Forest Folk is a personal exploration of identity focusing on the inhabitants of a community sited within the Sherwood Forest area. It is a study of the way in which the sense of belonging to a particular group or demographic is closely connected to place and tradition. Creating a journey through a semi-imagined past of ritual and storytelling which portrays our heritage as an element of identity.
This is my home. I think.
Storytelling is an integral mechanism in the evolution of culture in humanity. I have a story to tell, what maybe termed a romance of a young girl who moved from the town to the countryside and put down roots; in what should have been a forest but was instead a mixture of rural, agricultural and industrial. A pit village where people were once drawn to work and consequently imaged by local culture. A place saturated in years of history which has changed dramatically over the last 100 years yet maintains a timeless quality. The girl of the story is never pictured but is within every frame; reflected.
This place, it draws people like pictures. They come from all over the world. Part of its pit-village heritage. Sure, there are the families who can trace their ancestry back to the area. People who you feel have grown out of the sandy ground. But mostly it is the waifs and the strays. I myself am a didicoy, half Romany. We turn up and we don't always leave. The couple who arrived dressed in Medieval clothing looking to befriend Robin Hood. They didn't stay. But the ones who begin to put down roots rarely go. This place, it gets into your blood and becomes a part of you.
My stories like anyone else’s, change and evolve over the years. When my son and I walk the dog I ramble tales. What happened here or there. Where I fell off a horse, used to play as a kid. We wander past Tucks field where he is buried and I say, “He may have been a badger baiter. But he could tell a good story.” That is his legacy.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Every object has its own tale. The objects I have photographed represent the cultural narratives of the
. Some are plainly visible: An old book based in the village after which the local pub and this project derive their names. It contains a love story, not only between people but also to place. Other objects may require explanation: A box of trinkets and oddities I dug from the ground in my garden over one summer. The box contains a child’s Cinderella slipper, a mummified frog and other items which have accumulated in the dirt since before my house was built. It is a box of fairy tales. And finally my mantle shelf and a scattering of what to me are articles possessing special qualities, magic objects. A
netsuke owl. A piece of
stained glass window from the Forest Folk pub, recovered after its demolition. Photographs of loved ones; My stories and stories of the area. Yet even the obvious story objects contain further layers of information and past narratives, to the spectator unaware of these histories the propensity is to replace them with their own imagined tales. Like photographs these objects have a voice, the voice being as much the spectators as the authors. By leaving the objects unexplained and cryptic the understanding that culture is taught is highlighted.
Peata Beag Do Mháthar
Níl aon oíche 'dhéanaim cleas
Nach bhfaighim im is ubh na gcearc
Siúcra bulóige síos lem'ais
An chearc ar fad sa tsáspan
Mother's Little Pet
There isn't a night that I play tricks
That I don't get butter and an egg from the hen
A sugar loaf put down beside me
And all the hen in the saucepan
“It's not down on any map. True places never are.”
Herman Melville. Moby Dick
“Landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock.”
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due”
Neil Gaiman. The Season of Mists
Myths, place and people: A trinity which creates community culture which in turn defines humanity. Roger Ballen uses black and white photography to create strange fantasy worlds both with his early portraiture and more recently his book Boarding House. His work is metaphorical, a representation of the human mind not an actual place. With Forest Folk I have not simply portrayed an image of a place and its people based upon their histories. By creating constructed stories with photographs, I am highlighting how compliant photography is when used in conjunction with the photographers’ ability to blur the line between fact and fiction. This place of the Forest Folk is as real as it is imagined. Conceived from my own culture then made into photographs. Indeed I know this place for it is me.
This is what home is, this is my home.