I love Brighton. It's such an fascinating city. There's a feeling of open-mindedness; an appreciation of diversity. Creativity is celebrated. It's full of artists, musicians, actors… every week there's a new festival or event. It's fizzing with strangeness and difference.
"Brighton is tolerance by the sea" — Brian Behan
When I first moved here, 16 years ago, someone told me: 'The UK is on a slope. If you lose your grip you'll roll down and either end up in Brighton or in the sea.' I loved that. It felt about right.
The city itself is fascinating, varied — historically rich. But like any city, it's about the life there. It's about the people. This project is about them; the people who make up Brighton.
A few years ago I started to document people's faces in photographs. I was interested in the early daguerreotype portraits from 180 years ago. The intense, monotone pictures of people staring back at you from a distant past. I was drawn to the simple eyes-to-camera poses. Daguerreotype 'photography' required people to sit still for long periods of time, which often led to stilted, very static portraits. These days I don't think people ever spend more than a few seconds 'posing' for a picture. The limitations of the early technology led to a style of portrait which was more like a painted portrait. Subjects would sit is specially designed neck braces and back supports so they didn't move during the long exposures. The results were designed to be long-lasting. The process was rare and expensive and each daguerreotype would usually be the defining portrait of a person or family. They evolved to include ephemera; objects and possessions from the subject's life.
I am interested in how a portrait, made to look like the early daguerreotypes, has the power to draw you in and examine the subject's face. We see so many images shot on mobile phones and tablets. The technology has born a style of its own, just like the technology before it did. Selfies, group selfies, profile pictures… transitory, instant pictures. These photographs tell their own story.
The photographic style I have developed is in some ways a response to the instant, casual nature of modern snapshots.
Daguerreotypes were seen as mirrors of truth back in 1850. People of the age thought these detailed, brilliant pictures revealed the subject's soul.