Tomorrow will be my first visit to the Tower for over a week (due to other commitments) and I’m very keen to begin work. I have now been given security clearance, which means I will be allowed access to some areas unhindered. I will also be visiting the restricted areas of Byward Tower with the Tower’s Historic Buildings Curator, Jane Spooner.
When I was a student of photography at Brighton University one of my tutors told me that a good project revolves around one thing above the act of making the photographs – that one thing is access. We all have an innate interest in the areas that are out of bounds or off-limits and this interest is what drives the majority of photographers. I know that at some inner level my practice is driven by a childish sense of exploration – the camera is my excuse to wander around inner-city areas of wasteland or the liminal spaces on the edge of towns.
To gain access to a space normally off limits feeds a sense of discovery and exploration that is tinged with a sense of the exotic. It allows the photographer to bring back evidence of a place as yet unseen, however ‘everyday’ that place may be to the people that have constant access: for example Lewis Hines incredible photographs of the building of the Empire State Building (1930-31). His access to the towering heights of this massive construction gave us images of the men whose everyday workplace was the maze of girders hundreds of feet above New York City.
On my first visits to the Tower, as I wandered around with the crowds of tourists, I would see the red-ropes and the ‘No Entry’ signs and wonder what lay beyond.