Throughout this module, I have been struck with how many opportunities and ideas there are when it comes to exhibiting work and what direction my practice could take next.
For many years I hid my photographic practice from the world. I was occasionally showing friends and family via social media some of my images. Many, such as airshows and carnival only being made available after frequent requests from people who found out I had been to an event with my camera.
Where ever I go, Whatever I am doing I am known for always having a camera with me. It can be at times a source of frustration for some. However, it is who I am. I gaze upon the world, my camera merely a record keeper of what I see.
To bring this forward, I have been considering how I can evolve my work and make it accessible to an audience for my FMP.
Firstly I am now starting to see that for my FMP I will need to acknowledge society and its impact on the river. I am still very keen to tell the broader story of the river and the people it effects.
I am drawn to Edward Burtynsky and his work on Water. In Burtynsky’s own words:
“I wanted to understand water: what it is, and what it leaves behind when we’re gone. I wanted to understand our use and misuse of it. I wanted to trace the evidence of global thirst and threatened sources. Water is part of a pattern I’ve watched unfold throughout my career. I document landscapes that, whether you think of them as beautiful or monstrous, or as some strange combination of the two, are clearly not vistas of an inexhaustible, sustainable world.”
(Burtynsky, Walrus, 2013)
Burtynsky’s style has the ability to capture the impact society has on water across the natural world. His images show the will to control nature and force its hand to become something unnatural and none sustainable.
The images, many showing in a lighter almost intuitive sense, hide the darker meaning of the photograph, one that is screaming from the effects of humanities destruction of the land.
I am drawn here to Sekula:
Again, we find ourselves in the middle of a discourse situation that appear as messages in the void of nature. We are forced, finally, to acknowledge what Barthes calls the ‘polysemic’ character of the photographic image, the existence of a ‘floating chain of significance, underlying the signifier’.
In other words, the photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning. Only by its embeddedness in a concrete discourse situation can the photograph yield a clear semantic outcome.
(Sekula in Burgin, 1982: 91)
This is one influence that does appeal to my FMP. That being the exploration of man’s impact on the natural course and health of the river. The other potential avenue that I am considering including is that of the social and cultural life that is linked in some way to the river and surrounding areas.
I am drawn to Braden’s Adventures in the Lea Valley as one such potential style. Here the observer goes on a journey through the Lea Valley. The work documents the valley and its inhabitants during the time before, during and after the developments of the 2012 London Olympics in a series of gritty, honest views.
The work is produced in book form and covers a different study of the Valley and its people. As the river Otter flows through the Otter Valley, I find this work to give a degree of inspiration.
It could indeed be possible to re-visit my original idea of collecting images from the local festival sites, army training ground, equestrian eventing area, local towns, industrial sites and many other such places. All of which could help me tell the tale of the river.
I am however very aware that such a piece of work will take time to develop and therefore may need to be focused down into one or two places, similarly to ‘Mother River’ by Preston. Here she selected specific sites along the river Yangtze and focused on visiting these places as a way of telling the story of the river’s journey.
As shown in Week 9 – Reflections, the work of Nadav Kander is also a big inspiration. Like Preston and Braden, Kander has also explored the connection between cultural and natural.
His work on the Yangtze was producing very stark urban scenes that emphasise the human effect and take away all relevance of the natural. I find the grey, almost imposing style of the images suffocating and a sign of how industrialisation could replace the natural calm I have come to enjoy so. And yet oddly I am compelled to look into this image much deeper than I feel comfortable.
Relatable to this is the work of Simon Roberts and We English.
In this project, “Roberts travels across England in a motorhome between 2007 and 2008 for this portfolio of large-format tableaux photographs of the English at leisure. Photographing ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, Roberts aims to show a populace with a profound attachment to its local environment and homeland. He explores the notion that nationhood – that what it means to be English – is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by banal pastimes and everyday leisure activities.
The resulting images are an intentionally lyrical rendering of a pastoral England, where Roberts finds beauty in the mundane and in the exploration of the relationship between people and place, and of our connections to the landscapes around us.”
All of these practitioners have given me renewed confidence in opening up my project to include a focus on culture and society along the river. The final destination for which I shall look to develop during my FMP.
One of my most significant challenges with my practice has been audience development. This has alluded me at length, as up until starting my MA I took images for the joy of it. I can indeed be accused by Sontag of imprisoning my images and my practice.
I now see my audience for this work as varied, but focuses on local people of all ages with interest in the river, the history and culture and its natural conservation. I want to develop work that draws people into the frame and then into a new world, powered by their imagination.
I choose this as I want the audience to experience, not just see images. I want them to bring their own experiences and understandings that will allow memory to develop in front of them.
I am also very much drawn to the work of Corinne Silva and Imported Landscapes 2010:
Here Silva “travelled along the northern Moroccan coast from Tangier towards the Algerian border, and made a series of landscape photographs. She then created an intervention in the Spanish landscape by installing three of these images on 8 by 3 metre billboards in specific locations in the region of Murcia.
The billboards are a reminder that landscapes themselves are palimpsests. Each individual’s actions can be traced in the landscape. The act of placing one landscape inside another – the southern hemisphere into the northern – creates a space to contemplate not only their shared topography but also the complex web of their ongoing connection of trade, mobility and colonisation.”
I have found such an approach as very prevalent as I am considering producing images on large print and exhibiting them along the riverbank.
Each image would be the focus of a gaze from that space. It is possible that I could link these to the six favoured spots that I visit, thus making a very accessible yet very different way of seeing my images. The observer looking through my work to the actual natural site they were captured. Hence turning the memory of the photograph into a physical memory of place.
This ‘living gallery’ could also involve the use of video projected onto the landscape to show past and present images or display detailed film of the river current and the impact the sunlight has on it. This also could make for a very interesting exhibition.
Audiences for these pieces of work would be mostly local people and those with interest in conservation. However, I also feel there is significant educational potential here as the films could be used in schools and local colleges to comment and demonstrate computational topics.
A film and a book of my works through the duration of my MA is also a consideration as an output for my FMP. There are several spaces around the river, such as village halls, barns, farms and public spaces that could all be utilised as exhibition and presentation options.
Again these will be explored further during the FMP work starting in June 2019.
- BURGIN, Victor. 1982. Thinking photography. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p.87 91.
- BRADEN, Polly. and CAMPANY, David. 2016. Adventures in lea valley. 1st ed. [London]: Hoxton Mini Press.
- ROBERTS, Simon. 2009. We English – Simon Roberts. [online] Simon Roberts. Available at: https://www.simoncroberts.com/work/we-english/ [Accessed 9 Apr. 2019].
- SILVA, Corinne. 2010. Imported Landscapes 2010 — Corinne Silva. [online] Corinne Silva. Available at: http://www.corinnesilva.com/imported-landscapes-2010/3yt6gsxhw8wucb63isr9wihyuzfg91 [Accessed 7 Apr. 2019].
- Figure 1 – BURTYNSKY, Edward. 2011. Polders Grootschermer, The Netherlands. [Photograph] (source media)
- Figure 2 – BRADEN, Polly, and CAMPANY, David. 2012. Adventures in the Lea Valley Photo Book 12. [Photograph] (source media)
- Figure 3 – PRESTON, Yan Wang. 2010 – 2014. Mother River. [Photograph] (source media)
- Figure 4 – KANDER, Nadav. 2007. Yangtze, The Long River, Chongqing XI, Chongqing Municipality. [Photograph] (source media)
- Figure 5 – ROBERTS, Simon. 2007. We English. Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire. [Photograph] (source media)
- Figure 6 – SILVA, Corinne. 2010. Imported Landscapes. [Photograph](source media)