In February 2020, life in Madrid was ticking along as normal. But unbeknown to the locals something sinister was in the air. In March COVID-19 sent the city into lockdown and daily life changed dramatically.

Photos taken between January and February 2020 in Madrid

From the day we’re born, our families, friends, and society form expectations about our future and the way we should lead our lives.

As social animals, it’s in our nature to look for acceptance. Many of us go with the flow – crafting reputations that hide our true selves. While others swim against this tide, express their individuality, and question whether the mainstream narrative is in their best interests.

Each generation is presented with the same challenge. Which traditions and societal norms to uphold, and which to cast aside in favour of “progress”?

Inspired by the poem ‘trouble with Spain’ by Charles Bukowski. This series of layered images uses Madrid’s historic businesses as a metaphor; contrasting the authenticity required to start a business with the conformity needed to maintain its position in the marketplace.

Visual interpretations of poetry are subjective and inclined to be incomplete. The artist photographer focuses on themes that resonate with them. The resulting images may not even be based on words from the poem. Rather a feeling that the poem invokes.

This poem describes a party and our need for belonging. At this party, inclusion is only obtained if adequate admiration for a handsome cartoonist called Spain is expressed, whether it is genuinely felt or not. Maintaining your authenticity will leave you ostracised.

The opening and closing stanzas illustrate the dilemma. Chase social acceptance and forfeit your integrity, or be yourself and sacrifice public approval. You get burnt either way.

Photo taken between February and March 2020. The project was created while attending a Documentary Photography & Reportage course at IED Master, Madrid.

Not everyone in Macau works in a casino. Behind the glitz and pretence is a more down to earth way of life. This photo essay was made shortly after the PRC’s 70th anniversary and looks at those earning a more modest living. 

Photos taken in October and November 2019.

In my late 30s I left my hometown of Brighton, UK and spent 5 years in Melbourne, Australia. In this photo essay I explore how the photographs I take reflect my social conditioning. On my travels, I’m drawn to the differences, but when I’m living in a new city, it’s the familiar that makes me feel at home. 

Photos taken between 2014 and 2019 in Australia

– a brief period during which something flourishes before dying out.

In the late 90s, with the ban on tobacco advertising approaching, a well-known cigarette manufacturer ran a semi-subliminal advertising campaign. By combining photographs of American landscapes with cryptic phrases, they aimed to bemuse target smokers, and occupy their thoughts after they’d turned the page.

This series of double exposures records my reaction to the psychological hooks used to sell a deadly product. By layering images of departed icons on top of these magazine adverts, I explore the concept of ethical manipulation. While reflecting on my own sense of loss from the early demise of those I admire, and the holes left in our cultural landscape.

Those were the early days of the attention economy. Modern technology has cranked things up a notch, and those wishing to exploit our appetite for distraction have easier ways to do it. With thousands of adverts coming at us each day, our eyeballs are under siege. The casualty is our focus, the key ingredient for anything meaningful in life.

It’s been said, we have two lives – the life we live, and the unlived life of our aspirations. If our time here is the most valuable thing we own. We should ask ourselves, which one are we living?

Brain Cell
Brain Cell (2018)
– paper collage, 11 x 16 inches

Expressing your opinion in 21st century is not as straight forward as it used to be. Questioning the socio-political consensus comes at a price and the perceived cost of holding opposing views is too high for some. Self-censorship is on the rise.

The internal struggle can feel like being in a cognitive jail cell. Sometimes we’re the ninja skilled at escapology, other times we’re the prison guard slamming the door. In the long run, our integrity, self-respect and intellectual honesty take the hit. If we don’t risk offending people, how will we know what we think?

What Matters Most
What Matters Most (2018)
– acrylic on magazine photograph, and aluminium container, 12 x 18 inches

For Bukowski, life was not all champagne and skittles. There were school bullies, dead end jobs, nights sleeping rough, back alley fights, jail-time, whores, hangovers and hardships. But through it all was a crazy kind of contentment. What mattered most to Hank was how well you walk through the fire.

From the preacher, peddling fear in the shadows to the subtle art of peer approval. Some people impose their opinions and are reassured by having like-minded souls in the same boat.

While others, find group membership limiting and prefer to take the risk of thinking for themselves; they prioritise the idea above the person saying it, and see life more like a game of chess.

When the music plays people forget their differences, and their worries – but you can’t catch the deluge in a paper cup. So, when the record stops, the question remains; is it your move, or theirs?

Photos taken between 2016 and 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

When a British citizen is snatched from the streets in the morning, and sentenced and incarcerated in the afternoon. The terms political prisoner and enemy of the state don’t seem out of place. Especially when the charges are civil and not criminal. The groundswell of public support and blanket media castigation make me smell a rat.

Maybe he’s not far wrong. Maybe he’s not far right.

Act Like Nothing's Wrong
Act Like Nothing’s Wrong (2018)
– paper collage, 10.75 x 10.75 inches

The world’s problems are systemic. The systems are complex. Those in charge don’t understand them. So they lie. We know it. They know it. And they know we know it. Its a post truth world where emotions come first. Angry people click more. But do they come up with solutions? Time will tell. But for now, we act like nothing’s wrong.