Billy and Rolonde is a non-commissioned book loosely about social exclusion.
I have photographed regeneration in deprived areas for many years now and, as I write in this book, ‘… there are many who remain unaffected, untouched by the regeneration efforts. There are those who have been excluded, or have excluded themselves, from the rest of society, busying themselves with a daily routine of survival. It is these stories I have wanted to tell.’
So, from 2008 for two years, I photographed and wrote about the experiences of three people.
Barbara, a 70-year-old Zimbabwean asylum seeker becomes increasingly depressed as she’s moved from one shared house to another, trying to stay afloat on the £35 a week in vouchers given to ‘failed’ asylum seekers.
Middle-aged Allan is about the same age as me but our lives could not be more different. Some weeks drunk, some weeks sober, only the support of a voluntary group keeps Allan from going under altogether. “I’m still drinking and I don’t care,” he confides. “I’m going to die and I don’t care.”
Billy is now in his 30s and has been a heroin addict all his adult life. But he’s had enough. Taking my interest in him as an incentive to come through a tough detox and rehabilitation programme, he allows me into his life before and after drugs. Success rates are depressingly low and Billy has tried before to get clean.
In Billy and Rolonde, I start out as a documentary photographer of the socially excluded but find it impossible to remain an objective observer.