Neil came late to documentary photography after careers in the NHS, social housing and leadership academia, for which he was appointed CBE in the Queen’s honours list. Projects have included street and social documentary, which has been influenced by his career in public services. Projects have included Mustard Tree, a charity for homelessness, and The Other Blackpool, about life beyond the promenade of this iconic seaside town, for which he was made an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. His current project on living alone in the UK, As Long I Keep Busy, contributed to him being awarded an MA in Photography from Falmouth University.
Below are examples of his documentary practice, and this link will take you to more of this project. www.livingaloneuk.com There you can read Neil's text about each photograph and the subject before his camera.
Living alone is a world-wide social phenomenon. In the UK over eight million people live alone, almost twelve percent of the population, and the number is increasing. The main reasons for living alone are longer life expectancy and divorce. The challenges facing people who live alone include financial, potential isolation, unhappiness, and poor physical and mental health. As Long As I Keep Busy documents the lives of a sample of people who alone across the UK. Ten of the current thirty participants are presented here. The documentary comprises photographs of participants in their own homes, supported by summaries of their life stories to provide additional context.
Because feelings about living alone are unrelated to age, income, education, gender and ethnicity, I sought a diverse range of participants. In my conversations, I discovered that some have had challenging life experiences; some have established their lives and careers whilst others are seeking to establish theirs; and some have lost their life partner whilst others are still seeking one.
The participants who experience loneliness talked about the importance of the quality, rather than the quantity, of relationships, coupled with a desire for acceptance and integration; feelings that we too often conceal. Finally, I discovered that it is important to distinguish between living alone and being alone. I met some participants who feel positive about living alone, citing advantages such as personal freedom and control, and the opportunity to refocus their lives. These participants have also been included in the project.