Public toilets are a phenomenon which have begun to gain attention, particularly in the field of human geography. In visual sociology, however, much less attention is being paid to toilets, despite being spaces where social norms are constantly negotiated and (re)produced.
From The Bottom Up is a photographic exploration of public toilets in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex. The rich potential of different focal points was overwhelming at first; as a woman spending time in these spaces myself, I began to reflect on the lived experiences of women using these facilities. The intention of this project was to communicate these experiences in an accessible way, to draw attention to dynamics of power and vulnerability.
The increasing privatisation of public toilets are having a profound impact, from access itself to lack of maintenance due to Brighton and Hove Council’s outsourcing of services. In addition the introduction of gender neutral toilets in privately-owned facilities and shifts toward challenging social norms are worthy of note.
Three themes were identified during my exploration; the male presence, a woman by design, and power, vulnerability, womanhood. These ideas act as entry points for prompting further discussion. From The Bottom Up aims to bring these discussions into an accessible domain through photographic practice and to facilitate new ways of thinking about public toilets.