Well hello there reader! I need to start this post off by stating that I do not have a clue what I am doing when it comes to writing a blog, which may make for a terrible read, hopefully not. I will try my best to entertain and engage you with my photographic updates and my social and political commentary. I have started blogging because I believe it is important that people get to know me and my practice better, what inspires me, why I do what I do. Hopefully it will accumulate in an open discussion about Social Documentary Photography, its merits and why it is at the core of my very being. But where to begin? I thought it best to start at the beginning……..Me, my name and my brand, ROLLA.
There is no engaging story or intellectual antidote about how I got that name. I can not dazzle you with interesting tales of what it means to me and or even claim that it came from pretentious elitism like Madonna or Ronaldo (the original Brazilian, not the rip off version who plays for Juventus). It is simply my maiden surname shortened. Before I married my husband, heavily intoxicated in a very dodgy yet reasonably priced Las Vegas chapel I was Danyelle Rollinson. Danyelle Rollinson of Guilsted Road, Norris Green. A social housing estate in Liverpool is where both myself and my nickname where formed. Here, is this urban paradise that is known to the locals as Nogsy, anything that can be shortened is. For example, the local Farm Foods store is “The farmies”, the delightful yet somewhat dated watering hole named The Western Approaches is simply referred to as “The Wezzy”. The Wezzy actually has a Wezzy Fezzy (colloquial speak for festival) every year where you can purchase gin mixed with Parma Violets by the bucket load for £15 or 4 bottles of your chosen beer or cider for a tenner. I can hear the southerners gasp at the price disparity. The list goes on; the ice cream van is the “Icey”, training shoes are referred to as “trainees” and if your surname is Johnson, there is no avoiding the fact you will henceforth be known as “Johno”. There, on the patchwork pavement of Norris Green my nickname was born, Danyelle Rolla. It extended to all members of my family; Michelle Rolla, Billie Rolla, Lois Rolla. Like it or not, which actually I do, if someone was to ask a resident “Do you know Danyelle Rollinson?” they would simply reply “No love, but knock on Marys door at number 15, she knows everyone”.
There is another reason I am beginning this blog with my surname, other than it is a recognisable aspect of my brand. It is because of the person who gave me this surname, my Dad……or should I say my Granddad. Although my Mum knew who impregnated her, I was never privy to find that information out and I thank god for that. My Mums decision not to share this information with me allowed my Granddad to become the perfect substitute. My Granddad, who from now on I shall refer to as my Dad, installed in me a sense of righteousness and like the compasses on the many ships he unloaded, he guided me through the trouble waters with an unwieldy morally correct course. I could not have asked for a better role model. William James Rollinson was a Docker, like his father before him, working on the shipyards that cradle the River Mersey. He too, like his father before him was a Marxist. This meant I had the pleasure of being raised by a man who fought social injustice, worked extremely hard to put food into the mouths of his six children (I have included myself in that) and his most important quality, saw every human being as equal. In the 32 years I knew my dad, I never heard a racist, sexist, prejudice, homophobic word leave him mouth. Today, I shudder when I hear people excuse geriatric ignorance as a “generation” thing. It most certainly is not. It is usually a lack of education and ironically, usually comes from the most educated. To my Dad, everyone was equal, man, women, black, white, Catholics, Protestants (well, almost Protestants). Privilege was not an excuse for abundance just as poverty was not an excuse for bad manners. And to counter balance this serious and solemn man, was his wife Mary. My Nan. It is fair to say that Billie gave me my morals but Mary gave me a sense of humour. I try to express this inherited characteristic through all my photographs.
Mary was as equally feisty as her husband but her outlet was usually aimed at anyone who upset her family. Whilst my Dad fought his battles on the picket line, opposing Thatcherism and demanding better working conditions for him and his fellow Dockers, My Nan fought hers in the street, occasionally in the pub and once on Janet Hornbys doorstep. Understanding my Nans character is just as important as understanding my Dads when it comes to my photography. Social justice is embedded within my work but I always aim to make the viewer smile too. Humour was the way in which we communicated growing up. There is no volatile situation that a jab at someone’s football team or hairstyle could not defuse. It was ingrained into me as my go to resource when dealing with almost all situations that followed my childhood, from the time I spent in the Iraqi war to taking the piss out of Oliviero Tuscani’s bigoted comments on Sky Arts Master of Photography. Truth is, I do not know how to delve into the soul like portrait masters Avendon and Leibovitz. I wouldn’t want to. Personally, I find working in perturbed environments often requires the photographer to counterbalance the situation. At no point do I ever underestimate the severity of troubling situations, I just try to shine a light on injustices by engaging with a satirical narrative. Like my Nan used to say “If you don’t laugh, you cry”.
If this opening post sounds semi-autobiographical then maybe that because it is! But that’s the past and a good foundation from which to depart. From now on, it’s all Photography!
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