The break between terms served as a wonderful time to take a break from the academics and pursue some personal photo projects. The optional task to create an Ed Ruscha inspired piece of work resulted in a book in which I am quite pleased, and which is now on sale in my local bookshop. I enjoyed that project so much that I hope to continue adding to that body of work and produce a follow-on edition as time permits. That task also inspired several other ideas which I intend to pursue as personal projects.
During the break I also embarked on an additional personal project that could in fact become my FMP topic. I am working with a friend who has breeding world class dressage horses for the last 11 years. Some of her first foals are now beginning to compete at the international level and the quality of her foal crop has been improving with each passing year. We discussed my following and photographing the entire process from insemination and birth of new foals to visiting the horses previously bred which are training and competing at various stages according to their ages. The end product would be a book about the breeding program and its international success.
At the same time, I have been working on the Coul Links project by taking baseline photos from the air and the fixed locations. I have added locations in order to provide a more complete view of the future development activities which appear to be headed toward approval. It is quite interesting to note how dramatically different the land looks in the two months since I arrived back in Scotland. What was one of the wettest (and snowiest) winters in many years had inundated much of the site with water and the ephemeral dunes slacks were extensive. However, six weeks of unusually dry weather has caused nearly all of the dunes slacks to dry up and the land has turned from brown to green with bright clumps of yellow gorse and broom mixed in among the stands of heath on the dunes and adjacent pasture land.
I am using repeat photography techniques as described in Repeat Photography (Webb, 2010) plus the addition of aerial photography also using repeatable fixed locations, to record naturally occurring changes associated with seasonal rhythms and as a comparative baseline in preparation for recording and evaluating the manmade changes that are occur on the site.
The feedback from the week’s webinar was somewhat confusing and, given the unfamiliarity of the commentators on the nature and scale of my project, need to be taken with a grain of salt. It is very early stages and there is not a lot of comparative data that can be shown with the 3 prescribed photographs. I attempted to show the three categories of photographs I am taking, aerial, fixed terrestrial location, and species collection and was criticized on everything from “Why are you taking photos of insects” to “The sky is oversaturated in the drone photo” to “The shadows should be more prominent to articulate my visual language that the development is a bad thing.” I will pay attention to the visual language as I progress and begin to edit and curate final products in accordance with the story as it reveals itself over time. I refuse to enter the project with an a priori judgement of the consequences of the development and prefer to be as much as possible a neutral observer documenting the changes over time. There are questions to be answered that can only be answered by carefully observing and assessing over a period of months and years.
Liz Wells writes in her book Land Matters (Wells, 2011) “Landscape is a social product; particular landscapes tell us something about cultural histories and attitudes. Landscape results from human intervention to shape or transform natural phenomena, of which we are simultaneously a part. A basic useful definition of landscape thus would be vistas encompassing both nature and the changes that humans have effected on the natural world. But in considering human agency in relation to land and landscape we also need to bear in mind that, biologically we are integral within the ecosystem”. “Suffice it to note that our relation to the environment in which we find ourselves, and of which we form a part, is multiply constituted: the real, perceptions of the real, the imaginary, the symbolic, memory and experience, form a complex tapestry at the heart of our response to our environment, and, by extension, to landscape imagery”.
My plan, and hope, is to impartially observe and document the “landscaping” of this particular environment and to both parse and weave the multiple constituents described above into a meaningful set of imagery.
WEBB, R., BOYER, D. and TURNER, R., 2010. Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences. Washington, DC: Island Press.
WELLS, L., 2011. Land matters: landscape photography, culture and identity. London ; New York: I.B. Tauris.