Following on from the F2F last week, I have been developing ideas around narrative and the direction I want my project to go.
After speaking with Paul in my 1-1, which I found to be very helpful in furthering my focus, I have decided that the best route for me to take is one that is more personal to me. Rather than a more technical (photograph the world) approach, I was attempting – and failing at.
As discussed this week in The Environment and Eye, I choose to walk along the river as it brings me a sense of peace. I work all day with people and spend much time supporting friends and family, and at times I need to get away.
I find the river a very visual and spiritually rich place to be. The vegetation is abundant and mostly unspoilt. It grows to form unusual shapes which cast all manner of reflections along the river surface.
The change the river goes through between the seasons is theatrical, ranging from dull brown and muddy dark shades in the winter to bright greens and all the colours of the rainbow in the summer.
The natural world is also very diverse, with a vast range of species. The river is home to many species of Bats, Otters, Deer, Badgers, Owls, Foxes and Beavers along with many birds, insects and aquatic life. Some, such as the beavers are a recent reintroduction and thus making the focus on the river even more dynamic.
The River Otter, to me, is truly unique in the life and health of this natural world.
The river has had an impact on many people, Coleridge even wrote a poem about it:
Sonnet: To The River Otter
Dear native Brook! wild Streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have past,
What happy and what mournful hours, since last
I skimm’d the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! yet so deep imprest
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that vein’d with various dyes
Gleam’d through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of Childhood! oft have ye beguil’d
Lone manhood’s cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless Child!
Having spent many hours observing the river, I can visualise Coleridge walking along its banks, seeing the sort of sights I observe and being inspired to write this poem, similarly as I am inspired to take images.
To me, the river is that special place that almost everyone has. The one place that you feel welcome and safe away from the ups and downs of life. I find I often sit for hours in the same place and observe.
My gaze across the waters drawn here and there to small events, changes in current, passing natural life or just observations of the dance movements performed by leaves as they drift along on the current.
I find that by sitting there and allowing oneself to drift away to the sound of the water, you can sense the rhythm of place. A feeling of a more ethereal existence that the river itself is hiding.
It is this feeling of peace that I choose to develop for my WIP. I plan to take up the idea initially given to me by Paul in my 1to1 and develop it further over these last few weeks. That being of selecting a small collection of spaces along the river bank where I shall re-visit often and sit and observe. From there, choosing one location to study in full on a repeating base.
My WIP will be made up of images of my observations from this one location. Such observations could be of significant events or scenes, others much smaller depending on where my gaze is drawn to.
I aim to take the viewer on a journey of discovery with me, one where they too can enjoy the calming effects of the river. However, it will be down to the viewer to decide what memory they wish to encompass from these works.
To do this project, I shall first choose the six locations along the river that I pass often. These locations are ones that I favour the most as I spend the most time at. They are ones where I have witnessed wildlife and scenes that have been very memorable.
These six locations are a mix of calm waters and rapids where Otters fish. Each is unique, but all share the same connection, that being of the ever-flowing river on its journey to the sea.
The locations can be best summarised through a map. A link to this is found here. – an interactive map showing river locations for my WIP.
To use this map, click on each of the markers shown to see a scene from that specific location. Preston’s Mother River has inspired this.
I shall select the one space only by what feels right as I process along the riverbank over the coming days.
I am now starting to feel much more confident about my WIP and the direction for my practice. I now have a context to which I can make work. I now have a narrative forming, that of observations from a select point along the river and the story they tell.
The audience at this time is a general one. Anyone with a keen interest in nature, the river or enjoys seeing photographs. How my works interact with an audience is still something I am developing.
I have also chosen not to include people within my WIP on this occasion. The reason for this is related to this week’s Environment and Eye.
For me, a river is a place of calm that I go to to get away from everything. I choose to sit in silence and listen and gaze upon nature, as that very act brings me peace.
I choose not to bring people into this particular work as I wish to show the denial we have as a culture of the human impact we are having on the environment.
This impact can be subtle or significant and be both positive and negative. Our nature is to destroy that which we do not understand, then try to rebuild it in an image we can — often doing more damage in the process.
Therefore I choose to follow Salgado and take a more ignorant and arrogant view of this world.
- BARTH, Nadine. and WELLS, Liz. 2018. Yan Wang Preston. Mother River. 1st ed. Ostfildern: Hatje/Cantz.
- BERGER, John. 2008. Ways of seeing. 1st ed. London: Penguin.
- COLERIDGE, Samuel. 1793. Sonnet: to the River Otter – Coleridge Memorial Trust. [online] Coleridgememorial.org.uk. Available at: http://www.coleridgememorial.org.uk/sonnet-to-the-river-otter/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2019].
- Figure 1 – JONES, Rob. 2018. The river in winter. [Photograph]
- Figure 2 – JONES, Rob. 2018. The river in spring. [Photograph]
- Figure 3 – JONES, Rob. 2019. The Egret in flight. [Photograph]