Week 2 – You are a Business

Outside of this week’s challenge I have been looking back through feedback from the last module – Surfaces and Strategies and developing the next stages for my work in progress portfolio.

One key area of consideration for me was Yan Wang Preston’s – Mother River. This was the study of the Yangtze River – at over 6,211km long, from source to sea. This was done by dividing the river path up via Google Earth and photographing precise points at 100km sections.

The river sections can be seen below:


Image courtesy of Yan Wang Preston – Mother River – See source media

Some of the project images include:

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Y1 The River Source – Yan Wang Preston – Mother River – see source media 

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Y9 800km from the river source – Yan Wang Preston – Mother River – see source media 

I was really inspired by Yan’s work and the way she has brought into focus, what is a considerably sized project. Developed over four years, Yan’s work shows how the journey of the river can be brought into a context.  This gives the viewer a sense of the place, people and culture encountered along the Yangtze.

Not all of the Mother River’s images contain the river itself, but rather focus into a specific story – such as an individual or scene:

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Y48 4,700km from the river source – Yan Wang Preston – Mother River – see source media 

I find Preston’swork very compelling and it provides a renewed starting point for my own river story along the river Otter.

Preston’s use of the big river vistas combined with more focused scenes give a real sense of understanding and at the same time compel the viewer to want to know more about each location.

At only 32km long, the River Otter is much more modest in size. However, I had been struggling to determine just how to tell the story of my own river, in a way that would make some sense.

The idea of shrinking the project down – which in its full manifestation could take a lifetime to do – has given me a new sense of direction.

One of my new visions is to now break the river into similar ‘zones’ and then record scenes from each zone within context to the wider project. Project-wide I feel that points set at 1km apart would be suitable – this would give 32 points of which to study.

At each point, I would look to expand on the direction Mother River has taken and also include images from within (underwater) the river itself. I feel that this would give a different context to the project, whilst retaining its initial focus.

For the purposes of this module, I shall now just explore three of the points along the river:

  1. RSPB Aylesbeare Common
  2. River section around Otterton
  3. River section passing Ottery St Mary

These three sections give us a very diverse range of ecosystems and cultures to study.

One area recently visited is Escot Park near Ottery St Mary. Home to a range of endangered species. Escot most recently became home to six European grey wolfs.

The wolf is traditionally seen as an aggressor and a creature to be afraid of. Extinct from the UK for many generations, due to hunting and changes in the ecosystem, the wolf to me represents a lifelong fascination.

Taking the opportunity to visit Escot, I looked at developing images using natural light only and with the additional challenge of shooting through caged enclosures.






Ethically I do not enjoy taking images of wildlife in captivity. For me the very bars represents oppression and a will to put on show, what is often, a life lived in misery. This can often show in such images.

Escot, however, is a very positive example of how well a conservation project can operate, with the wildlife in its grounds very well treated and clearly very content.


The aim of the experiment was to determine how effective natural light can be in creating a studio look to an image shot in the wild. The second image represents a more successful attempt.

I see this as a positive result as, traditionally, I don’t use a tripod or flash in my work – but instead focus on natural light. The use of natural light to gain studio style results will be something I shall look to explore in more detail during the next few weeks.

Time will tell!