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Thursday, 2 November 2017

I coulda been a contender! Instagram takeover at the BJP



The long march of glorious self-promotion continues for a little longer as I do an instagram takeover at the BJP with words of wisdom to go with the pictures. You can go here to see more images. Most are from All Quiet on the Home but there are a few others as well. 

Visit @bjp1854 here.

And my instagram account, @colin_pantall is here.


The first time I showed Sofa Portraits they got mixed reactions. Many people, recognised the escapism, the dreaminess and found it connected to their own lives, their childhoods, their sense of self. 

But Isabel watched television when she was tired, when she came home from school, when she was sick. Sometimes she fell asleep in front of the television.

People with children see sickness, fatigue and physicality on a daily basis. It's part of life. But they don’t see it so much in photographs. It’s not what we are supposed to photographed. A family might have the most abusive father or neglectful mother but you’ll never see that in a family album. We construct a different image, we tell a different story.

So there were people who saw the old sofa, the exhaustion, the bruises on Isabel’s legs as something more sinister. 
See three pictures of a smiling child and that becomes the story. It’s a happy child. See three pictures of a sick or tired child and that becomes a different story.

That’s the terror and the magic of photography. We project our own meanings onto images and fabricate narratives that freeze the image into an imaginary world that might have nothing to do with the one where the image was made. 
People only need to see three images and they will make up their own story. And we all do it. All the time! Everybody. It’s the nature of how we see the world, it’s the nature of photography.

But that’s a beautiful thing. Because it means we can determine which way the story goes. We can create new stories and take them beyond the singularity of the image. Sofa Portraits is a story. And so is All Quiet on the Home Front. 




When Isabel was tired, when she came home from school or being outside she would collapse in front of the television for an hour on the battered sofa we had in our living room. This became her place to wind down and relax.

I photographed her watching TV, escaping into her imaginary world. Virginia Woolf wrote that a woman needs a room of her own – a place to think, write and create words. In the same way, a child needs a room of her own, or at least a place where she can be free to be who she wants to be, where her day isn’t regulated away into a series of lessons and organized activity.

In a small way, the sofa Isabel watched television from was an escape from all this. It was a room of her own, the place where she could wear what she wanted, lie and stretch and sit with comfort her only thought.


This was where I felt most liberated. I was away from the constricted domestic environment of both the flat and the park. The energy found a new direction and the sounds, the smells and the sights of the places we visited relaxed us both.




The Japanese have this concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ or forest-bathing. It’s the idea that the patterns of the light shining through the leaves of the trees are relaxing; they wash away the stresses of a screen-based life. The scent of the forest does the same, and so does the dirt in the ground.

Taken together it’s a massive life boost where you heart is slowed, your immune system boosted and your brain rested. 
We didn’t know it, but all that time we spent outside we spent forest-bathing. 






I spent a lot of time with Isabel, playing with her in the flat where we lived. She was a high energy child and used the flat as a playground. 

When Katherine was working, I took over childcare duties and played with her. Her favourite game was making stories up with Playmobil figures or 'dollshouse people' as we called them. 


It drove me mad so to keep myself interested I re-enacted scenes from history and film; The Cultural Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Dracula or the Exorcist. 


To this day, Isabel swears I’ve ruined the endings of classic films because of the dollshouse people games. But she's got a great sense off history.


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