I don’t really know what I’m doing.  


But it’s OK though.


I’m just trying to get through, I guess? Get through to that mythical world on the other side of this, I seem so often to speak of, to people I miss back at home. Yet, for the first two weeks of the pandemic, and it may have been even longer, I sat with a strange sense of grieving, for a life lost perhaps while staring at the TV, often unshowered - and often in my pants - wondering intently on what the future foretold.


My flight back to the UK never materialised when I had hoped and subsequent flights came and then were cancelled. Throw in being scammed when asked to pay extra fees, by whom I had believed to be my airline carrier - it wasn’t by the way!  Then throw in countries closing their borders and now enforced quarantines not being relaxed, I find myself only now to have a date for my return in the coming weeks.


Then, just as it seemed that a furrow was being ploughed in the soil of this new normal, George Floyd was graphically murdered and what would take eight minutes and 46 seconds to befall, in Minneapolis, would send repercussions around the world for the next 6 weeks and counting. 


So, where was I, yes that’s right, I don’t really know what I’m doing.


In those first few weeks of the pandemic so many arts organisations, and publications for that matter, often like frenzied flies over a rotting carcass, (to the reader that carcass is used to symbolise the broken and lamentable figure of the self-employed photographer) buzzed around asking photographers for free content for their feeds, websites et al.  But, in those early days of the "Rona", the very thought of picking up a camera, to take photographs, seemed the furthest thing from my thoughts. Besides, Tiger King on Netflix wasn’t going to watch itself. 


My wife, my partner in crime and the person who I could never imagine going through this without, perhaps fearing that I was lapsing into a bout of depression (I remind the reader of that unshowered figure in his pants watching a man talking to tigers) suggested that I document our days together, not as a ‘considered work’ or ‘project’, whatever that means, but just for us, and just so that we could look back at this moment in time together in the years to come.


My wife’s words, coupled with the memory of what Vanley Burke had once told me “the good thing,” he had said, “ about being a photographer, is that when you’re in trouble, you can always shoot your way out of it...” Led me to, indeed try and shoot my way out of the funk, I found myself in.  


So, what am I trying to say in the images which follow in the weeks to come, that's if they do come?  Also, who is the audience for them, and all of those other ‘making work’ type questions anyone who has gone through art school has often asked of themselves or told commissioners when making new work? Well, as I started off this blog post saying, I don’t really know - and that goes for these blog posts too.


But again that’s OK too.  


Besides, as John Myers has argued, in his ‘no project’ theorising, why do we even need to have a ‘project’ anyway?


What I do know, however, is that the last time that I actually did think that I knew what I was doing, photographically at least, occurred a while ago now, back in the UK.  


I had waited patiently to be let in, looking around sheepishly, before leaning in and peering in through the horizontal panes of frosted glass in the wooden doors of the Baptist Church, on Regent Street, Smethwick.  Sighing as the flat of my hand pushed against the coldness of the door for a second time, just to make sure, to convince myself once again that it was still closed. 


It was. 


All this time furtive; my glances quickened as my eyes searched desperately for any signs of life within the frosted distance of the world inside and I tried to temper the growing frustrations of being late and stuck in the cold rain. I sighed again, catching the slipping tripod strap and pulling it up, for the 17th time, back onto my shoulder.


“Had I even pressed the right button on the intercom?” I wondered uneasily, drizzling rain halting my fears of shame momentarily, my head tilting back wearily and then my eyes looking upwards to confront the white sky above in an accusatory glance.


But still, it rained.


“I’ll give it another minute,” I sighed, yet again, “just one more, and then I’ll head all the way back home again,” looking down at my phone to see the time of 9.23 am revealed to me, the same phone that didn’t hold the number of the person I was meeting.  By all the way home, well, I meant all of those 234 yards or so, back to my front door. Turning behind me, as I thought of it, to see the roof of my place nudging up into the air behind the row of houses in Sketchley Close.


Suddenly a door opened inside, beyond the frosted glass, and an indistinct figure, in a beige sweater, walked towards me. It didn't look like whom I was expecting to see, and my growing fears of embarrassment were confirmed. “Hello?” the gaunt-faced man said. My eyes leaving base camp and rising upwards to look up to his greying hair perched atop his very high forehead and then back down to his quizzical eyes peering out at me, as his head extended out slowly, in a tortoise-like fashion, towards me beyond the propped open door.  


“Hello,” I replied back, stepping back slightly and then followed up with, “I’ve got a 9.20 am appointment”, oh wait, the wheels and cogs of my brain whirred momentarily, my brain launching into a data retrieval protocol while I tried to remember the name of whom I was actually visiting.  Ahh yes, “with Marianne,” I spat out.  


I registered the look of disappointment on his face, a tsunami of wrinkles forming on his forehead, and imagined this happening to him all of the time before he looked over to the intercom wearily, pointing a finger out towards it, while informing me that Marianne, at Friends and Neighbours, was the top button.  


“Come on,” he said, grudgingly, “I’ll take you to her.”


These were the moments before the last portrait. 


Moments in time, just a few months before the death of Birnham Roberts, an 82-year-old grandfather, who would become the first man to die from Covid-19 in Smethwick. A man beloved by friends, family and the community, who would find himself at the head of a deathly pilgrimage, through the UK, that would reap 60,000 other souls in the weeks that followed.


I’ve thought of Marianne’s portrait so many times since that moment.  Not because I think it’s a great portrait, and not because it’s of Marianne - even though Marianne is great and works so hard for the community. No, I’ve just thought about her portrait because of the indexical link it holds for me to a time and space forever fixed and still unchanged by not only the deaths of so many, but also of the erasure of the future which I had thought I was destined to find back in that time - which was still alive. 


In this world of the present though, where calendar entries, made in the world of the past, constantly remind me of that future lost, and of that home in the UK, that last portrait and those memories leading up to it, are a time forever free of the pandemic and all that it has wrought and removed.


That time is a reminder of not only what was, but what could have been, something I hope that the following posts will explore.