I have learned to walk many times in my life – surgery after surgery, on my knees, later my hip. Each learning has lasted months, which is to say months of pain and small successes that pattern time and preoccupy the mind. Each learning has demanded submission to a slow process of transformation in which incapacitation morphs gradually into strength. Healing is far more than losing crutches. Freedom – freedom regained and retained – is the reward.
The pictures in this book were made as part of the recovery process from major hip surgery in December 2017. I found great purpose in photographing on walks through Hackney Downs Park across from the flat I was renting, using my slow pace as a way of contemplating the mixtures of vulnerability and resilience, struggle and determination that shaped my world. I photographed every day for ten weeks, in sun, rain, ice, wind, and all their inner emotional corollaries.
While these pictures did accompany a movement from physical disability to rehabilitation, another strain runs through them which even now is far from resolved. I am an immigrant and London is my adopted home, but the truth is that I have never quite found my home in London. I have moved dozens of times, pushed from place to place by circumstances and also – I have gradually come to understand – by another type of disability, the somatic impact of my family’s deep past operating within me. It may seem paradoxical to speak of silence as something that accumulates, but it is within accumulated silence that repression and abuse are passed from generation to generation.
Certain psychic pains remain even after physical healing is complete. I have learned to walk over and over, and the search for home and belonging is still ongoing.
With thanks to Jason Francisco for editing, sequencing, design and printing of this handmade book.