Ponderosa

I am working on a new set of photos, taken in Sheffield’s Ponderosa park. Photos are online at Flickr. Here’s a description of my thinking behind this set:

Two years ago, my friend Hugh was attacked from behind while talking on his mobile phone, late at night on Commonside.

Several months later, I found a mobile lying on the pavement close to my house. I could tell it belonged to a student (there was a message on the screen from one of the candidates taking part in the Sheffield University Student Union Elections, reminding the owner to vote). I assumed it had dropped out of his pocket during a night of drunken over-indulgence. So I searched the contacts for “mum”, and phoned her, only to be told that she was sitting in hospital next to the phone’s owner. When his girlfriend came to collect it the next day, I asked whether he was OK. In obvious distress she said “No, he’s not. He has blood on his brain. He was punched just down the road from here, fell down and hit his head on a metal grate”.

I was deeply affected by this fleeting contact with somebody else’s life.

When subsequently I found an open rucksack and a lunchbox, under a tree in the Ponderosa, I was certain that it was the discarded side-effects of another mugging. I took it to the police station, hoping it might provide some evidence. The desk clerks seemed to think the fact that I’d bothered to take it in was faintly ridiculous.

Soon after that, in exactly the same spot, I was savaged by a police dog which was being used to sniff out a stolen purse.

This accumulation of incidents showed me a different side to this pleasant student neighbourhood. The peace and seclusion of the Ponderosa, the tranquil moments I enjoy there when walking the dog, are also ideal for muggers who go there at night to divvy up their loot after jumping on drunken students or rifling through their houses. Dealing with the police had left me feeling powerless and ineffective, so instead I started to photograph the detritus, evidence, discarded and unwanted traces of night-time crime.

Technically, these pictures differ from many of my others because they are shot with a point-and-shoot camera, and not edited in any way (normally I will make some adjustments to contrast and sharpness, as well as often cropping photos, before uploading them). They are also uploaded at original camera resolution. What they have in common with the majority of my photos is that they are taken direcly as they are seen “in the wild”, nothing is posed or re-arranged to the camera.