Knowledge is only rumour until it lives in the bones.
The Desk Project
My desk was bought in 1988 from a secondhand furniture warehouse in Hull, on its last day of business. It was one of only two pieces left in the vast space and I loved it as soon as I saw it.
It's a twenties office desk that has been lovingly restored at some point in its life, with a polished top and brass drawer handles. I bought it for the princely sum of five pounds at four o' clock on a wet Wednesday afternoon and, had I not done so, it was destined for the tip in one hour's time, as the rented unit had to be cleared by five. The gentleman helped me manoeuvre the huge, heavy piece of furniture onto the car park outside and found me a tarpaulin to cover it from the downpour, whilst I hurriedly rang around for a van to transport it home.
The desk has since survived six home moves and doesn't look quite as smart as it first did, but it has been in use every day and is as much a part of my family's life as the dining room table or the pancheon of bread rising on the hearth. It has served as a sideboard for celebration buffets, an impromptu baby changing table, a vantage point for the cat to snarl at the birds outside, a gift wrapping centre, a nursery for seedlings, a sewing area and much, much more, as well as being my home desk.
I began to take photographs documenting the desk's ever changing surface in the early 1990's as I watched one of my children knelt upon a chair creating fields, pens and sheds from Duplo, the top quickly transforming into a rural landscape filled with toy animals. Lego, Playmobil scenes, colouring, card creations and board games became a part of the desk's history, recording the stages of the children that surrounded it, but time passed, the children grew into wonderful adults who flew the nest and there seemed no need to photograph it any longer. After all, what kind of person purposefully takes pictures of the clutter on their desk?
It took one of my late neighbours to begin the process again. In her latter months, she struggled to walk the few yards from her house to mine, but was determined to continue her 2.00p.m daily 'bit of fresh air' for as long as she could. When she arrived at my garden wall, she would sit exhausted, too breathless to speak and always grateful for a glass of water, before beginning the epic journey back. At her funeral, her husband commented that she always enjoyed seeing the things I had on my desk as she sat getting her breath back. I was humbled that my collected ephemera had given her such pleasure, and figured that if she enjoyed the simple arrangements of whatever I happened to be busy with on a given day, then others might also. So, I began to take pictures again.
They aren't a commentary on anything and no explanation is given; each image simply shows what my desk looked like at mainly 2.00p.m. (but not always), on the days I took the pictures - I'm sometimes away, sometimes nothing changes, or sometimes I forget!
In memory of a lovely lady who was once my neighbour.