BJP-online feature

“Black Blood traces the 24-year-old’s family history, dealing with the folkloric feeling of being a distant Romani. Roche says that he’s “always felt quite lost in the world” and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of his identity. “The process started as a formal documentary project,” he says. “I visited Cheltenham [in Gloucestershire, where his family used to live] and went through the local library records.” But after struggling to find information, he was forced to re-evaluate his approach.”

Diane Smyth from the BJP Online team, chose my work to be featured on their website. 

Follow this link to read the whole thing -

Free Range

The ideal scenario for the grad show is one thing, but reality is another. Time seems to disappear around the flux of deadlines; tutorials; scanning; printing; coffee; travelling. The show you picture in your head is of one standard, but for budget and pragmatic reasons the outcome is something less. I think the restrictions of university can be great in moulding photographers to adhere to deadlines and parameters; working efficiently and thinking on their feet. But I feel at the end of the process, photographers have become more contemplative in their practice, and need a little more thinking time to create outcomes that resemble ones project.

Showing work at Free Range was a rushed experience for me, still in the creative process of my project ‘Black Blood’, but needing to resolve it for the wall. This was more of a mid-way showing of the work, rather than the end piece. A project still in the ether of work-in-progress, but needing to be shown to the London public was challenging. A process however that really made me think about the state of my work, and where the project was going, and where it had gone.

An exhibit and book maquette that received good feedback was one thing, but the time to scrutinise my working process and where my practice was heading, was more valuable than I could have thought.

I think it was Jack Latham that said ‘Never leave university with a resolved project.’


Anne Golaz Corbeau review

Hitting ‘top photobooks of 2017’ lists all over the internet, the melancholic and reserved way that Golaz approaches the subject of her family, could seem too quiet to have impact in mainstream photobook audiences. However, when slowly eating up the book from cover to cover it is evident why it has resonated with so many people. The unnamed protagonist quickly becomes a familiar figure in one’s consciousness. I found myself feeling nostalgic for a story that was not mine. Now, was this done through the varied medium of photography – and the different formats used: 35mm, video stills, black and white, colour etc. – or the photographers eye for the insignificant? Yes, the use of monochrome and colour can be analyzed to create a fully rounded aesthetic of the story, immersing the reader in to Golaz’s world. But after a few pages the aesthetic is ignored, what I started noticing was the details in the work, the feeling. I felt the harsh winters night, as the Farmer and his boy had to help a cow give birth. I understood having to deal with the same thing day in day out. 

You can tell that the work was made over a twelve-year period, not just because it says that in the book’s bio, but the work has intimacy that cannot be faked. The nostalgia that is felt, comes from the ghostly presence of the photographer. The image maker is so commonplace to the subject, that they do not exist. There is no otherness, only images that were born out of a deep understanding of feeling. Growing up with the cold winter nights, and how it feels to birth a cow. In a way, the work is authorless. All that exists is the reader, and the unaltered (for the camera) personality of the subjects. The book is genuine; which is probably why, when reading the work, I felt completely tied into the story. Time did not exist, only the fading relationship between the Father and son, that I felt part of. A sequence of 4 pages led me to tear up, and I’m not quite sure why: A short diary entry, a portrait of the son, 2 pages of contact sheets [Fig.1], and finally an image of the father walking away into the distance.

“Goodbye to the house, to the courtyard full of rain and slurry, to the trees; goodbye to the other side...”

... This text was used at the start of the 4 pages of heartbreak, the narrator goes on to write “And then, goodbye to the family, but that was done quickly, without ceremony.”

This notion of familial distance is relatable, not only to this situation, but universally about all family life. A son fleeing the nest and the father’s disappointment. Was is that I projected my own feelings, and nostalgia of being someone’s son? Or, was I so engaged with the genuine details shown to me by Golaz, that I then knew what the hardships of being a farmer’s son really felt like.

Ultimately Corbeau is a very mature piece of work, utilizing the visual language of photography extraordinarily well, to give space and emotion to the sequencing of images and text. Adopting different formats is clever in luring in the reader to the world of the Farmer and his son, in the same way a photo album does with its mis-match of formats and colour. Imperfection is human. But, what is quietly more overpowering than the clever use of photography as a medium, is the closeness to the subject. The understanding of the details- the place the photographer has within the familial situation. The photographer is in situ, bringing along their own: tensions, emotions and melancholia felt in Corbeau, that no other photographer could stick their nose in and find.


An excerpt from my dissertation:
Why did my grandmother deface her image from family photographs? - A study of the archive as narrative, in photography.

From Anne Golaz’s Corbeau. Page 163. 2­­017

From Anne Golaz’s Corbeau. Page 168. 201
In praise of the iPhone camera.

This is not a review of the latest iPhone 7/8/X camera specs, nor the phenomenon of the selfie. Instead, a musing on the best camera I own, the humble iPhone 5s.

There’s no doubt that photography is a tech company’s wet dream; with 40+ megapixels is becoming more commonplace & in-camera stabilisation allowing photographers to shoot handheld at 1 second, the industry has turned into a dirty game of ‘mine’s bigger than yours’. But what I care about the most is the accessibility that the iPhone has given me, and other photographers in daily life. I know If I carry around my oversized Fuji 6x7 camera, I will not make any frames on a whim. The camera is glorious with outstanding optics, but I just won’t consider using it for simple photographic studies of banal life - nor am I able to quickly set the aperture and focus in 5 seconds, capturing a bizarre scene on the street.        

With the iPhone It is everywhere in my pocket, allowing me to keep my eye on the ball when I’m not making project work or making images with purpose. It is a great way to process life photographically without feeling guilty of wasting film. Not only is it always in my pocket, but it is also in everyone else pockets too. The taboo of having a DSLR with a giant phallic lens has been eradicated, instead, I’m left with an everyday object that can make photographs unnoticed - I look like the general public with my iPhone. With a camera, I don’t.

We all know that real photographers shoot 8x10, but my humble 5s can go in situations that the large format can’t. And that’s why it’s the favourite camera I own.

Copyright © Tom Roche