Campsite for the non-citizen, Berriedale, Orkney, 1984. Platinum-palladium print on 100% cellulose paper (Van Gelder simili japon) from original 18x24cm negative.

Continuing on this rather dystopic drone, here’s one of the strangest photographs I have made. It borders on ugly. But it came from near-brushes with being stateless and a refugee. Trying to rise above the tug of my personal experiences, I tried, and keep trying to understand, what pulls us to behave xenophobically. There is a Darwinian argument for this, but I am also interested in other ways of thinking about the matter. Xenophobia, hate, territory (terror), nationalism lean into the edges of our humanity. Either a one or a zero. These are states of mind and experience that are approach-paths to what we consider absolute values, but driven by a denial of the absolute.

A bit like Zeno’s turtle, where there never is an end-point, the consideration of any absolute value may in itself be an exercise in abstraction. But I think not. Before the end, there is a midway to the end, and before that point there is another midway, and so on. This is a constant, never ceasing pre-absolute. Approaching the ‘pre-absolute’ is welded to the poignancy of the human condition – I move towards the absolute but never get there. In this sense, we may be more fearful of darkness that is barely taking form, than we are of absolute darkness.

So, that is why so much of my work is shaped by the platinum-palladium print and large format negatives. These materials give a highly nuanced voice to the pre-absolute. Almost black, almost white. And this image is one of the most terrifying I have ever made. It is in between a lot of end points. How is that possible? Ask any refugee. Or immigrant.

Platinum and palladium are noble metals. Robust in its immutability. Paper is made of cellulose fibers. Fragile in its transparency.

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