Shooting on beautiful film, ruining it with text. - On the subject of photography and poetry I have written articles & taught at The Photographer’s Gallery, presented at Tate Modern for Writing Photographs, produced collaborations with photographers such at Alexander Kell, Kate Mercer, Matteo Patocchi and Lone Eriksen.

I have explored in my own visual works the possibility of the photographic image as a language adjunct / weapon / world. My debut photographic publication will be released in 2019.


The parts

Museum of Futures




Writing Photographs at Tate Modern : Oct 13th 2018

A powerful day of provocations and workshops led by Beverley Carruthers and Wiebke Leister and the staff of Tate Modern in the Starr Cinema of that institution exploring photographs intersection with the written word.

I had the chance to run a workshop that I turned into a paradox, essentially suggesting most collaborations between poetry (specifically, not text) and photography was a banal tennis match between the mediums, never exploring what is possible between the two precisely because they are so disparate and paradoxical when aligned and this is because no one wants to take a risk / responsibility and stake out working definitions of both mediums in order to fix a creative point of genesis between them. I presented the poor souls in my workshop with six exercises to exacerbate them further, each one designed around impossible, paradoxical tasks that related to photography & poetry / photography & poetry. After this lovely 90 minutes where people wrote some great bursts of work and shared some excellent suspicions I then gave a presentation to the wider group about what we were up to. A good day for me, to further and refine ideas for myself. Photographs by Xiaolin Zhang.


Article for The Photographer’s Gallery

The first article relating to my course The Written Eye is now online alongside one of my photopoems from the sochi series I made in Latvia in 2015.

"An exploration of the intersections between poetry and photography is an act of defining terms. It is a process of identification. Of a question. But it does not entail an answer, necessarily. How does one align such disparity between mediums that can only be connected through recourse to metaphors? How does one move past the traditional alignment of image and word that tends to emphasise precisely this dislocation? To begin, we must ask ourselves what these mediums actually are, at heart, and then what they can be together? Finally, what is the purpose of their combination? What can they do together? And why is it relatively rare to see a cohesive combination of the two - with fidelity to poetry that isn’t just text, or discourse, or opinion, and photography that isn’t just pictorial?.........." 

The Written Eye : exploring Poetry & Photography at The Photographers Gallery 25 April - 30 May 2018 in The Photographers’ Gallery

A great pleasure it was to teach a brand new course that explored the post-war traditions of modern photography and avant-garde poetry in both practice and concept in one of the world's foremost institutions of photographic art. From the course description - "As forms of artistic expression, both poetry and photography are apt to convey a narrative or story without certainty or mere description. However both the poetic and the photographic are often still perceived as a solitary acts, occurring in isolation. This course will reveal the connections, potentials and co-habitations of poetry and photography, where collaboration both enhances each medium and evokes what makes them so uniquely compelling. Participants will discover poets from around the world and many photographers who have exhibited at The Photographer’s Gallery as the course covers ideas surrounding composition, language, light, sound, space, printing, narrative and writing, revealing how these practises are fundamental to both arts. Collaborations between the mediums, from Dada to John Berger and Jean Mohr, will be shared and analysed throughout.”


The Museum of Debt : a collaboration with Alexander Kell

The Museum of Debt is an exploration of the unspoken in a contemporary British workplace – most specifically a workplace where the task in hand is the preservation of dead objects – inanimate historical trinkets which pass on their own ossification to their watchmen & watchwomen, and breed a myriad of depressions. Between the concussion of photography and irony of poetries, so the Museum of Debt is about mortality, and a mild form of waking death. Both poet & photographer involved were involved doing the job they documented. A project of internal projection with an innately shared set of meanings and experiences. The photographs were taken then the poems were written.

5 examples of a body of work including about 35 poem / pictures published here A selection was also included in Enemies, my selected collaborations (Penned in the margins 2012)


The Night-time Economy : a collaboration with Kate Mercer

An exhibition in Newport: The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre April 6th to 30th 2016 and an exhibition in London: Rich Mix Gallery - July 18th to 29th 2016 - A collaborative exhibition of photography and poetry exploring the often fractious energy and environment of Newport, Wales' nightclubs and pubs. Conceived and created in close collaboration between photographer Kate Mercer and poet & artist SJ Fowler, this exhibition will play off the complimentary possibilities for expressive abstraction in both visual and linguistic mediums, all centred around the complexity, energy and intensity of Newport on Friday and Saturday nights. / A detailed description of how the project came to be, by Kate Mercer, can be found here and an interview with Ben Glover of the Wales Arts Review, which explains further the exhibition and its process can be found here 

From the Newport Opening: April 6th & Rich Mix Gallery London Opening: July 19th 2016 

Both Special View events on April 6th and July 19th 2016 featured events celebrating the exhibition with new performances from the likes of Nia Davies, Eurig Salisbury and Marcus Slease, along with the presence of Poetry Wales in Newport. The poetry in the exhibition was presented in English and Welsh, the latter translated by Eurig Salisbury.


From two completely different sides of the UK, S.J. Fowler and Kate Mercer identified with each other through a shared experience of working in the night-time economy. With Steven previously employed in nightclub security, and Kate as a bar manager in Newport, both felt an intense connection to the alternative reality of this world, and through this exhibition, reflect on how this environment changed them and their work. The project's primary focus has been Newport, but not as an exception. The Night-Time Economy reflects Newport without judgement or irony, it is documentation in image and abstract language. With Newport undergoing a period of regeneration and redevelopment, the exhibition aims to recognise the role that the arts can play in celebrating the city, by its very presence. This project focuses on the multifaceted components of Newport's Night-time economy, pursuing a neutrality of topic whilst preserving a loyalty to the place.

This project has been made possible through a ‘Research & Development’ grant by the Arts Council of Wales with support from The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre (Newport) and Rich Mix Cinema & Arts Centre (London) for which the artists express their thanks.

Kate Mercer - Kate Mercer ’s personal photographic practice explores cultural uses of photography, specifically human relationships with memory and perception through the physicality of photographs. Using both found and self-sourced imagery as starting points, she aims to examine and explore the role of photography as document and self-constructed utopian record. Her work has been exhibited across the UK and abroad. This is her first collaborative project.

Muyock / Twins : Collaborations with Matteo Patocchi

A brilliant Swiss photographer I've collaborated with in London on two projects. Twins features his beautiful innovative portraits of twins surrounding by my long poem for Pussy Riot, about Stalin, Khlebnikov and zygote splitting. He did an amazing job with the typography and an even better job sourcing a printer to render the work as a newspaper, an original format that really embodies the work beautifully. Here's his website and email if you want a copy, they are limited edition. Here's also a link to the amazing images in the book

Muyock, a collaboration based around portraits of Aomi Muyock by Matteo and aberrant responses poems by me was was also included in Enemies, my selected collaborations (Penned in the margins 2012)