An intermediate conclusion
As the funded part of the project gathers momentum to come to a intermediate conclusion, I have been searching for public spaces to pop large scale images of the participants photographs in, ideally in windows around Blackpool where there will be high footfall. I am hoping to create some kind of arts trail where audiences will stumble across the images and log into the audios to listen to the participants stories.
Because the project was born from "the people" and the peoples "stories" my greatest ambition for the series of images is that people will start talking to one another about the great legacy of performance that Blackpool is built on creating new forms of respect within Blackpool's community and its unique and quirky social history.
July also found me doing two talks on the series at a Heritage event and at The Grundy Art Gallery. Meeting people who find a connection to the photography series is seriously rewarding with a lady approaching me to recommend two books which she felt had a connection to the series: The Years: Annie Ernaux and The Lonely City - Olivia Laing, books that appear to be a little about loneliness and how we keep memories. I have started to read the books and it has made me consider that perhaps indeed the photography series does have an element of loneliness, I think I mentioned a lot in the talks how we have perhaps stopped sitting down and connecting with people due to social media and its easier to email or text, its made me consider my own sense of loneliness and that the series is a way for me to perhaps selfishly connect with people through photography whilst being able to listen to golden "hidden" stories - we forget that as we get older (me included at 44) that we have lived! But in modern day it is youth that is in focus in fashion in commerce, in music but life is in a cycle so we are all effected by what has been before, I think it was Oscar Wilde who stated "Youth is wasted on the young."
Considering this and the elements of performance, how must it feel to connect to dozens of people at once from a stage, is it all encapsulating and can it be felt as a tangible experience in places like The Grand Theatre or The Opera House there is a sense of what has been before there - it holds a "special" atmosphere, is it true then that we feel that from people when we talk to them or listen to their stories or photograph them.
I want to thank Circus250, The Grundy and Visit Blackpool for including me in their current exhibition showing some of the #retiredperformers work up until September the 8th where you will find lots of other interesting work exploring circus and performance directly and indirectly. Please go if you get the chance. https://www.grundyartgallery.com/programme/
Some interesting thoughts in here which kinda chime in with some of my own and what I'm aiming towards in Blackpool.
The element of loneliness is what intrigues me most here. Over my entire life as a creative artiste, I have actively archived everything I've done. I have boxes and hard drives full of stuff (tapes, videotapes, photos, posters, programmes, tickets, lyrics, poetry etc) going back to my final years at school documenting my life and those who passed through it, yet for all this stuff and for all the people I've entertained and documented, they're reminders of the moments when I "connected" with people, 99% of whom are now complete strangers. I think performers are often well tuned in to this because performing brings us to life but the moment it's over, there is a horrible void and nothingness as one moment we were "somebody" and then we're just another "normal" person again. It's a weird feeling and one I found hard to deal with as personally, I found I wanted to be left alone... anyone wanting to chat with me would unfortunately be given short shrift because I couldn't handle it. Not all performers suffer or experience it but I think most do in some form or other.
Looking at your photos in this project, yes... I sense that loneliness. There's a poignancy in there, where years ago they had a name and a career, entertained or helped many people and now here they are, normal with tons of memories which thankfully you've been capturing for future posterity.
The way we no longer connect like we used to thanks largely to the way social media has changed communication is a major peeve and worry of mine and I feel it's actually causing more disconnection than ever before. For instance, before mobile phones and texting took over, I used to love having the most in-depth long conversations well into the early hours that covered much ground. Once everyone got mobile phones, those conversations became impossible because they would keep being interrupted by messages or calls and I'd sit there silently fuming and when their business was done, the momentum and thread of the conversation was gone. I had the nerve to request visitors to switch off their phones in my home... you need not guess what happened and swiftly ended up never having visitors at all. Everything now seems to be bitty, short bursts, no real sense of immersion.
Where I come to life is when I am around fellow creatives. We just... "know"! Hence I am meeting with LeftCoast later this month to discuss a project/idea I have (non-photographic) which I aim - and hope - to start uniting local creatives. Hopefully, all will be revealed soon. We do need to be coming together much more often than we do and hopefully build a new unique lively community that I hope will help put Blackpool on the creative map of the UK!