The photographer documenting Medway as therapy
Dan Gardner finds the bleak and the whimsical in his latest collection of Medway images
Early on in my conversation with Medway photographer Dan Gardner, I casually make the assumption that taking pictures must be his profession. It doesn’t feel like an unreasonable assumption given his work, but he quickly stops me, seeming slightly horrified by the idea. He loves photography, he tells me, but doing it as a job, taking requests for others would likely suck all of the joy out of it.
It’s not the only assumption I get wrong while talking to Dan. In the end, I flatly ask him what the story is behind a hobby that has now led to the publication of a third collection of Medway photographs, and an upcoming exhibition.
He tells me he sees it as a kind of therapy. It’s a word he returns to more than once in describing his work and process. Clearly, taking these pictures is something he feels compelled to do for his own sake.
Dan has lived in Medway all of his life, growing up in Strood before moving to the Hoo peninsula and finally to Wainscott, where he currently resides.
He started going out for walks early in the morning, finding himself taking his camera more often than not and started to document the scenes around him that many of us might consider to be mundane.
Was this a lockdown thing, I ask. Many of us started going on long walks during this period, often taking pictures of the familiar but unprecedented world around us. It wasn’t though. The walks started in the years before covid, with his first published collection, Walking Wainscott, coming from a desire to give significance to a fairly uneventful place in our towns.
That isn’t to say covid hasn’t touched his work though. His second collection, High Street Happenings, documented Rochester High Street during the 2020 and 2021 height of the pandemic. It’s a candid view of the changed nature of our retail centres and the people who use them at a time of deep uncertainty.
Now, in 2023, following the first two collections selling out, Dan has published what he considers to be the final collection in what he’s calling the ‘Documenting Medway’ trilogy.
Starting as a project laced with nostalgia and memory, it turned into a larger examination of our towns.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Local Authority to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.