'The pictures in this book are the result of an invitation from Guernsey Photography Festival to participate in their artist-in-residency programme. I made four visits over the course of eighteen months before the work was finally exhibited on the island in Autumn 2018.
Territorially and politically, the Channel Islands, of which Guernsey is the second largest, are complicated. They're not part of the United Kingdom, but they are included in the British Isles and residents are entitled to UK passports; they've never be members of the European Union although the islands lie closer to the coast of northern France than that of southern England.
Guernsey is probably best known for its beach resorts, coastal cliffs, and a history of occupation by German forces during the Second World War, of which much physical evidence remains. It's also home to a thriving financial sector offering substantial tax incentives, and a workforce often on short-term contracts living slightly uncomfortably alongside those born and bread on the island.
The title of the work, Terre à l’Amende, comes from the profusion of signs which give notice of private land and warn of fines for trespassing. Land is a precious commodity in Guernsey – it's a small island (just 25 square miles) with a population of some 63,000 people. These signs, along with mile upon mile of walls and fences delineating private property, only served to reinforce my position as an outsider. However, while crisscrossing the island again and again on foot, it wasn't long before I developed a great fondness for this strange and essentially unique environment.
We had two family vacations on Guernsey when I was a child, and it continues to market itself as an idyllic holiday destination. However, once I started looking it wasn't difficult to see what might lie beneath this somewhat flimsy façade. Walking slowly and relying upon instinct as I sought to make sense of what I was seeing, anything became a potential subject: evocative objects, strange gestures, chance encounters, or even animals that happened to cross my path. Deviating from traditional picturesque representations of landscape, and this one in particular, I instead went in search of a contrary vision, one of an uneasy, unsettling place where all might not be as it seems.
This is not to suggest that these pictures describe what Guernsey is, or even what it looks like; they are – and can only ever be – an impression. In fact, the work might be less about Guernsey per se and more about the decisions taken when we make pictures. If, for example, a photographer or painter is commissioned by a tourist board to create a picture postcard, an idyllic version of a particular place, they will inevitably choose the right viewpoint, the right weather and the right time of day before finally pressing the button or making the first mark on canvas. In so doing they are suppressing a substantial percentage of the rest which is neither seen nor shown. I've simply worked at the other end of the same spectrum, intentionally revealing the opposite viewpoint and editing out the rest. That being so it could be argued that I've described Guernsey with the same lack of veracity as a picture postcard.
And yet Guernsey is no paradise. The local newspaper reveals a place with its own problems – domestic violence, poverty and other hardships - just like anywhere else. Given this, it might otherwise be said that these pictures offer a truer depiction of Guernsey than any postcard ever could.'