Working Class Life. Penguin, London.

Mitchell, M. [Online] Available at: [Accessed] 22nd June 2021.

Thinking Discourse

As my project develops philosophically while the shooting has been less frequent. The stalling of making work is very much intentional to allow time reflect on my what I do next. Having made hug efforts to interview and collaborate with participants to gain insight into their struggles with mental health. I now have a number of powerful testimonies which is pleasing. Looking at the work I have produced. I’m relatively pleased with where my practice is at in an aesthetic level. And through the making of work I feel that the decision making process really reflects the type of work I would like to make in the future. Taking influence from the baroque and renaissance works in pursuit of structure, space and drama. I have succeeded in producing portraits with a high level of control and understanding. Considering the arrangements of objects that surround subjects, scrutinising the edges of the frame in order to ensure that any tension is intentional.

Now at the stage where I am looking at the work I have made, reoccurring themes begin to emerge which often relate to a working class vernacular. People, buildings and objects all of which place the work not necessarily in a poor environment, but a vernacular that was once probably poor. Small rooms, council houses, tattoos with an almost stereotypical sense of masculinity. Levi Strauss (2020) comments that ‘photography opens up passageways to its subject, not as a signification but as a world, multiple and complex.’ In reviewing my project, the architecture is often encoded with referents historically working and modest, however on many occasion new life has been injected, a sense of pride, not alien to a northern working class mill town although in writing this I am unsure if the term ‘working class’ is even the correct label in contemporary society.


When speaking to Leeroy, I was moved by his story although it wasn’t a story that was totally alien to me. However his progressive outlook and emotional intelligence exemplify that of a man who has achieved a level of status, employment in a managerial role in a corporate world. Sporting success on an international stage while controlling his emotions and as he describes, the ability to check in with himself. Yet he moves back to the place where he feels at home. To be surrounded the community that makes him feel safe. He has been on a journey. His root evidenced by the small room he sits inside. The tattoos on his hands serve as echoes to his modest roots. A discourse.

In appeasing my work in a broader sense, I feel that I have arrived at the stage where I understand the various struggles of the people I calibrate with. This is not to suggest I understand their struggles rather I understand the perspectives of their own experiences. Reoccurring themes such as insecurity and anxiety have taught me of the devastating effect these illness have. Well… If I’m totally honest. I take some personal comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in my personal suffering. Obrist comments.

The connections and principles that produce a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, findings, experimental possibilities and associations. Collection making, you could say, is a method of producing knowledge.’ (Obrist 2015)

In highlighting the comments made by Obrist, I am able to make the connection to my own experience and make sense of it through the collaboration. When asking my tutor about her personal approach she simply replied ‘I’m an open book’. Advice I felt was useful and have used to engage with participants. Being honest about my own feelings when asked has definitely brought me closer to the project in an emotional sense. While engaging with a range of participants, my experiences have been different in addition to serving as a ‘collection’ of conversations and portraits. A visual and philosophical collection of knowledge as purported by Obrist. As I continue to contextualise my practice in a philosophical manner, my recent research leads to the challenge of establishing some type of synthesis that binds the project together. When considering the surface depth of what I’ve created, it may be obvious to highlight a general type of studium between the text and the words however, the task of going beyond a polite interest in the identification of a general theme and being able to interrogate my work I’ve been looking at Barthes to deepen my understanding.

Without being sure, I’m increasingly looking at the the idea of a working class discourse across my work. This subject emerged as a result of my last meeting with Laura when she highlighted some work that I made and she challenged its place within the project as I’d stepped out of the vernacular I was previously making. The sequence I made with Roy ventured into a realm beyond working class. The visual discourse encompassing space, modern design and an interest cooking. All slightly alien to my current project although his struggles with mental health are very relevant. The challenge faced is the place of the photographic work in relation to other work I’ve created.


Barthes (1977:85) ‘Discourse must be studied from the basis of linguistics. If a working hypothesis is needed for analysis whose task is immense and whose materials infinite, then the most reasonable thing to posit is a homological relation between sentence and discourse insofar as it is likely that a similar formal organisation orders all semiotic systems, whatever their substance and dimensions.’

Barthes make useful points when identifying a starting point for looking at discourse. Starting with the linguistics contained within the interviews, I am able to pick up on types of language, restricted codes that I understand that perhaps a non local audience wouldn’t. However, the text being only the starting point, the idea of a visual discourse transcends both text and image. At this point I am able to pin point instances of working class vernacular, small spaces resulting in multifunctional uses. Grid lock terraced houses or 1960’s council estates with more space although showing signs of age. Representations which may link to the political climate of housing. In making sense of multiple representations my current research is currently in the direction of working class practices across what I see and what I hear. Hoggart (1957:20) makes relevant comments when considering instances of good and bad luck

‘in what way exactly can working class people be said to believe in it? They repeat phrases but often with a saving prefatory. They say that…’ They do not intellectually examine them: yet on certain occasions they laugh readily at them as ‘old wives tales’. But usually take care to obey their directions‘.

The relevance here is encompassed and interwoven in the vernacular of which I am working. Cultural myths such as men don’t talk about their mental health. The idea that people are able to ‘snap out of it’. Although the ideas of Haggart may be outdated, the collaborations I’ve engaged with have exemplified a lack of intellectual challenging in some instances, mainly in an outwardly facing sense. However I don’t totally subscribe to the fact that working class men don’t talk about their feelings. In most of my interviews I have been met with openness and candid honesty. In making the work I have been met with trust and honesty, my own approach informed simply by being open, supported by a personal connection has encouraged participants to talk about their mental health. Using a restricted local code of language, in their own way using collaborative terms between myself and the sitter.

Barthes, R. (1977). Image, music, text. New York: Hill and Wang.

Haggart, R. (1957). The Uses of Literacy, Aspects of Working Class Life. Penguin, London.

Levi-Strauss, D. (2020) Photography and Beleif. David Zwirner Books, New York.

Obrist, H (2015) Ways of Curating Hans Ulrich Obrist. Penguin, London

Newspaper Design

Having gone through the painstaking task of transcribing interviews, my attention of late has been the designing of a newspaper which is to be my outcome for dissemination. I thought this to be the most appropriate outcome as a newspaper is a cost effective way to present a project that can be disseminated in the pursuit of editorial work in the future. I can send the product to editors and contributors alike as a form of portfolio.

Informed by Leslie (2000) I understand that an audience may not look at the document in a chronological order and that continuity is less important to a newspaper/magazine than it might be in a book. Therefore, my thought process when designing this artefact was to create a range of different visual experiences.

When engaging with this process I was initially mindful of the relationship between text and image.

Does the text format impact the image?

The image impacting on the text?

Does the relationship between the two work?

These general considerations, relevant to each spread before engaging with the decision how ambitious I might be in the design process. However, as a result of my last meeting with Laura my thoughts have been somewhat thrown into chaos as we discussed the opportunity to shoot the project using medium format film. As the FMP has proceeded to unfold, I’ve been cultivating a side project using 120 black and white, mainly in an attempt to understand the process and develop my practice. Having made a number of portraits I have become comfortable using the Bronica ETRSi and feel that I’m at a stage where I could use it effectively. However, with eight weeks left of the FMP, this would mean essentially scrapping the remainder of my digital work. A big risk to take!

Leslie, J. (2000) Issues: New Magazine Design. Calmann & King, London 

Document Scotland | Seeing Ourselves

In deciding to disseminate my project as a newspaper I decided to look for similar publications so that I was able to see what such a product looked like and felt like within its physical form. As a result I found a publication by Document Scotland (2013) entitled ‘Seeing Ourselves’. 

Upon receiving the newspaper my initial thoughts were conflicting as the look and feel was a type of binary opposite between the valuable/precious and the throw away nature of a newspaper. In essence it felt like something of a precious newspaper that could and should be kept safe whilst being unsurprised if it was once used to wrap a bag of chips. In conclusion regarding my first impression, I felt that it was a fun and interesting way to present a body of work. Although a newspaper is something one might see on a daily basis, this product has a very unique presence about it. Whether that is because of my own developing understanding of ways of dissemination I’m not sure. 

Moving onto the content of the publication, it takes the form of a small catalogue of photographers work with small sequences from the likes of Jeremy Sutton Herbert and Colin McPherson. 

The opening statement about the work takes the form of a comment about contemporary Scotland whilst acknowledging its heritage, the unnamed author using passages such as ‘a higgledy-piggledy voyage around the Scottish soul’ before grouping the projects as as a ‘new ear’ in relation to the idea of Scottish identity and creativity using through the use of ‘grainy monochrome tributes to our past’. 

The opening statement, while romantic, is also loaded with political language and almost represents an intelligently written piece of Scottish propaganda. Typically activist while informed and entertaining. 

As opposed to focussing on the work, my intention with inspecting this cultural artefact is to develop an understanding of layout and form. 

Each spread is dedicated to a participating photographer with between four and eight photographs, a statement about the work in addition to a logo/wordstamp of each photographer. Negative space is utilised quite well however it does feel slightly at odds with the seeming cheap to produce newspaper. Although being arranged in a slightly different formation, the design does have a type of uniformity as the same conventions are used in each spread. 

Political Youth

Robert Ormerod

In terms of my own potential for dissemination in this way, I am have ascertained some knowledge of space, text and image in addition to scale and physicality. Seeing Ourselves as a product feels like a promotional document for an upcoming exhibition and may have had the intention of a contents magazine in support of an exhibition. In viewing the publication as a magazine, although it isn’t. I will design my own publication as a magazine. I acknowledge that my product will be a newspaper, however I will treat the design of my spreads with the notion that each needs to provide a different visual experience. Leslie (2000) highlights the importance of having a carefully prepared running order. Furthermore the idea that a magazine is a ‘time based medium’ is an important and insightful idea. At present I see my magazine comprising of a selection of micro narratives contained within an overarching monograph/narrative rooted with a sense of place. That place is Stockport, approximately seven miles South of Manchester. 

At present, I haven’t arrived at the sequencing stage although I do have a general idea, but wouldn’t suggest a tight edit. Having spent the week taking hours to transcribe interviews my next broader task will be that of sequencing. At present though, it’s more important to formulate an idea of what I am producing, the conventions I need to be aware of and rules I need to abide by. 

Leslie (2000) points out that there is no single way through a magazine and understanding that audiences who view the publication might not view it chronologically represents an interesting and shifting perspective. Also an idea to inform my work going forward in terms of order and sequence. 

What is important to my publication of a contents page which will explain how an audience might navigate my publication in addition to planning where a contents page might be found. Understanding that mental illness isn’t necessarily a straight forward illness, I will have plenty of scope to experiment with order and sequence. 

Leslie citing Carson (2000) comments ‘Whichever style they follow however, the basic elements remain the same: the literate reader expects a headline and a stand-first followed by the text.’ An ideal starting point in a personal sense which presents an entry point for the design process at this stage.

Leslie, J. (2000) Issues: New Magazine Design. Calmann & King, London 

Document Scotland (2013) Seeing Ourselves. Document Scotland, Glasgow.

Interview Transcripts


It was only me that could get through to her, I’d go to the care home and talk to her. I was the only person she trusted. Get her to put a drip on, take her medication. That was the toughest because every time I used to go, especially when she was in the psychiatric unit it would put me on a downer. 

When you’ve got depression it comes from within your stomach. It’s an illness that you can’t fucking shut out. A dark cloud comes over you that you can’t get away from. People say that you should talk to people but talking about it is the hardest part when you’re in that place. What you want to do is get away from people. 

You could be with friends and you feel like you’re outside the window looking through it. You’re not there, you’re not part of it. You don’t belong there, you don’t want to be part of it. You struggle to stay in conversation with people. You could be talking away but your mind is somewhere else.

You don’t really like anyone but you don’t really like yourself. For years I was full of self loathing. I hated the world, I hated my life and I hated my mum’s illness. I hated my dad not fucking being there. When he died I felt that he left me with the shit. When she died I hated that it took so long for her to die. I’d kind of wish sometimes she would die to save all the fucking shit kind of thing. Which made me feel worse.

It was years of turmoil, a tough relationship and a really hard relationship. It was how I felt when I came away from a visit, I always felt really down, it put me in a bad place every time. 

I’d go home and start drinking or sniffing to stop me thinking about it. It took me nearly two years to get out.

I graduated from uni back in 2009 with a degree in youth justice, I spent six years doing it. When I came out of prison I was in limbo, Either go back to my old ways or go straight. My Brother got me a job on the gas but I got made redundant and I thought, that’s just my fucking luck. People used to say that I’d be great with kids. I knew I had the experience but I had no qualifications. I signed up to the Open University, do the fucking degree and use my life experience to get a job and that’s what I did in the end. 

Even though I had a record, the fact that I had such a lot of life experience and that I had graduated they welcomed me with open arms.


I was born addicted to heroin because my mum was a user, I had to have a vitamin K injection when I was born to stop me shaking like a bag head. I spent the first four years of my life in Bredbury with my Mum and Dad then he died of an overdose. I remember helping him fix scooters and riding on them with him.

When I went off my head a bit I kind of just stayed away from my friends. I just didn’t speak to them for whatever reason.

I got diagnosed with paranoid psychosis, anxiety and depression 

I was answering the door with hammers, I didn’t believe my kids belonged to me, I thought everything was a big conspiracy. No matter what anyone said to me I didn’t believe them. Jenny kept telling me that I was imagining things but I thought she was in on it. 

When I was fifteen I lived in Germany and Belgium. I got sent to live with my uncle Harry who was in the army. He was a tank commander so he’d teach the soldiers how to drive the challengers and scorpion tanks. I didn’t like him, he was very militant. I lived in the cellar in his house. It had five bedrooms but we had to live in the cellar. 

I went to prison in my teenage years, I had a fight on the A6, some guy tried to stab me… I just went to town on him basically. I got six months but I ended up doing three months extra for fucking about in prison. 

I got on well with everyone in prison, the inmates thought I was daft as a brush but I was always in trouble because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Not with the prisoners, more with the prison staff. It was an anti establishment thing. I took the piss out of them. 

I was from Manchester and most of the prison officers were from Liverpool. My last name is Trafford and they hated me. 

My best friend killed himself, I was with him the night that he died. I kind of blame myself because he asked me to stay with him but obviously my own family was my priority so I went home. He didn’t seem upset that night but I blame myself because maybe if I was there it wouldn’t have happened but he’d hung himself off the door in his house. 

The consultant said that I’d had a lot of traumatic events in my childhood but anything can trigger it. Jennie’s Daughter Alex had a birth at twenty three weeks. I carried the coffin, it was very small, it fucked my head up a bit, I never thought it would.


I spent the best years of my life around Heaton Chapel and the links to the people there have come back tenfold in my life. 

I’ve lived all over, I went to sixteen different schools because my Dad was a big angry, violent, corrupt dominating force in our lives. Wherever he wanted to go we went with him. There wasn’t any choice. 

‘My Dad’s in a bit of bother, we’ve got to go’. 

He was always protective of us to outsiders but he wasn’t very protective towards us inside the home.

He was the only person in the world that I was scared of, it wasn’t just me. The whole town and the whole city was fucking scared of him. I don’t fear anything other than upsetting him or bringing the police to the door. I brought them back a couple of times which was out of my control but it wouldn’t just be a slap, it was a full blooded fucking smack off a twenty two stone bloke and that was throughout growing up. 

Would I say that was correct, I’m not sure, but it has had a massive impact on how I’ve acted in my own life and how far I’ve gone, the shit I’ve had to unpick.

They say in the animal kingdom they have alphas and betas but you also have apex alphas, in my world you have apex alphas like the great white shark, there are some tough beans in that sea but the deadliest is the great white shark, nothing is fucking with it! 

For me, growing up in Heaton Chapel, we had certain friends, tough blokes, tough kids. I think it was quite rare because we were all alphas. We all had leadership ability but we respected each other. That’s why we have such a strong bond to this day. Those people protected me in a way, they didn’t know it because when they would see me around the local shops laughing and joking I was really broken. 

My mum had left because my Dad threw his weight around. That’s why we went to so many schools, Mum would leave and take the kids, my Dad would find her, take the kids back, then we would move house. 

He never blamed himself.

Dad would buy a farm, there you go, a big farm, Fukin Hell. Who gets to live on a farm? but it was chaos. We’d go to a new school, then my dad would do what he does again, my mum would leave again, take us with her, then he’d blame the farm so we never settled.

We had to be able to cope anywhere, like  a new school, and know how to handle ourselves. You had to learn, to survive. A lot of it was a facade. A new kid starting a new school, you feel uneasy, it’s like starting a new job or going to an interview… You want to fit in. And that’s what I learned to do.

I learned to be a bit of a chameleon, you could put me in a corporate meeting or an old peoples home and I’ll steal the room, put me on a football pitch as captain and I’ll command the team. I think it comes from the way I was raised and had to adapt, some people can get swallowed by it. If you’re continually beaten and told your nothing like I was, you can either accept it and  have no belief but I chose another route, I chose to surround myself with leaders. 

Characters that will be with me forever, they moulded me and they helped me without knowing what they did. I’m so grateful to these people and I now see them on a daily basis.

At one point in my life I did sink. I was seventeen, I didn’t really drink, I lived with an alcoholic who was fucking handy and I didn’t want to be that. I couldn’t wait to start a family because I had a blueprint of how not to be a parent. Do the absolute opposite of him and I’ll be successful.

I met my first wife in a nightclub, we just hit it off, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. After two weeks, she was pregnant for five years. 

She’s from Salford, we tried living in Stockport first, we got a small place in Lancashire Hill flats. I was always out though, by the time the honeymoon period wore off my friends would convince me to go out and I’d go missing, that’s when I started experimenting with drink and drugs. 

We eventually upgraded to a house that my Dad owned, then we moved again, we had our second child towards my twenties and then she got caught again. One day she went missing. I was boozing pretty heavily, it caught up on me. I didn’t really check myself. I’d go missing at the weekend then start having a few beers after work, all of a sudden two turned to four, four turned to six, you wake up feeling rough then weekend would come and I’d be on the missing list again.

My wife told me that she needed help from her Mum and wanted to move back to Salford. She was right. I needed to grow up a bit. We were two kids bringing up kids and I didn’t help situations with what I was doing. We eventually moved to Salford and rented a lovely house.

Once I landed there my dog got nicked, my bike got nicked and my car got nicked… I just felt like a victim. I didn’t have the influence that I did in Stockport, I had no security blanket and my life spiralled out of control. 

I lost my job, my driving licence, I was in and out of court, fighting with people, trying to stake my claim like I had done at home.

Before I knew it I was out of control, I had issues with my weight which was hard because I always took care of myself, I always had nice girlfriends, I always dressed nice, I was always in good shape.

At that point in my life I was alone. I missed my best friend Chris, he was my wing man, we were unstoppable but I was away from it. The drinking got worse, smoking weed, I just lost control. I used to look in the mirror and be devastated with myself, I’d think what’s fucking happened to you!

I came back to Stockport and went in the pub with my shorts and vest,  my friend shouted ‘Fucking Hell its Captain Pugwash’

It stuck in my mind and I remember going back to Salford, not blaming my friends but it was a trigger point. Anything I ate to take hunger away. I used to put my fingers down my throat to get rid of it, and that was my thing. 

I’d be drinking but every nutrient in my body was getting thrown back up and all the bad stuff was staying in. 

Before I knew it I was drinking in the morning just to get through the day, standing in a bus queue was hell, to think about being in a crowded place was a nightmare. It was my personal hell. I was hidden away from the world, I stopped playing football, I stopped going back to Stockport, I just hid myself away in Salford and it was just slip slip slip.

It’s kind of a haze but I remember waking up to a doctor at the side of my bed and telling my Mrs to ring 999 because I was ready for the off. I woke up in Hope hospital on a Liver ward where I saw people dying. People bleeding from the eyes where their liver had burst.

It was a combined accumulation of lack of nutrients in my body as well as fucking poison with drink. It was the same thing everyday, waking up shaking, having a drink. Going to have my breakfast… My mind was in complete chaos! And this chameleon person didn’t have any way of being me anymore. I had no confidence, it took them all away. I couldn’t face the world.

Again it’s a bit of a haze, I snook beers into my suitcase, it must have been a bit of a panic when the ambulance was coming and I remember waking up in the middle of the night in hospital and cracking another one open.

I was about eight stone, my skin was yellow, my eyes were yellow, my body was shutting down and I was twenty two years old.

It was all a haze to me until about a year later when it finally hit home ‘Fuck, where have I been’. It took me a while to get back to myself, I wasn’t working and I fell back into it, only this time I was hiding it because it wasn’t acceptable with my Mrs, then the eating problems came back. 

I’m in control now but I need to be, because I know I can easily be out of control. I don’t trust myself, I need to constantly check myself, whether that’s going to the gym too much, drinking too much Vimto or watching too much TV, concentrating on work too much. not concentrating enough on my kids and Mrs. Everything is balanced, it has to be balanced because if it isn’t it doesn’t work in my world.

I absolutely love waking up in the morning and attacking the day, I love to see what the day will bring.

I found myself not being able to hold onto the greasy pole but I’ve got to a place in my life where my kids like having me with them, when they go out, they want to be with me because they like showing me off and it’s a nice thing. I like coming home to a nice home with a lovely Mrs that looks after me.

I know now that I have a good heart where at one stage I didn’t, I was feral because I was raised like a fucking spartan.

We suffered a lot of hardships as kids but I look at what I did with boxing. I coach professional boxers through to white collar, I’ve been in situations where round 1 has gone, i’ve trained the fighter, they’ve had a hard time and his belief is gone.


My Granddaughter is the highlight of my life, she made me better I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t let anybody hurt her. She’s a rock. She’s the happiest little girl and she makes everybody around her happy. She makes me happy because nothing is false, she’s a little girl.

I was an only child and I liked my own space, I still like my own space. My Sons, I didn’t see very much because I was in the army. At the time you don’t realise that you’re missing your own kids growing up. When I came out of the army, my eldest Son was in the army and my youngest was living with his wife. He got battered down the garden for stealing from my Mum. I’ve not seen him since 1989. He was naughty from an early age, he started stealing and it just went on and on. He eventually got eight years in Parkhurst prison. He was sent there from Strangeways because he was so violent. He was a thug, thief and drug addict, or he was. I can’t say now because I haven’t seen him.

I suppose the worst thing about being in the army was seeing my mates killed. We were in Belfast and they got blown up in a sangar. They were protecting a building and someone ran past and threw a grenade in. That wasn’t a good point because we had to go and get them out.

When South Africa went to war with Angola, Namibia was in the middle and we were sent there to train the Namibian defence force. We’d need to go over the border into Angola, it was basically the government against mercenaries at the time. They were trying to take power in Angola and South Africa didn’t want that. There is a long road in Namibia that comes from South Africa, I think it’s seventeen hundred miles straight.

We used to see the Namibian defence forces over the border because we were training them, basically for observations and reconnaissance patrols. You would see Namibian bodies strapped to the side of the wagons over the front fender. I asked why they were there and I was told that they stop the flies going into the vehicles.

That was a low point of being in the army, when I got depression, they didn’t record it as PTSD, I was shot at a couple of times in Northern Ireland  plus all of the riots where we had bricks and molotov cocktails thrown at us. You do train for it, I went to a place in Germany called Tin City where you get another regiment throwing shit at you but in Northern Ireland they really wanted to do it, they really wanted to hurt people.

When I left the army I was working for the Police, I’m not one of those that instantly goes off, I don’t go off the boil. I’m quite level headed. I was getting more and more annoyed and angry with people. I couldn’t work out what it was. I knew I was having flashbacks. I went in work on a Friday, the photocopier wasn’t working so I launched the fucking thing across the room. They told me to go home and not to come back until I was ok. I was off for five months. 

I didn’t want any company, my Mrs kept telling me to snap out of it. It’s easy to say but not easy to do! 

At my lowest point, I’d go walking the dog and I remember sitting on a bench at the Common in Wilmslow, with the dog lead thinking I was going to hang myself. That’s how low I got.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I felt selfish because someone would find me. Somebody will see you hanging there dead. Then I thought I’d go to the Police station at night with my car and gas myself. But then I thought that my friends would find me. That’s when I started to try to turn things around. I wasn’t bothered about dying. I was off for another couple of months, I saw a counsellor but the questions they were asking were stupid in my opinion.

When I started with the flashbacks, they came at night, but then they got worse and worse until I was getting them in the day. Even now if someone drops something sharp then I flinch.

It doesn’t depress me but for that split second it scares me. Like when the first firework goes off outside, once they start going off I’m not bothered but the first banger that goes off I’m virtually under the table. I’m worse than a dog.

In past wars people got shot for cowardice, and it was never cowardice. It was PTSD, you get an overload in your brain and that’s what happened with me. Twice I’ve been off with depression. 

I don’t think people who commit suicide are selfish because the overload is terrible. 

My Son died at the age of forty four, I was sixty five and I just thought that life wasn’t fair. Why him and not me? I’d have happily gone if it meant that he had a good life. The initial grief was a pure outburst and it lasted for about fifteen minutes. Uncontrollable sobbing. After that I just put the walls up. I don’t like people hugging me because I don’t want to be touched. It makes me angry. 

I’ve lived my life, I had time to come out of the army and get on with my life and that poor little lad is gone and it isn’t right. He had three brain tumour’s and they gave him eighteen months to live and he died within four. 

It ripped me up inside and I think about him all of the time. I think about my Dad all of the time, I think of the lads in Northern Ireland. 


The Nineteen year old that joined the Police is very different than the thirty eight year old I am now. I was brash and bold. Everything a teenager should be. Should i have gone in that young. Not a prayer. I’ve seen things and done things, got a family. The decisions I made then I wouldn’t make now. Doing what I do, you see a different side of things.

The cops never knock on someone’s door to tell them something good. It’s been death and destruction for nineteen years.

I can’t remember large parts of my youth. Sometimes my friends will talk about things I just can’t remember. I did some research and I think it’s a form of PTSD.

Death, destruction, losing my Dad, I think I block out lots of stuff.

I’m supposed to run a shift of sixty Police officers, I don’t want the stigma of having help for my mental health. I worry what will happen if I do. If I open the floodgates, what will happen, will I be able to cope. What I’m doing now is working for me. I can process stuff.

If I let someone inside, will I crumble?

Losing my Dad so young didn’t affect me at first, I went back to work after a few days and the first job I dealt with was a death. It didn’t really hit me nor do I think it has, that worries me.

I was thirty when my Son came along, it changed my outlook because everything became about him, my Wife and family. It calmed me down.


That business that I was running, selling commercial fridges online, when I first started we did alright, then there was the financial crisis and we spent a couple of years trying to get through that, after the crisis everything was going well but after a while a lot of the bigger more traditional companies started doing the same types of thing. I was only a small outfit employing a couple of people. Our turnover was good but as things progressed our margins on the products we were selling were getting smaller and smaller. We were selling more. The orders and sales were good but we were not making enough money.

We got into a situation where we had bigger and bigger accounts but we couldn’t get enough on the sales. We were getting chopped to bits on the profit of the sales. I’d built the website, spent hours putting all of the products on there, did all the consultations, all of the design. I was selling the products too. We brought in a couple of staff members and eventually there wasn’t enough money in the business as time went on.

I ultimately made the decision that I wanted a change, I could see where it was going. My quality of life had deteriorated. I went through a period where there was lots of business coming in but I wasn’t in the position to bring in the staff that I wanted to. It was essentially just me. I didn’t go on holiday, had no time off, when I did have a break I was on my phone working. Even when me and my girlfriend at the time went away for a weekend it was just impossible. Something needed to change.

The rewards were not there but the stress was there. We could get the work but we had to cut ourselves to the bone to do it and that just wasn’t sustainable. It got to the point where one of our biggest suppliers wanted the account settled and it was like sixty thousand pounds and they wanted it all immediately.

In my personal life I become quite difficult to deal with, I was angry and irritable, taking it out on other people which wasn’t fair. I’d fallen out with my Dad about it and we were working in the same office but not talking.That added to the stress.

In terms of how I dealt with it, I turned into a different character for a while. It got to a stage where I’d lose my temper in the office, throw things around and smash things up. Things tipped me over the edge. I tried to prop the business up with my own cash as well as the credit.

I decided to liquidate the company within a few days.

I felt guilty because I had a couple of people working for me but deep down I did feel that they could do better than working for me. The way it happened did make me feel guilty.

With friends, because I was seeing people less, when I did see them, I Didn’t want to go on about how shit everything was because I didn’t want to ruin their time. You start bottling everything up then.

Even now, I’m still a little bit reluctant to talk about things.

What happened to me happens to people everyday. Some people start again and carry on but I wanted to do something completely different.

I wanted to do something that was going to get me out of bed every morning, a profession where I was trained to do something and I could go into a workplace and do it.

I’d done a little bit of journalism at university and I felt that broadcasting would give me more options such as working in radio or TV so I decided to go down that route.

I was hoping to make a transition, it just happened a bit quicker than I wanted it. I’m glad I did it but I felt working at the BBC, because of my age and going in at quite a low level. I felt like a bit of an imposter. It felt weird doing low level jobs in mid to late thirties, the average age of people doing the same job was mid to late twenties but I needed to start somewhere. I found the learning curve quite gradual. You need to learn the ropes, it’s a big organisation and I had to get to grips with it.

I didn’t like people knowing how old I was.


You assess things and you get to a point where you have a decision to make, you consider whether it’s right. I imagine that comes from my parents. I am impulsive sometimes, beer can help let things out, grace the monotony of the daily, boring chores that you need to go through. If I had any tips about life, it would be to surround yourself with people that you enjoy being with.

I grew up on a council estate but it was probably the most social I’ve ever experienced.

I was Eighteen and started playing football with the adults. I was a young lad mixing with fully grown men, tough men brought up on council estates who don’t suffer fools. They didn’t have any animosity, they weren’t afraid of anything. Other people’s opinions didn’t bother them. And when they were in each other’s company, they had each other to back themselves up. 

That type of attitude rubs off. You get to a point in your life where you go from a shy teenager to a confident young man. I don’t worry about people’s opinions, others don’t worry so why should I.

The best thing about football is the people. You’d play a match, go back to the pub and be there all afternoon. We’d talk about shite and play cards, take the piss out of each other. Every football team had characters that stood out. Some had two or three. Someone would always have a story to be discussed.

If I could instil anything in my Son it would be self confidence. I didn’t have it when I was younger. I wanted to be an electrician when I left school and work for myself because that’s where the money was. I got convinced to take a job because I was good at it but I wish I’d stuck to my original plan because then I wouldn’t need to rely on anything apart from my own capabilities.

I regret splitting up with my first wife. I think it was because of football. I was getting drunk after the match, I was playing on a Saturday and Sunday. And if it was someone’s birthday I’d guarantee to be out on a Friday or Saturday.

I didn’t spend enough time with her, As well as playing football I was working until 7:30 most evenings. By the time I got home she’d be making tea and I’d bathe my Son. It got to the stage where we didn’t have any quality time and we didn’t appreciate each other.

I did have regrets but I don’t now. I’ve got Joe, Grace and my Wife Rose. If things didn’t happen the way they did then I wouldn’t have them. I wouldn’t go back in time and change things.

I used to look after Jack two or three days a week and his Mum was brilliant, she’s a great woman. I was very fortunate because she could have been the complete opposite.

Shoot 16 | Derek

I had big ideas with this shoot, my intention was to shoot a photo essay to describe the life of a pub landlord. However when I arrived I was met with Derek who was in the middle of decorating the interior of the building in preparation for reopening. I conducted the interview and managed to shoot a portrait of which I am quite pleased. The difference this time being that I decided to shoot off camera flash. This presented a problem as my plan was to shoot the portrait placing the subject in the middle of the room allowing a large amount of context to add to the rhetoric of the image (Barthes 1977).