What's real ?

On Thursday 7th October I was on my way to a posh poet's breakfast, to celebrate National Poetry Day when I got hit by a car and thrown from my bike. I spent the day in hospital, left in the evening rush hour with stitches in my face, a limp, cuts and grazes, and I now have a black eye.

It got me thinking about photography and self-portraiture. As a photographer I am usually happier on the safer side of the lens, the one where I enter the story from a distance and where I capture and freeze the rapid skidding moments in front of me. My portraits are often posed but I like to think there is a moment when the sitter settles in to his or herself, the precise time when the personality expresses itself in the relaxed musculature of the face.

I knew I needed a record of my damages as a result of my fall. Here's another image before the bruise fully came out. Am I happy in it or just smiling for the camera ? I include both photos here as although the wounds are real the feelings I experienced are complex and it needs more than one self portrait to express this complexity; the immense gratitude at still being alive, the terror at being trapped under the front of a car, the sorrow I felt at seeing my mother's desperation when she walked in to A and E, the total joy at being loved and looked after by old friends, the extensive appreciation I so very seldom feel for the beautiful broad expanse of life itself, my anger at car drivers in general...the list goes on.

One of my favourite photographers is Nan Goldin whose work is an exciting and challenging mix of autobiography and voyeurism. An image of hers that has always stuck with me is Nan, One Month After Being Battered. It was taken a month after her then boyfriend assaulted her as both a physical and emotional reminder of the cost of the relationship she was in. My injuries do not compare to hers, however needing to keep a record of all the changes and chapters we live is something I do share with Goldin.

There is something quite special about being forced to do nothing or very little. These few housebound days have helped me realise that being a photographer means to be in the constant process of writing a story continually re-telling itself.