For a while I went through a phase where every film I sent though the camera was cross processed, by which I mean developed in the wrong chemistry. if it was film for prints, then it went through transparency chemistry, if it was transparency, then it went in to C41. I was just copying a strand on flickr but it suited my mood of not being able to fit in anywhere. At the time I took this image, I was incredibly unhappy. I made a point of doing as much walking before and after my working day as was possible. Instead of taking a bus to Highbury, I would walk there or to arsenal. Both ways took me over Clissold park. taking the camera helped spin the journey out, taking a clunky medium format camera that only had 12 shots on the roll meant that a lot of thinking needed to take place before the shutter was pressed. it was ideal. And pretty much every photograph I took was of something hemmed in or dead, I have a lovely picture of a squirrel prone in a gutter taken at much the same time.
I like the place in Clissold park where the deer enclosure is. I like the deer who are quite skittish considering the amount of people that they see, though maybe the fact we are in hackney makes them more so, we can be dangerous. the actual negative is very orange and there was some post production in Photoshop to desaturate and push other colours, but the image got the light quite well. The orange cast made me think it looks less rural, a queasy polluted sky which contrasts with the tree and the church it can look a little pastoral, if you ignore the fence. People are often surprised when I say I took it in my local park in Stoke Newington.
I like the way the deer is looking directly into the camera, isolating it in the centre makes it all the more pointed. The deer actually looked at me for quite some time, I have three shots. there is a temptation to see some empathy in that look but I don’t believe that animals have feelings that we can understand in human terms. the deer is wary looking but then they are easily spooked, perhaps it also felt safe enough to have a good hard look itself because of the fencing, but that is as anthropomorphic as I am prepared to get when it comes to venison.
I printed out the image and left it at that until I was making work for an exhibition and I had lost access to some equipment I needed. I had learned a new technique and I found three pieces of wood and they were asking for the picture. using the panels makes it into an triptych for an alter and the deer which had been kind of symbolic for the way I felt hedged in and at the mercy of other people’s politics and emotional baggage has turned itself into a little Jesus.
Once secured to the board the deer gains a whole slew of new meanings I had not ever really openly considered. As a print, it looks vulnerable, but on the panel, gets a kind of meaning, a kind of deer/Jesus. It makes me wonder how much medieval artists expected their audience to consider that if Jesus died for our sins, not accepting this sacrifice would mean that they were in for an even more excruciating time.
When I took that photograph I was expressing my sadness but I didn’t show it. In attempting to display it, I turned it into something else.