1st Jan, ’21

AD7803 Interrogating Practice – beginnings

After completing the first two modules, I have been considering what I can achieve during this module, and how to achieve my aims… Overall, I want the module to allow for experimentation of processes and to enable learning of photographic practice not tried before.

Potential aims for the module

Element one:

  • Undertake and complete a project that is viable under Covid restrictions
  • Experiment with photographic processes not tried before
  • All research, discussion, planning, test images and evaluation presented on a website (here)
  • Project to culminate on my website and as an appropriately considered outcome
  • An exhibition (online or physical)
  • Wider research/discussion/interview with professionals about processes and themes that emerge

2nd Jan, ’21

Potential project ideas:

SeaCyans – Cyanotypes made in the ocean on glass, with either gelatin or collodian… Abstract imagery, similar to Meghan Riepenhoff in style – http://meghannriepenhoff.com/project/littoral-drift/

Paralax SeaCyans – glass, collodian… overlayed project – gelatine cyans, imagery of sea surface and sea bed and an object in between. What the sea is to us as human beings – what it offers, and what we give it… WHAT THE SEA GIVES ME, AND WHAT I GIVE THE SEA

Tusker rock

Documentary – Port Talbot and Garw Valley

Gwent Levels – medium format

Negative negatives – 5×4 or polaroid – destroyed negatives give it to the recipient to represent themselves…

Inside out – shops, from the inside – see jess shutter up photography post

Stand out from the crowd – Where’s Wally? Large format portraits and drone photography of a crowd.

Almost Scene – black cyanotypes – cyans on black paper

Newton Dunes – a unique landscape and area of interest


3rd Jan, ’21

Just a note – things I want to try:

Lumens – Using expired photographic paper in combination with cyanotype solution, I want to have a go at making some cyano lumens. Not even sure what project path I will follow yet but these have a strong visual aesthetic that is very abstract in nature and could be the starting place for an idea.

Solar printing – I have in my possession six solar plates. I don’t know where they came from, I can’t remember who gave them to me, and I don’t even know how they work, but I want to try them out using the UV light box in work.

Gelatin glass cyanotype – I want to further progress with my gelatin cyanotype experiments. I have had a brief go within a previous module, but I would like to develop an entire project using this technique. It lens it self well to anything that is water based in terms of photographic content so could work well with the above Tesco rock idea.

Colodion cyanotype – Colodion cyanotype saw something that I have never tried before. I imagine they are fairly similar in visual appearance to a gelatin cyanotype but I want to have a go. I love the way that a gelatin image has a certain degree of opacity, and I imagine this is replicated when using collodion. Collodion is a difficult substance to pour but because of that and the way the edges contract on the edge of the plate I think this would be a worthwhile experiment.


4th Jan, ’21

Evelyne Dierikx

I came across these images on facebook today. Lumens, incorporating paint, oil, and herbs. I want to incorporate lumen printing into a project, should it be suitable and have something to ‘say’. Using expired black and white darkroom paper, I could place them in water courses to create pattern and visual textures. While garish, and not to my usual taste, they have an odd visual aesthetic that I like. They are multilayered and have an almost 3D style, which is strange for a photogram based contact print. I will keep these in mind when I finalise an idea…


6th Jan, ’21

IDEA – Dunes project

Title – These are my dunes

Idea – photograph the dunes environment to capture the diverse history, landscape and stories of the dunes, via different formats and processes outlined below:

Digital SLR – Documentative shots and textures. Also the dunes ponds at night

Large format 10×8 black and white to photograph the history – WW1 rifle range

Polaroids – landscape and tourism

Medium format (645) – people of the dunes

Underwater – rockpools and natural springs – iPhone

Pinhole 5×4 – seashore 5×4 transparency film

Medium format (645) – multiple panoramic landscape separated into a giant wall piece and some long multiple panoramic too

Tusker rock – drone shots of the shipwrecks

Environmental cyanotypes – using the flora, soil and salt of the dunes, combined with acrylic paint

Double exposure panoramics – Landscape and texture

Large format cyanotype – Sea wash cyans on A1 heavyweight watercolour paper

Solar printing – representations of the beach

Lumens

Black Cyans

Video


8th Jan, ’21

Research:

Littoral Drift

I first saw Meghann Riepenhoffs work in ParisPhoto, and was immediately captivated by them. The method of immersing cyanotype imbued paper and material in waves as they break is such an amazing way of using the landscape to create a photographic representation of a moment. The action of taking a picture disperses all sensation whilst being in the moment of a landscape – all senses are lost, even vision, as we create a 2D representation of the 3D world around us. This type of photography, where the landscape makes the art is a wonderful way of bringing a link to senses back. The size of the pieces is realistic in terms of the size/scale of the waves, and this adds to the drama and meaning behind the pieces. Mostly blue, but occasionally with hint of colour, the relationship to the landscape is vastly apparent, as is Rieppenhofs connection to the natural world. There is a physical representation of the landscape within these images that the simple capture of a standard photograph fails to replicate. I think there is a place for something like this to occur within this module as part of my response…


9th Jan, ’21

Got up early today to go and shoot with my polaroid camera. I’ve never previously used a polaroid camera as a landscape camera, and it was really great to do something different. That said, I think the polaroid camera will be used solely for the tourism aspect, as it fits that part of the project perfectly…


15th Jan, ’21

The culmination of ‘These are my Dunes’ could be a book of all the different areas covered, or possibly to single out one area. An alternative submission could be to mock up an exhibition. This would work, as the project is extensive, and different wall/areas of the exhibition could showcase the differing elements of the dunes structure…


15th Jan, ’21

Shoot one

First shoot. I almost don’t consider this to be a ‘shoot’ as it is the environment in which I find myself every single day anyway. When I started the MA I didn’t expect to be shooting over the dunes. I expected to be photographing further afield, but with Covid and restrictions, this project makes sense. It also just makes sense from a project perspective. It is a project that allows for investigations into a unique landscape, that will afford context and meaning. The idea has evolved through thought to have an underlying theme of human vs natural world. Vs is the wrong context though… It’s not a battle. The dunes offers so much in terms of human enjoyment and investigation potential, but the dunes exist because of natural landscape evolution. I hope to highlight these two ‘stories’ through narrative over the coming months and via the potential mini projects.

The first shoot was more akin to going on a daily walk with the kids, but it was exciting to be shooting, nonetheless.


16th Jan, ’21

Shoot two

Another walk with the kids today. Took the camera. Just documenting today. Looking for lines, fragments of history, colour, shape and pattern. Lots of water on the section that we walked today, and in unexpected places too. I have a lot of plans for this project, but to begin, I will just walk, with the kids, with the camera…


21st Jan, ’21

Shoot three

Quick stroll with my daughter this evening. We walked our favourite ‘after tea’ trail, which takes us past Ada’s wishing tree, where she always makes a wish. It was nice light. Again, I am just recording the landscape, textures and details… I am conscious that this project has come about through Covid, and restrictions. I wonder if I would be embarking on a study of a place that is so close to home, had it not been for the pandemic situation. I always suggest ‘a study of a location’ as a starting place for students who don’t have an idea for a project… and here I am with my starting place… but it is an exciting starting place, and the dunes are an amazing landscape.


22nd Jan, ’21

Shoot four

More of the same today… Kids… Sand… These dunes are vast, but I should have enough time to document the landscape digitally, while documenting pockets of interest via other formats. It’s great that the kids will be with me on this one… toy guns and games, sprinting through the bracken. It’s a lot of fun.


23rd Jan, ’21

Shoot five

This morning was beautiful. I set out to capture some panoramic imagery at first light. The ground was frosted and the air was super-cold. I took my camera and I ran with it in my hand – the first time I had run with a proper camera, and it was great.

I am always conscious of time when shooting. The kids need attending to, and home life is not altogether easy at the moment… I suppose that is why this project is working, as I can shoot in short bursts of creative time, and still be back in time for the kids mealtimes, etc. I achieved what I set out to this morning, with the creation of some lovely individual winter stills and two panoramic images. I am still thinking exhibition for this hand in. It makes the most sense, and the panoramics will be a strong feature.


24th Jan, ’21

Shoot six

Today it snowed, so I made the most, grabbed the camera, the kids and went to the dunes. I’m not really focussing on a specific part of the dunes when I’m shooting with the digital camera; I’m just documenting the landscape. The skies were incredibly interesting today, laden with dark blue ominous weight, heavy with snow, off set against the the scattered snowfall on the ground. Some worthwhile imagery came from today.


26th Jan, ’21

Shoot seven

Limited time this evening, as I had to be back for the kids bedtime… Quick run with a tripod, some lumecubes and a camera to capture a couple of shots to highlight the majesty of the environment at night. I don’t want to linger too long on the dunes at night, as this was the subject for a previous project – Nights, Lights, Love, Lyrics.


31st Jan, ’21

Shoot eight

Video experiment

More snow today, so I decided to mainly focus on a small experiment with video. The result is ok, has a pretty visual aesthetic but doesn’t really have a lot to say other than ‘aren’t the dunes lovely’. It is a start though. I think an accompanying video piece will suit the project very well, as the movement and features of the dunes can be further investigated through moving image. An overview of the dunes with some sort of narrative voiceover would be a very worthwhile accompanying submission.


4th Feb, ’21

http://www.xavierribas.com/Contents/Nitrate_cover/Nitrate.html

Research – Xavier Ribas

I came across Xavier Ribas’ work one evening recently, and I wholly appreciate the boundless scale of ‘Nitrate’.

Carlos Guerra (2014) states ‘In this body of work, practices relating to various institutions and interests have come together, such as the research in libraries and archives, interviews and fieldwork trips, as well as the gathering of miscellaneous materials. This confluence of knowledges, methods and modes of communication that spills over the bounds of photography as a medium, impels us to consider Nitrate as a documentary dispositive, that is to say, a collection of works that can be read both as an interrelated whole and autonomously. Most of the works comprising Nitrate include the photographic image alongside archival images, data, reports, news items, inventories, lists and even objects, proof that the documentary dispositive can take any form except that of a photographic genre tending to fixate meaning.”

http://www.xavierribas.com/Contents/Nitrate_cover/Nitrate.html

I was captivated by the phrase a collection of works that can be read both as an interrelated whole and autonomously. This made me consider the idea I had… my dunes project… It made me realise I can photograph via different methods, formats and processes to capture the differing stories of the dunes. I will create an interrelated whole, via autonomous stories.

My project is about a place, attachment to that place, via pockets of interest across the ecosystem.


9th Feb, ’21

I’ve loaded four 5×4 negative holders with FP4, ready for a test shoot on Friday. I want to shoot the beach/seashore on 5×4 Fuji Velvia transparency film on Pinhole, but want to test exposure on the ONDU pinhole cameras:

I intend to visit Newton Beach, which is part of the Dunes on Friday morning at high tide. My overall intention for this element of the project is to shoot the 2km beach every 100m from the same angle, looking out to sea.


9th Feb, ’21

Project Proposal

TitleThese are my dunes

IdeaTo photograph the dunes environment to capture the diverse history, landscape and stories of the dunes, via different formats and processes

LocationNewton and Merthyr Mawr Warren/Dunes (840 acres of dunes ecosystem – grasslands, saltmarsh, beach, rivermouth and woods)

NarrativeA visual story of this unique ecosystem, told via multiple mini projects that come together to tell the story of the dunes

Areas to photograph:

The dunes environment/landscape – photographed via Digital SLR – Documentative shots and textures.

The dunes ponds at night – photographed via Digital SLR

History – WW1 rifle ranges – Photographed via large format 10×8 black and white film

History – ancient farmlands – Photographed via large format 10×8 black and white film

Tourism – Photographed via polaroid

People of the dunes – portraits of the people who call the dunes ‘theirs’ – photographed via medium format (645) Ilford Ortho 80iso

Rockpools and natural springs – Underwater photography, captured via iPhone

Land and sea – Pinhole 5×4 – seashore photographed on 5×4 transparency film – 2km of seashore photographed every 100m

Tusker rock – Gelatin glass cyanotypes – drone shots of the shipwrecks

Dunes flora – Environmental cyanotypes – using the flora, soil and salt of the dunes, combined with acrylic paint

Diversity of Ecosytem – Double exposure panoramics – Landscape and texture

Sea wash – Large format cyanotypes – cyans on A1 heavyweight watercolour paper – abstractions created by the sea

Video – These are my dunes – video representation of the importance of the dunes to local people

Other potential:

Solar printing – representations of the beach

Lumens

Black Cyans

Medium format (645) – multiple panoramic landscape separated into a giant wall piece and some long multiple panoramic too


10th Feb, ’21

I am currently borrowing a Mamiya 645 from Uni Glos, but have been researching options to own my own. My eye struggles with manual focus, so I am looking at the AFD range…

645AF: Needs factory upgrade for limited MFDB compatibility, no custom functions, not compatible with D or LS series lenses or newer Phase One backs. Cheapest option.

645AFD: Not compatible with D or LS series lenses or newer Phase One backs. Limited/no custom functions.

AFDII: Compatible with D lenses and all backs. Custom functions supported.

AFDIII: compatible with all backs and lenses. LS lenses don’t have all function they do on the 645DF. Also sold as PhaseOne 645. Custom functions supported.

The AF or AFD seem to be the best option. They hold their value very well, so I am not concerned about the spending the money, as I am confident of recouping cash should I want to sell after the project completion.


11th Feb ’21

Research – Ina Echternach

Ina Echternach, born in 1970, lives and works in Siebengebirge, located in the heart of Europe. Working with Polaroid film, her projects are guided by nature and focus on the woods. Her work is structured as Polaroid montages, creating ‘windows’ that investigate the beauty of nature and the natural world. I suspect she uses a polaroid lab machine, as the imagery is structured in such a way that looks not of a polaroid camera. A polaroid lab allows you to use a smart phone to print polaroids.

The aesthetic of polaroid lends itself well to imagery that has a snapshot feel to it. The faded, nostalgic look of a polaroid image immediately makes us think of ‘the instant’. As such I think I will use polaroid to capture the tourism that occurs over the dunes. It suits the style and would allow me to photograph the interaction of people with the dunes from a different perspective. I don’t think I would create montages as Echternach does, but Polaroid feels right for this section.


15th Feb ’21

SFC Video Archives – Meghann Riepenhoff in conversation with Emily Lambert from Art Curved Straight on Vimeo.

I’ve returned to Riepenhoff as I feel her work very much suits part of what I am trying to achieve with this project. Overall, my project is about both the natural world and human place within it, and Riepenhoff’s work contains both of these themes as she allows the landscape to create her art. The above interview and video content reveal discussions about the themes and methods used in capture. Her work unites photographic process and landscape, and I am intrigued by allowing the landscape to make art, with the ‘photographer’ as a mechanical tool. Riepenhoff connects with her environment, seemingly enjoys the making of the imagery, and is entirely immersed in the ecosystem.

Riepenhoff’s work has led me to an idea – cyanotypes, left in the environments for days – representations of the woods, dunes, bracken, trees. As the dunes are such a huge part of me, I feel there should be more experimentation taking place with regard to immersion in the landscape. As such, I intend to sensitise some watercolour paper with cyanotype solution whilst over the dunes. I will then leave them over the dunes, weighted by bracken, sand, flora and debris for a period of time. The weather should scatter ‘content’ over the paper, and the imagery that results should be true representation of the landscape…


16th Feb ’21

Human Nature

Research – Lucus Foglia

Foglia’s HUMAN NATURE is a study of the complicated relationship between us and the natural world. Much of this project doesn’t fit with the visual style of my own work, but the underlying theme resonates. With conservation of ecosystems and the natural world at it’s heart, this body of work looks into the close relationship that we have with environment, and what we can do to preserve and maintain. “For 12 years, Lucas Foglia traveled around the world, befriending and photographing people who are working towards a positive future, in spite of the enormity of the task. Human Nature is a series of interconnected stories about our reliance on nature and the science of our relationship to the natural world. Each story is set in a different landscape: city, forest, farm, desert, ice field, ocean, and lava flow. From a newly built rainforest in urban Singapore to a Hawaiian research station measuring the cleanest air on Earth, the photographs examine our need for “wild” places—even when those places are human constructions.”

The visual elements within the image above have an energy that relates to energy production on Earth and renewable resources. The tonality and colour induced a feeling of the ‘washed out’, and Foglia seems to suggest in this study that human nature is essentially destructive. I want some of this to transfer to my dunes study, and to show the balance of human interaction with the environment of the dunes.

The above image is fascinating. The clash of humans and nature is incredible. The way the boat is on the very edge of the image, stooging away from the lava flow. the fact that this natural cascade of molten rock is a tourist attraction is remarkable. The separation formed by the cloud and rock line shows the fragility of the human/nature relationship. Foglia says “Today, nature both heals and threatens us,” he says. “As we spend more time than ever indoors looking at screens, neuroscientists demonstrate that time outside is vital to human health and happiness.”

Lucas Foglia Interconnects People, Nature and Science in his Series, Human Nature


16th Feb ’21

Tusker Rock Sea cyans brainstorm – Round glass round imagery – portholes – overlooking the whole island several little dissecting areas.

I am interested in alternative processes within photography. As such, I am always playing with cyanotype, wet plate, tin type, etc… I have an idea for a mini project in the project that links to the RNLI. Recently, I did an initial experiment with gelatine and glass cyanotypes, and I loved the visual aesthetic that emerged. They look like water, and they appear to float…

So an idea formed to create parallax seacyans – gelatine glass cyanotypes, that the wash of a wave breaking on the shore ‘exposes’. I did some research and it turns of someone has done this (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2018/feb/23/meghann-riepenhoff-cyanotypes-tidal-patterns), but with paper, not glass. So I decided to change the thought process to still allow the sea to create the image, but by placing the glass gelatine cyan in a thin tray of seawater, and lighting with bright studio flash (needed to expose quickly). This would then form the first layer in a 3D piece, that allows the viewer to look down through this layer (though the surface of the sea) to something below… Then a series of coincidences occurred. I stumbled upon an article on Wales online about Tusker Rock (https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/tiny-island-welsh-coast-graveyard-15519672). I have always known about Tusker Rock because it is only a few miles from where I live. It is a rock that is situated out to sea and is only revealed at low tide. The Wales online article revealed to me that Tusker Rock is a graveyard for shipwrecked vessels and has ‘killed’ an extraordinary number of people through history. So my idea progressed and Tusker Rock has become the ‘something below’ that the viewer sees when looking down through the seacyan glass layer.   I then found this clip – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08sfk5l   My friend knows Ross Martin very well (the chap in the film), and I have his contact within the RNLI. I think he way the clip ends is my starting place; Ross says “Something should be done to remember the lives of those lost”… I wonder if that’s where this seacyans project could come in?    

Sea cyans – accompanying audio (exhibition installation?) – the sea, car crusher, screams, the night we met song, Redford Sufjan

Tusker rock – The waves that disappear or the waves that made you disappear

Sailor screams – Framed? Floating frames?? Image of tusker rock surrounded by rock, sand and environmental detail?

https://www.luminati.co.uk/frames/wall-mounted-frames/wall-mounted-acrylic-photo-frames2


16th Feb ’21

A few days ago I started the pinhole 5×4 sea shore mini brief. I have Ondu pinhole cameras, and I wanted to test exposure. So I loaded up few darkslides with Ilford FP4, and tested them out.

I then took them to Newton beach to test exposure, to make sure I had exposure times correct.

The resulting test image is very pleasing in visual aesthetic, and does what I want it to do. One aspect of this mini brief is to show/represent the passage of time, hence the longer exposures that pinhole gives.

I intend to photograph the length of Newton beach (2km) at 100m intervals using fuji Velvia. I will need a windless day and high tide, early in the morning to reduce light, increase exposure times and utilise best quality of light.


17th Feb ’21

Today I tried some alternative papers as a cyanotype base. The paper bases I have tried are (clockwise) Gmund Heidi, Takeo Satogami, Wild Black watercolour, and Wild Gmund sand. I am well versed in the making of cyanotypes. I’ve been doing it for years, I teach it on all the courses I deliver, and I’ve tried it across many different bases. But I had not experimented with inclusion of colour as a paper back drop. Hence the desire to try out this little experiment. I feel some of the above results are more successful than others. I was quite excited to try making cyans on black watercolour paper but I don’t feel they are particularly successful. In my mind I had the idea that the blue-tones would become decidedly indistinct whilst printed on black. In reality it is a little too abstract. But there might be a purpose for this in a future project. There might be a future purpose for this within work that I produce further down the line, but for now I will abandon the black at cyanotypes within this current project. To progress with this cyanotype idea I will be having a go at Cyano-Lumens. I think this will be a very worthwhile progression of my existing knowledge. I’m aware that the module is called interrogating practice and I don’t really want to continue experimenting with processes that I’ve already tried. Within this module, and within this project, I feel that there is an enormous amount of potential to experiment with processes I have either tried very little, or processes not tried before. The nature of this project allows for a greater wealth of experimentation by the wider areas of interest and mini projects that sit within the larger context of this visual study. With that in mind, the progression from these four experiments would be to try some cyano lumens, that are made within the landscape.


18th Feb ’21

Something fabulous happened today. I have been looking for my own Mamiya 645AFD for nearly a year, but they are just too pricy. They go on Ebay and MPB for £1000+ without fail, and that is something that I cannot afford. But today one appeared on facebook marketplace for £350 in a nearby town. I was shocked, gave the lady a ring and immediately went to see it. And it is in full working order, and I bought it there and then. I’m chuffed. I haven’t had a 645 for about 15 years. I love it.


19th Feb ’21

I decided to use my research into Meghann Riepenhoff to create some large format cyanotypes over the dunes. I painted six A1 pieces of watercolour paper with mixed cyanotype solution in the landscape, and placed them strategically over the dunes. As they were wet when placed, I was hoping the landscape would imbue the paper with natural elements, such as leaves and sand. I also kept a close eye on the weather and chose today as it was to be sunny, followed by rain. I was hoping the rain would wash some of the cyan tone away. I left the cyanotypes in the landscape for 24 hours, returning the next day…

20th Feb ’21

…and they are fab. I’m very pleased with them, but need something else; as they are they feel incomplete. After a days worth of weather, sand, soil and flora the shapes, patterns and textures are lovely. I think I am going to return them to the landscape on a stormy day (there are storms on the horizon), to allow more rain to soak them with the addition of pigment inks. I am hoping the pigment inks will form more patterns and shapes, driven by the wind and flow of the rain. I want to enhance them by including the colours of the dunes, but as the dunes made the initial exposure, I want the dunes to make the concluding colour representations.


20th Feb ’21

Matt Botwood – ephemeral pools

Matt Botwoods Ephemeral pools project is relevant to my current project. Described as ‘an exploration of transient views in the landscape’, there are similarities in approach when considering my dunes project. Both my project and Bowoods investigates to some degree the change that occurs in a landscape, whether via human interaction or natural change.

Botwoods study documents change within the landscape. Change through natural growth, death and decay. Change via man-made development and intervention. Changes in the seasons and daily changes in the weather. Bowoods condensed his view of his local forest even further by focussing on the pools and water in the landscape, to create abstractions and reflections. The landscape reminds me heavily of the dunes landscape in which I am working. I might draw from this and create another sub-project of water based abstractions, shot on medium format to capture the detail. Medium format is more regularly associated with landscape views or portraits, so it will be both difficult and exciting to produce abstract work in this unconventional way.

The image above is a good representation of the visual aesthetic I have in mind. The abstract sense of landscape is very different from any of the current ideas I have for this project, but actually it would be a welcome addition. The dark tones in the image above make the image both ominous and beautiful, the shadows and dapples of droplets creating suggestions that allow the viewers mind to crate an implied meaning. By shooting through the water, and capturing both reflected light and shadow, the image has a macabre quality. The series of images that Bowood has created are bound by tonality and abstract shape and form. Again, I am excited to be creating a piece of work that will allow so many ideas and goals to be executed.


21st Feb ’21

The history of Newton Burrows and Merthyr Mawr dunes

Part of the reason why I am so interested in this area is the wealth of historical remains, structures and evidence of historical human interaction within this environment. The area is interesting from a geological, ecological and human point of view. Covering 840 acres, the dunes system at Newton and Merthyr Mawr is vast in scale and is enormously ecologically diverse. The landscape is varied, with grasslands, saltmarsh, beach and woods across the site. This area once extended all the way to the Gower, but is today interrupted by numerous towns and Port talbot Steelworks. “The sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr are very unusual because they have formed against a Carboniferous Limestone Plateau that runs from East to West along the coast, making the dunes at Merthyr Mawr the second highest in Europe. This reserve also contains examples of the successional stages of dune formation, from bare sand, embryonic dunes to (further inland) stabilised dunes and slacks” (first-nature, ND).

One particular area of interest are the rifle ranges that sporadically populate the area. While I am not interested in military history or the military at all, these structures are fascinating. As a kid I used to play in them, and as a teenager my friends and I would play BB guns in them. Two military shooting ranges operated intermittently in the Newton Burrows area, at the western end of the site from the 1914-18 war until 1967. The concrete target structures are still visible. Williams (2020) says “During the later stages of World War II the range was used by American troops from the 28th Infantry Division who were based in and around Porthcawl. General Dwight D Eisenhower inspected the troops at the range on 1st April 1944 before they headed off to Normandy”. The following information has been taken from Glamorgan Archiogical Trust document GGAT 137: The Call to Arms-Southeast Wales and the First World War:

Newton Burrows rifle range (07494m).
The rifle range is marked on the Third Edition OS map (1921) with firing points marked between 600yds and 100yds. The range is a typical military gallery range of around 1900 and could be used for firing from 1000 yards if required. It is probable that the range was constructed as a replacement for an earlier one located on a north east/south west axis within Merthyr Mawr Warren and labelled as a ‘Volunteer Rifle Range’ on the First Edition OS map. An archaeological watching brief was carried out on the range in 2003 when the target frames were removed for storage by the local authority (Tuck 2003). Research demonstrated that the range was under construction in 1904 and was operational from 1905. The range is laid out east -west, with the targets located to the east. The target butts consist of a gallery with a width of twelve targets (originally eight) contained within a service trench fronted by a mound with a small structure located at the south end to house range stores etc. The date of the addition of the extra firing lanes is unknown but indicates that eight lanes was considered inadequate to meet the training need. The range would certainly have been used for musketry training during the First World War. A rhomboidal enclosure is depicted approximately 250m west of the 600yd firing point. This may define an administrative area for troops undergoing dry training (i.e. without live ammunition) prior to using the ranges but is probably also the location of the 1000 yard firing point.
An additional firing range with separate targets was constructed south of the 600 yard range during the Second World War and appears to coincide with the appearance of a square enclosure close to the earlier range and which probably served as an ammunition store, together with the construction of a rectangular structure adjacent to the 600 yard firing point which is likely to have been a troop shelter. Exactly how the range was used during the First World War is unknown but oblique references to musketry training are known from contemporary newspaper reports.

There are also remnants of agriculture on the dunes that I would like to cover photographically. Glamorgan agricultural trust says “The surrounding agricultural landscape retaining evidence of earlier medieval infield-outfield arrangement, with fossilised strip fields, and extensive water meadows at the confluence of the Ogmore and Ewenny Rivers.’ The river itself plays an important role in the landscape, as there was once a harbour situated somewhere along it, towards the sea. Glamorgan agricultural trust says “The historic landscape area of Newton Point to Black Rocks, Ogmore-by-Sea comprises the intertidal zone at mouth of Ogmore River (Aberogwr). Documentary references hint at a traditional river harbourage site near Merthyr Mawr during the late medieval/early post-medieval period, specifically a cartographic reference to duties being collected from boats along the north bank of the River Ogmore, just down stream of the confluence of the Ewenny and Ogmore Rivers. Newton Point to Black Rocks, Ogmore-by-Sea is characterised as intertidal zone at mouth of Ogmore River (Aberogwr), characterised by intertidal features, including fording places, sea defences, and late medieval/early post-medieval harbourage, the post-medieval bathing house of Ty-Coch, formerly considered to be a salthouse.”

My method of documenting the activity of boats and ships in the area is to actually investigate Tusker Rock, which sits out in the ocean. Tusker Rock is strewn with shipwrecks… I will elaborate on this fully in my research later on.

Running through the centre of the dunes is Cog Y Brain. This is the limestone ridge that runs through the dunes, and against which the majority of the sand has been blown and trapped. At the far end of the ridge is ‘the big dipper’. This is the largest sand dune in Europe. The views from Cog Y Brain are extensive, and the whole of the dunes landscape can be observed as you travel along the ridge. I always think of it as the spine of the dunes; the backbone that holds the environment together. Minhinik (2016) states “The dunes visible from Cog y Brain are thought to comprise in part a ‘Neolithic field system’ that was inundated by sand in the Middle Ages, and affected by the ‘Bristol Channel tsunami’ of January 30, 1607”.

There are structural remains over the dunes, in addition to the rifle ranges. Candelston castle is the most prominent (a 14th-century fortified manor house, in ruins since the 19th century), but there are also the remains of a salt house and a windmill. The windmill has always been an elusive structure, but last week I performed extensive research into the location by scouring Google Maps. I was able to locate what I thought was the windmill, by spotting a circular structure on the map…

So I grabbed the kids, a camera and we went for a walk… and we found it:

The windmill was constructed in the 1400’s. Coflein (N/D) states “A ruined circular building, 5.0m in diameter, its remains standing up to 4.0m high, with battered walls 0.7m thick and two opposed entrances: the building emerged from the sands of Merthyr Mawr warren, in about 1823, and is thought to be later medieval, being set within an area thought to have been engulfed by sand in and around the sixteenth century. The windmill can be associated with other, possibly medieval features recorded in this area. The site is depicted and annotated as ‘Old Windmill’ on the Ordnance Survey first edition 25in mapping of 1877, as ‘Round Tower (Supposed Windmill)’ on the second and third editions of 1899 and 1919 respectively and as ‘Windmill (Remains of)’ on the fourth edition of 1941 and subsequently.
The remains are of a type of primitive, shorter, parallel-sided mill, similar to those across the channel in Somerset”.

Another interesting area over the dunes are the swathes of ’empty space’ that have been created by the gravel quarries that used to be prevalent on the site. The Bridgend County Borough Council sustainability report (2007) states that “Sand and gravel extraction took place along the entire length of the foredunes from Newton Burrows to the Ogmore river between 1937 and 1973. This extraction has resulted in large areas of bare gravel and an extensive system of trackways which are still apparent parallel to the shore behind the foredunes. Following concerns about coast protection, the lease for sand and gravel extraction was compulsorily terminated by the County Council in 1973; it was feared that off and onshore sand and gravel winning was leading to a decrease in height of the beaches throughout Swansea Bay. Today the Merthyr Mawr Estate is still entitled to extract small amounts of gravel, and this is stockpiled at the western end of the site. An area of former gravel workings in Newton Burrows was used for tipping of domestic refuse. This has since been covered over and sown with rye-grass and is now a distinctive rectangular plateau”.

Merthyr Mawr is considered to be of significant archaeological interest, with large areas of the central section of the site being a scheduled ancient monument. Remains of the site include finds from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation. Sand and gravel extraction also took place along the entire length of the SSSI between 1937 and 1973. This extraction has resulted in large areas of bare gravel and extensive areas of track ways which can still be seen today. Sand and gravel extraction ceased due to a concern over coastal protection of the area. Extraction of gravel, however, does still occur today by Merthyr Mawr estate who is entitled to extract small amount and who stock pile the gravel at the western end of the site. An area of former gravel workings within the western area of the SSSI, approximate grid reference 284355 177180, was used for tipping of domestic waste. This has since been covered over and sown with rye-grass and now forms a distinctive rectangular plateau. There is also a sewage works on the boundary of the SSSI to the east. A sewage pipeline runs across the southern corner of the SSSI. It should be noted that this landfill and sewage pipeline maybe leaching into the groundwater underneath the SSSI and as such altering the composition of the groundwater. The SSSI site consists of dunes which includes a mixture of ecosystems from short grass to scrub. There are some isolated ponds to the far east of the site and a large lake which is fed by a small spring emitting from a large dune to the north. There is also a spring on the beach below the tide line. The topography of the site differs greatly. Next to the caravan park the dunes are approximately one meter above the beach and there are rocks and groynes placed to reduce coastal erosion. The rests of the SSSI coastline appears to be approximately one meter above the level of the beach and at a similar elevation above the level of the beach as the development site. There are, however, localised areas of depressions which maybe at a lower elevation than the development site. The rest of the SSSI significantly increases in elevation towards the north and especially towards the northeast”.

https://www.first-nature.com/waleswildlife/e-nnr-merthyr-mawr.php https://www.flydriveexplore.com/destinations/hidden-walks-of-south-wales-porthcawl-to-merthyr-mawr/ http://www.ggat.org.uk/cadw/historic_landscape/kenfig/english/merthyr_mawr_historic_pro.html http://www.ggat.org.uk/cadw/historic_landscape/kenfig/english/merthyr_mawr_015.html https://www.sustainablewales.org.uk/blog/2016/6/12/on-cog-y-brain-a-view-from-what-have-been-the-third-tee-of-the-merthyr-mawr-golf-course https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/33243/#:~:text=Site%20Description%20A%20ruined%20circular,area%20thought%20to%20have%20been


21st Feb ’21

I found this agency on social media today. Having had a look at what they do, their ethos is incredibly similar to mine – the impact of humans on a landscape and ecosystem, in correlation with conservation and art. My intentions are to contact them on the completion of this project, to see if there is anything they wish to do with any of the more land art pieces that I intend to make. I think the Cyano-Lumens and my other thoughts towards the landscape and making some imagery might be something they are interested in. Wider promotion and a broader audience for the work would be incredibly welcome.


23rd Feb ’21

https://emmairisbenson.com/film

https://emmairisbenson.com

One of my students showed me the work of Emma Iris Benson today. I very much enjoyed looking through her website and through her collection of images films and stills. It is my sort of photography, with an ethereal and slightly macabre visual aesthetic and an almost doom-like narrative. I very much connected with her dust film. While incredibly simple in style, sometimes it is the more simplistic things in life that offer us the greatest connections. One my intentions for this module, should I have time, is the inclusion of a moving image piece. I feel as though I can draw from Bensons work as it generally tells a story, and has a very strong artistic visual flavour.


24th Feb ’21

Research – photographer and book

https://mackbooks.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/hibi-br-masahisa-fukase

This is beautiful. I came across this on the Mack books website, and I have not seen this work before. It is very simple, leading on from what I was discussing in the last post, in that it is simple photographs of the surface of the street. One element of my dunes study is to photograph the textures that fall underfoot as one walks through the environment. So this is very good research for me in that it directly looks at the texture of place. I also very much appreciate and like the inclusion of colour. The way that the photographer includes this via mixed media is wonderful. As an item and a physical thing this book is absolutely beautiful. Grey is just the most wonderful colour that there is. Grey allows other colours to shine. When the sky is laden with heavy grey thunder clouds, the landscape that lies beneath it comes alive with greens and the colours of flowers. Grey is the perfect medium to promote any other colour – all colour sits well with grey. The wealth and variety of grey is also remarkable. Spanning the realm between pure white and absolute black, the wealth of shades of grey that lie between these two polar opposites is totally wondrous. So while within this book grey is the predominant colour, slashes and splashes of paint that the photographer has used to add narrative, make this book a truly textural treat. I can use this in my study. While the majority of the dunes surfaces are not grey, with the exception of the rocks and pebbles, the textures of the dunes are very important. They are where we have our sensual link as the textures exude colour, scent, and a tactile quality as they crunch under our feet as we move and meander through this beautiful landscape.


24th Feb ’21

Davis Maisel – Canisters – Library of Dust

David Maisel, and his documentation of corrosion laden copper canisters, is fascinating in the fact that the natural world has created these pieces of art. The visual qualities of the corrosion of the copper renders each can unique, and reminiscent of deep space imagery or earth from above.

The project that these pieces sit within, Library of Dust, is an explorative glimpse into an abandoned asylum. The main work focuses on these canisters, which contain the cremated remains of patients.

Of the work, Maisel says “[The work] depicts individual copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of patient from a state-run psychiatric hospital. The patients died at the hospital between 1883 (the year the facility opened, when it was called the Oregon State Insane Asylum) and the 1970’s; their bodies have remained unclaimed by their families.

The approximately 3,500 copper canisters have a handmade quality; they are at turns burnished or dull; corrosion blooms wildly from the leaden seams and across the surfaces of many of the cans. Numbers are stamped into each lid; the lowest number is 01, and the highest is 5,118. The vestiges of paper labels with the names of the dead, the etching of the copper, and the intensely hued colours of the blooming minerals combine to individuate the canisters. These deformations sometimes evoke the celestial – the northern lights, the moons of some alien planet, or constellations in the night sky. Sublimely beautiful, yet disquieting, the enigmatic photographs in Library of Dust are meditations on issues of matter and spirit.”

I find this work exciting but also a little disturbing; the fact that these canisters contain the remains of individuals who probably led unfortunate lives is unsettling. The fact that ‘bodies’ are unclaimed by anyone makes the work incredibly sad. But the corrosive blooms that have formed on the canisters as they erode somewhat represent the people inside. Each (person? canister?) an individual, the shapes and forms are unique. A miasma of colour and texture, the patterns that formed show the beauty and fragility of both life and the natural environment.

I want my ‘Landcyans’ to have another element of natural world imparted upon them, and the work of Daivid Maisel is giving me ideas. Could I utilise copper (sulphate), or borax, or salt, to allow my landcyans to have some form of crystallisation? Or maybe I could re-soak them and add ink or some such and allow the wind/rain/environment to ‘create’ once again…?


26th Feb, ’21

Shoot nine


27th Feb ’21

Shoot ten


2nd March ’21

Shoot eleven

Test shoot Fuji Provia

A few days ago I found something wonderful in work. At the back of one of the cupboards was a series of boxes and hiding inside one of those boxes was a pack of 20 Fuji provia 5×4 Polaroid slide film. Unsure as to their appropriateness of storage and whether they’d been kept cold I opened one of them to see what lay within and inside each of the Polaroid slides was a sheet of Fuji pro via 5 x 4. I decided that very evening to do a test to see if the film was worth using. I loaded a pinhole camera, went down the dunes with the kids, ended up on the beach and took a couple of photographs looking over to Ogmore by sea. On advice I photographed two pieces; one rated at 50 ISO and one rated at 25 ISO, then sent them off to be processed and the 50 ISO rating has come back as a wonderful exposure. I will now have a think about application for the remaining 18 pieces of expired film.


3rd March ’21

RESEARCH

Places on dunes – there are several land marks on the dunes that have given names:

Cog y brain – The limestone ridge that forms the dunes – I have always called it the spine, as it forms the backbone of the dunes.

Cwm y Gaer – wig fach woods

Black Rocks

Tusker rock

Burrows well

Windmill

Hazel Woods

Big Dipper 

Candleston Castle

Salthouse

ROBERTS’S CIST BURIAL – (PRN) : 00226m – SS85917704

“A stone cist on Merthyr Mawr Warren, uncovered by sand movement in 1948 and examined by staff of NMW who found sufficient other structural remains to postulate that it may have been part of a barrow of a type known elsewhere on the warren, composed of sand with a covering of stones. It was 0.5×0.3m and contained the skeleton of a child; to the S of it stones formed the segment of a circle 10.7m in diameter, and near them where two slabs of stone with fragments of burnt and unburnt bone (Savory 1953). Nothing is now visible at this NGR, which falls in a hollow in dunes at the foot of the high ground.”

CANDLESTON CASTLE CIST – (PRN) : 00227m – SS86727726

“A cist NW of Candleston Castle near the ruined windmill. This was oriented N-S and was roughly trapezoidal in shape; the internal length was 5ft (1.5m) and the internal width ranged from 13in to 17in (0.33-0.43m). It was entirely lined with stone slabs”

There is much more where that came from….. not least a probable ploughed-out Neolithic causewayed enclosure upon the high ground to the south at Norton [SS87467578].

Shoot twelve

An evening stroll, with gorgeous light. Within the digital element I am beginning to notice that even this ‘overview’ of the dunes has pockets of interest – details, paths, textures and landscapes. I think that this will be a good method of separating this large section into more manageable segments. These four areas have presented themselves as the four common themes whilst shooting digitally.


6th March ’21

Research – Edward Weston – Nude on Sand

Title: Nude on Sand, Oceano

Artist: Edward Weston (American, Highland Park, Illinois 1886–1958 Carmel, California)

Printer: Brett Weston (American, Los Angeles, California 1911–1993 Kona, Hawaii) or

Printer: Cole Weston (American, 1919–2003)

Date: 1936, printed ca. 1954

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Sand is the predominant force within my visual study. It is everywhere… including every square centimetre of my car. My house is pretty sandy too. This image by Edward Weston contains both of the important elements within my study; people and environment. It is a little different to the type of research that I have performed previously in that it focuses heavily on an individual. It is not  a wide view of a landscape. It is a segment, a section, a tiny part within a particular landscape. And this is juxtaposed with the human form.

Shoot thirteen


7th March ’21

Landcyans update

My active collaboration with the natural world is now a success. As with any collaboration, all parties have input, but the majority of influence has come from the environment. I took the cyanotype pieces back over the dunes, re-soaked them with water and added pigment ink. I then left them for a further 24 hours in the landscape, and returned to find the weather, wind, sun and debris had created the following pieces. I am very pleased with them. They are far from my usual style, but the end results are great. I LOVE the fact that the landscape has made these pieces, not me.

The Hillside Bracken Shines Like the River

To enter Newton Burrows and Merthyr Mawr sand dunes is to pass into a different world in which I am transformed. Away from daily life, this is the environment in which I soar. These six A1 ‘landcyans’ are images not made by me, but made by the dunes environment. They have been created over a period of 24hrs over the dunes as wet cyans, then a further 24hrs over the dunes, resoaked and ‘inked’ to allow the wind and rain to form pattern and shape. Imagery formed by sun, rain, wind and hail. Imagery made by sand, bracken, leaves and soil. 

Garish things, awayfrom my norm… but I love them. These images are made by the land.


8th March ’21

Hibi 
Masahisa Fukase

Research – photographer and book

https://mackbooks.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/hibi-br-masahisa-fukase

This is beautiful. I came across this on the Mack books website, and I have not seen this work before. It is very simple, leading on from what I was discussing in the last post, in that it is simple photographs of the surface of the street. One element of my dunes study is to photograph the textures that fall underfoot as one walks through the environment. So this is very good research for me in that it directly looks at the texture of place. I also very much appreciate and like the inclusion of colour. The way that the photographer includes this via mixed media is wonderful. As an item and a physical thing this book is absolutely beautiful. Grey is just the most wonderful colour that there is. Grey allows other colours to shine. When the sky is laden with heavy grey thunder clouds, the landscape that lies beneath it comes alive with greens and the colours of flowers. Grey is the perfect medium to promote any other colour – all colour sits well with grey. The wealth and variety of grey is also remarkable. Spanning the realm between pure white and absolute black, the wealth of shades of grey that lie between these two polar opposites is totally wondrous. So while within this book grey is the predominant colour, slashes and splashes of paint that the photographer has used to add narrative, make this book a truly textural treat. I can use this in my study. While the majority of the dunes surfaces are not grey, with the exception of the rocks and pebbles, the textures of the dunes are very important. They are where we have our sensual link as the textures exude colour, scent, and a tactile quality as they crunch under our feet as we move and meander through this beautiful landscape.

Shoot fourteen


14th March ’21

Research – Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, renowned in his field, that creates temporary landscape art installations out of sticks and stones, and anything and everything else that he finds outside. The son of a mathematician, Goldsworthy grew up working on farms before eventually getting his BA from what is now the University of Central Lancashire. “A lot of my earth art is like picking potatoes,” he told the Guardian. “You have to get into the rhythm of it.”

Much of Goldsworthy’s land art is transient and ephemeral, leading many to view it as a comment on the Earth’s fragility. But for Goldsworthy, the picture is more complicated.

“When I make something, in a field, street or altering the landscape, it may vanish, but it’s part of the history of those places,” he says in another interview. “In the early days, my work was about collapse and decay. Now some of the changes that occur are too beautiful to be described as simply decay. At Folkestone, I got up early one morning ahead of an incoming tide and covered a boulder in poppy petals. It was calm, and the sea slowly and gently washed away the petals, stripping the boulder and creating splashes of red in the sea. The harbor from which many troops left for war was in the background. ”https://www.boredpanda.com/land-art-andy-goldsworthy/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

Shoot Fifteen


I’ve previously described this project as Vs… but I wonder if that is correct… could it not be collaboration?


15th March ’21

Shoot Sixteen

PMSB – Markers in the sand. Whilst on a run today I came across a line of markers in the sand. PMSB stands for P.M.Sewer and water Bridgend, and these markers run along the periphery of the sewer works.


16th March ’21

Shoot Seventeen


19th March ’21

Research – Thilo Heinzmann

These pieces by Thilo Heinzmann are interesting. Like my landcyans, Heinzmann uses oil and pigment to try to impart a sense of land. I appreciate the abstract form and the simplicity of the art works he creates.

The work has a certain sense of place, a feeling of the natural and unforced about it. The complimentary colour palettes and emergence of direction are intriguing and I find these pieces beguiling. Pattern, shape and texture. There is so much of these three things over the dunes. Texture underfoot is a constant. The feel of sand, the crunch of flora, the crisp snow, the course pebbles and shells… While these are not photographic images, I do gain inspiration from them as they suggest sand blown landscapes… I wonder if there is something I could take from this, maybe with expired photo paper as my ‘canvas’ and pigment inks, once again left in the landscape…


19th March ’21

Alex Mavromaras – Coffee stained Cyanotype coloured with watercolour pencils.

I came across this image on Facebook, and I have mixed feelings about it. I appreciate this image for several reasons, but also feel it is somewhat twee. I love the effort that has been put into the image. The process, and then the painstaking colourising has created a beautiful thing. But I also think this process has a dated look. I find it strange that I should say that, as I love historic processes and alternative processes. I don’t think this is something I will try, but I value the process and effort, if not the final aesthetic.


19th March ’21

These three books have caught my eye recently, from a design point of view.

Trent Parke – Minutes to Midnight

Uwe Langmann – Vanishing Time

Vanessa Winship – She Dances on Jackson

All incredible books in their own right, but I am considering the option of an exhibition as final hand in. The design and layout of these books is fabulous, and I really do appreciate the sensation of having something physical and tangible. I will more than likely back up the exhibition with a portfolio website to allow for further scrutiny of the work.


20th March ’21

Shoot eigthteen


21st March ’21

Research – Phil Smith MythGeography

This is a book about walking. It’s very funny and it is a very worthwhile account of a walk across the heart of the English countryside. The author follows the footsteps of Charles Hurst and tells many stories of connection to place and the interpretation of home. Phil Smith is somewhat odd in his methods, as he has made walking sideways into a method of narrative. The book looks at different and alternative angles of trajectory and interprets the world and impressions of the world to re-establish our place in a landscape. The book looks at meaning within different types of ecosystems. I really enjoyed this book, I read it in a matter of days and I found this book to be a worthwhile handbook for looking in an alternative way.

Shoot Nineteen (Brass Cyan imagery)

Marram Grass

The dense, grey-green tufts of Marram grass are a familiar feature of our coastal sand dunes, its spiky leaves featuring in many games during long summer picnics at the beach. But Marram grass is not just a convenient child’s sword or hiding place, it plays a vital role in stabilising the dunes, its fibrous, matted roots binding the sand down, which helps to encourage the colonisation of other plants. Well-adapted to a harsh life at the coast, its glossy, rolled-up leaves protect it from drying out. It flowers in July and August. (https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/grasses-sedges-and-rushes/marram-grass)


22nd March ’21

Tim Ingold – Research

Adapted from AD7802:

Ingold, T., Janowski, M. 2016. Imagining Landscapes: Past, Present and Future. London: Routledge.

Via investigations into symbolic representation of landscape, this book describes the ways that a landscape is influenced by inhabitants through engagement and experience. The amount of useful information that I have gleaned from it makes it a worthwhile addition to my research. Ingold is a theorist and author with a distinctive voice. His name appears in academia and in research methodologies time and again, as his writing is highly influential and transformative. This book has advanced my ways of thinking, especially surrounding narrative within a perceived environment. His ideas and ideologies resonate with me personally, and progress my conceptual understandings of landscape.

Ingold, T. (2013). Making; Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. USA and Canada: Routledge, London and New York, pp. 1-31.

The perception of landscape is important within this text. Ingold’s style and philosophy is wonderous, as it is not simply academic in manner and style, as theory and nature/human perception are intertwined with one another to create prose and considerations that have depth, meaning and worth. This book allows wider thought about being the inhabitant of a planet, of being a tiny part of something huge. Continuous correspondence and the act of ‘becoming’ is something that I have taken from this book, as creatively is grounded in ongoing, improvisational process.

Shoot Twenty (Gravel)

Today I photographed the site of the sand and gravel quarry used to be in use over the dunes. Originally these quarries extended all the way from Newton Burrows along the foreshore up to the Merthyr Mawr estate, but the predominant remains are in evidence at the Newton Burrows end of the dunes. They form a scar on the landscape, as the flat, drained expenses of land create striking plateaus that are scattered and lined with pebbles and gravel. There are remnants of industrial buildings, and large flat areas of concrete where buildings previously stood. I photographed this on 5 x 4, using Ilford FP4 film. I have photographed on 5 x 4 extensively in my past, but I have almost always used 5 x 4 and large format photography for photographing people. It is my chosen method of Portrait work and is even a sub business (www.five-by-four.com). It was a really fabulous experience to slow down, look in a different manner and photograph using this highly considered process. The resulting imagery has a visual aesthetic that harks back to the era during which the gravel quarries existed. During processing I was deliberately negligent with loading the film into the tanks, with placing them in the tanks, so that during the process there might be the opportunity for film to stick together and for flaws to appear. This is not my usual method of making and developing film as I am normally fastidious in the development process to ensure that dust and imperfections are not apparent. This was not the case this time and I even went so far as to wash the film in salt water from the nearby beach. I’m very happy with the imagery; it is a very worthwhile study in its own right and has formed an integral part of this project overall. The imagery very much highlights these large patches of beaten ground over the dunes, and even though flora and plant life has once again reclaimed this industrial area, the flat land/waste land becomes ever more apparent once photographed and observed. When you walk through these areas you take for granted the old industry that used to be prevalent here. By photographing it you make apparent the impact that humans have had on this particular part of the dunes. 

Gravel

Within Newton Burrows sand dunes there are swathes of ‘empty space’ that have been created by the gravel quarries that used to be prevalent on the site. Sand and gravel extraction took place along the entire length of the foredunes from Newton Burrows to the Ogmore river between 1937 and 1973.This extraction has resulted in large areas of bare gravel and an extensive system of trackways which are still apparent parallel to the shore behind the foredunes. These scars remind us of the past. They represent the aftermath of a traumatic event; they are articulations within the wider power-geometries of space.

Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real

“The marks humans leave are too often scars”. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars


25th March ’21

Shoot Twenty one


26th March ’21

NEW NAME – SAND

NEW OVERALL THEME – MULTIPLIVITY OF PURPOSE/MULTIperspectives

During discussions with Richard and Tony today an important point was raised. Sand is the material that is apparent in every single picture I am taking, and Richard pointed this out to me. The original name for this project was “These are my dunes” but that has changed recently as my eyes have been opened to the fact that these are not my dunes… these are the dunes of the people that frequent the place… they belong to earth. They are quite simply not mine. So this new direction, in which sand is the predominant theme is a good one. Hence I shall change the name of the project to S A N D.

The multiplicity of purpose, and the multi perspectives of the dunes is still an important issue. It is still probably the main thing that this project is about. But the binding structure of sand has become an important consideration. The crossover, correlation and link between ecosystem and human impact is hugely important within this project. These dunes do have many, many purposes. That is ultimately the aim of photographing these different areas of interest. The images show what the dunes are used for. So the fact that the dunes are a multipurpose area there is a strong underlying theme.

Shoot Twenty Two (Black Rocks)

I photographed the very far end of Newton today. Within Newton there are lots of different pockets of interest but today’s focus was on the black rocks of Newton beach. Photographing using 645 medium format film I performed an in-depth investigation into these rocks. Using Ilford Ortho 80 film the resulting images have a high level of contrast and deep blacks that are designed to show the danger that these rocks possess. The towers of rock that point to the sky are sharp on the foot, scattered and laden with razor sharp barnacles, and have been the destructing force for many a boat and ship across history.

Ghostships and tides

The black rocks at the Newton end of the dunes are an otherworldly landscape. Divide of plant life the barnacle encrusted rocks reach skyward from the ground, creating a landscape that is somewhat akin to the moon. At high tide these rocks are entirely submerged and have caused many a catastrophic event for passing boats and ships. An area of doom, that also has an entirely wondrous sense of beauty. 


27th March ’21

Shoot Twenty Three


27th March ’21

Brass delivery

I want to do something alternative with the Marram grass that populates the dunes. Marram grass runs all the way along the foreshore from Newton Burrows, all the way to the Ogmore river mouth. It is a very large feature of the environment and as such certainly needs to be a part of this project. Bizarrely, I’m already creating what I would consider to be beautiful pictures of the grasses, but because of the gold hues connected to the plant I want to do something different with this one. That something different will be brass cyanotypes. Today I took delivery of 30 pieces of 50 mm x 50 mm brass on which I am going to create gelatin brass cyanotypes. This should offer a really lovely contrast of blue and gold, therefore making a somewhat three-dimensional representation of the Marram grass. 


28th March ’21

Shoot Twenty Four (Salt marsh)

Today I will turn to medium format and the Mamiya 645 as I photograph at the Ogmore River end of the estate. Using Kodak portra 400 I photographed the entirety of the salt-marsh. This is the only area of Salt-marsh on the entire dunes ecosystem and it is a strange and eerie environment. The weather conditions were perfect with a lovely filtered cloudy sky and subdued light that suits Kodak portra. I walked from one end of the Salt-marsh to the other, photographing pockets of interest along the way. The ground varies as you walk, as you move from cracked mud to salty grass through large areas of standing salt water. It was fabulous having the medium format camera in my hand as it offers a slower approach to image making.

Salt of the Earth

The salt marshes at the very end of the dunes are an amazing place. At high tide they are totally submerged, while at low tide formations, cracks and pools of standing saltwater emerge. Because of the tidal flow, remnants of human impact scatter this section of the landscape as the sea and tidal surge wash up the Ogmore river and deposit all kinds of man-made debris upon the Saltmarsh. 


29th March ’21

Shoot Twenty Five

A small experiment in the landscape with a tray, cyanotype off cuts and pigment inks in water. I had a series of offcuts from cyanotype experiments that I took to the dunes and submerged in a tray of sea water. I then added pigment inks to them. While, in all honesty, the end results were not good, I took these pictures of the process (with my phone), and they are reasonably pretty abstractions. I’m not sure if there is a place for them yet, but they have once again been created by the sea and the landscape…


30th March ’21

Shoot Twenty Six


2nd April ’21

Shoot Twenty Seven


3rd April ’21

Shoot Twenty Eight

Polaroid camera – tourism imagery

A Sunday smile

Tourism is an integral and important part of the dunes. Situated at the end of Porthcawl a tourist town in South Wales, Newton Beach is a haven for holidaymakers. Locals and those travelling from afar enjoy its sandy shores and crashing waves and is the ideal playground to put toes in the sand. Photographed on polaroid film, this snapshot into tourism on the dunes reveals modern life melding with an ancient landscape.


3rd April ’21

Shoot Twenty Nine (Tusker Rock update)


4th April ’21

Brass cyanotype experiments

Over the last few days I have been experimenting with making brass cyanotypes. With the Marram grass as my theme I have printed four small 50 x 50 mm acetate negatives and one A3 large overview of an area of the dunes populated heavily with Marram. To create the cyanotype mixture I have mixed the usual potassium ferricyanide and citric ammonium citrate with gelatin. Using a brush I have then painted this mixture on top of the brass and left it to dry. I’ve encountered several issues over the last few days including flaking, as the brass is obviously not porous and poor representation of image when exposed. By adding a drop of PVA glue to the mixture this has allowed a more stable base and I have eliminated the flaking. So far I have achieved the large piece and one of the small pieces. I will keep going and will endeavour to create the remaining three pieces. These are my favourite pieces made for this project so far. They are very abstract and they are quite difficult to read but I love them… I think the end result is fabulous.

Gold and green softly soaring

Marram grass runs right through the dunes. It borders the dunes and the sea and it creates a wash of vibrant gold and green as it merges with the sand and sea shore. It is an integral part of the dunes system, binding the sandy soil and holding in place the structure and very Earth of the dunes. By using a brass base and gelatin cyanotype, the gold of the dunes and blue of the Bristol Channel shines through.


5th April ’21

Shoot thirty (Fossils)


5th April ’21

Online meeting with Nick Sharp from Natural Resources Wales

  • Plants and species identification (unique plants/specific dunes plants?)

Petelwort

List of notifications from Nick

  • The medieval Windmill
  • Salthouse(?)

Map – pin coordinates

  • Areas of interest/history over the site
  • Drone permissions

Permission estate – contact

  • When did it become a NRW site?

Now part of the Merthyr Mawr estate

  • Exhibition – does NRW wales want to do anything with it?
  • Fences – how much?

Cattle grazing

  • What sort of management takes place?
  • Who owns the beach?

Crown estate


6th April ’21

Further reading:

https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/news-and-events/news/crucial-work-to-revitalise-the-merthyr-mawr-sand-dunes/?lang=en

https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/news-and-events/news/change-to-management-of-merthyr-mawr-national-nature-reserve/?lang=en

https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/our-projects/nature-projects/sands-of-life/?lang=en


8th April ’21

Cyanolumens experiments

Chemilumens – combining chemigrams and lumen prints

These cyanolumens were a two part process. The process began by submerging expired black and white photo-paper in Burrows Well; the natural spring that bubbles at the foot of Cog Y Brian (the limestone ridge). By submerging them in the flowing water for one hour, the movement of the water and the flowing ripples of flora embedded themselves upon the surface of the photographic paper. This created a fairly nice abstract, but something was lacking. So using wet cyanotype painted on this newly formed surface, whilst over the dunes I collected and scattered a range of emerging spring flowers onto the surface of the cyan coated paper.

The photograms that emerged after two hours of sunlight exposure, then washed in the flowing spring of Newton Burrows well, created some worthwhile spring flower cyano-lumen-photograms. These pieces will form part of the exhibition, and having shown them to some people they appear to be a favourite piece amongst what I have created so far, but for me personally they have the look of an ordinary cyanotype photogram. That said, they do fit the project and they are an accurate representation of a specific and certain area of the dunes. 

The sun ablaze

In the springtime an abundance of wildflowers emerge from the sandy soil. A wealth of colour is embued upon the landscape as the warmth of spring allows plants to bloom. These CyanoLumens are created by washing photographic paper in the running streams of the dunes and using the sun’s rays to embed an image of the flowers onto the surface of the paper.


9th April ’21

Shoot thirty one – shooting from Ogmore


9th April ’21

Shoot 32/33


15th April ’21

Shoot 34 – from the limestone ridge, Mamiya 645, Lomo film

Once again using the 645, but this time with lomo 80 speed colour film, I walked across the top of the limestone ridge. The views from this ridge are spectacular as it spans 80% of the dunes. At the far end you can observe Ogmore river mouth, in the middle you gain a fabulous view of the entirety of the dunes, while at the Newton end, Porthcawl and trecco bay are presented to you from this high vantage point. My aim for this shoot was to create a series of three triptychs from each of the vantage points. Having photographed all of the three viewpoints the three triptychs have ended up looking remarkably similar to one another. Hence I shall only be using one, that being the one from the middle viewpoint as it offers a wonderful wide view in triptych form of the whole dunes system. I have fallen back in love with medium format, but I am highly aware that the format of 645 is a little too similar to 35 mm. The gain in scale is not enormously worthwhile, but a gain in visual aesthetic does make it a worthy addition to this project overall. Ideally I would love to be able to shoot on 67 or 69 , but the finances don’t allow for that. 


17th April ’21

Shoot 35


20th April ’21

Today I secured my exhibition venue. I had a meeting in Newport city centre, at a gallery space right on the main shopping thoroughfare, Friars walk, with the tin shed company. They run theatre events and gallery events for artists and I have managed to book a pop up shop for two weeks. It’s incredibly exciting. The venue is very large, but that suits my needs as this project is decidedly big. The shop is going to be a tricky install, as the walls are not drillable, they are made of metal, and they have clothing rails sticking out from them. I will have to have a think about methods of installation, but initial thoughts go to command strips, lightweight frames, easels to hold the larger pieces, and erected boards in both the middle of the floor and along one wall. I will probably need help to install, as this will be heavy work. It is very exciting. I’ve had a few solo exhibitions previously, but in easy places. This will be much more difficult to organise and will take a lot of work to get everything on the walls and presented neatly. Plans include a launch evening, a learner visit for my students, a work visit for my colleagues, and a friends evening where I invite my friends to enjoy the space and the work.


23rd April ’21

“Scars are just another kind of memory.”
― M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans

Shoot 36 – WW! rifle ranges, 10×8, FP4

Today was the shoot I’ve been waiting a long time for. Using 10×8 large format Ilford FP4 photographic film and an intrepid 10×8 camera I set off to photograph and document the remains of the World War I rifle ranges that dissect the dunes. This is the part of the dunes that has always been with me. From walks with my dad, to BB gun battles with my friends, to wondering what the lewd graffiti meant as a child, to finding pornography and having my eyes opened to the world of human form, to more recent times and runs and walks with the dog, these rifle ranges have informed parts of my life. They are intriguing structures that are buried under Flora and partially hidden from view. Parts of them shoot up from the dunes creating striking visual contrasts to the undergrowth that surrounds them.

I have only used 10 x 8 previously in a studio environment. While I am used to lugging around a 5 x 4 camera, I am not used to manoeuvring a 10 x 8 camera around a landscape. With only two negative carriers at my disposal, therefore four loaded shots, I also had to undergo changing the film whilst out in the field by using a changing bag. This was a sandy experience. This was also the most fun I’ve had with a camera in a very long time. This shoot has been the the most wonderful so far. I’m totally in love with 10 x 8. It is so wonderful to go through the development process with negatives of such a size. They are things to behold. I am so happy with the results. They are exactly what I wanted and exactly as I imagined. I successfully dish developed the negatives and all of the exposures are perfect. Out of everything I’ve photographed so far this is definitely my favourite. It will take something special to surpass the experience documenting this area of the dunes.

RESEARCH – IAN CHRISTOPHER SMITH -NEW TOWN UTOPIA


24th April ‘ 21

Shoot 37 – Sprocket Rocket 35mm Kentmere 100, FENCES

Moving on from a conversation with Richard and Tony, they suggested that I have a look at the fencing that is prevalent on the dunes. I’ve been thinking about how to photograph the fencing, which is something banal but important. I decided to photograph the fencing using a panoramic camera. A friend of mine lent me their sprocket rocket. Last night I went out with ten 35 mm black and white Kentmere 100 speed films, the borrowed sprocket rocket, and I walked along the most visible length of the fencing. Photographing the fencing over 3.3 km the 10 rolls of film allowed me to capture the most prominent part of the fencing. Undertaking this study reminded me very much of Ed Rucha’s “every building on the Sunset strip” project. In the 60s Ed Rucha almost reinvented the artists book by turning away from the norm and photographing in a different way. The resulting 25 foot accordion folded book that Rucha made was for me a revelation. This project reminded me heavily of that. 

Edgelands

Miles of fences run through the dunes. In recent years cattle owned by the Merthyr Mawr estate graze on the land. The fencing is in place to keep the cattle within certain areas of the dunes. Also, in recent years wild boar have been re-introduced into the area and the whole of the dunes ecosystem is an area for conservation.


27th April ’21

Research – Agnes Varda/J/R – Faces Places

Shoot 38


30th April ’21

Sea Cyans

I channelled my inner Riepenhoff today, as conditions were right for making my Sea cyanotype‘s. I carried six A1 pieces of heavyweight watercolour paper down to the seashore, along with a bottle of premixed cyanotype solution. Under the evening sun I painted the paper with the solution, placed them between wave sets on the seashore and allowed a single crashing wave to fall on the watercolour paper. Once the wave had broken on the surface of the paper I then placed them on the beach, with sand and other beach artefacts placed on top, and allowed the Sun to develop and dry the pieces. It was a lot of fun making these images, and the kids came along and helped me. It was a cathartic process to be using the beach, sand and sea to make imagery. I once again felt as though the landscape was the maker of the imagery, rather than myself.

Allowing the land to make imagery is something that I am very much enjoying within this module. The resulting image has a very worthwhile visual aesthetic as the line of the breaking wave is apparent, and the resulting splashes of seawater can be seen across the entirety of the surface of the image. The final piece is very large, and will sit within the exhibition beautifully. Another advantage of this method is the fact that once the pieces had dried, they curled at the edges. So when they sit on the wall in the exhibition a secondary wave will form between each and every piece. So the waves of Newton beach are visualised within this piece in two different ways. Via the actual splash of the ocean falling on the paper, and by the resulting curl between the six images.

The vast and seamless sea

As the waves crash on the beach, sand shifts and water moves, creating ever- changing patterns and abstractions on the seashore. These cyanotype‘s represent a single crashing wave as it breaks on the photographic paper, washing sand and salt water over the surface. The resulting multi layered textual image is a representation of a single wave on breaking on Newton beach. 


2nd May ’21

I have been fortunate enough to be able to acquire a drone.

Shoot 39 – 1400’s medieval windmill – drone

I took the drone out today to capture some imagery and moving image of the mediaeval Windmill. From the air it is a fabulous structure that is secret and hidden. I absolutely love the fact that I have been able to find this hidden structure amongst all of this impassible undergrowth. It is a true relic of history, a wonder of this thousand acre site. There is very little information on the Internet, or in wider literature about this Windmill. As a structure in its own right it is around 12 foot high and it would’ve been rather an imposing feature of the landscape when it stood straight and tall in the 1400’s. It is being over-ruled and overtaken by new growth of plants, and just like everything else one day it will be broken apart by the natural world.  This subject was a difficult one to the sofa. I wasn’t entirely sure how to capture it it is an important relic for me. It is something that I have discovered during this project in an environment in which I am entirely familiar. It was a revelation. A lot of the other subjects in this project are photographed via an appropriate photographic process or format. This one was different. There were no photographic processes in the 1400s. So I decided to turn it on its head and photograph this using a drone. What I’m hoping is that this represents the passage of time from the windmill being abandoned, overtaken by undergrowth, left to memory. By photographing this ancient corn mill with the most up-to-date photographic technology I hope I am representing the progress of technology in general. When built this windmill would have been seen as a technological advancement. Made of stone, mortar and wood, the resulting product would have been seen as technologically advanced. It was modern technology. As is our current drone technology.

In the tower above the dunes

The long lost mediaeval Windmill, constructed at the start of the 1400s, was only recently discovered over Merthyr Mawr dunes. Circular in shape and initially used to grind corn it is nestled between thick undergrowth and now resides in a tangle of trees. It is a beautiful structure that harks back to a time past. Coflein (N/D) states “A ruined circular building, 5.0m in diameter, its remains standing up to 4.0m high, with battered walls 0.7m thick and two opposed entrances: the building emerged from the sands of Merthyr Mawr warren, in about 1823, and is thought to be later medieval, being set within an area thought to have been engulfed by sand in and around the sixteenth century. The windmill can be associated with other, possibly medieval features recorded in this area. The site is depicted and annotated as ‘Old Windmill’ on the Ordnance Survey first edition 25in mapping of 1877, as ‘Round Tower (Supposed Windmill)’ on the second and third editions of 1899 and 1919 respectively and as ‘Windmill (Remains of)’ on the fourth edition of 1941 . The remains are of a type of primitive, shorter, parallel-sided mill, similar to those across the channel in Somerset”. 


2nd May ’21

Shoot 40


4th May ’21

Research – Boris Becker – BUNKER

Documenting 700 bunkers in West Germany, Becker has created a typographic study that introduces a very important theme within German history. The controversy that surrounds Beckers subjects, World War II bunkers, is apparent in the method of capture. Using black-and-white film the imagery has a gloomy, dark undertone that sits well with the subject matter. Similar in visual style to that of Bernd and Hilla Becher, the study shows the diversity of bunker architecture and when you look closer more important human elements begin to emerge, such as graffiti and discarded relics. This is a detailed typology that links to the Becher school, with all of the imagery being photographed from the same vantage point and under similar conditions. Scale is an important factor within these images with some of these structures looming impossibly large over the black-and-white landscape. While my study of my local dunes ecosystem is becoming a very varied project, some of the work I am making certainly follows a typology form. I do appreciate the typology as a method of project creation, in fact my previous project Petrichor was a typology of extensive length. 

Shoot 41 – Pinhole Sea Edge

The seashore on Newton Beach is a very important part of this study. Running for approximately 2 km, this beach creates a dividing line that runs the entire length of the dunes that separates the dunes from the sand to the sea. It is an important edge that I wish to document appropriately. With my research into Beckers bunkers and typologies, I’m going to create a typology of the sea shore. With experimentation and interrogating practice in mind I have decided to do this via a method I have not tried before. I have captured this part of the dunes via pinhole photography, on large format 5 x 4 transparency film. Conditions had to be absolutely correct for this shoot. Because of the lightweight nature of both the camera and the tripod I was using I needed no wind whatsoever. The long exposures associated with pinhole photography meant that the camera needed to be as stable as possible. I needed a windless day. I also wanted conditions to be sunny, but another important factor was the position of the sea. Because pinhole photography tends to be very wide angle, I needed to shoot at high tide so the three factors, high tide, no wind, and good light, all needed to work together. The day I decided to shoot was the day that all three elements combined. I set off to capture my first picture at 5:45 am. Photographing every 100m I have created a record of looking out to sea from the dunes edge. It was a really beautiful shoot, with warm sun, the scent of the dunes, and sand underfoot. It was a sensual treat. I’m very happy with the results. I sent them off to a lab in Cheltenham to be developed and the exposures have once again come back absolutely perfectly. With regard to exposure I’m using an app on my phone. Lux light meter for iPhone is a truly wonderful thing. I have compared it to my own Sekonic light meter and it offers exactly the same exposure rating. This means that I no longer have to carry a light meter around with me, as I now have one in my pocket on my phone wherever I go, and as a case in point with the imagery produced here, it works perfectly. I’m very happy with the results, so much so that there is going to be a second part to this project whereby I will retrace my steps but this time I shall look at the dunes from the beach. Conditions will need to be the same except for one – the sea will need to be on low tide for that shoot.

Salt beads on your skin

The beach that runs from Newton Point to the mouth of Ogmore river is 2 kilometres in length and is home to a diverse range of rockpool life. The high tide line is made from a variety of different natural surface, and as you move along the beach you will find wave cut platforms, sand, fossil impregnated rock, shells and pebbles. Photographed every 100 metres with a pinhole on 5×4 transparency film,  this micro study creates views captured from the edge of the dunes. 


5th May ’21

Shoot 42 – Topography – drone

The aim of today’s shoot is to capture drone imagery of the most important types of surface that the dunes are made of. Those surfaces are woods, beach, grassland and Saltmarsh. I walked extensively over the dunes with the drone, capturing these four different landscape types to best show their features. 

Drone photography is a slightly strange thing, and I have a mildly weird relationship with it. It is something I have been doing for years, on a commercial level. I am CAA licensed and trained through work to fly a drone for work purposes. I make content for marketing, and I capture video and still footage for documentative purposes in work. I am not an enormous fan of the look of drone photography. I find it generally all looks the same, and in reality it is something that we see every single day via Google Maps and Google Earth. A good drone shot tends to be made of symmetrical elements and a balance of lines. I am fairly happy with the four images that make up this mini study, but I have decided to try to do something different with my drone imagery in this case. As there are only four images to represent the type of land over the dunes I am going to turn these drone images into gum bichromate imagery. This should allow me to further my investigations into processes as I have not tried this process before, will allow for a greater level of interrogation into practice and will also allow me to make drone imagery that does not look like drone imagery.

So light, the wind it shakes; so high, the sky we scrape

Grasslands, saltmarsh, beach and woods. The diversity of habitat within Newton and Merthyr Mawr warren is enormous. The ever present sand punctuates the landscape continuously and permeates the ground on scales both microscopic and vast. When seen from above, the variety of ground that can be trampled underfoot is remarkable.


6th May ’21

Shoot 43 – SAND

I have an idea for a triptych piece within the exhibition. This triptych is made up purely of sand. Image one will be actual sand glued/stuck to mount board. The next image will be a macro photograph of sand to show in detail what sand looks like at five times magnification. The final image will show a single grain of sand photographed with a microscope at 40 times magnification. The shoot above shows the imagery that I attempted to collect for the middle image in the triptych the close-up of sand. It was a fairly tricky image to achieve as even with studio lighting, the macro lens meant that I was very close to the subject matter, so getting enough light onto the sand to capture the image was difficult. This resulted in a very long exposure. Which meant that any movement was apparent as camera shake. That said I am very happy with the one single image that I needed. It shows that sand is in fact a totally beautiful substance. Predominantly made from quartz, the sand collected from Newton beach when seen at this magnification looks like tiny jewels. The gems of Newton beach have been revealed via macro photography.


7th May

The People of the Dunes

Photographing the people of the dunes is possibly the most important element of this project yet. The project is about the juxtaposition of humans and natural world, and while the majority of the project is landscape-based, this part focuses on people interacting with the landscape. I intend to photograph in a formal style, with people looking straight into the lens, showing their full body and some of the landscape as a backdrop. I have performed some initial tests on 645 medium format film and I very much liked the results. However, there is a problem with this in that my 645 medium format camera was given a hefty booting the other day, when my daughter kicked the camera across the floor accidentally. As such the prism has slipped and I’m no longer able to see the view clearly through the viewfinder. I intended to use medium format and Ilford Ortho 80 film to capture this part of the project, but that now has to change. I’ve done a couple of tests with a digital SLR, and as you can see above they lack a certain something. They are quite boring and very average looking images.

Next step:

I’ve decided to photograph using a format that I am very experienced with, that being 5 x 4 black and white, but I intend to push myself by doing something I have never done before – that being stopping people that I don’t know and asking to take their portrait. So while I will be using something familiar to me, I intend to push myself to capture imagery that will take wider communication, conversation and confidence to achieve strong end results.

Over the course of three days and evenings I have managed to successfully accost 24 people, and have gained 24 fabulous portraits of the people of the dunes. These images are so much better than their digital counterparts. This is because there is greater engagement with the camera. A large format camera allows for greater theatre and a wider discussion about photography and the context of the work I am making. People are interested. People are intrigued by the camera. This makes photographing easier because people are willing. I am extending the bellows and using a somewhat shallow depth of field to pinpoint and highlight the individuals. This does mean unfortunately that on a few of the pictures focus is slightly shy of where it should be, but I’m okay with that. I can live with that. Because this collection of 24 images is a great end result in its own right. It’s a wonderful project in its own right. It has actually turned into a study of not just people but also of dogs. 22 of the 24 people that I photographed had a dog with them so this has also become a study of dog walkers. Tourism, sport activity and general recreational use is prevalent over the dunes, but the main thing that people use the dunes for, especially locals, is walking the dog. And that is at its heart what this mini project is all about. It has become a study of dog walkers. Some of the characters I met we are entirely wonderful; everybody who said yes was very willing to take part, and the black and white aesthetic lends itself well to the end results. I’m so pleased with the way that this project is progressing from landscape, to abstract, to imagery made by the environment and now this – the people of the dunes. It is all starting to come together very nicely.


12th May

Research – Portraits – 5×4 – it’s a performance. The people react to the camera well. Engagement, personality, discussion.

Renike Dijkstra

John Myers