I was recently asked to make a photographic piece that could be used to represent the contemporary opera STEAMSONG by the composer John Kefala Kerr. Strangely it turned out that John and I actually knew each other from about 20years ago... but John hadn't realised I was the same Neil Armstrong! I had been put into the mix via the DLI museum in Durham as my piece Gestalt (which has been exhibited in the Durham Gallery) had the sort of atmospherics and approach they were looking for.
Following a trip to York Railway Museum to photograph the famous Mallard steam train that was the inspiration for the Durham Brass festival operatic commission, I then put together this image.
Hexham station features, and two of the cast are also used as models in the completed piece. Collaged into this tableau are a couple of original lead train figures from the 1930s plus a model chimney and factory. The challenge was to make it visually believable; to allow disparate elements to sit together, and also to infuse a painterly dynamic whilst grappling with matched perspectives.
I wanted to reference the political climate of the time and to imply darker elements at work - hence the use of a decoy duck bought off ebay to which I added 'real' wings... a sort of 'eugenics of speed and technology' which make an alarming and absurd vision.
The opera had its premiere at Durham Gala Theatre in July 2014