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Brockie the Dog with Stick, from the series 'What Happened Here' by Tim Gander

1 September 2022

What Happened Here came about almost by accident.

Personal projects have become increasingly important to my professional photographic practice as they allow me to exercise my creative skills outside of the constraints of a client brief.

For several years I’d shot personal work using the same digital cameras I used for client work, and couldn’t understand why they weren’t giving me the fulfilment I was seeking until I realised that the workflow was too similar to my paid work.  And so in 2017, with no particular project in mind, I decided that my next project should be shot on film.

Not having much budget at the time, I asked around my contacts to see if anyone had any old film languishing in a freezer drawer they might be willing to sell me. Helen Stone, Andrew Spiers and David Hoffman all stepped forward with offers, and I ended up with a huge mixed bag of film types, from black and white to colour transparency in 35mm and 120 formats. With some of the stock having expired in the late 1990s (some having been manufactured in the former East Germany) I decided to try a few rolls out at a derelict industrial site in my home town of Frome, Somerset, known locally as Saxonvale. I figured that if the film was no good, at least I hadn’t committed a lot of time to a lost cause.

However, within a few initial visits I was seeing something interesting emerge, and what started as a bit of fun turned into a two-year project with a darker narrative than I had anticipated.

The photo of Brockie the dog was taken one morning when I made a visit to discover that the travellers and homeless people who had been living on one section of the site had been evicted. Rather than poking my lens into their distress, I looked for a picture I could make which while not necessarily telling the story in itself, would allow me to illustrate the situation in a more oblique way. Brockie was one of two dogs belonging to a pair of travellers, and oblivious to the drama which had unfolded, he did what dogs do and played with the biggest stick he could find while his owners considered their next move.

If I remember correctly, this was the same morning I helped one of the evictees shift their caravan to another part of the site. That evening I was shooting a fundraiser for a client and found myself in a roomful of multi-millionaires. It was a surreal contrast.

This shot was taken on expired Kodak Portra using a Canon EOS 1N and 40mm lens, a combination I used for many of the 35mm images in the project, while for the medium format film I used a Bronica SQ-A.

Tim Gander is a freelance corporate communications photographer based in Frome, Somerset, taking pictures for business client websites, brochures and press releases.

My photographic career started in newspapers in the late 1980s, but by the early 2000s I knew I could no longer make a grown-up’s wage from newspaper work, so shifted across to what I do today. When I’m not creating ‘corporate content’, I undertake personal projects which to date have included the Frome Livestock Market, Found Notes (a huge collection of notes, lists and illustrations found by my friend David Evans) and I’m currently working on a black and white landscape project looking at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

What Happened Here is the first of my projects to make it to book form and can be purchased via my website www.takeagander.co.uk You can follow my ongoing personal projects via my Instagram

See more work by Tim Gander

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