Growing up and being in an environment of big groups of friends of skaters, bands and photographers I am used to being on the streets late at night hanging around smoking splits and chatting about our lives and capturing it all on film. I am aware of the feel of photographing groups of friends, a few people hide away from the camera because they are shy or just not as understanding as some people. Most of the time it is a joy to capture what you are part of, the atmosphere that is created wherever you go, the amount of people that add to the moment of an adrenaline fuelled and packed with happiness experience. There would be twenty of us at a time hanging out at the skatepark, people going ham landing stupid tricks that only the bravest would attempt, picking up real life values by seeing what we have in font of us as not merely obstacles to jump over or to grind on but a mental challenge to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to push yourself to the last breath of trying at something. The more people that there is watching you creates anticipation and pressure to do it properly and that can be very distracting from your reality. The best thing to do is to put your headphones in and just let the thoughts go and attempt with no fear and you find out that you can do so much more than you ever thought. To me and my friends growing up skateboarding is a very personal thing that impacts us all slightly differently and has consequently allowed for our confidence and ambitions as adolescents to shine through.
I was slightly different from the group of skateboarders, I had a BMX and I photographed everything and made people feel awkward. The exact same principles applied to BMX’ing but I feel it is a lot more challenging and forces you to think faster in the moment, plus you have more control with a bike. So I am used to the streets, meeting new people and with my photography, I push myself to engage in convocations and learn peoples lives and stories more, because I have realised the power of this tool. See it like this, we are not here long, why not just listen to everyone you can, go everywhere you can, jump with every opportunity but most importantly hold onto every rope someone throws at you. The people around you will strengthen your values and make you see things in yourself and in them that you wouldn't realise if you didn't connect well, the experience of friendship is extremely important, it has shaped my whole value system and has allowed me to get inside circles of friends easier, confidence is key on the streets and you need a voice or something to show if you want to be heard, people appreciate good work and pure effort.
I decided to go to university in the second year of college, and it was something I was quite nervous about, I thought of this huge corporation that will be absolutely impossible to get through. These thoughts confronted me and made me question what I really want to do with photography, luckily I had good tutors and friends around me to help me decide, and everyone said to f*king run with it! So I did, I turned up worried as hell, worried of not finding people to have real convocations with, worried of finding decent friends just like back home. A few months went by settling in to the new area and finding my bearings and with my first friends in Cheltenham. I came across a tunnel under a road covered in graffiti and it reminded me so much of a place back at home under the road by the Rye park. There was a group of 12 or so young adults standing around chatting and drinking tinnys. With the intention of finding a photostory for the first year project, I knew I had to at least stop and speak to these people.
I met Motion Enterprise (ME) last year graffitiing the Honeybourne underpass. I got talking to some members of the group and they introduced me to JPDL and other artists which I have also managed to photograph along my journey. ME gave me instant access into the hip-hop scene on the first meet, performing a freestyle rap battle in the middle of the public footpath, giving me an insight into their knowledge on the world and talking about personal issues. This group of boys were a few years older than me, they have experienced a bit more of life and seem like they know where they are going, their confidence is very apparent. From my perspective I could make a direct link to these boys and their environment, spray painting the streets and having barbecues in the open, and speaking our minds in rhyme. For me this was a perfect opportunity so I knew I just had to jump in there and immerse my self in the scene of their work and their social lives. So I met up with them a few times and photographed them performing and chilling, and just experienced with them, it is also such a pleasure to know that my photography is helping them with recognition too and the nature of us working together is exactly the way I’d want to document a group of people anywhere. To get inside with them and to learn their story and values and maybe pick up a new language for a while, this is what I think social documentary is about really experiencing the lives of others and capturing that energy they put out there in their work or through interaction.
The work they are creating is fuelled from absolute passion and what one would say ‘realness’, shouting about the issues in society and the mess that is being made and that has been made for a long time. Picking up on political issues and social issues. What is good about this scene is that I can learn these peoples lives and their mindset and morals through their music.
I see my self as an insider into many lives, I have been given the opportunity as a child to grow up with famous movie stars, singers and actors, believe it or not. Whilst living in an average 3 bedroom house with my mum in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire I explored and questioned my environment and seeing the contrast of my life in High Wycombe to the extremely rich in Henley- On- Thames, who most have undoubtably worked for every penny and I realised how diverse the world is and how people really live with my own eyes.
whilst being in-between lives in Henley and Wycombe, I find myself at Wycombe skatepark with a group of fifth teen friends of skaters and bmx riders, smoking weed and drinking tinny’s occasionally, a typical youth on the streets dealing and participating in illegal activity. A small group known for hanging out at the skatepark in the middle of town doing obviously illegal things in front of people whilst playing a game of SKATE. This environment made my friends and me who we are… daring and pushing the limits of our minds to scare our selves silly and come back from a s skate stronger and more confident than before. We realised everything we did and wanted to do was very anti, if we were not meant to do something then we would be doing it because, well we were children and anybody knows if you tell a child not to do something they will more than likely do it and find out for them selves why, because the boundaries of morality and perception are still developing.
But the biggest realisation of growing up on the streets and just feeling the rawness and levels to life is that you have to break the law and do the things that you are not meant to be doing. Especially after realising that culture is not your friend, it is training you to comply to uniformity, from the age of four you are put into this system of uniform and it just cant be more obvious nowadays that it can’t be the way to flourish. You don't need to trust the government, or control systems that restrict but in turn hold the lives of everyone together in society, just don't associate yourself with people and things that you don't support or don't like because truly its made on non visionary ideology which adds to the culture that isn't helping you develop as a human. Play the game but for gods sake run with it in your own direction. Finding out that the way to really learn is to do what you are not told to do because at the end of the day, nothing is quite as it seems.