Ten Miles 1976-1986
This little project was dreamt up by Sean Johnson, a fellow member of the Association of Photographers in London. It was prompted by him finding an unused, expired pro-pack of five rolls of 35mm Fuji Provia film, which he was reluctant to throw away. He sent four other photographers a single roll each, with five envelopes, each containing a message. One of these was to be opened just before setting out with our cameras. The idea was that each of us would walk a route we usually drive, specifically looking at those things we miss on a regular basis, swinging by at speed in our cars. My message said 'remember the first time you held a camera'. I can’t remember that moment exactly, but I do remember one of the first photographs I ever took. It was with a 110 camera, a narrow plastic box with a tiny fixed lens, and I would make one roll of film last over a year. The only image I now remember from that camera is a portrait I took of my family in our garden. It must have been sometime in the late 70s. My parents are sitting on a curved stone bench, my mother’s pink shrub roses in puffy pale bloom behind them, my youngest brother is sitting on my mother’s lap, and my other brother (the middle one) is crouching on the lawn a little closer to me. It was sunny, and everyone is smiling except for Rupert (the middle one). Anyway, I lost the print in 1990, in India, during a bout of vomiting sickness in my year-out travelling, and who knows where the teeny-tiny negative got to. The reason I mention it is because my walk in July 2012 began a few yards from that garden. For ten years, I took a blue and white striped double-decker bus to school from Rowledge in Surrey to Alton, in Hampshire. The bus was unmistakable, and Mr Vane-Hunt, the bus driver, was a big, white-haired fellow who inspired respect from all of his uniformed passengers by being generally inscrutable. The fact that I can remember his name when so many of my school-fellows’ now escape me must be indicative of his impression on me. I sat in the same seat every year, a window seat on the bottom deck, three rows from the front, on the left. There was a sign behind Mr Vane-Hunt, which said, confusingly, ‘Do Not Distract The Driver. Do Not Stand Forward of This Notice’. Confusingly, because I didn’t understand the phrase ‘stand forward of’. I was a horribly well-read child, and I had a reasonably sophisticated vocabulary, so I worked out that it must be an archaic phrase meaning ‘Do Not Disobey This Notice’. This idle confusion over the internal tautology of the notices stayed with me for years. So, my walk took me from my bus-stop on the corner of Chapel Road, within view of the house I grew up in, through semi-rural suburban villagescape to the train station in Farnham. The bus went all the way to Alton, about five miles further, but the dual-carriageway which is now on that leg of the journey just didn’t seem worth walking, so I stopped at the station. Almost each picture has some kind of memory or thought attached to it, and the experience of walking the route so incredibly familiar to my childhood self seemed worth recording.