After practising both medicine and photography for 34 years I stopped working as a doctor in 2007, leaving the NHS for the world of art.
Inspired by John Berger’s book A Fortunate Man, the story of a dedicated country doctor illustrated by the evocative photography of Jean Mohr, my first serious photographs were of similarly committed general practitioner colleagues working in inner-city Sheffield during the 1980s.
I went on to photograph aspects of the exemplary health service in Cuba and of life there, initially combined with text for educational and political purposes. Finding that the images spoke for themselves, in the 90s I began to exhibit them in their own right.
The loss of my young niece to a brain tumour around this time caused me to reflect on my medical and photographic practices, and on the nature of the relationship and interdependency between the two. For some years death and dying, experience of which as a doctor gave me privileged access to this difficult subject, became a predominant theme in my photographic work, notwithstanding the taboos associated with the depiction of mortality.
More recently I have been exploring and presenting observations of personal and external space, and my perceptions of the world as I find it. Atmospheric images that can talk of absence – buildings may be vacated, rooms empty – yet often with signs of human presence in the frame.
I do not always know what it is that precisely captures my gaze at the time, or why. It is something to do with recognising a moment or situation and its meaning, and seeing that this would speak as a photograph. The meaning may be clear or more hidden and open to interpretation. It might be ambiguous, or even ironical. My understanding of the images that I make and the connections between them is work in progress.
While earlier work mainly sought to document ‘facts’, my newer photographs are more likely to pose questions than seek to provide answers, and are often, dare I say, nuanced. They represent a response to emotions and feelings from what I see before me, and usually contain more beneath the surface than immediately meets the eye.
Sadly, Paul died from kidney cancer in December 2020.