Selected as a Photoworks Award winner, 2016 LCC BA Photography graduate James Wilde explores emotional distance, isolation and fear in this personal photographic story.

When words fail me, the photograph fills the empty space. The light goes off and the image is lost momentarily, suspended somewhere unknown. As the image fades away in my mind it miraculously appears again, right before me in the liquid between my hands. The stains spread, expanding like the roots of trees. Facing up at crimson skies, the image drifts in a shallow pool. Submerged again, it is frozen, stopped in its tracks. Made into stone. 

As a means to realign, and thus to move forward, these photographs bring to the surface notions of a father’s lost intimacy, whilst overarching themes of emotional distance, isolation and fear form as a skin around this body of work. It is through this desire for reconciliation, that interwoven threads of writing and sculpture anchor these personal histories to evoke the searching of an acceptance through the processing of pain, deciphering generational differences and addressing the reoccurrence of failures.

Keeping within the parameters of the autobiographic and its relationship to the photographic, this series collates imagery and personal text enquiring into the physical and psychological distance between each of the subjects. Through these unspoken dialogues, fragments of narrative (both intensive and understated in their style) bridge the gaps of experience and uncertainty.

Photoworks: Can you elaborate on the idea of lost intimacy and how you used photography as a method of recapturing this?

James Wilde: In relation to this particular series, I found photography had the potential to piece together moments I’d lost. It was while I was studying in New York that my father fell seriously ill and I immediately had to come home. After spending a few months living with him again, I realised the separation had affected us both, forging a huge divide. I began to research into the relationship between fathers and sons and male vulnerability in the hope that I could repair what I felt had been damaged.

I guess in a way photography helped bridge this period of detachment. Having both drifted apart, the medium allowed us to work on our relationship at a remove, from a stable vantage point. I believe his solitude, and also mine, stemmed from the same time and place in our lives and because of this, the series of photographs delineate a singular message – of coming close to fatality and the fluidity of meaning.

PW: How do you think audiences will relate to the personal stories that you use as your source material?

JW: I think in photography we are constantly looking for a way of contextualising the image, to find information beyond the existing photograph. It’s the same with personal narratives, we all strive towards uncovering and discovering meaning.

When a viewer makes an analysis, I believe they unconsciously try to find a relation in order to grasp that which has been presented.

I guess that, for me, when I’m reading a passage of writing, I’m unconsciously forming an image in my mind – it is that image that I try to create. I want the audience to see and feel all that I do – that sense of being present in a state of absence.

PW: What emotional response, nostalgia, melancholy, pain or otherwise, do you want to provoke?

JW: I try to evade provoking a forced response, I’m more interested by other perceptions of what a family construct is and should be. When I photograph my parents or my brother, I’m concentrating on the stillness they give me and the connection I am able to experience for that small moment. They seem to understand what I feel during the process and despite its rarity, I find those times the most memorable and extraordinary.

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