By Sandy Coffey
Thoughts and the people who think them have always fascinated me. I spend my life, professionally and personally, questioning and digging deeper. And I try to do this without judgment. It is why I became a photographer. It gets me closer to the essence of it all. I often wish that I could just not be interested, just to take people at face value and appreciate that, but my curiosity is stronger than most of my other emotional components. So, in an attempt to use both my curiosity and my photography, I decided to embark on a journey that has left me both enriched and feeling very privileged.
Some very brave individuals opened their hearts and their thoughts to me and then agreed to have their photographs taken for this project. What you see here today is the result of their willingness to trust me with their inner thoughts. It is one thing chatting about thoughts on life and an entirely different thing having it put up on public display. I have a lifelong respect for bravery – both in thought and action – being able to face emotion and act instinctively. We are, after all, the sum of our emotions. I found this boldness in abundance.
These deeply philosophical questions that I asked should normally be reserved for a late night, whisky filled after dinner conversation – and not at 10 o’clock on an arbitrary Monday morning in-between meetings. But somehow, their truth about life and death was able to emerge. And this is only because I seem to have unintentionally collected deep thinkers – minds that are alive and ready to be challenged.
I am often asked how I chose my participants. It was easy. I began with about 10 people that I wanted to know more about, and whom I found both intriguing and compelling, and from there, then my list grew organically. Many people suggested others and this is how the collection developed. And I still don’t feel finished with it.
I am convinced more than ever, that everyone has something to add to life. I interviewed a wide range of people – from some very successful business people, an extraordinary Doctor specializing in stem cell research, a highly respected spiritual leader, a wonderful grandmother, and a beggar who has his home on the verge between St Georges, and Albany Roads. And the list goes on.
The installation of this exhibition is such that each head and shoulder photograph is bigger than life size, which urges the viewer to interact with the subject on an intimate level. The interview is published alongside the image. All the participants were photographed in the same way, with the same background and lighting. This created the necessary democratic platform.
The questions I asked everyone are questions I have asked myself over and over again – often with different answers as I make my way through life.
I would like to thank the Ron Belling Gallery - Dorothea Moors, Robyn Sharwood and Simmie Mpofu. They allowed me to use their gallery as a working studio, and their collective support has astounded me. Thanks too, to Stephen at Stephen Walker Digital, for spending many hours printing the portraits. His quality and meticulous attention to detail is unrivalled.
And then finally, to all the participants of this exhibition. I am a far better person for having met and spoken to you all. Thank you for your time and for your honesty. I have renewed hope in the human race.