4.I met John, the Ex- Prisoner, 'I Am Your Mirror' PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT
Extract from 'I am your Mirror' photography book ...
John, is the forth stranger than I met in London.
I call him the Ex-Prisoner.
He answered to my advert online and agreed to be part in my project. He spent four years in prison.
I put an advert on gumtree.com, in the section ‘ communities’.
I was receiving a good response, when, after 10 days, they banned me,I was looking for people with obsession, fears and sickness.
They saw something strange in my headlines, I don't know why they banned me.
I had to stop to use gumtree, it was a shame.
My first idea was to photograph myself and twelve strangers that I would find through the Internet.
These strangers, would be free to choose a time and place to be photographed. They could express themselves as they wished, and could be anonymous, or not. I asked the strangers to look at the camera as if a mirror.
John sent me an email, saying that he likes the idea and wanted to meet me somewhere, close where I live. He told me to meet him in Finsbury Park.
He texted me on Friday, half an hour before 2 pm.
That day, he was coming to London.
He would have picked me up, with his van, from Finsbury Park.
He gave me address and a place, where to wait for him.
I told him that all was perfect and that I would wear black colours and that I had long dark hair.
He didn’t know me, who I am.
I went to Finsbury park and waited for him.
I saw a van approaching, it was him.
When he saw me, waiting for him, in that weird corner behind the bus station, he opened the door of his van, asking me to jump in, without stopping, and that is what I did, without any thinking.
I jumped in the van.
Sat on the seat.
Put the seat belt on.
At the beginning, I felt not very comfortable, there was no one word coming up from my mouth and there was me and him, in a van, going somewhere.
It was strange meeting a stranger like this, but despite all the crazy feelings inside me, we introduced ourselves.
'Hello I am Lore!' - I said
'Hi, I am John' - he said
Nothing else for few minutes.
I don't normally act in this way.
I am , often, more talkative.
I take control of the situation, but that day I was feeling less in control and I let things running naturally.
He had a serious face, bold, with no hair.
He looked tall and big, middle age, more than 50 years old.
The van was messy and dirty, probably he uses it for work, that was my impression.
He looked scary but he smiled at me.
After few minutes, he asked me if I wanted to drink something, he bought some cans of beers. He had them in a plastic bag, underneath the seat.
I said 'Yes, why not? I like beers'.
I took one, opened it and drank it.
J.'You have a friendly and pretty face, a simple one. Where do you come from?' he said.
L.'I am from Italy', I answered.
J.'Also you look open minded, no many people jump in my van as you did without knowing me'...then, he laughed...
L.'I know. I am a special one'. I said, smiling.
The ice was broken.
He began to talk about his family.
He lives with a woman who has a child from another man.
He is not happy with her because they are continuously arguing.
He complained a lot, he has enough and can't stand the situation anymore, trying desperately to solve all his problems but without success.
He met her when gets out of jail and he fell in love with her.
He told me that he has been in prison for four years for robbery and that experience in prison, was the best thing that could ever happen to him, because he changed completely, and wanted to live a more happy life.
We decided to take some pictures of him where the prison was.
That was his suggestion.
I was a bit puzzled, how could we access to the prison?
We reached the prison, North London. He parked the van.
I rushed, took my camera out and took a few shots of him using the prison as background but we were immediately stopped by the security men, we needed to have permission.
The security men approached me, obviously I was that one with the camera, telling me to leave.
Knowing myself, I insisted.
I, even showed my press card, saying that I was doing a photo - journalistic project, about prisons in London, trying to convince them. It was a lie.
It wasn’t enough, I had to ask permission to the people in charge of the prison and wait for their answer.
We ended up to leave the prison.
John told me to move on the back of the prison.
We could get some shots there.
On the back, there was a long and big wall and a park ...
He said - You know? It takes courage, it takes time, it takes hard work but it is possible to build yourself as you like, again and again'
It took me all my life.
'How was your experience in prison?' I asked.
'Shit! 'He replied.
'When you are in prison the time stops. Food is bad and you don't have sex. The first thing I thought when I gets out of jail was I want to make love and have some tasty food'.
I have never thought that this is what a "free" man thinks when gets out of jail. Have the desire for simple things.
'What is a prison?' - I asked. 'Is the so called reality/society in which we live a prison?'
'Of course it is', he said to me ...
...... to be continued
by Loredana Denicola
A layout of the book is ready (256 pgg, text & black and white pictures). Hopefully the book will soon be available. Limited Edition. I am looking for funding.
'How I met my strangers', I am your Mirror' photography project .
©Loredana Denicola 2017/2018, All right reserved.
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