Lottie Davies feature on BBC News: One man's fictional journey across Britain

BBC News | In Picture, February 14, 2020

Photographer Lottie Davies's latest work documents a fictional journey across Britain, from the south-west of England to the far north of Scotland.


The work comprises photographs, short videos and a diary, which combine to portray a journey taken soon after World War Two.


Davies initially created the character of William Henry Quinn for a short performance piece she wrote for actor Samuel J Weir in 2014.


"He didn't have a first name at that point and it wasn't clear where he was going or why but he was walking and had things on his mind," she says. "The name Quinn is somewhat in homage to the character of Daniel Quinn in Paul Auster's novel City of Glass, a man wandering through the streets of New York City, looking to erase his past and find his identity.


"My Quinn, William Henry, is a hybrid of my friends, strangers, pure fiction - and of course elements of myself." The work sets out to explore the way both landscape and memory changes over time and how trauma creates a "constant stream of people left untethered in the world."


The final story only came together once the photographs had been created.


"Quinn's journey itself was loosely plotted from the beginning," Davies says. "I knew he was travelling from Cornwall to the far north of Scotland but the 'why' definitely evolved, and occasionally shifted as the photographs and films were made. "The feeling of dislocation and untetheredness which Quinn experiences, and which I wanted to make solid in some way, seems to be one which has become part of public discourse over the past few years thanks to the political situation we find ourselves in currently.


"The shocking images of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean, which the news has been full of, the columns of people fleeing the conflict in Syria on foot, carrying their children and all their belongings, the increase in homelessness in our own country and elsewhere, political divisions across the country and the globe, environmental collapse - upheaval in every sphere of human society - all these things coalesced as I was making Quinn and seem now, to me at least, to end at the rather flimsy question: what is happening to the world?


"I have intended Quinn to be an 'everyman' despite his particular and specific story - prosaically, we are all on a journey and often alone with it. "On an emotional level, I wanted to see Quinn in remote and sometimes lonely locations, ones which allow for contemplation but at the same time provide a challenge be that through weather or distance or geography.


"I am attracted to strikingly beautiful places, of course, and locations which are remarkable in some way, such as the abandoned slate-mine village of Cwmorthin, in [Gwynedd,] north Wales, and the remote beaches of the Scottish Highlands.


"Quinn finds solace in walking over the land as I'm sure many of us do."


Quinn by Lottie Davies can be seen at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, 14 February to 31 May 2020.


All photographs courtesy of Lottie Davies