What Photography has in Common with an Empty Vase is a multifaceted body of work developed from a collaboration with Grain Projects and HM Prison Birmingham (the largest category B prison in the Midlands, UK), its inmates, their families as well as a myriad of other local organisations and individuals. Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, I explore the philosophical concept of absence, and address a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect. From a humanist perspective the work seeks to reflect on how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation. From an ontological perspective it seeks answers to the following questions: what does it mean for Photography if it does not identify with the referent but its absence? How does Photography represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? How can documentary photography, in an era of fake news, best acknowledge the imaginative and fictional dimension of our relation to photographs? By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing prison as a set of social relations rather than a mere physical space, my work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.
Composed of three distinct chapters, including film, audio, sculpture and installation, the work shifts between image and information, between fiction and evidence, strategically deploying visual and textual details in tandem so that the viewer becomes aware of what exists outside the confines of the frame.