The next four blog posts are a series of reflections following a session I had over the weekend, exploring a number of public toilets across Brighton. What a way to spend a Sunday…
I felt incredibly nervous on the approach to Wild Park, Moulsecoomb. I wasn’t sure where I would find the facility, or whether it would be accessible. I was assured by Google Maps that I was nearby, although slightly unnerved by the heart-breaking memorial nearby, commemorating the two young girls who were murdered in this area over 30 years ago. Luckily, the sun had come out, dissolving any potential for spooky gloom or mist-covered hills. I soldiered on.
The facility was not what I expected. Having previously decided to focus on latrinalia (toilet graffiti) as my focus for this project, I was disappointed to find none. A seemingly boring toilet. With a second look, though, I noticed a sharps bin by the sink – a waste facility that means needles and razors can be disposed of safely.
Having never seen a sharps bin in this context, I was taken aback by the apparent facilitation of drug use in the toilet. I felt that the bins might have the ability to ‘influence modes of behaviour’ (Wells, 2015: 356) due to the inherently private nature of a toilet.
Upon reflection and research, however, I found that the government is encouraging the installation of such bins where appropriate, since ‘schemes already make a vital contribution through managing needle returns and providing personal sharps bins for users’ (DEFRA, 2005: 20)’ The concept of these bins, then, is not to encourage drug use, but to promote safe practice and to prevent the spread of infection or injury. I also hadn’t considered the idea that the bins can be used by people with diabetes. Promoting safe use of drug paraphernalia appears to be a positive step by local governments to ensure minimal harm, instead of ostracising users from society altogether.
The image itself was a nightmare to capture. Riddled with nerves and anxious of prying ears, I snapped a few shaky shots which weren’t great. I was also adapting to using a 50mm lens for the first time, which meant warping my body into unnatural shapes to fit in the relatively small facility. The lack of natural light is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of this project; I shot on a low ISO at 1/50 of a second, f/1.8. Although difficult at first, I grew more confident throughout the day and I plan to go back to Wild Park soon to capture better versions of this image for my photobook, particularly in portrait.
The experience at Wild Park provided food-for-thought on my journey to the next location. Was latrinalia really the best focus for this project? Or would a better alternative be to enter each facility with an open mind, in order to construct a question around my personal findings and experiences? I chose the latter, and will continue to expand on this throughout the upcoming reflections.