AD7801 Establishing Practice – beginnings
Sept 17th ’20
I have several aims that I would like to achieve during my time on the MA. I want to embrace the opportunity to shoot and engage with projects… as many projects as time and resources allow, but away from my ‘familiar’. I photograph people substantially, and want to move away from this by moving into areas that are more fine art based, possibly around landscape and perceptions. I wish to re-establish myself as a photographer, reinventing my path to be more art and project based. Within this, I want to step away from my previous commercial route and adjust my focus to have greater purpose and meaning. I have already started this by moving my freelance attention away from weddings and editorial and adopting a new business approach. My freelance photography is still portraiture, but it is now captured solely on large format black and white film. Five-by-Four portraits is now established, is in its second year and is a lovely side-line business to my main job as a photography lecturer.
With regard to my lecturing practice, this is also an area that I wish to better and further whilst on the MA. I think the MA will enable me to better establish myself as a practising art photographer, and put me in a better position to discuss this area with my cohort.
I am incredibly excited to begin my explorations into photographing, researching and progressing with Uni Glos. I studied here twenty years ago, when I began my adventure in the world of HE. To be able to continue my development as a practitioner here, just around the corner from my first (and second) student digs (Granville Street) twenty years ago is incredibly exciting. I feel as though everything happens for a reason, and the main reason for me is photography…
Sept 18th ’20
Middle of the road – potential project
The A470 is an iconic road that links South to North Wales. My idea and intention for this project is to create a body of imagery about the road itself. It will be a visual exploration of the impact of the A470 upon Wales’ landscape. This body of work will explore the impact of human endeavour upon our landscape, from an aesthetic, environmental and nostalgic point of view. This project will follow 186 miles of infamous road that cuts straight through the middle of Wales, and will allow me to recollect memories past of family road trips and journeys made in more recent times that have a strong emotional attachment. The project will juxtapose the beauty of the Welsh landscape against the scar of the road, charting its mountainous evolution as I travel from South to North… and possibly back. The project will capture the physical condition of the landscape, considering the man-made element against natures structures. The project will remind me of times past, future endeavours and the history of the road. The work will confront notions of humans as destructive beings and the place of the road in current affairs. I envisage this project culminating in a book…
The first shoot for this project happened in late July, in response to a prompt from Tony. Shooting digitally, I focused on a small part of the A470 to conduct this test shoot.
Working along an initial 17 mile stretch of the road, I travelled from Merthyr Tydfil to Brecon, stopping in laybys and parking areas that held meaning to me. I was amazed as I drove as to how many different memories I had from childhood and from more recent times, just within this limited area. Admittedly, this part of the A470 is close to home, and features several areas that I have frequently visited over the years (Garwnant, The Storey Arms, Pen Y Fan, Llywn On reservoir, Nant Ddu reservoir, to name a few) but still the memories were clear and photographing and driving felt nostalgic and easy. Across the 17 mile stretch I have gained eight images that I feel are a good starting place, hold memories, address the concerns of scars on a landscape and highlight mans impact upon his environment.
Sept 19th ’20
Contact sheet – first shoot ‘Middle of the Road’
The first shoot was a success. This project has been in my mind for several years, and has gone through a mental process of change as it has evolved in thought over time… Potential problems that arose from the first shoot were:
Position – I am in the middle of the road. This could be deemed dangerous.
Motorway/dual carriageway sections – until Merthyr, the A470 is a dual carriageway. I will have to utilise bridges to gain imagery.
Position of sun – I will need to photograph on cloudy/overcast days to offset the glare from shooting into the sun. This is my desired condition to shoot in though, as it promotes a dark aesthetic theme and adds a sense of the ‘unreal’.
Sept 24th ’20
Research – Paul Graham, A1; The Great North Road
Paul Graham’s social documentary about the A1 is the obvious place to start with regard to inspiration for my project. To me, this is a remarkable body of work (published in 1983) and an example of a project vast in scope (considering the length of the road and size of the chosen camera format) and perfect in theme and context. It is all encompassing, capturing the landscape, buildings, details and people, creating a historical document of a moment in time.
My project certainly takes inspiration from the fundamental mainstay of the A1 study – the road. The main difference between A1 and my study is the fact that my project won’t stray away from the road; the road is my focus. Visually, my project will have consistencies. Viewpoint, position and conditions will create a familiar aesthetic between each image and the editing style will hopefully impart a message of ‘memory’ through black and white and heavy contrast.
The images that stand out to me are the ones that include the road…
This image (Ferrybridge powerstation, West Yorkshire, Nov 1982) in particular interests me, as it holds similar content and feel to possibly my favourite image of all time – John Davies ‘Agecroft Powerstation’ 1983 (which I will discuss later on):
Paul Grahams ‘Ferrybridge powerstation’ is an image that solidifies the importance of the road in Grahams project. The name of the road is written on the dual carriageway lanes, and human impact is evident in every section of the photograph, even the sky as pollution belches out from the industrial chimneys. The eye is drawn by the road to the industrial features, with the petrol station linking the road to the vehicles, to the power station and finally to the implied destructive nature of us as humans. The way the road leads out of the frame offers the viewer the chance to continue a journey. It is a brilliant image that is all about power. The image depicts nothing but human involvement and interference with our landscape. I hope my project offers a similar context.
Grahams ‘Looking back on the city’ is probably how I will have to shoot the section of road between Cardiff and Merthyr, as it is dual carriageway and too dangerous to stand in the middle… Elevated perspective from bridges will unfortunately break the visual consistency, but will be a necessity if I am to document the entirety of the road. Grahams image is remarkable in the way the eye is drawn through the image. Timeless yet full of history; a document of the time that only the vehicles reveal.
Grahams ‘Hedge in the wind’ is
Research – Glenn Edwards -A470 project (add from Word document)
Research – Bechers / New topographics (add from Word document)
Sept 27th ’20
Middle of the road
I have a new name for the A470 project – Petrichor. As I was out shooting today, I smelled that fabulous aroma that you only get on hot summer days. The smell of summer; that earthy ascent that smells so wonderous after rainfall. It is the smell I most associate with summer holidays as a kid and with my family whilst growing up. I remember the first time I smelt ‘summer’… I was in the French Alps (Haute-Savoie) with my mother, father and sister, I was ten years old and we were walking amongst the mountains around La Clusaz. As a kid our holidays were to the mountains of Europe, not to the beaches. As we walked there was a brief downpour. It only lasted a few minutes, and while we sheltered under trees an incredible smell became apparent to me. It was beautiful, and I remember the moment vividly. I realise now it was the first time I had smelt Petrichor; a molecule (geosmin) that is released into the air after drops of water fall on dry soil (Halton, 2018). I have a picture in my head of the moment we walked out from our leafy shelter of the Aravis Ridge looming the distance, and the trail we were following being wet and shiny with bright bursts of alpine flowers and ferns. It was incredible.
I also distinctly remember the second time I smelt Petrichor. I was standing on the side of the A470, and we were on our way to Snowdon for a weekend break. We had stopped in a layby to ‘stretch our legs’, and it had just rained. Again, mountains looked down on us and the scent of Petrichor filled the air.
All of this came back to me today as I was out shooting this project. I smelled the scent of summer; the smell of my childhood. The smell of the A470. It fits.
Halton, M., 2020. Petrichor: Why Does Rain Smell So Good? [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44904298> [Accessed 27 September 2020].
The second shoot today was good, although the weather conditions were not perfect. Ideally, I am looking for heavily overcast days, to accentuate the scale of the mountains, and to reflect the tone of the road. Today was a little too bright; too much blue in the sky. I covered a twenty mile stretch of the road, moving from Brecon up to Erwood.
Again, as I drove I allowed my mind to wander, just as the road does. Memories and feelings returned as I weaved the road. It’s amazing how much I think as I drive along this project. I realised that music is my constant companion, so I wonder if this might be an avenue for the incorporation of text… A snippet of lyric that hints back to the time that I remember, maybe?
The project seems to be working as a ‘drive back in time’, and it also works in relation to documenting mans interaction on the natural environment. The road dissects the landscape. The landscape is ruptured by the road. I feel as though the project is evolving in terms of its context, and I quite like the fact that the context is currently loose. This is not my normal way of working, to have two themes, but I am comfortable with progress. I realised today though that a hypocritical consideration is the fact that a part of this project could be about human impact, and I am performing this study by driving my car…
I gained nine images that I am happy with from this 20 mile stretch… Visually, this segment of the road is a little different as it winds through small villages and some enclosed forests.
The edit is heavy. I would almost consider it over edited. This is not my usual editing style… my usual editing style is very subtle and very representational of the environment in which I took the photograph. This style of edit is something a little bit different for me but I’m okay with this and I think the look suits the imagery. This project is partly about memory and by offering a heavy edit the project will hopefully take on a somewhat more nostalgic and fanciful aesthetic. The shadow detail is lost, just as some moments and details of a memory are lost, and some of the content remains on the periphery of vision, just as a memory does. The black and white, heavy contrast tone also adds to this aesthetic by adding an unreal visual theme to the imagery.
30th Sept ’20
The above images/photographers have all influenced my edit, and the visual style of theirs I have imparted into mine. Dark, brooding and with a sense of foreboding, the imagery has different reasons for the adrk undertones.
For Trent Parke, coming from a country town to a big city (Sydney), he found himself in isolation, and this is apparent in the lack of shadow detail and edit style. Parke spent five years creating his series Dream/Life.
Parke says “I left everything behind – all my childhood friends and my best mate – and I just felt this sense of complete loneliness in Sydney. So I did what I always do: I went out onto the street and used my Leica to shoot how I felt at the time. I’m always trying to channel those personal emotions into my work. That is very different from a lot of documentary photographers who want to depict the city more objectively. For me it is very personal – it’s about what is inside me. I don’t think about what other people will make of it. I shoot for myself” (Foster, 2020).
Parkes imagery is complex on a contextual level.
“I wanted to present a truer version of Sydney – with lots of rain and thunder storms, and the darker qualities that inhabit the city – not the picture-postcard views of Sydney that the rest of the world sees. I also wanted to make images that were poetic, but I actually found the city to be quite ugly in terms of the amount of advertising and visual crap that clutters the streets. I found I could clarify the image by using the harsh Australian sunlight to create deep shadow areas. That searing light that is very much part of Sydney – it just rattles down the streets. So, I used these strong shadows to obliterate a lot of the advertising and make the scenes blacker and more dramatic. I wanted to suggest a dream world. Light does that, changing something everyday into something magical” (Foster, 2020).
“I went out shooting every day – it became like a drug to me. I loved the ‘rush’ of getting out amongst all the people and I just needed to get the images on film. My mum died quite suddenly one night from an asthma attack. That was it. It was all over. It was the turning point in my life that left me desperate to grab hold of everything while I can. There is no certainty of tomorrow” (Foster, 2020).
Foster, A., 2020. Trent Parke: Dream / Life. [online] ~ Talking Pictures ~. Available at: <https://talking-pictures.net.au/2020/09/12/trent-parke-dream-life/> [Accessed 30 September 2020].
The darkness in David Baileys Valleys Project work has a different projection, however. Representative of coal, scale and cold, there is a dark narrative that is suggestive of the demographic and history of the area.
The work of Ray Metzker is an influence on my editing style also. Known for his black and white heavily dark imagery, and his composites, the look of the work has undertones of suspense and a heightened sense of drama. This is something I wish to draw into my own work during this project.
Research – Edward Burtynsky (add from Word document)
Test Project – first shoot – 3rd October
I very much enjoyed the first two shoots I performed for ‘Petrichor’, but I do want to make sure that it is the correct idea/project for this module, and I am conscious of Covid potentially causing issues with travel. With that in mind, today I visited Ogmore Forest (also known and Countess Wear) as I have always been fascinated by the landscape. Found on a dog walk years ago, I have always wanted to photograph the location and have always felt a project there… Ogmore forest itself is an average Welsh Valley forest, accessed via a pretty valley trial, along which runs a small river. It is a two mile walk into nature to reach the forest, which is a mix of deciduous and evergreen, with the beech tree being the main species. The landscape rises and falls with hills and it is a beautiful place, but it is one section within this 870 acre forest that I am captivated by. Stumbled upon several years ago, as I wandered away from the main path through the woods, I found a gorge nestled away. It was an unexpected find, as the topographic is entirely different to the rest of the woods that surrounds the gorge. It was as though I had stepped back in time. I felt as though I had discovered something magical.
As you walk along the main trail, about three miles into the walk, there is an old footpath, overgrown and unkempt, that leads uphill through brambles. It is quite inaccessible, and a tricky traverse until 50 yards in it opens up, and you are presented with a new landscape made of imposing limestone cliffs, huge boulders and ancient Beech trees. It is remarkable.
As you keep walking (there are no trails there, just your own off piste perceptions of where your feet should fall) the landscape continues uphill offering a new view as the trees open up to reveal the gorge.
My initial idea for the shoot was to investigate the landscape, but as I walked I noticed human interaction – one wall has hooks embedded for climbing, there is graffiti, an abandoned car, etc… I photographed with both my digital camera and large format five by four, loaded with harman direct positive paper… It was very heavy going trudging along with all this equipment.
I photographed with both my digital camera and large format five by four, loaded with Harman direct positive paper… It was very heavy going trudging along with all this equipment. I did two loops of the gorge, once with digital and the other time with the large format… whilst shooting digital, I hid my large format equipment in the undergrowth…
My overall feeling for the shoot is that I am not happy with outcome. I don’t feel as though the digital results represent the landscape well enough… something is lost. And the positive paper was a total failure… Digital and five four – paper negs
I have attempted to research any history behind this gorge – there appears to be none documented…
Then to create my own story
This is what came whislt shooting –
Not happy with outcome – Sony – Digital and five four – paper negs
Heavy work with a five four in hand
This is the story of the boy called Alfred is about re-occurrence is the resurrection is about make believe. The story will charge approximately 1000 years of Alfred‘s death in disgorge it will be a story of how Alfred came to find himself in this environment and why and how his life came to an end 20×30 times whatever it comes out at.
20 different stories of Alfred being chased, driving his car off a cliff, suicide, bloody death, hanging, getting drunk, getting laid, of dying.
See ancestry.co.uk Anglo Saxon start 869ad
There will be an accompanying video mainly to work as an accompaniment to the story more as a visual piece rather than adding to the story. This is mainly for the benefit of Tony and Richard so that they can get a sense of the environment. A better sense of the environment. It is one of those places that strong she doesn’t really do justice to stop we didn’t really do justice to anything that we are able to see you with our own eyes to be honest life is about senses life is about smell taste touch hearing and vision. Whenever you eliminate those things something is lost by taking a photograph we take our wonderful three-dimensional world we eliminate smell and sight and memory and everything else and we can press download into a two-dimensional representation of what we have seen and smells in here and experienced. The video should help to bring some of that back.
“He wanted her the rest of his life, and failing that, he wanted permission to walk along beside her while she lived it.”
― William Gay, Provinces of Night
A topographic typology tangent.
Halton, M., 2020. Petrichor: Why Does Rain Smell So Good?. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44904298> [Accessed 27 September 2020].
Foster, A., 2020. Trent Parke: Dream / Life. [online] ~ Talking Pictures ~. Available at: <https://talking-pictures.net.au/2020/09/12/trent-parke-dream-life/> [Accessed 30 September 2020].
Video… Accompanying video…