Hard To Place (2015)
Hard to Place is an ongoing series that traces the journey of an orphan boy into fatherhood. Joseph and I met online in 2007. On our first date he told me his life story while pulling at his sleeves to hide the ink of bad decisions made during his teenage years as a black skinhead.
Joseph was born in the UK to immigrant parents: an Irish mother and Nigerian father. A “half-cast(e)” orphan caught in the climate of societal racism and discrimination plaguing 1960s and ‘70s England, Joseph was considered “hard to place” amongst the mostly white, adoptive families. Consequently, Joseph was placed within at least eight London orphanages from age 3 to 17.
In 2013, Joseph received photocopied files from the London Borough of Camden documenting the years he spent as an orphan placed in several children’s homes. The third-party narrative of these often-redacted documents reveals the social and moral forces that denied Joseph his birthright to a family.
Combining photography and select text from these official documents, this series also includes photographic archives and other possessions belonging to Joseph’s mother and father, which he inherited after their passing. The inclusion of these personal archives counters the dominant, fictitious narrative(s) of the orphan child as someone who comes from nothing and no one.