Week 9 | One to One

Reflecting on a one to one is usually an extremely loaded experience, trying to remember the reams of feedback but this time was slightly different. I went into the meeting quietly confident that my WIPP encompassed much stronger work in a technical sense than in previous modules. I feel that the endless research is beginning to reward and my work is slowly maturing. I still pick faults in my work however the context of my decision making process has broadened significantly. Taking risks with portraits, getting slightly closer and experimenting had provided a renewed sense of excitement about the prospect of making work. Usually in these one to one I have a million questions and end up machine gunning stories about my experience. I didn’t feel that way in this meeting as I felt quite content about presenting and listening. Maybe still on a high from the Oxfam presentation yesterday. 

Within the feedback, it was useful to gain some insight into the sequencing of my work and it was a bit of a relief to be commended for some of my decision making. I was encouraged to think about the shape and typeface I might use in support of my portfolio submission. I found this useful as in unison with this, as leading into the FMP, I really should be engaging with presentation on a deeper level. Key observations from Colin were that  the work was modern, northern and working class. This is useful in planning further research into presentation and I will use this description to plan a route forward. The highlight of the meeting was the suggestion by Colin that he would run it in a newspaper. 

As a result, I am going to seek the thought of my peers on the course whilst adhering to my own feelings. I also sent the submission to my trusted friend on the course James Shenton who provided some feedback that resonates well.

The conclusions that Colin surmised about the work I presented led me to begin to consider the potential audience for my work if it were to be produced as a book. At this stage I have a number of thoughts regarding this although I wouldn’t consider my insight into this area particularly strong. 

Primary Audience 

Predominantly a male sophisticated group who take an active interest in football culture. Throughout the making of this work I have engaged with many non league football clubs who have a following of attendees which goes into the hundreds. In terms of selling books a POS approach would possibly work with some publicity prior to attending with copies of a book. 

Secondary Audience

The secondary audience may be women who have children involved in grassroots football who might pick up the book after purchase.


In recent months I have opened a dialogue with ADMPublishing who appear to be a small publisher of books. Their products are quite inexpensive but represent an opportunity to get published. My work may appeal to them as the theme of football has a global appeal which may lend itself to online sales. 

Grain Projects may also be an avenue for future opportunities. At present I don’t have a dialogue with them but I do intend to contact in the near future. 

I have also recently been contacted by a representative of ‘Turnstile Magazine’ who asked to use some of my photographs for their first magazine due to be published in 2021. I am currently unsure if this will make it to print but I am very much hoping so.

Magazine Front Cover of Turnstile Magazine using my image. Currently in design phase.

Week 9 | Project Reflection

As the module draws to its conclusion and the anxiety of submission sets in I find myself in difficult position. Having completed a number of shoots I am acutely aware of the disjuncture within my work. My early work took me back to the documentary origins of my project surrounding the football environment which was a welcome piece of normality after the first lockdown period. However I feel that my work has moved beyond this stage with regards to my personal development. 

When I started the MA my ultimate plan was to embed myself within the Stockport County squad and document their season as an insider. I was conscious of not taking on this task too early because I felt that the priority was to allow my work to develop before I took on such a huge project. As a consequence, this option is currently unavailable and feels further away than ever as COVID continues to present huge barriers to the extent that Stockport County as a club are currently not playing matches as the whole club at the time of writing is self isolating. 

In terms of the work that I have already produced, I think that I do have a submission that reflects my development in the form of a collection of portraits. The feedback I have received in recent webinars has been to focus on a more specific element, I have responded to this by making more portraits and less documentary work. Building on this, I have endeavoured to get closer to my project by photographing subjects within their homes as the arena of the football environment was less accessible. 

In making the choice to photograph subjects within their home I feel that I am adhering to my intentions as the emphasis of my work is a reconnection with my football past. At this stage of my life I feel relatively comfortable and I have managed to evolve and challenge myself to become a functional member of society. However arriving at this stage has not been an easy ride. As a football player trying to forge a future in the game and in my case really struggling to cope on a number of levels such as ability, physicality, and mental resilience. When I conducted my interviews and portrait sessions with former teammates I was surprised to find that my peers in some way had their own insecurities that I was able to identify with. Rosen (2020) cites Majoli who recalls when photographing Shirin Neshat:

“Her home was a minimal place in Soho [in New York] with beautiful light. I tried to [create some] symbiosis and translate what I saw. I entered her place: it was white, she was dressed in black, and the work is black and white. It came naturally to do what I did there.”

I find the comments Majoli makes useful in defending my decision to visit the homes of my subject as in doing this I was able to enter into a type of symbiosis or collaborative process. As a result, the interviews I conducted were successful as I was able do learn a great deal about my friends and about myself. The main message I am able to be reflective about is the sense of feeling alone. This point is pertinent as I reflect on the time of my life where I had very little skills to offer the world and didn’t really see a place in society. I was willing but at the same time didn’t see where I fitted in beyond football. Now at the end of our competitive playing days, each person I photographed in the home is a success story because we all have a place that we can call a home. This may be trivial to most but each subject that I have collaborated with has had issues with drink, drugs or both. 

A home. For the last two decades has not been a consistent term associated with safety to them or me. However these people have managed to find a place to call home and find relative happiness. 

In terms of how this fits in with the broader narrative of my work I am led to comments made by Felicity McCabe when she states that her work is a large body of work and her projects represent different chapters within that body of work. Such comments resonate with veracity in a personal sense as I have constantly challenged myself in different directions whilst always making work that I have been emotionally attached to whether strong and informed or weak, experimental and naive. This submission is no different and despite the challenging feedback I receive. I feel that I am making work that I am proud which is significant as this is probably the first time in my life that I genuinely feel that way. Therefore, my submission won’t be about chasing grades or success. My work is my work, I feel a deep connection to it and it has been made in a collaborative nature with people who I have a deep connection with. Perhaps not even realising this connection until now in this reflective state. 

Rosen (2020)‘Majoli’s environmental portraits reveal the collaborative nature of his approach and the importance of developing a space for mutual engagement between artist and sitter in the creative process.’

Majoli perfectly reflects my sentiments here and without the burden of having to reflect my feelings accurately in a CRJ he nicely concludes my current state, and feelings about the work I have made. As a result, the judgements of my superiors have become secondary to the sense of emotion I feel about the work I have created. Helguera makes the comment (2011) ‘to participate is not to create homogeneity; to participate is to generate vitality’. I was able to speak to some of my well known peers and in making work and collaborating with them in their homes, I have been able to penetrate the surface and gain emotional insights into some of the toughest people I know. And this has been achieved from the safety of the home. In considering this chapter of my project like this, I feel that this project has been twenty years in the making as opposed to twelve weeks.

Helguera (2011) Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook. New York, Jorge Pinto Books.

Rosen (2020) Alex Majoli on Artists and the Rewards of Environmental Portraiture. Magnum Photos [Online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-culture/art/alex-majoli-artists-environmental-portraiture/  Accessed: 17th Nov 2020

Interview | Chris Keane (Keano)

This shoot took me Reddish where I arranged to interview a former close friend and teammate Chris.

Around eight years ago, Keano disappeared. Only to be seen occasionally where others would report having seen him and made small talk. Being one of his closest friends I was annoyed at him for going off the radar. Wondering why he chose to do this.

Anyways, fast forward a few years and and some of the lads got together to play in a charity football match to raise money for a former teammate who passed away as a result of an overdose.

After a few beers he decided to open up about his struggles. Having listened to his story I was shocked at how someone who I always assumed to streetwise, resolute and intelligent, had suffered a break down as a result of a difficult relationship which ended with him not being able to see his children.

Keano is a mental health professional and makes key decisions on NHS patients working closely with psychiatrists and other agencies such as the police. He is extremely bright and has a lot of responsibility. As long as I’ve known him which is around twenty years, he excels at most things.

Born in Manchester but holds an Irish passport, he is proud of his heritage and part of a large family with its foundations based around the Catholic Church. Although he could offer an insight and talk for hours about the pitfalls of religious ideologies, he is loyal to his family. A loving Son and a archetype big brother.

When I went to meet him, I found him living in shared accommodation, he didn’t talk too much about his housemates only stating that they are a few Irish lads from other families in the local Irish community. They look after each other and have a type of shared community living arrangement.

Having listened back to the interview It was clear to me that this process was as much about sharing my experiences as opposed to me interviewing Chris. Reflecting on this, it may be evident of a collaborative process or possibly an ill disciplined interview.

As stated in my previous post about Jooney Woodward. I ensured that I took a photograph before engaging in the interview. I felt that this had a detrimental effect on the interview as initially Chris raised suspicions about why I was taking this approach. Having explained to him my rational, he understood why I took a photograph without explanation but the dynamic of the exchange was changed as a result of this.

Contextual Research | Alpha Exhibition

Due to the recent death of one of my former teammates, I begun to think about my project in a different light. Considering the DNA of my work I feel like the real story of my work lies in the people, the personalities and the overarching theme of mental health. Having struggled throughout my life with mental health and until recently, never speaking of my anxieties. I have embarked on the task of reconnecting with my football past by interviewing people I have known for many years as a result  playing football. Although discussing their experience of playing football, my overarching concern with this process has been to get participants to speak of their own struggles and anxieties. 

To date I have conducted three interviews with accompanying images, my thinking behind this is to accompany an image with a short story or quote. Although relatively short encounters, I have tried to ensure that I get at least two images in order to create a mini sequence for each person. 

In order to further my research I sat down to identify other work which challenges similar themes of patriarchy and mental health. As a result I found the Alpha exhibition which has the intention as stated on the BJP website (2015) responds to masculinity and mental health’. Reading further I learned of some interesting methodologies which underpin the work Jennifer Pattison focused on her experience of growing up in the shadow of her father’s acute depression, photographing objects he made during his time in occupational therapy.’ In making the connection between photography and objects made in occupational therapy I feel that Pattison is able to make a deep connection with her work which taking it towards the poetic with the veracity achieved by the family connection and collaboration of father and daughter. 

Pattison speaks of ‘shared authorship’ with her work due to the collaborative nature of the project. I feel this is relevant to my project as by conducting interviews I am engaging in a collaborative process with participants. The final act until recently being a photograph. With regards to the latest interview, I took the decision to make a photograph before I sat down with the participant with the intention of trying to reflect their mood in some way. On reflection I need to reflect further on whether I will do this again as Sontag (1972:14) argues that to photograph someone is to violate them. This argument may be furthered by Pattison (2015) who states…

‘I had to be extremely sensitive in my approach. I agreed with my father before we started the project that he would have power of veto over how his story was written. It proved to be helpful to have clear boundaries and I believe this protected our relationship.’ 

This leads to pontification of my philosophy when making work of this nature. I did take a photograph at an earlier stage of the encounter. And without being sure, I fear that this may have impacted on the quality of the interview as I knew the participant had been through some difficult times over the last few years. As a result I stopped the interview early and decided to not record the conclusion of the conversation as a means of restoring some sort of trust with a friend that I haven’t seen for some time until recently.

Pattison, J (2015) Exploring masculinity and mental health through the image. British Journal of Photography [Online] Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2015/11/alpha-jennifer-pattison/?fbclid=IwAR19oiLn4ehGZZ4h1yBzIFhgju33mfOdcn2Y0bwYeLQtftWTDWzvntSgx5s (Accessed 2nd Nov 2020)

Sontag, Susan. (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.

Interview | Mike Ryan

In order to further my project of reconnecting with my football past I felt that I needed to move away from a documentary photographic approach at non league football matches and begin to engage with my story at a deeper level. In response I decided to contact former teammates and arrange some interviews with the intention of listening to their experiences of the game.

Having read loads of player autobiographies over the years, my intention isn’t to recite nostalgic stories about famous players as is often portrayed. I want to understand their philosophy and how they coped with life after the professional game. Venturing into the non league realm and understand the challenges this presented in an emotional sense.

Reflecting on my own experience, the overriding emotion was one of fear. In stating this I don’t mean the fear of actually playing in the game. More the constant burden of putting your body on the line twice a week for little reward whilst having to go to work and forge a new career. The consequence of this being a lack of confidence in being able to do anything else. Playing football becomes the norm and continuing to play out of a sense of routine as opposed to enjoyment.

The first subject of my research was a man I have known through football for over twenty years. Playing with and against on a number of occasions. We are part of a small group of players who have a bond, although we don’t spend much time in each others company anymore. We are a close support network and understand the difficulties we went through at that stage of our lives, having to adjust and find a new direction.

My approach to this shoot was to make a portrait which suggested something about the lives my teammates have now. Whilst speaking to them about their experiences of the past in recorded interviews.

When considering supporting images to fit within a sequence of this shoot, I was interested when Mike suggested that when he left Manchester United after 13 years of his life he felt alone. Not to be confused with being lonely but alone in his experiences of life. Throughout his childhood he was the envy of all of his peers within the community. However this isolated him as he was unable to have a normal childhood as a result he feels that he largely missed out on the vernacular experiences of youth hood.

Transferred from United to Wrexham for 100k, he struggled to settle in his new home deciding one day to get on a train home and not kick a football for three years.