During my Uni days, I spent a lot of time staring at ceilings.
In York, there’s a huge variety of houses – from the stunningly ancient to the jarringly modern. Unfortunately, when you’re a down-and-out History student living on the most basic of Student Loans and Grants – you’ll find that the two ends of the spectrum are frustratingly out of reach.
Back in the mid-noughties, York was a wonderful place to live – but a little behind in the Student Housing scene. The houses that my friends and I had the dubious pleasure of renting, were filled with furniture that hadn’t been changed since the 70s and felt like time portals back to another time.
During my second year of Uni, I remember a day I spent inside, on a rainy day, filling up a roll of film with shots of our crummy student house. It was a 3-bed terraced house, all narrow corridors, high ceilings and curious textural details. Something I loved about that house was the variety in textures. Experimenting with my new piece of equipment, I remember dropping some acid and losing myself in the lens and the feel of the place.
I still have the collection of photographs that I took that day, it’s amazing what can be done with such minimal lighting and gear. Old carpets, touched by the streaks of light escaping the rain clouds from outside, come alive – drifting imperceptibly like sea anemone under the ocean.
Sharp stalactites and stalagmites of smooth creamy ceiling, droop and drop, threatening to lose their meringue like consistency and drop right into my open mouth.
Move into the bathroom and everything goes up a notch. The blue spiralled tiles that cover the walls in this small room, open and undulate. As my eyes begin to glaze over, I can feel my knees start to sag with the weight of the water. Its almost as if I’m down in the ocean with carpet-anemone, drifting and spiralling, my limbs glued to the floor with the sticky ceiling that’s been dripping on me for hours.
When I woke up, later that night, I remember seeing the curtain in the living room shimmer with motion. My friends were returning from a night out. I’d slept through most of the evening, missed my dinner plans and somehow managed to fill a 32-reel of film up with photos of our crummy student flat.
Impatient knocks on the door began to sound, they must have forgotten their keys. As I stumbled to my feet, I passed the wide mirror in the hall and did a small double-take. For just a second, I thought I saw a ghost. A demonic mud-creature. A man coated in gloss paint, bright white strings of goo joining dripping over a gaping maw of a mouth.
I blinked and he was gone. There was just a reflection of myself, slightly dazed looking, with a trickle of blood oozing down from a cut in my forehead.