The 2012 recipient of The Pool Grant is Mike Read, a Melbourne based photographer who studied at RMIT, with his winning proposal ‘The Way’.
Since the 8th century, pilgrims have been following El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, from various routes across Europe to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compestela. Whilst originally a religious trek, more and more people without any religious affiliation are walking “The Way” in order to facilitate personal change as they battle blisters and the introspectiveness brought on by the solemnity of walking alone for weeks on end.
This series places these personal changes amidst the backdrop of rural Spain – a country itself making it’s own changes both geographically and in the national psyche as it faces, like much of Europe, austerity measures caused by one of it’s gravest economic crisis.
With the grants funding Mike will travel to St Jean Pied de Port, the traditional start of the pilgrimage in South-Western France, and work his way on foot over the 780km journey to Santiago de Compostela in North-Western Spain over a six week period. Over this period he will use documentary photography to capture the story of change; both personal change and the changes of a nation battling economic and unemployment crises.
This body of work will also document the personal changes that happen to pilgrims as they travel the route. An important part of the imagery will focus on the landscape, both geographic and political, which is hand-in-hand with the physical challenges that are a catalyst for the personal changes.
The people that travel this journey in order to better themselves as people have made a decision to take control of their lives. By positioning the notion of personal change against a country which is facing it’s own challenges, especially in economic terms, Mike aims to raise questions about the importance of control, both personal control and national control, and just how much is within our grasp.