Dan Wood is a self-taught photographer from South Wales, UK. His video piece Hypnagogia consists of black and white hand printed photographs that predict a post-apocalyptic world, representing his anxieties and insomnia. Throughout Hypnagogia — the transitional period between wakefulness and sleep — Wood preys upon our inherent fears to create an unsettling world of dark dreams and haunting nostalgia.
How did Hypnagogia come about?
The series came about a couple of years ago when I was searching for some negatives in the darkroom. I don’t have any sort of filing system, so when I need to look for a specific negative I have to look through them all, which can take hours; I always find it exhausting but very beneficial. This particular time I started seeing several images that had been overlooked and never printed; so I decided to print them to see what they would look like. Very soon after I realised that a pattern was presenting itself to me and that the pictures were cohesive. I knew that I was trying to say something but couldn’t quite figure out what. It was a serious departure from what I usually do, so it was a case of trial, error and experimentation.
The images often play into common fears: ominous waters, dark open spaces, strange figures etc. Do these directly relate to your own fears and anxieties?
Unconsciously, and now consciously, yes. I’ve always been a fan of horror movies, death metal music and the darker side of life in general. Becoming a parent for the first time and the responsibility that comes with it was massive inspiration for the series, too, and I suppose a lot of my anxieties were brought on by parenthood itself. Open water, especially the sea, scares me, even though I’ve never had a bad experience involving water. It must come from a horror movie called Shock Waves which I saw when I was quite young; I remember that being pretty disturbing. Lone figures in the landscape is something that has always made me feel some unease too, although I have no idea of the origins of this particular fear, even though it’s something that has been there since a young age.
How did you come up with each image and its concept? What is your process?
The pictures themselves date back as far as 2004, so I guess that this whole series is a documentation of my own life over the past 12 years. Each picture had to be relevant and also tell a story, whether it was dream/hypnagogic related and/or anxiety/depression driven. It’s all about different periods of my life and how I was feeling during these periods. The main period fuelling this series was 2003-08 when I was going through a decisive transition from old life to new. There is also a supernatural element to some of the pictures as the house I lived in for 16 years was undoubtably haunted.
Sleep is such an integral part of our well-being. Has there been any therapeutic benefits from working on Hypnagogia?
Absolutely. There has been significant therapeutic benefits throughout the whole process. At the start of the project I had no Idea that I was self medicating, but it soon became evident when the pieces started fitting together; when I made the first draft of the video I knew that this was exactly what I had envisioned right at the start of the work. In regards to sleep, the hypnagogic visions are now expected but have in no way become less horrible; they definitely don’t cause the same rate of anxiety as they used to.
I found the video both oddly soothing and anxiety provoking at the same time. What was the reasoning behind presenting the images as a slideshow with sound?
Once the series of photographs were made they just sat in a folder for a while as I didn’t really know what to do with them. Something was missing. I needed to find a way of presenting the work to complete my expression, interpret what I was trying to say and conclude the series; randomly putting the pictures up on my website just didn’t feel right. One evening I had an epiphany to make a slideshow with music and the search for a soundtrack started. I tried many different types of music from light jazz to roaring death metal, but nothing seemed right, until I stumbled upon the work of Simon Wilkinson (via You Tube). The subtle science fiction-esque creepy horror music that he makes fitted perfectly and really brought life to the series; it was the best 79p I ever spent.
What are you working on next?
After that delve into the darkness, I’m now back working on more documentary/topographic based projects. I’ve just come back from shooting a mini series in Wick, in the North East of Scotland. My Father in-law’s family live up there and we try and visit bi-annually. It’s such a great, unique and interesting place that’s rich in history and I really felt that I had to make some work there. Another project which I’m currently working on is ‘Bwlch-y-Clawdd’ (Gap in the Hedge) which is a mountain pass that connects Bridgend – my hometown – to the South Wales Valleys. This is going to be a long term project which documents the villages each side of the Pass and also the Pass itself.