Joanne Coates

Joanne shared her project ‘We Live by Tha’ Water’ in our April 2017 edition of Photo Scratch. Here she shares her experience and info about the project.



On Monday 24th April I took part in my first Photo Scratch. I found the pop-up exhibition and the nights format helpful. As I live in a rural area, and spend much of my time working in different areas around the UK, it can be difficult to actually talk to anyone about my work. I’ve been working on this series since March 2016 now and felt as though it was a good time to talk about it, discuss ideas, and get feedback. It’s important to see how people interact with the work. The night saw new conversations. The feedback was helpful in developing the project. I think it’s vital to connect with other artist, writers, designers, so was really impressed with the night and only left with positives of the evening.

We Live By Tha’ Water is a story. A story that toys with what we accept as real and what we accept as imagined. It is an exploration of a new life after a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. A dark narrative that explores life on the edge lands of society. A complex visual culmination of personal anxieties and mental erosion. A drawn out fascination with power relations. It is a poetic and emotional response to the eerie elements that make up modern societies. Slowly as the story continues the boundaries begin to warp and fade. What is real and what is imagined start to blur. The island is used as a new place for the in-between. To question what is actually visible and what is known. A place between madness and sanity. Travelling to the edge of the world to explore my own subconscious.  As the Orcadian writer George McKay Brown wrote: “The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves, a return to reality.


The work itself is taken in moments of mania or moments of depression. Photo Scratch offered me the chance to start bringing in other elements of the work such as search warrants, diary entries that depict the story, and pieces that tell the story of a decline in mental health. I’ve always been interested in documentary photography, but wanted my personal work to be a documentary of the self. To challenge the ways in which work. There is more to come in the series that will explain the journey more, where the viewer begins to lose sight of what is true and what isn’t. Beginning to realise if that truth matters or not in such a personal depiction.

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