“He looked at me and asked, are you a man or a beast? I questioned if there is a difference between the two.There can be if you want, that’s the butterfly, that’s the aim, it just takes time.”
The photographs in Folly, the debut photobook from Jamie Murray, were born from a series of conversations with individuals who have been incarcerated. Discussions of what had led to punishment, navigating the prison environment and the transition to freedom flowed towards philosophy, ideas of discipline and punishment, intertwined with questions around natural order and spirituality. The resulting allegorical photographs in Folly refer, both directly and indirectly, to what was said and how these conversations affected Murray.
Murray first began speaking to the individuals in 2017 in an attempt to understand more about their experience with the aim of making a documentary series within a prison. Most had been in numerous prisons over long periods of their life, often multiple times, and Murray hoped to document these meetings and brought along his camera. Some individuals would allow portraits, and others not. As the conversations evolved, so did the project, as the encounters led him to reflect upon his own life, choices and history with meandering thoughts and emotions relating to what had been discussed.
The pictures in the book begin with an imposing folly - an ornamental structure of no purpose, both foolish and excessively costly. The images that follow, a pile of coins glistening in the undergrowth, gathered crows, a fish gasping for breath outside water, rows of butterfly pupae, interweaved with haunting portraits of some of the individuals evoke a fractured narrative, a rumination on these conversations and the relationship between man and nature, co-existence and interference.