Simon Jones is a Manchester based photography and moving image artist who has received a number of national and international awards and prizes. Simon’s practice also involves regular commissions for socially engaged projects with communities across the country. Read on to find out more about his Manchester Independents commission, The Anxious Photographer’s Handbook.
The Anxious Photographer’s Handbook is something that I’ve been thinking about for some time. The book, as the title says, is literally a photography book for people who have become isolated due to anxiety, making it difficult for them to even leave the house. It has a number of photography projects for absolute beginners, so no need for any knowledge of photography or operating cameras at all. In fact, all of the projects are better suited for a mobile phone camera.
I should mention that there is quite a long history behind the making of this book. For over twenty years I have, in various capacities, used photography as a way of helping people improve their social life and wellbeing. I believe this is the very essence of photography – helping people. From this angle, learning how to take good photographs isn’t the biggest priority. The magic is actually in the way the camera allows and helps you to think, say and see. It’s a bit of a paradox, but I came to understand that I needed to stop teaching photography if I wanted to use it to help improve people’s wellbeing.
The projects in the book are designed to take you out from your living room to step outside, and eventually lead you away from your home, perhaps a local park or green space. Each project in the book is a journey, and the journey can be as long or as short as you want in both time and distance. This will give you the experience of doing something familiar in an unfamiliar place, with an interesting distraction and focus, and a purpose with a sense of achievement. The directions in the book take the form of short conversations and thoughts, based on my own experience. There are also some props to cut out and use for some of the projects, getting you to think, interact and connect with your surroundings both physically and mentally.
Here’s a section of the projects called ‘Fairy Tales’
“Fairy Tales – We can’t always change the place where we spend most of our time, which can become quite uninspiring. But if we could transform these places into somewhere fascinating for even the shortest amount of time, then that could just be the spark we need to get the imagination going again. In the back of this book you will find some characters to cut out. You are going to use these to create your own fairy-tales. Allow yourself to be creative and practice using your imagination, just as you did when you were a child – when it was normal to spend time dreaming up fantastic stories and games.”
“In The Backyard – Outside in the backyard there’s a small area of tarmac that is overgrown with moss and weeds. At a glance this place isn’t very inspiring. However, after spending a bit of time placing the cut out ship in different places, the uneven surface of the ground became the swell of the sea and tiny leaves became the surf of the waves, carrying the ship on its voyage somewhere. I started to feel like I wanted to know where that somewhere is.”
From part two of the project where I’ve stepped out to the backyard.
“Shooting Stars – People have made wishes for centuries. Wishing on a shooting star started during the time of Greek astronomer Ptolemy, around 127 AD to 151 AD. He said that shooting stars were a sign that the “Gods” were peering down on us and would be more likely to hear our wishes during those times. Sometimes wishing is the starting point of something great. In the back of this book there is a shooting star to make wishes on. Carefully cut it out so that you can use it in your photographs to help reignite your wishes and dreams, bringing them back to your thoughts and into reality.“
This image is taken from part one of this project. I leave my interpretations of this one open-ended, so it’s more of a prompt. As with all of the other projects in the book this also has three parts to its journey. Starting in the house, then gradually casting a wish further out into the world.
About the artist
Simon Jones is a Manchester based photography and moving image artist who has received a number of national and international awards and prizes. Simon’s practice also involves regular commissions for socially engaged projects with communities across the country. Visit his website.