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
- 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
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
Gelatin glass cyanotype
4th Jan, ’21
Lumens – Paint, oil, herbs, don’t fix them – when I have washed them with water and they are dry I scan them straight away
Black and white darkroom paper
Research into photobooks:
White walls book maker for printed linen cover
6th Jan, ’21
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
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
Large format 10×8 paper negatives to photograph the history – ancient farmlands
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
8th Jan, ’21
9th Jan, ’21
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
16th Jan, ’21
21st Jan, ’21
22nd Jan, ’21
23rd Jan, ’21
24th Jan, ’21
26th Jan, ’21
31st Jan, ’21
4th Feb, ’21
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.”
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.
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
Title – These are my dunes
Idea – To photograph the dunes environment to capture the diverse history, landscape and stories of the dunes, via different formats and processes
Location – Newton and Merthyr Mawr Warren/Dunes (840 acres of dunes ecosystem – grasslands, saltmarsh, beach, rivermouth and woods)
Narrative – A 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
Solar printing – representations of the beach
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.
15th Feb ’21
Idea – cyanotypes, left in the environments for days – woods, dunes, bracken, trees.
16th Feb ’21
16th Feb ’21
Tusker Rock Sea cyans brainstorm – Round glass round imagery -potholes one massive in overlooking the whole island several little discecting 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?
16th Feb ’21
A few days ago I started the pinhole 5×4 sea shore mini brief. I have an Ondu pinhole camera, 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.
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.
Bowoods 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