4th Year at art school was hard. I mean, I know, lots of people have it worse, but mentally I was exhausted by the time I graduated and even then it wasn't exactly over as we had to finish up the degree show and get it down to London. It felt like a conveyor belt of endings and goodbyes and lasts. And then all of a sudden it was over. That was it. Nothing else. No more. No deadlines, no task lists, no library lists, no research, no meetings, no reporting back, no tutorials, nothing.
I decided that I was taking July off. I needed a break, and I needed some space where I didn't have to think or push myself or worry about things. It was strange. My body clock was still thinking that 4.30am was a reasonable time to wake up but I had nothing to do so I ended up going back to bed. At first I tossed and turned and couldn't sleep but eventually I started waking later and staying up later. It was a slower process than I'd imagined, this deflating, destressing, and not entirely pleasant. I felt cut loose and free but adrift and purposeless. I was pleased when a fellow recent graduate suggested that we meet up and I think our decision to hold weekly 'tutorials' is a good one. Until such time as I'm fully employed, I have something to focus on and a reason to really start thinking about what I'm doing with my time.
Last week, I think we both decided that we needed to be making work. I have a project that I began in a very small way at the beginning of the summer and this week I took steps to develop that further. As always, it has started out as a kind of mapping exercise as I explore this town that I now call home. The first set of images that I made were done with Ed Ruscha vaguely in mind - a shot of each of the businesses on the seafront in Helensburgh. I had picked a lovely sunny day when the town was full of happy visitors and I'm aware that I need to do it again on a wet grey Wednesday when it's deserted too.
There was one shop in particular that held fascination for me. Uries, the China Shop, has been there since about the year dot. I first became aware of the owner when he was a regular customer at The Commodore Hotel and I worked there as the bar manager. He was like clockwork and always had a tale to tell. We called him Peter Urie and although someone did tell me that this wasn't actually his name, it stuck far more than his real name.
It hadn't really occurred to me that his shop shared access with us in our new flat and that Peter would come to feature in my life again. But sure enough, not long after moving in, he made himself known to me again and offered advice and information about bin collection days. It has taken me nearly a year but I finally asked him if I could photograph him and his shop as part of my documentation of Helensburgh, and I'm delighted to say that he agreed.
I didn't time my visit very well today and he was about to head off with his neighbour's dogs, but we agreed that I could start with the shop window. Tricky to get shots without me in them, and next time I go I will try a CP filter, but it felt good to be starting something - or even, which is probably more true, developing something.