Vincent Ferrane

The photographer’s new book redefines notions of time, place and intimacy

Vincent Ferrane describes the relationship he has with his wife, Armelle, as being similar to a film script, “that we had just co-written”. An apt interpretation, Vincent has lived with Armelle for the past 15 years; they have children together and she has long been his muse photographically. This harmonious partnership has been published in previous works like Milky Way, a series documenting his wife and child during breastfeeding. And now, Vincent’s lens has landed once again on his favourite subject matter, this time in a book titled Inner, published by Art Paper Editions.

To summarise, the work travels through a lockdown spent in Paris. It’s shot solely in their living room – “and it’s not a very big room space,” he says – as the photographer strives and succeeds in documenting his own representation intimacy. By definition, intimacy refers to the closeness and familiarity with another being. In Vincent’s work, he looks at the link between two bodies: “first that of a close relationship, of a space that we share with someone,” he says. “And then this intimate space, this space to oneself, this interior in which one can immerse oneself.” The resulting pictures show a parallel between photographer and subject, man and wife, as they navigate through shared territory together: the living room.

This particular room is a space for daily ritual, where moments of idleness, calm and being can be indulged through the simple acts of laying on sofa or armchair. “But it is very much a mental space to which we try to have access here,” he continues, “an interiority which is also looked at and shared.” To portray the quietness of days spent over lockdown together, Vincent avoided the cliches (think masks, window gazing and doorsteps) and instead zoomed in on the finer details. Hands gripping the stomach; fingers in pockets; a body cradled in the fetal position and the subtle arch of a back; every element has been carefully formulated and elevated through the a mix of artificial and natural lighting choices. “This gives both a notion of realism and creates a more painterly touch by opening up the shadows, by energising the colour palette of the skins, the drapes of the fabrics… We are moving away from a naturalistic image.” Vincent’s Inner is much more considered than candid. Everything seems purposeful, recognisable and familiar: “An everyday pose”.

Vincent’s wider photography practice takes a similar contemplative stance as it looks at the smaller details of those around him. From breastfeeding with his family and the process of female artists creating in their studio, to the beauty standards of the fashion industry and the routine of trans and non-binary people before leaving their homes; Vincent provides a portal into the lives of others. “I guess I’m delving into the everyday and the intimate, questioning why some things are hidden and how they could be shown. I’m assuming a position at the articulation between a documentary, vernacular image and an author photograph that offers a renewed look at representations that we thought were obvious or trivial.”

In the context of Inner, Vincent twists the viewers’ perception of space and time by dissecting physical bodies and the movements that occupy it. Time is suspended here. The hours are merged and the light has been manipulated – an intentional move that gives an eternal quality to the imagery, despite being made at a crucial and pivotal point in in their lives. “So many human activities have been blocked, links broken, physical and social distancing imposed,” says Vincent. “I hope that one can be sensitive to these images which do not call for sovereign or cathartic values, but rather sweet and delicate things to experience, to contemplate one’s love as something exceptional, fragile and everyday.”

Mundane

Mariam Adesokan’s two-minute short reflects on the idleness and contentment of lockdown

It had been years since I last picked up my crochet hook, which tends to live untamed under the bed with its family of wildly knotted yarn. But as soon as the lockdown first hit, it was time to revisit this old friend, testing my hands with a few simple and tiny bags. It had also been years since I’d felt the smoothness of wet clay; I’d forgotten what it was like moulding something – a bowl, candle holder and dish – out of bare fingers and a splash of water, and how satisfying it was to build something useful. 

It had been years since I last felt comfortable with doing nothing, knowing that everyone else was doing the same. The dread and gut-wrenching perception that others are having more fun than I am, or that I’m missing out constantly – even if there’s nothing going on – had been stripped away. It was a good feeling, even if it was just momentarily. Dancing had been swapped for the kitchen, but it was a welcomed turn for a little while. 

These are a handful of familiar moments that are brought to the surface as I consume the slow and beautiful scenes of Irish-born and London-based Mariam Adesokan’s new short film, Mundane. Made in collaboration with two close friends – DOP Jojo Bossman and Uzi Okotcha who plays the protagonist – it was devised during lockdown in a similar time of idleness and strange bliss. Like Uzi in the film, I too felt myself fall into this unusual state of contentment, returning to old hobbies and searching for some form of creative entertainment; the things I hadn’t had the time to care about in the chaos of adulthood. But that’s not to say that my personal experience had been without sadness or grief. In fact, that’s not to undermine anyone’s sadness or grief; it’s been a struggle for all over the course of the pandemic. However, just like the key touching points in Mundane, it was a chance to change pace; to find some peace in the disconnect from what was previously a hectic routine.

I wasn’t one for making bread or going for daily runs (the latter had been tried, tested and failed), and instead I’d turn to music and crafts. In Mundane, there are scenes akin to my own experiences as the character sits solemnly at the bed, moving to the sound of nearby music. It’s relatable; no performance, no awareness of her surroundings; just the self, the sounds and movement. The film then flickers – brashly but artistically in a simple hue of monochrome – to other moments. Smoking in bed, cosying up for a nap, and more or less doing nothing. How often is it that we can do things like this, without regret or fear of being judged?

When I ask Mariam about her reasons for making this film, she responds stating that it came from a period of reflection and relatability. “I thought of making this film to embody what I and a lot of others were experiencing at the time; sitting at home or living a very stripped back life due to Covid-19 was something I thought would be nice to show on screen in snapshots. Alongside this, I created the film because I needed something to stimulate me.”

Mariam sees the period of lockdown as being a bit of a blur, which is something that myself and I’m sure many others can connect with. That want to fill the day with more than just wading around the house hopelessly, and responsively steering towards sleeping, cooking, breathing, being and, in Mariam’s case, “a lot of introspection”, “crying and of course eating”. She was also studying for a BA in Architecture at Central Saint Martins during the year’s events and, with classes moved on online and all social aspects removed, this would naturally spur on some bizarre emotions. “I got through it in the end,” she adds, “and 2020 was probably the most fact-paced year I’ve experienced weirdly enough.”

And now, after what’s been an anomalous and indeed fleeting year, she has two-minutes’ worth of contemplation to refer back to. Like a bookmark logging a moment in hers and our lives, Mundane reminds us all to find the positives in dark times like this. “The film is everything that I (or we) do day-to-day but just depicted on screen,” she explains. “I suppose I wanted to highlight the really small ritual things that we tend to do, the things that are so essential we almost forget how essential they are.”

“This film was a pandemic project depicting the pandemic; when I made this film with Jojo and Uzi, we had conversations about being content with not necessarily being as social as we used to, or even indulging in habits that were encouraged pre-Covid-19. We all thought solitude and being alone was really important, and I know a lot of us had a tase of that last year.”

Growing Spaces

Chris Hoare’s new book documents the rise in allotment-goers over lockdown

Tara gets stuck into gardening at St Paul’s Community Garden, with the help of her three daughters, Ashti, Arianne and Astera © Chris Hoare

The allotment garden is a place of tranquility, a blissful haven away from the home and hum of city life. Not only does this designated plot of land give its gardener access to a sustainable source of food – in turn contributing to pollination, biodiversity, local climate and soil fertility – it’s also a place of community. It brings people together and has thus been a lifeline for many over the course of the pandemic.

A year after the first lockdown was imposed, more and more are we yearning to be amongst nature. This has given way to an increased demand for allotments, turning the humble allocated space into a highly sought after commodity. It’s an interesting (although expected) transformation, considering how the allotment first made appearances during the Second World War, after the “Dig for Victory” agriculture campaign came into play and encouraged Britain to grow their own produce. And what was then a historically working class necessity soon evolved into a hobbyist pastime, with recent years breaking down these stereotypes and reaching a crescendo amongst the younger population. 

View over Royate Hill Allotments, taken in June © Chris Hoare

Although an estimated number of 300,000 allotments can be found around the UK, these supplies are in fact dwindling. A paper, published by Imperial College London researchers at the Centre for Environmental Policy, states there’s now thousands – 30,000 to be exact – of hopeful gardeners remaining on waiting lists, with a four to five year delay in receiving a plot of land. What’s more is that numerous London sites have closed in recent times, resulting in a thinning supply and cuts to the size of existing units. 

Chris Hoare, a Bristol-based photographer, assesses this increment in his new body of work and book, Growing Spaces, published by RRB PhotobooksA documentation of allotment-goers in the southwestern city, the project was commissioned by Bristol Photo Festival for its expansive exhibition set to launch this summer. “It felt important to be documenting this urge that society was having for the outdoors at such a historic moment,” he tells us. 

Abandoned shed, Bedminster © Chris Hoare

Having spent his childhood years on the edge of Bristol, Chris went on to study a BA in Photography at Falmouth University before returning to his hometown for an MA in Bristol UWE. Surprisingly, Chris’ relationship with allotments was next to nothing prior to the making of this series. Besides nurturing some “mildly successful” tomato plants in previous times, he simply wasn’t aware of this flourishing community of growers. “For the most part, they are private spaces even though everyone has a statutory right to one,” he adds. “It’s this ‘right’ that any one can own one that interested me as I made the work. I feel like they hold a special place in British society and it’s easy to overlook their significance.”

“At a time when land ownership is so unattainable for so many and urban areas become more tightly congested, they signify a little piece of paradise,” he continues. “The growing itself is only one part of the rich experience that many have when owning an allotment; it’s an important one of course, but there is so much more going on and a genuine sense of community in these spaces, which is a rare thing in this day and age.”

Mike Feingold in his greenhouse early May. Mikeis well known within the Bristol growing community, particularly because of the role he has played in promoting the philosophy of Permaculture. Alongside this he is the rep of an allotment site with an orchard containing 50 different varieties of apple, Royate Hill © Chris Hoare

Growing Spaces, in this case, lenses those who find solace in these divided and grassy perimeters. Amongst the tonal shots of flowers and crops, there’s a sense of ease and calm that protrudes throughout his photographs. Many of Chris’ subjects are those that he met fleetingly, while others he’d revisit time and time again, sometimes spending hours with each encounter. The only tricky part of it all was getting beyond the locked gates of the sites, which inadvertently maintains the assumption that allotments are indeed a privatised sphere only available for the selected few.

Chris continues to reminisce of one allotment in particular, owned by a couple who later became good friends of his. The first meeting occurred during a blissful Saturday in May, and he’d decided to venture to this “oasis in the city” – “it’s an easy place to spend time, hours drift away as afternoon quickly turns into evening, usually ending with a fire or BBQ,” he says. Having visited this plot more than the others, Chris sums up the memory with an image of Budweiser cans floating in an earthy pond, giving a new meaning as to what the allotment can provide for its gardeners. 

A pack of Budweiser keeps cool in a pond on a hot Saturday afternoon in late spring, Ashley Vale © Chris Hoare

Despite the uncertain future of the UK’s green spaces, there’s been a great resurgence in those visiting and using their allotments. But for now, this increase in demand currently outweighs availability. “I can’t see this changing for some time,” he reflects, “particularly given how this past year has altered our thinking around the importance of green spaces, thinking local and growing your own and the need for outdoor community activities.” So what will come of the humble allotment, and how will these plots affect our lands? Time can only tell, but rest assured that this is a positive moment for sustainable food cultivation.

Growing Spaces by Chris Hoare is published by RRB Photobooks and will be exhibited at Royal Fort Gardens, Bristol this summer as part of Bristol Photo Festival

Sunset roses, Speedwell © Chris Hoare
Lexi shield’s her eyes during the apple pressing at the Totterdown Community Orchard © Chris Hoare
Members of Patchwork Community Gardening Group picking raspberries during a meet up, Bedminster © Chris Hoare
Late flowers collide with autumn leaves, Thingwell Park © Chris Hoare
Joe has utilised the space on his allotment to create a shed which doubles up as an art studio. Alongside tending to his own allotment, he is also regularly on hand to help some of the elderly allotment plot holders, particularly throughout lockdown © Chris Hoare
Winter squashes, Thingwell Park © Chris Hoare
Tina throws the last of the wood onto the flames, before leaving the allotment on Bonfire Night, Thingwell Park © Chris Hoare

The New Normal

In a content series curated by Rose Forde, friends of Port consider the new normal. Here, actor Paapa Essiedu – currently starring in Gangs of London and I May Destroy You – shares his lessons from lockdown

I weirdly entered lockdown with a feeling of relief. There’s a low level tightness in the chest that you carry around as a freelancer, especially as an actor. The next job is never guaranteed so you are forever stressing about where it’s coming from, when the next audition is, what your peers are doing, where are you in the rat race? And if you’re lucky enough to work, is it the right thing? Are you any good? Will they like me?  It can all be very inward facing.

So when Covid shut everything down, it felt good to step away from those thoughts and just take a second to breathe. But it really did feel like just a second. Then your mind turns to the future. What’s going to happen? How are we going to safely protect and sustain our industry and community? Why haven’t I written the final draft of my Great Corona Comedy? Again, thinking inwardly.

So I have tried to focus my thinking outward and search for inspiration and calmness through a curiosity in what I’m doing. I’ve been listening to Kokoroko and Ezra Collective, reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, watching Alex Garland’s DEVS, doing a decent amount of exercise – it’s all helping me get out of my head and just breathe. 

Now as we move out of lockdown into an ever more challenging environment, I feel like taking this time and finding this space for self recognition and self love is radical and indeed vital.

Essiedu won critical acclaim for his RSC performance as Hamlet, as well as in Pass Over at the Kiln earlier this year. He currently stars alongside Joe Cole in Gangs of London and will next be seen in Michaela Coel’s new show, I May Destroy You