Daniel Day . The English Condition

The English Condition is an examination of English parochialism and attachment to property ownership which has resulted in a disconnection from nature.

After moving to the town where numerous generations of his family lived and grew up, the author explores and ruminates on imparted memories passed down by word of mouth and family artefacts in the county where records of his ancestors can be found to date back for hundreds of years. It explores the development of Essex through the last 100 years as it has emerged from an agricultural county into an area that services London, an area of commuter towns and local economies that are reliant on the wealth of the City. The power that the City’s effects on Essex is powerful, palpable yet invisible, and this effect has increased during the last 40 years of neoliberalism, which has seen the huge growth of the financial and service industry sectors.

The era of cheap credit has created a spike in the price of housing which has become viewed as a commodity as much as a home. This has tapped into English people’s desire to be property owners and their sense of pride in their home; this work examines how this has become intertwined with national identity. Those that have been able to get onto the ‘property ladder’ are invested in the economic system that we live in and are compelled to support that system to ensure that their property retains its value. Have we created a prison, of which we are both the guards and prisoners of? Has the need for national identity, arising in increasingly uncertain and precarious times, been at the expense of turning our backs on the world?

Beyond the well recognised damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions and loss of habitat for wildlife, this work also questions the way we re-shape our green spaces into a form that we think is ‘natural’ but commonly is not. Our battle with nature, our desire to control it and bend it to our will has resulted in a disconnect from it.

The work also seeks to question notions of truth. The contrast between our trust in artefacts as truthful, yet distrust of photographs brings into question the role photography has as a means to allow us to understand the world. It asks the viewer to consider how new aesthetic approaches can be used as a method of engaging with an audience before it fails, leaving it as a piece of work that is beautiful but uninformative. The work alludes to the way we inevitably manipulate and overlay truth, and the problems that creates.

The story is anchored to an old bungalow, a family home that now stands out as an anachronism amongst it’s neighbours, a witness to a changing Britain, observing a re-imagining of our relationship to property and our relationship to the natural world around us. A place of imparted memories, imprinted on one another, not quite remembered, as they pass orally through generations. Documents, artefacts and evidence found in the landscape can confirm what we have been told or, in some cases correct distorted truths and tales that prove to be no more than imagination. Is one a better form of illumination than another?

Through seeking out places with a renewed outlook around Essex, the author asks us to consider how we use the spaces that we live in, how we are disconnected from the land and nature, how we turn natural areas into manicured places for recreation and how we are destroying nature, and ultimately ourselves.

Through a combination of text and images, the work questions how we create a balance between living comfortably within our surroundings and preserving the natural world, and whether that is possible in a rapacious system that values growth over sustainability. While this work looks at these effects in the county of Essex, the effect ripples throughout England.

Bio

I’m a British photographer based in the county of Essex. After working for a number of years in press and commercial photography, I joined the MA Photojournalism & Documentary Photography (online) course at the LCC with a view to develop my own work by focusing on the subjects that interest me.

Currently I’m exploring the area where I live and how that relates to wider themes, particularly through symbolism in the landscape. I’m interested in using new aesthetic approaches combined with text, the interconnection of place through systems of power and politics, new ideas on representation and the medium of photography and how memory and truth intertwine in narratives.

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