Paul Garcia lives a relatively secluded life on a farm in the North-West of England. Speaking with him, it becomes apparent very quickly that he has a deep passion for the world of objects and what they have to say about our collective social and cultural history. His photography can be seen as a dialogue between himself and the inanimate worlds he enters into. He speaks of how much of history is passing, pretty much ignored, with nothing to document its existence, let alone celebrate it, which may seem strange when the world has never been more photographed. Waiting for the laborers on a construction site to clock off for the day, before entering unseen, his trusty Leica M6 is the only witness to his personal journeys of discovery. On these excursions into abandoned spaces, Garcia tries to slow down, to discover new ways of seeing. He considers the skill required as a photographer is to slow people down enough so that they might start to ask themselves questions about what they are viewing. He also talks about how photography in general has become worryingly audience led and no longer a genuine personal expression, which is the undeniable nature of his own work. So much so, that he develops relationships to certain objects he has come across on his travels from Japan to the Arctic circle. He speaks longingly about a rusty oil drum he plans on revisiting. “I’m irrationally excited to see whether this drum is still there and what it looks like one year later.” The following text is written by Garcia, who says that his ambition in life is to survive the end of the world and just take pictures of the crap left behind.
I am an artist, based in Liverpool, England. I work with enamel paints on aluminium; a slow, layered process grounded in routine, repetition and refinement. They each take several years to complete. The camera started as a short-cut to collecting colours and compositions, but gradually became something different. I shoot most days. The joy of being a non-commercial photographer is that you can escape the results; so a photograph is no longer about what I see, but what I felt when I saw it.
My fascination with mechanical processes, decay, and the slow loss of form might appear as a convenient intellectual conceit, but living on a farm, you notice daily deterioration and decomposing more than most… it is hard not to when it is one of your own walls collapsing. This best explains the empathy I share for things around me. A ripped piece of plastic trapped in the branches of a tree is felt as though it is wrapped around me. Of course, the curse of the photographer is not to intervene, so I’ll watch the tree adapt or weaken, or the plastic weather to nothing, and attempt to recover a beauty somewhere in between. I appreciate the camera will never reverse the process or stop the world from spinning, but in these moments I can at least pause and reflect.
We are all inherently pattern forming and will always look for structure/understanding to make our environment safe. Given a smashed piece of glass, we each instinctively calculate the point of impact – but if pieces are removed or more widely scattered, it becomes a more difficult puzzle to solve. The photographer’s aim is to compensate for this loss of balance by shifting their own. This is how I understand composition; I am not taking, or adding, simply repositioning and reflecting something of myself as a counterweight. A little like turning the kaleidoscope back to the simplest point.
I have always been drawn to places without people, whilst looking for traces where people have been – probably because I grew up surrounded by industrial wasteland, derelict buildings and illegal fly-tipping. Now I travel the world to find the same. I am only trying to recreate where and when I was happiest as a child. Bubble-wrapping the innocence so the cynicism doesn’t crush it. I work quietly and patiently. When I find a space where I feel comfortable or something catches my eye, I’ll slow, sit down and spend time. The idea is to distil the essence of what made me first stop within a single shot. The more time and feeling you invest in each image, the more the viewer will inevitably draw out. The narrative exists in the details and the personality. The image of the chair tied to the tree is a good example; you can tell it hasn’t been sat on in years, not simply because of the dirt, but as the tree has grown, the rope has shortened to lift the two front legs. The tree has even started to slowly grow around and consume it. It becomes a beautiful parable of the relationships between the inanimate, the natural and our failed ambitions and interventions. Another interesting shot is the decorative herringbone bricks laid at the exit of a car park. The cars can only turn left. The repeated action of the tyres has distorted the pattern, yet over time, the bricks have slowly realigned themselves laterally instead. There is something oddly reassuring about the cyclical nature of order and chaos.
Yesterday I saw a section of torn card on the street. It had been ripped in an odd, unpredictable and wonderfully elegant way; in one direction, then the other, before being flipped. You could see the front and the back. The position of the two holding bricks should have been parallel, but the strength of wind had clearly lifted and shifted the back brick… causing the twist… causing the rip. The fascinating thing is, if the card was wet before it ripped, the card would just tear around the brick, if the card was dry, the wind required to shift the brick would have blown the rest of the card away. You are left believing it was somewhere between – damp – but a perfect and extraordinary dampness. Utterly unique, and yet it happened there and then on the side of the street. When you start looking in this way; untangling the processes involved, the properties of the materials and the complexities of all these relationships, you realise just how much of our ordinary and mundane environment is magical. It is just how we chose to see it. This is not an image I can share yet, it might not even develop, but it highlights the fact that the photograph itself is nothing compared to slowing down and caring enough to notice.
I have used the same well-worn Leica M6 camera for most of my life. It has a few age-related issues that I work my way around – much like any friendship – yet it remains a perfect fit for my hand and never lets me down. The consistency and continuity that comes from shooting the same camera/film over a lifetime is important to how I edit and publish the work. Building a composite view of the world is more important to me than single images. The website is made of grids. Shots are often taken several years apart from different parts of the world; Japanese building sites sit next to Arctic wilderness and European industrial estates – yet work as a coherent whole through the likeness of structure, colour and human nature.
All images can be found in two recent publications. Blindhaed is a split project with my partner and Nines is a foam box filled with oversized postcards in the style of my website pages. Please contact me for more details.