I'm filling out a UCAS form to apply for college in Britain and the personal statement bit has got me thinking again about the photographer who made me want to take photographs (and spend a ridiculous amount of money on my first camera). His name is Casper Dalhoff and I first saw his series 'The Dark Side' in the slightly incongruous surroundings of the Eyre Square Shopping centre as part of the World Press Photo 2003 exhibition.
The series was set in a sort of psychiatric village in Sølund, Denmark, where the 220 residents are cared for by 550 staff. A place like this can exist due to Denmark's amazing legislation of 1998 which dictates that disabled people be treated as equals to the able bodied, giving rise to the idea that the system adapts to the people, rather than the other way around as is the norm (as is the case this country, for example).
Seeing these for the first time I half didn't know what to make of them, but I was completely drawn in. I'd never even really noticed photography before. Printed big, they were disorienting; off-kilter and sometimes outright blurry and obscure they seemed to picture a fractured state of being. But for all that they somehow still held for me an optimism that was more real and true for all the blemishes, the splashes of condensation on the lens and the wonky angles. When I look back at them (which I do on a regular basis) I see something new in them, and something new in my own photographs. At first I think I took more inspiration from the basic style, the tilted angles mainly. But at some point, I think probably last year when I was introduced to another Danish photographer named Krass Clement, I started taking cues from the emotional aspect of the images.
I've yet to properly work on anything as journalistic as this, but I can't really think of any higher purpose for a photographer than this kind of work. If I ever produce something that even approaches the emotional weight of this series I'll be happy. But I don't think I will, and that's ok too, as long as somebody is doing it. For the moment anyway I'm content to look at these pictures.
This last one was my favourite one of all, partly because when I saw it I was immediately reminded of a recurring dream I used to have as a child, a dream which I funnily enough found myself describing to someone only last week.
All images © Casper Dalhoff