Final Major Project PHO705 Week 10: The Introduction

Posted on Mar 29, 2020 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Final Major Project PHO705 Week 10: The Introduction

This book and the images contained within are greatly influenced by my perspectives and experiences. A good photographer is, in my opinion, able to communicate and share their views without verbal communication. The photographer should be able to display their feelings towards a subject or person visually. With or without accompanying text, the viewer should be able to take some meaning from the image just by looking at it.

“All photographs will be viewed by different people in different ways, whether in commercial contexts or not. The same photograph can also mean different things in different contexts, even different styles of photography will carry different messages.” (Wells, 2015)

My understanding of how important context is in imagery and documentary photography is one of the primary reasons that I have decided to present this series of images in this format. Although my perception and experience with those from the Windrush generation have controlled both how I see these people and how I have chosen to present them; I am also aware that the people looking at these images will still come to their own conclusions.

The images included are mostly very colourful, this is an intentional decision, this choice was influenced by the warmth that I associate with people from Caribbean backgrounds it is also linked to my experiences in travelling to the Caribbean. When visiting places like Jamaica and Cuba the palette and colours in everyday life seemed much more vibrant and colourful; whether this is because of the harsh direct sunlight and the contrast created by this; or the culture that is inclusive of painting houses a variety of colours, something that I am not used to seeing back home in England. Colour is one of the significant factors and elements of the images in this book.

My experiences growing up are mostly positive I was raised by my mother who also worked as a foster carer, before this she worked multiple jobs to ensure that we were able to have a childhood in which we didn’t really want for anything.

My father, who still owns a small metal polishing factory, {and my mother divorced when I was young}. After this, he didn’t visit us very regularly he’d come on special occasions like birthday’s and at Christmas. My relationship with my father was never a negative one, Although I cannot deny that his absence had an impact on me and my siblings whenever he did come to visit he was always very positive and involved, unfortunately, this was so infrequent it definitely impacted the way things were at home.

My older brother played the role of a father in many ways; he was well known locally confident and popular. When we were younger, we used to fight a lot, as I imagine many siblings do. Still, many things in my life, such as the career pathway that I decided upon my taste in music and personality were inspired by his aspirations. He wanted to be a film director, and that led me down the pathway of studying media and eventually falling in love with photography.

As a young man, my older brother encountered mental health difficulties as you can imagine, this was very difficult and had a significant impact on me as he was my father figure. I always looked up to and admired him. My brother is mostly recovered now, and we maintain a positive relationship.

poor mental health is a significant part of the Afro Caribbean experience in the UK with black Britain’s “Young black men are six times more likely than young white men to be sectioned for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.” (NHS, 2020) although this is subjective, I suppose I have to ask how much of an impact the systemic racism displayed during the Windrush scandal continues to impact how black British people are diagnosed in comparison to people from other communities.

In 2020 the failings of the Windrush generation, and its descendants, continued, as recently as February 2020 the government defended its decision to deport several people who happened to have been in Britain for prolonged periods “One of those involved, Tajay Thomson, arrived in the UK in 2001 aged five. Now 23, he has a conviction for a drugs offence for which he served a seven-month sentence in 2015. “I feel like my life has been taken away by the Home Office,” he said.” (Walker, 2020) perhaps it’s just me, and admittedly this man committed a crime in his adulthood, however, how long does a person need to be present in the UK before they are considered a British citizen? And does this differ depending on the nation of origin?

# The Windrush Generation

The Windrush generation is the collective of people who arrived to live and work in the UK between 1948 and 1971 by order of the then Prime Minister and the Queen of England. After the Second World War, the country was underpopulated, It did not have enough staff to complete all jobs, in particular, many of the menial jobs in the country could not be completed.

The solution to this problem decided on by the government was for people from the Commonwealth to come to the UK and work in these roles; post-colonial Britain supposedly considered those from its former colonies to be British. And so in Great Britains time of need who better to depend on?

“The HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks, Essex on the 21 June 1948 (and) was carrying 1,027 passengers.” (Windrush: Who exactly was on board? 2020) as well as those coming from the Caribbean for work, a few Polish nationals were also on the ship, after being displaced during the second world war.

Most of the people on board were adult males, and they came from a variety of areas of employment, the list of job roles included Mechanics, Carpenters, Engineers, Scholars and Civil servants. The majority of people that got off the SS Windrush went on to work and live in London. The other cities occupied by this diaspora of people were Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Plymouth, Bristol and Leeds and a few other locations across the country.

Another one of the critical elements of my youth was the structure of the household; the set up was interesting. After beginning to work on this photographic project, I was able to identify many reoccurring themes. The front or Living room is a central hub and also acts as a symbolic representation of the family or patriarch/Matriarch’s personality. The key artefacts that seem to be consistent throughout a number of the homes are things like the cabinets with the good glasses and cutlery, the landscape or cultural artwork and the leather settees.

Certain artefacts reoccur and are symbolic of the personalities of the people within the images, in a few instances, the people deviate from the living room environment. They are captured in locations that I believe to be symbolic of a core element of that person’s personality or in the case where no alternative location was available I have attempted to frame as intimately as is possible to focus on the character and move away from the semiotics.

I suppose my positive experiences have encouraged me to take a more ethnographic study of the people and personalities that I have photographed. This matters because I want the people looking at the images to consume them and leave with a positive and emphatic feeling towards the people in the photos. The more I humanise them, the better for both the people in the images and those looking at the pictures.

Growing up, I didn’t entirely understand the importance of the central hub and how it brought the family together. But I believe it was pivotal in the home of many displaced communities because it allowed them to control the narrative and have a location that was definitively home.

I discovered the importance of owning a space and the sense of belonging that accompanied it when travelling on holiday to Jamaica. The very first time I visited Jamaica was a fantastic occasion; it was a holiday, and we went to spend time with family. Throughout my childhood, my siblings had always built up this small island as some incredible location that had to be seen. It didn’t disappoint, we had a fantastic time, the colour palette was fabulous, and the weather was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

But it was immediately made known that the Jamaican people did not consider us Jamaican. I remember being called ‘English boy’ a few times on one particular occasion I went with my older cousin Damion to sell paraffin in the town centre; it was a surprisingly exciting day, however, when the time came for us to book a taxi and return to my Aunt’s house no one would take us back, in fact, I clearly remember one of the Taxi drivers specifying that he wasn’t going to take an ‘English boy’ anywhere in his taxi.

This experience, in a similar manner to my experiences back home in England, whereby I was told to go back where I came from in school, led to a feeling of limbo. I can only speak for myself, but in many instances, it can feel as though you are only honourably considered British.

British maybe my nationality, but I can never really be considered ethnically British. Despite being ethnically Caribbean, I will never be considered by the natives of my parent’s homeland to really be Jamaican this feeling of having no real nation can perhaps be highlighted as one of the key reasons that the living room or front room is so important. This is somewhere I belong, somewhere where we belong without question.

I decided on the Windrush as a theme after debating with myself over a variety of subjects. Still, nothing was as contemporary and mattered as much to me as the Windrush this subject and the people associated with this part of British history are hugely important to me, where would we be without my mothers’ generation and the struggles they encountered? I think the story of the Windrush must be documented by people from within the community, thus allowing those of the Windrush to control the narrative.