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Photography: Paper, Color, Digital on Paper.
This image is part of a larger body of work, titled 'Exile'.
The Exile series was shot in the spring of 2017 in rural Sweden. It was a series that arose from what now feels like a dream, but what then felt like a nightmare. After wedding my British-American wife in 2016, the British Home Office unjustly denied my spousal visa to re-enter the United Kingdom—the country I had called home the previous eight years. The appeal process, we were told, would take anywhere from 4-18 months, during which time I could not return to our British home. My wife and I took the difficult decision to temporarily relocate to another European country (which was easily allowed through her British passport under key EU laws).
Our temporary ‘home’ in Sweden came to us by chance, in the flurry of researching economies, linguistic barriers, and housing that would take us and our three small dogs. In the winter haste, we found an isolated home on a hill in the woods in wolf country.
There was fairy tale everywhere.
The desolate landscapes of Sweden, a country with four species of tree throughout its woodlands, and the falun-red-painted houses and outbuildings, which throwback to a 17th-century tradition, set the scene for entering our own type of fairy tale.
The overcast skies and river ice floes reflected back our unease; yet through this unease, I began to take pictures, and to set the scenes that allowed me to enter even deeper into the already dreamlike world in which we found ourselves. Crows appeared. Naked, vulnerable bodies appeared. Forests grew indoors.
Yet, models cancelled; props didn’t arrive; shots didn’t go to plan. My wife fell in a frozen river on Easter; one of our dogs nearly died. Every time I thought I had the thread of the story, it shifted. There was fear and there was magic. Our elderly Swedish neighbour, a 70-year-old spiritual medium/painter, appeared to me in an actual dream; she said not to worry about the story—that once all the photos were taken, the story would be clear. Ease settled into my bones again, that is, until my wife fell into the river…. Yet, it was that evening, discussing the day’s events, that the word ‘exile’ was uttered by three of us at the dinner table, and the moonlight illuminated what we all suddenly knew. The series, every photograph, was Exile: the washed-out colours and the bleak landscapes all created the dreamlike reality. Doris, our neighbour, was right; it would make sense once the photographs were taken. The juxtaposition of unrelated elements created the story; the ambiguous, convoluted and yet appropriate nature of a dream came to life in what was our own exile.