For my first blog post on my website I thought I’d talk about the experience of going back to my old high school as part of one of my latest collaborative projects.
In my 4th year of Secondary school I discovered that in the near future my school would be knocked down to make way for a new “Greenfaulds High School” - I didn’t think much about it at the time because I knew I wouldn't still be here to see the new build but as I only live 5 minutes away from the high school and see it almost every other day on the way to the bus stop, I was always witness to its progress.
In the January of this year as part of my photography course I was given a “Documentary” unit, which was essentially all about documenting an event/place/person in time and ultimately learning what this means to you and others. I loved the project, I documented the high rise flat blocks in my town as in the next couple of years they also will be coming down and will no longer be a part of the town landscape. I asked if I could photograph the “last days” of what they looked like after being left by their occupants. Photographing the flats was such an experience. What I knew about who’d lived there wasn't important, it was how I felt about standing in rooms which homed families, couples - living in the memories of those people, creating nostalgia that didn't exist for me personally but for others - if that makes sense. In discussion with my lecturer I discovered the nature of my documentary book was a “typology” - the ability to associate feelings to places. To have a word make sense to a sensation I’d experienced my entire life was quite a break through - it was the first time I think photography became meaning more to me than just taking a “good photo”.
After completing my book and moving towards finishing what had been my most successful year in photography thus far, I decided to pay a visit to my old art/photography teacher Mrs Corbett. While I had occasionally popped into seek her advice on applications etc, I’d never brought her to see any of my work since I’d left, she was very influential in where I am today so coming to show her my latest folio didn’t seem unusual. She looked through my documentary book many times suggested we pay a visit to whom was the new head teacher of the school today and to suggest I take a similar photography style approach on the “last days” of the original Greenfaulds High School building. Though I didn’t come to the school with the intention of proposing the idea it was certainly in the back of my mind and when it came to explaining my idea it went like/ felt like a sales pitch aha.
Ultimately I was given the go ahead and while I wont talk about the ins and outs of the permission process and obstacles I will say that my school is pretty lax about letting anyone walk through the door, even if I was an ex pupil ha. But I wouldn’t really take no for an answer and I didn’t want to wait ages for it to happen as time before the summer was slipping day by day.
The first actual shooting day was a strange one indeed. While I had visited the school before after having left, my journeys remained fairly restricted from the reception area to the floor with Mrs Corbett. I hadn’t actually visited anywhere else. I knew if I wanted the project to be successful and personal I knew I had to tap into that same “typology” I had with the flats. Now the difference here being in the flats I more or less created stories to strive emotional inspiration - In the school it was very real, very omnipresent feeling of emotion - I went there for 6 years whereas I had no real personal connection to the flats, it existed in everything around me from the dark corridors; to the lockers; to the aromas I hadn’t breathed in since I was a mere 2nd year - that was probably the most surreal, visiting these departments/rooms for the first time since 1st/2nd year and walking through them as the nostalgia just hit me like waves.