“George’s Bath” is an exploration of the world of George Fowler, 72, who is affected by hoarding. Focusing on a single location inside George’s four-bedroom house, namely his bathtub, this project detaches his condition from the clutter through which it is usually conveyed.
Having lived in George’s house for two months, my attention was drawn by the constant changes taking place in his bathtub, often on an hourly basis, while the rest of his house remained under the myriad accumulated clutter.
As one of the only accessible spaces, George’s bathtub has become the place where he washes the dishes, does his laundry, stores items or repairs bikes, where he has his coffee, reads books or, last but not least, takes a bath.
Corinna Kern’s pictures rest wonderfully in an area between humor, sympathy and downright cleverness. Curious to find out more about George and Kern both, assistant editor Alexander Strecker reached out with questions:
LC: What is it about documentary photography that attracts your interest? And portraiture?
One of the main reasons is the medium’s ability to fulfill my desire of exploring something new, especially alternative or non-conformist lifestyles. My projects motivate me to gain access to unique and unusual slices of life. In return, these first-hand experiences allow me to capture intimate and extraordinary shots. I like the way that these two aspects—immersing myself in a lifestyle and at the same time documenting it—cohere and reinforce each other. With my candid photography, I create bodies of work that give intimate insights into peoples’ lives on the fringes of society.
I am fascinated by photography as a way of seeing things and creating a certain atmosphere, of compressing the perfect moment in one frame and of combining these frames to tell a story. For me, the atmospheres created become even more challenging (and more interesting) when people are part of the photographs. I am intrigued by pictures that convey a closeness to their subjects, especially when these seem unaware of the camera, or by pictures that reveal specific emotions indicating something about an individual’s nature.
LC: This is your second body of work about George. Can you tell us more about your relationship with this frequent subject?
Last year I was interested in doing a documentary on hoarding. I contacted a variety of NGOs and self-support groups which allowed me to attend meetings and conferences to acquire volunteers for my project. But ironically, after all that work, the person I ended up focusing my documentary on was someone that I met purely by chance. While engaging in London’s squatting scene for my photography project “A Place Called Home,” I went to an eviction resistance where I bumped into George. We became friends and it was only later that he revealed himself to be a hoarder. So, life’s funny sometimes.
—Corinna Kern interviewed by Alexander Strecker