The Homegrown (Pandemic) Collection, 2020- (text)

During the early weeks of the pandemic, I started growing peppers from the seeds of a single shop-bought pepper. Partly as an exercise in resourcefulness, but also as a way to distract myself. I became obsessed, spending hours nurturing them until every square inch of space on every windowsill in my flat was full, and the light filtering through the windows was tinged with a green glow. This ongoing body of work grew from those initial distractions.

I decided early on that I wanted to make a detailed lasting record of the peppers I was growing. Training my camera on them, I see them as an important commodity, something to be scientifically studied and learnt from, as something more than mere nourishment. This approach was inspired by NASA’s online Lunar Sample and Photo Catalog, an archive containing documentation of rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust from six Apollo missions.

The American master Edward Weston famously photographed peppers during the late 1920’s. He had been experimenting with close-up Still Life imagery, adapting his view camera to produce ever-smaller apertures. Weston was searching for complete back to front focus, effectively turning his camera into a psuedo pinhole camera. I too am utilising homemade pinhole cameras to photograph the peppers, including one designed with six lenses in a cross-like configuration to capture every side. Almost 100 years after Weston, the gaze of a pinhole lens is once again pointed towards this unassuming vegetable.

Selenology is just one of my areas of interest, with the environment, recycling and the state of our planet high on my agenda. Recent global events have made me think more seriously about how my practice negatively impacts on the environment. As a champion of analogue photography, I am acutely aware of my toxic footprint and the need to embrace sustainability and this has guided many of the decisions made during the development of this body of work. The most crucial being the formulation of an organic developer used as a replacement for traditional photographic chemistry. Brewed from the leaves and stems of the same pepper plants, this pepper tea developer performs almost as effectively, whilst simultaneously introducing an element of inconsistency. Harnessing this unpredictability and potential for happenstance is an important aspect of the work, emphasised by printing onto found expired silver gelatin paper. Both the film soup and vintage paper help to produce a series of unique, unrepeatable images.

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