THE HUMAN STORY
A photographic project exploring the vulnerability of humans living and working in Falmouth, Cornwall. I crossed into the thresholds of stranger/mutual friends and recorded their routines, their feelings and their darkest secrets.
// HUMAN //
Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is - Albert Camus
I suppose then, what I set out to do with this project, (if you can really call it a project, I prefer to call it a series of lessons that other humans gave me on their lives), was to allow complete strangers resign themselves to me.
HUMAN was possibly one of the most extraordinary projects I've ever undertaken. I spent three months planning the construction of the work, buying the materials, I sought out my human beings, visited all of their houses and spent worlds of time just talking to them, listening to them, and understanding them.
I shot around 70 rolls of film, colour slide, monochrome, C-41, expired film, everything, and I developed and scanned around 500 negatives.
And after the shoots I relived the experience of people divulging their worst fears, their loves, their secrets and experiences, and their greatest joys and sadnesses to me.
Everyone, including myself, bore themselves and their stories to me.
Man does refuse to be what he is.
Public spaces shade our personalities a different colour. I attempted to break through these masks with people I sort of knew, but didn't really know at all. Y'know, I had met them some place, maybe, in public. Perhaps in passing, I'd talked to them before. I'd never hung out with any of these models alone before.
Sometimes I asked them to do things for me, sometimes I didn't. Some shots were rehearsed, others entirely natural. Different models had different experiences with me.
HUMAN is about exploring the vulnerability of humanity. I wanted to see people in situations where they'd normally be alone, or when they'd normally be lost in thought within themselves. These people were specific to me, and all were connected by me. I wanted to see their routines, their lives, I wanted them to be consciously aware of what they were doing and explaining their worlds to me.
These photos document that journey. Start to finish, and as you go through each photo, however explicit they are, each photo represents an aspect of human life, in particular, this HUMAN'S life.
These images tell you what these people do almost every day, every night. And as they opened up their homes to me, and as they were eating strawberries, or playing guitar, or rolling a joint, they taught me what it felt like to be them, even if it lasted for just a moment.
HUMAN is dear to me. And ironically it taught me much more about myself that I thought it would.
So I guess without any further explanation, I'd like you to meet James.
JAMES // HUMAN // PT. 1.
This is James. James studies at university and works at Harbour Lights in Falmouth, Cornwall. James is HUMAN.
Meeting James meant confronting his self, his body, his perception of the world. He chose to live in these photographs, and taught me what it meant to be James for a couple of hours.
James talked a lot about his family, what growing up felt like. His friends now, his friends back in Croydon, where he grew up. His grandfather too; his Irish heritage. Because he was the first part of HUMAN, I was more insistent in understanding why he does the things that he does, and how, really focusing on his routine. I was intent on capturing him in different sections of that routine, so it was forced, and yet not at all. On the toilet, what would you do James? Getting ready for bed, what would you do James?
James, eat these strawberries like no one's watching.
James is a really clever guy with such a voracious appetite for literature and theory. We bond over Žižek, over Baudelaire, he's intrigued by the country of Nigeria and its culture, Fela Kuti and the Biafran War.
Meeting James took me elsewhere. It took me to people like Andrew.
ANDREW // HUMAN // PT. 2.
This is Andrew. Andrew is from Glasgow in Scotland and makes music. Andrew is HUMAN.
Andrew's perspective on so many things is vastly different to mine. It was refreshing. It was human.
I caught him as he was getting out of the shower at beginning of his shoot. It was unintentional, I swear.
First time I met Andrew I stopped him on a sunny day to take a double exposure of him with some pink flowers. Then we just bumped into each other a couple more times. His social media presence is funny, but when I actually spent time with him in his flat, I found out that Andrew's a very deep and introspective person. He has so much insight into life and existence. We talked about God, what it meant to him. His life back home in Scotland vs. down south in Cornwall.
He loves and lives for his time in Cornwall. I don't think anybody else in HUMAN expressed more love for their time in Falmouth more so than Andrew.
Beyond him, I went to Atlanta.
ATLANTA // HUMAN // PT. 3.
This is Atlanta. Atlanta listens to Tupac and models for a lot of photographers. Atlanta is HUMAN.
Yeah, Atlanta shores. First time I met Atlanta I told her I loved her name.
Atlanta's shoot was the most unusual because I didn't really capture her, and yet I did. We were driving around, most of the time. It rained so hard that day. Atlanta's family are based in London, and as a mixed-race girl, I thought her life in her shoes was particularly interesting. Her move to Cornwall's changed her.
She gave me huge insight into female empowerment. She's a strong woman, her capability, her belief, her position in the world dominates her need to not rely on anyone but herself. Her girlfriends are her rock. She lives vicariously. But she takes it down a notch more than people would think, and in these photos, I tried to recreate that casual day, or time she has, just to do whatever.
Some people drive. Some people have oil lamps in their room. Some people stop and do a jigsaw. Some people roll joints, play guitar, and scroll through their newsfeeds on the toilet.
Some people are in love. Meet JP & Charlie.
JP & CHARLIE // HUMAN // PT. 4.
This is JP & Charlie. They've been dating for a few months. They eat Pringles and drink wine. JP & Charlie are HUMAN.
Couple dynamics are interesting. She moves, he moves, vice versa. Or not.
This shoot took me down a different avenue. There's a striking difference between the images where Charlie or J are sat alone, in contrast to when they're pictured together.
First time I met Charlie I was taking pictures of her for a sonnet collection I was making. I wrote around the features of her face in white ink. She had long hair back then.
I didn't meet JP until about a month later. J's got a tattoo on his arm from Rimbaud, 'Life is a farce in which we all must play'. He's got a couple actually.
Speaking of tattoos, I met Cesca.
CESCA // HUMAN // PT. 5.
This is Cesca. Cesca moved to St Austell, Cornwall a few years ago from Oxford. She has a pet rabbit. Cesca is HUMAN.
Cesca has the loveliest hair. She has a couple tattoos, one says 'Angels Lie to Keep Control'.
Cesca's stayed at my house a couple of times. She lives in St Austell, and so on nights out she can't always get the train home and stays in Falmouth. Cesca and the train are interesting in concept. I know she probably does most of her reflection in and away from Falmouth on that train, and then none whatsoever, it's just a train ride home with your headphones in and scrolling down your newsfeed.
But there's always a kind of fragility, in travelling. An impatience, a will. Even in making small, short, what appear to be insignificant, journeys.
In St Austell, Cesca's a daughter. In Falmouth, she's a young woman and a student having fun. The train is the bridge between those two personalities, but they are as one. I'd like to think it's the same whenever I make plane journeys from Manchester to Cornwall. I'd like to think that people interchange their positions as people on journeys.
This shoot explored insecurities. Like Cesca, Jasmine explored her own with me.
JASMINE // HUMAN // PT. 6.
This is Jasmine. Jasmine sings, has a vinyl player her ex gave her, and studies English. Jasmine is HUMAN.
Normally done up for photos, Jasmine let me come to her apartment when she was getting ready for a date on Valentine's Day. Exploring the woman inside the space where people rarely go, is almost always a privilege. Watching a woman put her make up on, watching a woman take it off, these kinds of "stripping", are privileges that many women aren't always willing to show to anybody. I felt really honoured with Jasmine, as she's quite a private person.
You see appearance consumes a woman's life. It permeates into almost everything she says and does, because it's a demand that society makes of her, a demand society constructed for her. I was keen for an audience to see that in Jasmine's photos, as she went through that routine, as she showed me how she gets ready, what preparation she has to make before she heads off to see somebody outside.
She unfolded her life and so did I. We learnt about each other as she got ready.
Jasmine plays guitar and sings with a very close friend of hers. His name is Yusef.
YUSEF // HUMAN // PT. 7.
This is Yusef. Yusef's from Reading. He's an only child and follows politics. Yusef is HUMAN.
Yusef's a talented musician. He taught himself guitar and is considered a close friend to many in Falmouth, where he now lives.
Yusef's shoot explored masked emotion, his perception and feelings for other people, and change. He talked to me of his love for other people, of how his life felt happy. He talked about how good it felt to help others, to communicate and feel. When you find truly compassionate people, a person that are dedicated to helping others, you wonder how much of that person feels that they're not helping themselves. You wonder, if they're helping people because it'll help them find the way to fix the solutions in their own heart, or mind. I've been there, but I couldn't tell if Yusef had been. He downplayed his suffering. His optimism was boundless. It's a rare quality to find in somebody these days, optimism. Because so much of what we feel is guided by the near constant pessimism that exists in the perception of ourselves and the environments we create for ourselves. News, personal experience, pain.
Humans feel things for other humans. That's obvious sure, but we never really focus so much on the emotional response another human pulls out from us. It can be life-altering, exhausting, strange. It brings a shift in yourself. From this I went back to couples, looking not at how they are around each other, but how they've changed each other since they first met.
So I went to Paige & Josh.
PAIGE & JOSH // HUMAN // PT. 8.
This is Paige & Josh. They're together. Josh is a photographer, Paige studies English and sells vintage clothes on depop. Paige & Josh are HUMAN.
Paige makes her bed in a very strange way. She places the duvet on its side, so it lies like a diamond across the bed rather than straight. She drove me back to her house and Josh came in later.
I developed some of Josh's photos once as part of a collaboration project. He shoots great film.
You know Paige & Josh were pretty amazing to talk to, and Paige gave me such a wonderful account of how they met, how she's changed and vice versa. Her bedroom was really a reflection of who she was and in the photos you see the mutual appreciation that these two have of one another, but in the room it was so much bigger. You could feel what kind of relationship they had forged together, the strength of it, its permanence.
Paige & Josh talked to me about where they'd normally be on a Friday after 5pm, which is when I did this shoot. They talked to me about how being in a relationship has altered the routines of their own lives.
You'll notice I left the scratches and dust in these images for authenticity. We lit a lot of candles... and things.
Shane is a smoker, as well as an artist and poet. He's PT. 9.
SHANE // HUMAN // PT. 9.
This is Shane. Shane has a Brummie accent and studies Fine Art. Shane is HUMAN.
Shane studies fine art but he's not a typical "fine artist". He experiments with other crafts and forms and fuses them together.
We'd never been alone together before now and I loved listening to him talk about his life growing up in Birmingham.
We talked a lot about emotions, and how men feel and public personas. Why are we so closed off sometimes? Why aren't we able to explain ourselves, but how is it we can explain others?
Shane was vulnerable and real to me, from each time he lit up a cigarette, to cooking a pizza next to his housemate. His conversations surrounding family and his beginnings in Birmingham left me entirely wowed - because I didn't really know Shane, but by the end, I sort of did, and yet still didn't. There was this paradoxical shift between us. The personal had happened between two strangers, basically.
I wanted to dig deeper into this, so I went to another guy who'd previously featured in His Words Not Mine.
To you, he is a stranger. To me, he is Alex.
ALEX // HUMAN // PT. 10.
This is Alex. Alex reads existentialist philosophy and plays guitar. Alex is HUMAN.
Alex is 23 years old. He's originally from Leicester. He plans to teach abroad. I'd known Alex a while before we did this shoot together but once again I'd never been alone with him.
The first time I properly met him was at a house party I threw. He was a mutual friend through someone I had dated.
This shoot kind of opened up my eyes to how introverted Alex is. You couldn't really unpick his wounds; he was almost entirely closed up. Alex was more talkative in discussion surrounding his love of theory, philosophy. We talked about Albert Camus, we exchanged ideas on books that the other might find interesting. But it was hard to rediscover him through family, through relationships. There's some people you just can't turn inside out. And you shouldn't try to, or care to.
Overall he was a man of simple taste I found. I'd expected there to be something shattering, something that would forever change my perspective of him, and it was simply that he's not Christian Grey, or a serial killer, or whatever. He's just Alex. And he 's so funny. There's no complexity there, and yet there is, because he's a human. And him being closed off, it's just a fragment of who he is.
I know a lot of introverted people. Take Alan, for example.
ALAN // HUMAN // PT. 11.
This is Alan. Alan is Norwegian. Alan identifies as gay, and he also takes photos. Alan is HUMAN.
Alan came out when he was a teenager. Similarly to Alex, he is relatively closed up.
When Alan goes home to Norway, often when he comes back to England he brings several packs of Norwegian straights with him, as well as Norwegian chocolate. He says Norwegian chocolate to be the best chocolate in the world.
I'm with him on that.
I met Alan through another Norwegian friend of ours after a party. I brought a coconut that I found outside into his flat that I thought was empty only to find there was a hive of ants living inside. I dropped the coconut and the ants went everywhere. After that, we gradually began to see more of one another. Though I don't see Alan as often as I would like to now.
There's people out there who are the complete antithesis of Alan and Alex. Meet Charlie.
CHARLIE // HUMAN // PT. 12.
This is Charlie. Charlie loves cooking and listens to Bring Me The Horizon. Charlie is HUMAN.
I met Charlie working in the library one night. I'd never laughed harder.
Charlie's shoot was by far the most rehearsed. I made him eat jam doughnuts, I made him go to bed, I made him wash dishes. It was interesting asking him what he'd be doing at a specific moment in time and then subverting that by doing whatever I had in mind for him. But you know, people like Charlie despite having the bravado and confidence, inside are deeply quiet. More silent than the most introverted of people. I'd like to think that everybody is a marriage of extrovert and introvert, Charlie's one such example.
So I took to taking those silent activities, washing up, eating, brushing teeth, changing, and made them into a performance. I made them into a sequence of moves, that they ought to have their own stage. To me it was more interesting in watching Charlie do things that he'd do but under the imperative of doing so. It was surreal in nature.
His shoot was about making a spectacle of himself. Some spectacles, like this one, are intentional. Some people like Charlie who plays in a band, do it professionally. Like Rob.
ROB // HUMAN // PT. 13.
This is Rob. Rob experiments with rap and freestyling. Rob has lived in Cornwall for several years. Rob is HUMAN.
Rob's shoot was the quickest shoot. He had to head off to football on the day. It was lovely. He was walking Dinks. Rob's at an interesting crossover in his life, working in a bar, but exploring his horizons as an artist and writer.
I met Rob at an open mic night in Falmouth. The rest was history. I don't know how we got talking, we just did.
He's a keen rapper, and whenever I've sat in his car, I acknowledge his taste in music. It is reflective of the world he grew up in. On the day we drove around we listened to Big Sean.
Rob performs regularly, so I wanted him to have photos where he just didn't have to try, or bother. To just hang. It was a subversion of what he's normally used to, particularly because he's also an actor. He didn't have to be someone else, and he didn't have to be an artist. He'd just be Rob driving to the beach and walking the dog.
Some people were just born for spectacle. Some people were born for art. Not everybody's as open with their art, some people are still growing in those pubic spheres of showing their work.
Jess recently started to perform her work in the presence of an audience.
JESS // HUMAN // PT. 14.
This is Jess. Jess graduates from university in a few months. Jess illustrates and writes poetry. Jess is HUMAN.
Jess was quite touching during her shoot. Somebody still finding their way in the world. She illustrates, she writes, she photographs. We talked a lot about her experiences, particularly with men and her relationships with people close to her in life, and people who weren't so close, but were still making an impact.
Relationships between people of the opposite gender intrigue me, how we cooperate and communicate with each other despite the obvious biological differences between us. Those long, arduous but fulfilling relationships, to the ones that are gone in a snap.
The final chapter of HUMAN explored this from Gianluca's perspective. Luca concludes this project with his outsider perspective as an expat student.
GIANLUCA // HUMAN // PT. 15.
This is Gianluca. Gianluca is from Milan in Italy and is doing a year abroad in Cornwall studying Film. Gianluca is HUMAN.
Gianluca's room is bare. He does not keep much in his temporary home here in Cornwall, and his time in England is almost at an end. Luca makes films, plays chess and also illustrates.
I communicate well with Gianluca, as somebody with dual nationality I understand that feeling as a stranger outside of your home, what comforts, what discomforts. Gianluca dated a good friend of mine, but I used to see him around on our university campus. I first spoke to him at the gym which we both attend.
Luca talked to me the most about his relationships with women and his father. It was interesting to see the way he talked about his experiences as a filmmaker too. He talked to me about his exes, heartbreak, and times where he walked away. His views and understanding of women were insightful; it was a pleasure to see him open up.
And y'know by the time I'd finished developing all these images and writing all these words, I'd realised how much of a journey I'd been on and how much of this story couldn't end. It has no capacity to. Humans have created a permanence of themselves in existence. They've altered the air, disarmed it. In the end, I had to create an epilogue to these core images, because HUMAN needed to splash onto as many people as possible.
I've seen people bare their souls to me. Seen their tears fall, seen them laugh, eat. I've seen people fall asleep. It was like watching a play unfold, at the open and close. HUMAN followed routines of humans. I stepped into their thresholds. I tore away as many layers of them as I could. Sometimes forced, sometimes effortlessly.
Y'see, humans are the largest patchwork in my existence. I throw them over me like a blanket. Their lives, their individuality, the impossibility of never being them or being inside their head comforts me, thrills me, disturbs me. I rediscovered myself in other humans, I learnt more about the way my heart beats with somebody else's. To me that's a joy. To me that's a privilege. These strangers gave me the gift of their presence.
An epilogue of HUMAN will follow shortly.
HUMAN // THE EPILOGUE
Initially I was going to say that HUMAN ends here, but it really doesn't. They continue to exist, make marks, love and breathe. I'd say that this was an extract of the human race, not so much a story with a beginning, middle and end. It continues to spin, and fall, and unravel.
I hope that other humans enjoy this momentary insight into the life of the individual as much I have documenting it.