In this project I have documented my journey to five locations in London, where prostitutes were gruesomely murdered by Jack the Ripper. From a young age I have been fascinated with serial killers and the details of the murders they committed. This project has developed into my journey to street corners where serial killers attacked and my pilgrimage to the murder stories I have read about for such a long time. By committing myself to one serial killer, I was restricted and controlled over where my pictures were taken, but will my pictures control the viewers, knowing of the violence which happened there in the past? Over time this project changed from landscape photography to self portraiture in an attempt to include my fascination and journey in the subject.
I visited the locations weekly for over a month, leaving me feeling personally involved with the stories and the mystery, instead of just reading about them. Due to the historical distance of the case of Jack the Ripper and the fact that the mystery was never solved; the facts and mythologized fictions have become a spectacle, which opens space for my performances within the sites. I used the photograph to document the performance I undertook in this journey, acting like a witness to my pilgrimage and obsession with the tales. The use of myself in the photographs has become very performative; I’m joining in on the spectacle of these deaths and as a young woman going to these locations at night, I felt shifts between characters I could have performed as, that of the ‘femme fatale’ vs. the ‘victim’. I have also been interested in the paradox between that which repels and the attraction to horror films and crime scenes. During my visits to the locations I was interrupted by numerous ‘Jack the Ripper Tours’, where people strive on the ghastly facts that occurred on these specific sites more than a century ago.
I printed the five final images in the darkroom, in sizes16x20, and will pin them to the walls at eyelevel. I will also use text captioning under each image to explain; the name of the woman murdered, the date it happened and the road name at each site, to add some background history into each image, for the viewers. In this project I’ve got to grips with using a medium format camera and portable flash kits on location, and I’m very pleased I’ve been able to improve my technical skills of achieving a good picture, manually, however I think I will benefit from more technical understanding. Using the black and white darkroom to develop and print my pictures has allowed me to improve in this area and I now feel confident working in this style for the future. I’ve also learnt how to relate all different mediums to my project for research; broadening my knowledge by attending seminars and by watching films and reading books.
My main photographical references in this project are Weegee and Francesca Woodman; Weegee for his fascination into crime scenes and attraction to violence in a film noir style, and Woodman for her use of ‘self-performance’ and discovery.
Mary Ann Nichols, 43. 31st August 1888. Bucks Row, Whitechapel. First Victim.
Catherine Eddowes, 46. 30th September 1888. Mitre Square, City of London. Fourth Victim.
Annie Chapman, 47. 8th September 1888. Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. Second Victim.
October – December 2009
All images copyrighted Kathleen Snooks