It took 10,000 miles, 19 countries, three deserts, and a vintage car – but James Parker has pulled together a nuanced set of snapshots exploring masculinity.
It took 10,000 miles, 19 countries, 40 rolls of film, three deserts, two seas and a vintage car – but James Parker has pulled together a nuanced photo project around ideas of masculinity.
Last summer, James Parker and two friends set out on the trip of a lifetime: taking a 1972 Morris Minor from Edinburgh, Scotland to the outer reaches of Russia.
Given that the vintage car rolls along at an average speed of 18 miles per hour, winding through 19 countries would take a while. Fifty-three days, to be precise.
“I wanted an adventure: to meet new people and experience new cultures,” says James, a 25-year-old from Barnsley in Yorkshire.
He inherited his first bits of camera equipment from his grandfather, initially using it as an excuse to get into music and sport events for free, before studying photography at both Edinburgh Napier and Ryerson University in Toronto.
“This was the first time I had been ‘travelling’ – if you can call it that – and it turns out that it’s certainly more challenging than relaxing. Driving 10 hours a day for that long really affects you.”
The trip was all in the name of charity – the trio successfully raised funds for two community programmes in Barnsley that help the homeless and people with mobility issues – but James brought along 40 rolls of film to see if a photography project would emerge from their adventures. And one did.
Between Romania and Mongolia, James found himself capturing enough snapshots of masculinity that a pattern emerged: there were always boys, bikes and bucket hats.
“Over time I realised that I was focusing on situations that I recognised myself in,” he says. “The project has this air of growing up, boyhood, vulnerability and finding your way.”
The friends would camp under the stars in the Gobi desert, get lost in Istanbul during an attempted coup and ride a hot air balloon over Cappadocia at sunrise.
Any time they stopped for a rest, people would spring out of nowhere, wielding pots of coffee and a determined curiosity to see what was under the car’s hood.
“The lowest points came when we struggled to find food and fuel; police would constantly stop us. Our lowest bribe was a couple of smokes and a handshake. It wasn’t easy and we had a few arguments and break downs along the way, but never a punctured tyre.”
After developing film from the trip – which continues to be edited – James sifted through images of mountain trails leading nowhere, barren desert landscapes and random roadside encounters. But the theme of masculinity kept emerging, just not quite in the way he anticipated.
“I had questioned if gender assumptions and behaviours changed from the West to East before the journey,” he says.
“But from those I met I recognised common themes and feelings: to love, to share and help others, which we rarely get to see [in the West].
“Obviously men don’t have to drive, lift, herd, secure, plant and build… but those I met chose to and that’s okay too.”