As a non-smoker – you know the kind, Mr Smug who has never had a tobacco product in his mouth – working on a project about smokers may seem perverse, to say the least. Afterall I know nothing of the professed ‘ pleasure ‘ in smoking so what could I have to say?
occasionally I have been envious of smokers. There is a nonchalance and style in their handling of a cigarette that is beguiling to the non-smoker. But what I have noticed, particularly in these frenetic times, is the sense of tranquility and space constructed by, and enjoyed by, the smoker.
To me, the impatient man, there is a lot to be said for that ‘time stops still moment’. The smokers fermata if you like. Nothing else matters. The daily grind stops for a fag – and for my American cousins that is not what you think it is.
Being generally a reticent sort of person, at least not one that readily integrates with strangers, the social aspect of smoking appeals to me too. Smokers talk amongst themselves in their forced isolation from non-smokers in modern England. I have a friend, for example, who uses his smoking habit to pick up women. “They are always standing outside in smoking areas and it’s easy to spark a conversation” he says. Dubious motives but you get the point.
It is the elegance of the smokers as they hold their cigarette, it’s particularly woman smokers who do this, and the sense of other-worldliness that I have tried to capture in my work.
What I have not captured of course is the other side of habit. The smell of tobacco on clothes and breath, ashtrays – not to mention the obvious health hazards of smoking.
As a nod towards a health warning I have framed all my smokers images with a black line. By default I used to do this years back to ‘hold ’ the image in a frame but in this case it’s that, as well as… well you can guess.
This project isn’t finished. It’s unlikely to be so. I’m sure people wont stop smoking so there is plenty for me to observe and capture.