Graham Smillie: photographer, has worked on numerous creative endeavours throughout Liverpool and a leading figure within the creative community. We address how his photographic practice took him from capturing the cities musicians to the road side shrines which divide our communities.
Graham established his photographic practice in embracing his passion for the music industry through capturing bands, his lens a staple at the famed Threshold Festival. Navigating towards the end of the last decade, BC (Before Covid), his creativity has led him towards social documentation and social engagement practices. Representing musicians became time capsule shots of deceased animals as a result of traffic accidents. Revolutionary new work evolved into what is currently the visual documentation of roadside shrines. Graham contemplates the process of forming memorials and their social impact through the digital lens.
The social impact of shrine creation through their visual capitulation. Their impact on where they are cited within the community in parallel to their digital presence in the rapidly expanding realms of the virtual world. The social and political context of photography and activism through creative practice.
His work also explores of the memorials he has photographed: attachments to trees, professional and traditional florist arrangements. Waterproofing methodologies, the use of imitation flowers and real foliage which often wilts rapidly. How self-built monuments develop and grow, seasonal and Birthday expansions. Variations between more rural roads and the city environment: high rise residential buildings and pedestrian barrier systems.
A photographer who delves into the impact of makeshift memorials. How they can divide communities, objected to by local residents and frequently removed. The health impact of marking the scene of a fatality, overcoming loss and disbelief.
Above Left: Ben
Above Right: Tree
All rights reserved Graham Smillie
Too many ‘Sex on the Beach’ for Tracey Emin, the ‘Shaggy’ years, Margate’ solution to an easy ride throughout the difficulties of her adolescence.
Sarah Locus stirred a ‘Cosmopolitan’ to remind her of the metropolis, the capital now she has moved to rural Norfolk.
The man who screen printed the stars from his down-town New York Studio; Andy Warhol, poured a ‘Manhattan’ over ice.
David Hockey throws back an ‘Americano’ he’s been in LA so long her can’t recall Yorkshire and his routes.
A ‘Russian Mule’ for Kandinsky, transporting all to the awe of his abstracts.
Judy Chicago passed a ‘Bloody Mary’ the first female artist to utilize menstrual blood within her work.
A few to many ‘Ginger and Cinzano’ for Frida Kahlo, hitting the bottle, backwash over her divorce from Diego Rivera.
‘Long Island Iced Tea’ in access, like everything else, including women for Jackson Pollock. Hopefully, no automobile accidents on the peninsular as he makes his way home.
Note: a fiction works, many of the artists featured were lost to the World many decades ago, only their great works remain.
So you’ve moved with the green revolution: recycling, re-using carrier bags and you endeavour to sort waste for compost. Due to lock-down you’ve reduced use of the vehicle and invested more time to walking and cycling. The next step: they want us girls to use re-cycled tampons, your first thought?
Someone else’s discharge! ew…ew…ew.
Your initial intention: to reduce your carbon footprint by all other means keep sanitary produce; new, pure and cleanly raped.
It’s time to re-think the matter of eco sanitary products, they are not what you imagine!
1.5 billion sanitary products are flushed down the lav every year in Britain. An average woman will use 11,000 sanitary items over her lifetime. It’s time to consider greener alternatives.
Okay, I understand recycled tampons are actually made from used tampons, but aren’t they less pure?
Wrong – many are actually made from organic cotton and often, unlike regular varieties, free from chlorine bleach. They frequently exclude rayon and chemically produced fragrance. If polymers are used, medical-grade is usually stated. Further claim to be hypo-allergenic, highlighting their superiority to standard produce.
Are there genuine environmental benefits?
So, so, many: regular tampons are around 90% plastic and ultimately not biodegradable, taking up space in landfill and the oceans of the planet. Green alternatives use cardboard applicators, paper wrappers and compostable film. Some utilise re-usable applicators which are purchased separately.
Any other plus factors?
There are animal cruelty-free and vegan alternatives, some donate to charities that act against period poverty and FGM.
Then there’s straightforward vanity: the packaging looks amazing. A luxury supplied in a 5-star hotel or first class lounge at the airport.
So are you with me?
Yeah, I’m with you, recycled tampons are for me and forever!
‘Silhouette; burnt orange’ by Charlotte Hodes
Photo: Joel Chester Fildes
The Loss is a short fiction works written by Alison Little. It was produced in responce to ‘Silhouette: burnt orange’ by Charlotte Hodes which was exhibited as part of The Errant Muse exhibition held at the VG&M in Liverpool.
Sunlight brandishes down on the desolate beach location, she lies stretched out on her front, body twisted towards the horizon of the sea. Hand raised above her eyes, blocking the sunlight attempting to obscure her vision.
Eyes scanning the spectrum for him, she has lost sight into the expanse of the ocean. Only out of sight she assumes, hidden between waves lashing against the rocks of the coastline. Her rear is arched slightly, enhanced by the slender fit summer dress. Knees encased by the warmth of the dry sands. Earlier, her feet had kicked up joyfully towards her rear, playfulness re-connected in adulthood, now tensed. Below her, the sands burn a deeper orange.
A hand crochet blanket, hours of pain, distraction-seeking hooked yarn, covers the sands she rests on. It was the only thing for her to do, removing her mind from the loss. There was no point in making any more baby clothes, she didn’t know what to do with the collection she had already made, laid out in the draw she had lined. They would decide in unison after the negotiated break.
Vision streaming further into the ocean, she could still not see him. They had waited four weeks since the miscarriage to get away, both needed to arrange time off work. Making the blanket had kept her mind occupied, kept the tears from flowing full force. They had come to Swanage in Dorset, easy to book a B+B at limited notice. The main town beach had been packed full of babies and children, grown into what their foetus would have once become. He had taken the initiative to suggest walking to a more remote beach around the coast. He was trying to be strong for her but he was grieving the loss in tandem.
Further, into the ocean, a longboat jammed full of tourists heads towards deeper waters. All the trips they would never take their unborn child on, the picnics they would never consummate, the family games they would never play. Into the abyss, the no-more, her hand fell onto her reduced stomach. A light tear joins her face, panic sets in, she couldn’t see him. What if she had lost him also, drawn out to the infinite seascape. As she is about to stand several petals drop down onto her smudged checks. Looking up, he is scattering wildflower petals over her, their eyes connect and they smile in unison. He joins her as they wrap into each other, minds and bodies link, they know everything will be okay again.
Charlotte Hodes has two further exhibitions later in the year:
Remember Me, Charlotte Hodes Papercuts & Ceramics Solo exhibition, National Centre for Craft & Design, 11 Jan – 22 March 2020
Most Admirably Improved by Art, Hestercombe, Somerset, 29 February – 28 June 2020
Dropped down from a disheveled Heaven
Tossed out of Godliness
Rejected from comfort provision for the afterlife
No longer good enough, surplus to requirements
Perhaps pushed out of a boot
Uphill reversing, then shoveled out the back way
Redundant of domestic interior requirements
Rendering green space urban wasteland
Alternatively, a body encasement
A wrap-around, makeshift coffin
A heroin-induced fatality
Disposed of under the extremities of degradation
But from the sinister tatters
We see a smiling face
From the angled geometrics
A striking grin works through
Turning the corners of our mouths
We smile back at the sinister grins face!
Sinister Smiles is a flash fiction works in response to the mattress shown in the image above. The image was originally posted on social media and the comment made helped to generate the literal works. Originally located in Everton Park, Liverpool, the mattress is no longer present and appears to have been disposed of by the authorities.
Greenery, the Guardian is the latest poem from Alison Little, it will be performed as part of Light Night Liverpool.
Greenery, the Guardian
Green surrounds, the greenest of green
Green forever, then, green some more
Long grass, a simple fragment of sky
I wake sober in the distant field
My thoughts now clear and renewed
I arise, to begin the mountain climb
As I ascend I encircle the summit
Singing aloud as I scale
Joy found sorrow at full volume
Green, green, everlasting green
I belt out the tune loudly
Slightly lost wondering upward
Mind cleared, direction undetermined
Green, green, everlasting green
Grand green, gracious green
Greens, fresh, that make you sober
Greens, clear the storms of the mind
Rise up higher through the horizon
Entwining route through the sky
The greenery is my guardian
Its riches absorbed and treasured
I question my prophecy
In eye-shot the end of the climb
Green, green, everlasting green
I embrace the summits tip
Looking down towards the valley
Storm crashing back into the mind
Final vision, the anguish of last night
The poem was written as a translation to Romance Sonambulo by Frederico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). The poem will be read tonight by Alison Little as part of the Light Night Liverpool. She will be reading at the event held at the Hornby Library, Liverpool City Library between five and six PM on Friday the 18/05/18.
Alison Little, the artist and writer behind many North West based Arts and the creator of this very blog to perform a reading at this weekend’s Sound City.
Sound City is the award-winning Metropolitan Festival set to take over Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle this weekend. The unequalled Festival presents an array of new music and the Arts, re-enforces Liverpool’s cultural heritage. The very best of new acts are to include ‘Slow Readers Club’ and ‘Low Island’ in addition to a variety of acts from all over Europe. Now, over a decade old the Festival is in its eleventh year and looks to be most anticipated to date.
The Unusual Arts Sourcing Company is set to take over the former Cains Brewery site. Named one of the Best things about Sound City 2017 they are back for the second year. We are to join in with life drawing, listen to poetry and watch the operatic performance over the two-day event. Tapas and an array of drinks available from the cafés and bars present in the newly transformed arts venue.
‘All the Fun of the Fair’ is an extract from the Novel ‘Casual Nexus’ which Alison is looking to publish in the autumn of this year. The novel follows a young girls journey from childhood into early adulthood encompassing all turns, many of which are ultimately tragic. The reading is to take place at 5:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday, the art form, a giant representation of a lobster to be present throughout both days.
The best on offer for this Bank Holiday weekend.
Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th of May, Cains Brewery, Liverpool.
Free Entry to Cains Brewery Village
Eyes Glazed Over is a fictional works, the events and characters are not based on real life.
Eyes Glazed Over
Beginning with an argument, just a brother, sister teenage disagreement. My brother Callum wanted to know where I had written down a phone number for a new customer for his window cleaning round, I told him I had put a square around it in the notepad. I not being able to find the phone number he became enraged, I shouted back as it wasn’t my fault, I had written down the details. The next thing I knew I was behind the kitchen door, with him on the other side. He slammed the door towards me and my hands went through the glass, as if suspended in time I looked at them on the other side of the window. The glass shattered into a thousand pieces, splintering across the kitchen and into the garden. More than an accident but it hadn’t been intentional either, but it was what was to happen next which was the most concerning. As I lye on the ground, I look towards my hands and wrists, lacerations torn across lower my arms, molecules of blood appearing like droplets dispensed from a pipette, multiplying a thousand times to fill the troths of the tears then pouring out over my arms and onto the glass fragments that covered the floor. I looked towards Callum and he towards me, picked up his ladder and his bucket and went on his way. A glazed of stare of nothingness, no emotion, no feeling, no reaction. That was the day I first knew Callum was really sick.
So what had Callum been like as a teenager? Switch back in time to one year earlier. He was the kind of big brother it was fun to have, someone to admire, friends we could share, bands we both liked, clubs we went to together and TV programs were we laughed simultaneously. He was one of the boys off the estate getting into the occasional fight, usually well deserved. A line of lovely girlfriends, Adela then Jenny, gorgeous girls and a pleasure to be around, delightful in more ways than I could name.
The best memory I have was when we had all gone to the fair at Wooburn Green, myself, Callum, Jenny, her sister Karen and quite a few others. There hadn’t been a fair on the Green for several years, in the late eighties it had been the scene of the fatal accident where a carriage on the Egg ride had become loose and broke away killing the occupants. At the fair, we asked the Egg Ride Operator what had happened? If he had left a gate open or not checked the mechanics before the ride was started. He explained that he had taken over the ride after the accident and that the man who had the ride originally had gone into hiding. The chain on the carriage had been shut, but even if it hadn’t been it wouldn’t have made much difference, the motion pressure of the ride would have kept the passengers in place. He showed us the mechanisms and he the only thing to check was if a coat or bag or perhaps a shoe had fallen into cogs and none had done. The fault had been put down to the fabrication and the Police were not prosecuting them for the fatalities they were actually looking to bring Man Slaughter charges against the Manufacturers.
His problem was that he couldn’t get anyone to go on the ride today, the Egg carriages just kept going round and round, the crowds from the Village Green Beer Gardens watching the empty motion with morbid fascination. In recognising that he was telling the truth we all went away to talk about what to do next. Callum then tried to rally all the lads around him saying they should all go on the ride and that nothing would happen. Some of them were in two minds, Chalky, one of his closest mates, his once joker friend was the most reluctant saying that they would be ‘Crazy’ to go on the ride. I went to Craig and I told him to leave it and I would sort things out. From there I went over to Karen, Jenny’ older sister to see if she would go on it with myself, but could she not spin the carriage upside down.
Karen came on the ride with myself and I enjoyed the experience without spinning upside down, rather a nice view of the Green, the Village and across onto the fields. After that Callum had no bother getting the others to come on with him, every single one of them going without question. Heads held slightly down, but with determination, even Chalky had lost his reluctance. Then all the adults that were drinking in the nearby beer gardens started to come over and asking questions about what had happened. He covered what had happened with the carriage and the Fair Ground Owners were, in fact, taking the manufactures to court themselves to try and reclaim the cost of the ride but it was likely to take years. They hadn’t wanted to because of the casualties but the ride had cost in excess of ten grand so it was too much money simply to write off. So the curse of the Egg ride was broken and much fun was had at the fair again.
So what had happened to Callum one year on, where had the fun-loving courageous, but fundamentally good brother gone? Jenny, his girlfriend had gone although she still cared about what happened to him she couldn’t be with him any longer. There had been narcotics usage but nothing too serious, just a few party drugs: weed and amphetamines. But Craig had changed mentally, on that day as I lye on the floor, the droplets of blood multiplying watching him walk away eyes glazed over, there was something severely wrong.
From the kitchen floor, I managed to get up and staggered through the house and out of the front door. From here one of my neighbours found me and got me in his car to take me to the hospital. I was sent through to see another nurse not so involved in the caring side of her profession. As she bandaged my hands she began to ask questions about why I had not gone to the nearer Accident and Emergency department at another hospital. She then began a long lecture on how it wasn’t fair for the staff and resources at Wycombe General Hospital to be stretched to the degree they were being.
On coming out of the cubical my Mum was there, on seeing the blood both my parents had rushed to the Hospital, on recognising that I was basically okay my Dad had gone straight to the Police Station. Mum then waited with me as I had to be X Rayed for glass and my cuts glued and stitched back together. When we were ready to leave she went to book a Taxi, a Police Officer came to interview me about what had happened. I started to explain what had happened where he had pushed to the door and the glass had smashed through my hands. The Officer then started to scream at me telling me I had said that he had pushed me through the window and I was now saying he pushed the door against me. Trying to clarify what had been said was no good, I then tried to cover what had happened with Callum when he had walked off with his eyes glazed over. He wouldn’t listen to a word then explained that he wasn’t ‘Nicking’ him for anything. In response to that, I informed him that I didn’t want him to ‘Nick’ him as he was ‘My brother’.
So what became of Callum? Well, everything had to get worse before it was to get better. He had developed an illness we commonly know as schizophrenia. This involved visions of things which were not real, disillusionment and paranoia. A short spell in a young offenders institution turns of rough sleeping this was eventually followed by a period in a mental health unit when he was able to start recovery and the correct medication. The nightmare of earlier years was over and the life of adapting to living with a mental illness was to begin. Callum has a nice life now, never married but he has a home and he works hard, visiting Art Galleries and shopping in Sainsbury’s on his weekends off work. Truth be told though, although he is a nice man with many good attributes, he is not the same man he would have grown into as a boy. Something in him was lost to Schizophrenia, a part of his mind was destroyed by the illness, a part which can never return.
Freedom from the Demons of the past was penned by Alison Little over the summer of 2017. It was performed by herself for National Poetry Day on the 28th of September at the Life Rooms in Liverpool. It was read again for Sefton Poetry Slam on the 4th of November, then for Liverpool Mental Health Week at the Brink.
Freedom from the Demons of the Past
The first demon that struck loudly on my terraced door
While still a tender age, I was only four
They took my eldest Brother
For his days there was not another
The Shelter he provided was no more
The second demon was now released and allowed to roam free
The Devil inside my next brother gained realm to harm me
He strove to set accidents up
Boiling water, a falling cup
He put an end to the childhood joy of dumb-diddle-dee
The third came as an extension of the previous, in entered his Wife
Overbearing in manner, she denied his ability to cause strife
Her mouth cast a stream of lies
An alter ego controlling family ties
Every day, through her work for the Police she endangers lives
The fourth was a rapist who plucked me from the Dance Floor
The motel room, he smothered me until I could breathe no more
Consciousness was lost although my muscles thought
A part of me gone that can never be re-bought
Section of the soul destroyed as my mind struggled not to go lar-lar
The fifth came in the form of a Special Branch Copper
His job to re-enact the attack, in his role he was a rotter
Dragging me out, I must mention
Rough sex his intention
Every day I must fear becoming the prey of another Special Branch Copper