Whilst in Oxford last week to move in to my new studio at Magdalen Road Studios I had a very bizarre and thoroughly compelling encounter.

I was staying at a friend’s house and whilst there, the proof of “Are There Any People Here?” arrived for me to check. John said, “my friend Gina would love to read that”.

We popped round to her house – she lives in a tower by the river, an amazing place full of arty things. As soon as she picked up the book and spotted that Rivesaltes is officially known as ‘Camp Joffre’ she went over to the mantelpiece and handed me a little figure of General Joffre (French WW1 hero) she’d recently picked up somewhere.

We were all taken aback – how brilliant is that? What a coincidence.

She requested I take some photos of him at the camp.

Due to packing up all our possessions for our move back to the UK, and getting our house ready to rent, time escaped me to visit the camp. On our last day though, I had a brain-wave, I could pick up the children at lunchtime and we could have one final meal out in France, their favourite, the Chinese Wok Bar! It happens to be on the way to the camp.

I decided to photograph the figure next to the original sign ‘Camp Joffre’, I always thought that it was in bad taste that it remained and thankfully it has been removed. I didn’t have much time to visit the other side of the camp, Ilots F and K, so had to take photos next to the army ‘No Entry, Military Terrain’ sign. They have recently created a massive mound of earth surrounding the camp, very steep and does its job well, every time I climbed it I rapidly plummeted to the ground. Helen and the children were in the car watching and worrying a little that I’d soon be stopped by an army patrol. How would I explain my actions?

It reminded me of the very first time I visited the camp with my video camera seven years ago, when a Gendarme actually did question me and sent me on my way. I feel I’ve come back to where I started, a very satisfying last visit… doing something a bit dodgy and completely inexplicable for the sake of art.


The book is printed and pre-orders posted.

In the end I raised enough funds for a limited edition of 50. My main concern was that it looks a quality object and the printers got there in the end.

So, thirty sold, another ten for the copyright libraries and publishers who gave permission to use quotes and the rest for my visit to New York and a show I’m having at Filament 14 (where my studio is in Oxford) at the end of September.

It’s been a long drawn-out process, there have been so many versions, in the end I stripped it down to the bare essentials and the final version is quite vague, I opted for a simple obscure title: “Are There Any People Here?” and let the photos speak for themselves without descriptions – hopefully enough to stimulate thoughts and emotions. The context arrives at the end of the book with the chronology and journal.

The end of a very long journey – it seemed right to end the project with a book, but now (due to some recent encounters) I think it may be the start of a new chapter.

These exciting encounters will follow in the next posts…