The Face of Money (2014)
Consider the question: 'what is money?' In the most basic terms of course, it is the slips of paper and small pieces of metal which we use to buy things. But although we all have a keen understanding of it on one level, and our lives are intimately bound up with how much of it we have, how much we must work to have it, and so on, there are, I think, some curiosities to be explored in the very idea of money.
This series explores the nature of money, and its physical representation in the form of banknotes across the globe. It was initially inspired by the purchase of an old Bank of England five pound note, long obsolete, but still a beautifully designed piece of paper which was worth a fair bit when it was in use. I then collected a number of foreign banknotes from all over the world and photographed them using a large format camera, backlighting them so that both sides are visible in the same image.
The designs are remarkable in their beauty and intricacy, and when seen hugely enlarged, the spread of ink on the paper, the texture of the fibres, strips of metal and watermarks are shown in minute detail. Different currencies, of course, are printed on different kinds of paper - some are very thin, other plasticized, sometimes the printing is more delicate, more precise, the designs are more or less complex. Over time, the patina of handling grows; folds and creases, grubbiness, slow decay of the paper itself. There is evidence of the exchanges which these pieces of paper have been party to. Some have numbers scribbled on them, which presumably meant something to someone. There are traces of cocaine on a vast proportion of bank notes in the UK and USA. An old 10 rupee note has numerous holes on one end - was it repeatedly pinned to something? How many hands have they passed through before they ended up at the bottom of a London drawer under the safety pins and sellotape and Christmas wrapping paper? What things were bought, consumed, exchanged for them? Were they hoarded under a mattress for months, or did they make a swift dance around a fruit market before going out to a farm until next market day?
And then there are the faces, detailed drawings of the great and the good, those figureheads and worthies which countries and peoples deem appropriate to grace the notes. There are kings and queens, dictators, writers, scientists, and idealized workers. This series concentrates on these faces, some instantly recognizable, others relatively unknown. We see them all the time, every day the imprint of these people pass from hand to hand and yet we rarely actually look at them.