There is no doubt in my mind that this part of my life has been shaped by both desire and escape; or rather, a non-fulfilment of desire and a longing for escape. And so, at the time of articulating these thoughts, the most logical way for me to honour them seemed to me to a)— plan for a shoot and b)— book a hotel for a night. It’s not truly clear which idea came first, but in any case a hotel, even a cheap run-of-the-mill one was a temporary, new and luxurious reality enough for me, even if just by way of a double-bed and a mini-television. If nothing else, it would provide me with the feeling of a sense of self and self-sufficiency, a way away from an era marred by reliance. Yet, hotels by-and-large are tacky, often sleazy and fairly unoriginally uniform places— images that are often created within such spaces aren’t much different. Still, there was something in me that wanted to rise to the challenge of using such a space; a temporary, static and clichéd, characterless space to create images that explored both a raw eroticism within the four characterless walls of the hotel, playing into some of these troupes consciously, while exploring both escape by way of the local area; the latter almost subverting and almost undermining the former within an altogether fluid photographic essay that summed up myself entirely at that time. Terminal 5 stood out to me because it was the one place in London that could make the fantasy of feeling as though I was perhaps really escaping, flying to somewhere far flung and fabled, with money I didn’t have, to see people I didn’t know, as real as possible. I loved the idea of being so close to the behemothic planes, seeing them take off and land; hearing the engines roar over my nondescript room as I lay in bed.
The subject (a long-term collaborator) worked with me in creating images that teetered between the curious and the erotic; part-voyeuristic, part painterly and part collaborative— the way in which her body is portrayed is largely a reflection of myself, but as seen within some images, partially of herself too. The anonymity of the subject amplifies the explicitness of the images and the observance of the Japanese aesthetic/philosophy of are-bure-boke (rough, blurred and out of focus) adds a drama, an emotion and an honesty to the images that cuts bluntly and seductively. As with the majority of my photographic work, I worked between staging and improvising in an attempt to tell a narrative. Ironically however, within my attempt to orchestrate one narrative (perhaps subconsciously in the style of those I admire), the images were telling another, truer one about myself. There is no doubt that the resulting images are a reflection of personal fantasies, memories and wants. Later that evening, I walked the streets of Longford, by the airport and dual-carriageway, and to my surprise, seemed to find symbols of escape (and desire) everywhere I looked: a narrow river, trailing towards the runways in the distance, trickling over a bed of litter. A traffic cone, discarded in a bush, penetrating its own stand. An open field, full of grain, hidden from sight next to a pavement path. Concrete arches that rose above pedestrians like megalithic American intersections. Maybe it was just Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at play but even so, walking the unsettled, characterless roads of Zone 6 suburbia, I not only was seeing these manifestations, but I also felt as though I had indeed escaped to a life away from the one I was otherwise stuck with. Standing in the shadows of the planes, as they roared on past above me, I submitted to a long-lost innocence; one that ironically, itself was aeons away from the images I’d made earlier in the day.
Terminal 5 is a journey in more ways than one; a wandering into a blurry, intense and lonely world shaped by a search for freedom, escape and satisfaction.
Written Summer 2021.