Filed under: ALL, Related films, Responses to the project | Tags: central london offices, chronic health condition, long exposure photography, oxo tower, travel
My older sister, Claudia Firth, is also an artist. There are many ways in which our lives our weirdly parallel despite her living in the centre of London and I in the north-west of Scotland. A couple of years ago Claudia started a project called Overtime. From her home in the Oxo Tower, a housing co-operative of around one hundred people, she can see many central London offices. Over the years she had noticed that there was always one man working overtime. Even when the lights in the all surrounding buildings were turned off his would be on, in evenings and at weekends. So she began taking pictures of him every day.
She says of the photos:
“This project came out of my own experiences as an “incapacitated” worker. Often at home in my flat not able to work because of a chronic health condition, I spent time watching and thinking about the offices that surrounded my building. I began to notice that even very late at night the office opposite my flat would be occupied with a lone worker and I decided to photograph him. I wanted to use long exposure photography to capture some of the time this man was working particularly after the normal 9-to-5. The photographs are stolen images, taken without his knowledge, but somehow I imagined them creating a relationship between us. Being faced, myself, with a feeling of a sort of suspension of normal time through illness, I felt that there was a kind of inverse relationship with this worker who always seemed to be there, sometimes even when I went to bed and again when I got up in the morning.”
These pictures couldn’t be more different from my project, they are covert, anonymous, and within a cityscape. The man is enveloped from the seasons by the warmth and light of his office, yet my film is about being exposed to and part of the natural environment.
There is definitely a sense though, in which Claudia’s photographs and the story behind them make you connect with this anonymous worker. I used to watch him working when I visited my sister and wonder about his life and what it was that made him spend all of his time in his office, but now I’m not so sure my experience is really that different. This unknown the man and I are isolated in our own ways, constantly propelled forward towards our own goals.
In my last post I wrote about a lack of happy endings, but I think it was as much about the lack of endings per se. I have been getting myself through this project by fixing on an end point, the date I finish filming. When in actuality this will be just the beginning of editing this film. At times it feels like continually climbing a mountain with never-ending summits and I often wonder when it is you get to go downhill.
But maybe its just a matter of stopping every now and then to take in the view, notice what you have and how far it is you have come already.
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