As a Canadian living in London, it’s not an uncommon question – indeed, London is a very cosmopolitan city with many people being drawn to the city from elsewhere, either from different parts of the UK or abroad. The man serving me was born in Whitechapel in East London – a proper Cockney, he said – then lived in Twickenham, south London. However, he even acknowledged his accent wasn’t particularly cockney or posh Twickenham.
Where we come from can be a very multi-layered question. On one level, it is asking where we physically come from. On another, it can be about our identity and culture, which is often bound to where we physically come from as well as a shared experience. Yet another level is our emotional and spiritual arena.
I often find the question hard to answer as I come from Canada and have a shared experience and culture with other Canadians. However, I also have a shared experience and culture in London. Where I come from can also be from where I left in the morning to where I end up or the destination of my journey – like arriving at the photography to buy some supplies.
As a photographer, this is also a very interesting question as I am taking photos of life passing me by and the moments I see. Being a photographer is, in a way, capturing where I am which then quickly turns into where I was coming from. So, the question of where I come from is also a question of where I have been.
While photography can be seen as capturing the moment and perhaps focused and reflecting on what has been by the images we capture, there is also an element of where I am going. The past does influence where I am going and what I am seeing, but without having a sense or an eye on at least the present, it is very easy to get stuck and not see the nuances and changes in life.
As an artist, my photography has changed and progressed over the years. I would worry if it didn’t. With reflection and contemplation on what I have taken and listening to where I am going, my art changes and possibly matures. So the question of where I come from transforms into where I am going to – and I take photos along the way. Both questions are inseparable, really.