Week 3 – Reflections

Social Media:  I have used Facebook for a long time mainly to keep in touch with friends and family and occasionally to feature photographic work I’d done, but as  had no aspirations to making it a proper business, I never pushed that on FB.  I have had an Instagram account for some time as well, but had rarely posted anything there.  Despite that, I had over 50 followers when I began posting current work this week.  I don’t see Instagram necessarily as the vehicle that will bring me work, but I know the added exposure and distribution of my work is a generally good thing.

I was not keen on the Viral Image task either as an on or off line exercise.  I live in a very small Scottish burgh and the idea of plastering an image around town even on the few proper boards let alone across the breadth of the conservation district seemed to me to be an act of defacement that I couldn’t bring myself to, particularly since I am already well known within the town and I think it would raise more issues than benefit.

Webinar with Sophie:  I had the luxury of a one on one with Sophie this week as I was the only person signed up in that slot.  I sent a link to some of my current work to Sophie so we could discuss where I was and where I needed to be going.  I was a very helpful discussion.

First Sophie was encouraged by the non-project specific work as she sees it as useful to training my eye as a photographer and keeping the fun in the work.  She asked if I find it easier or more difficult to do project work and my reply was qualified.  I have diverse interests photographically as I mentioned in an earlier post.  I also find it quite easy to turn those interests, whether on an afternoon’s shoot or across a longer span of time into projects.  That is something that has changed dramatically with this course.  Previously I rarely saw my photographic work as anything other than the individual photographs I made.  Now with almost every photograph I make I can see an outcome; how it fits or might fit into a larger body of work or end product.  Each photo inspires me to bigger ideas because I always if there is one scene that captures my attention and my camera, there are more to be found.

The qualification was with respect to my MA project work which has been a bit more difficult due the circumstances associated with the planning application.  I am a bit stalled on the repeat photography elements of the project since little is happening after the project was called in by the Scottish Government for additional review.  On the wildlife side however, it is the beginning of the “Highland Gathering” of birds that winter on Loch Fleet and the north end of Coul Links.  While it is early in the migration and only a small fraction of the birds have arrived, I have had some really successful shoots already.

untitled-9114untitled-9300

Sophie then asked how I feel about photographing people and I replied that I have always been a bit uncomfortable with it, but that I had been making an effort, with some good results, at doing more; particularly outdoor environmental portraits.  Sophie challenged me to set a target of  8 or 10 portraits as part of my work and as we were talking I realised how many people use the north end of Coul Links and the perimeters of Loch Fleet every day their dogs, enjoy the outdoors, or watch the birds and marine mammals that inhabit that patch of land and sea.  In fact, I missed an amazing opportunity last Wednesday because right where I set up to photograph birds, a gentleman and his wife were encamped behind their estate vehicle with two chairs a wee tea table and a spotting scope.  When I arrived the gent was intent on birding while the lady sat comfortably in her chair reading her Kindle.  It would have been a perfect photo and because I just do not think about photographing people I missed it.  At least four other people came up to me for a chat about what was out on Loch Fleet and likewise never thought about asking if I could take their photo.  So lesson learned and in response to Sophie’s challenge I will be looking for those opportunities over the coming weeks.

I am re-energised about my project and really appreciated Sophie’s encouragement and advise.

Week 12 -Wrapping Up Surfaces and Strategies

As I have said in prior posts this module has helped me to evolve in a number of ways.  It has definitely helped my confidence soar in my ability to create work and show my work.  It has deepened my understanding of photography overall, and is beginning to help me understand my place in the world of photographers.  I have miles to go on the journey, but I am well down the road and on the right path I think.  More time to read and more exposure to other practitioners is part of what has been building the foundation of understanding.  Being pushed to make work in ways I have never done, or in ways I had not been comfortable has taught more about my craft and open my eyes to other possibilities for work and ways of accomplishing that work.

I have in the past looked upon my work as quite solitary as I had been making work for years, but never sharing it.  I now find myself interacting with others on a daily basis about my work whether it is sharing it with friends or strangers, or interacting in mutual support with my wonderful cohort mates.  They have been an invaluable source of advice, support, humour, fun and without them this would have been a very different experience and not nearly so rich and rewarding.  So thank you in particular to Mick, Gem, Danny, but also to the other in Cromarty who frequent our chat group.

It feels quite good to have the assignments done and dusted.  I feel as though I made a pretty good job of it on the whole, though the assessors may not agree.  I know I have made progress and I know I will continue to do so.  I know too there are some areas that need additional focus and effort.  I am getting more attuned to research, but I need to be more disciplined  about documenting it as it occurs.  I tend to take a while to integrate what I have read and then don’t always get back t write about it.  It is there informing my work, but isn’t always adequately documented.

The parting shot from the module leader was one last assignment to create a self portrait that was reflective of the time spent in the Surfaces and Strategies module.  I have to say I enjoyed this module far more than the first for a number of reasons.  It seems only fitting that as the final task in Surfaces and Strategies that I should do something unconventional and completely different from my normal work..  At first glance you may miss it, but trust me, my image is there on a surface and in a way you might not expect to find me.  Truth is I am something of a motorhead and I had an unfortunately brief opportunity to photograph some pretty cool classics last Saturday.  This particular Austin had been once owned by King Farouk.

 

Austin Self Portrait small-8626.jpg

Week 12 – More Thoughts on Surfaces and Strategies’ Influences on My Practise

This module has seemed something of a whirlwind of activity with so much new each week that it has sometimes been difficult to get adequate perspective on what it all means.  Books, Zines, no camera photography, exhibitions, dummy books, workshops, video trailers, project work and trying to continue research proved to hardly be a part-time endeavour.  I read quite a lot this term and though I didn’t write about it as much or as often as I perhaps should have, there were a number of those books that drew me back to places I had bookmarked over and over.

I find myself going back to and re-reading bits of Sontag, Flusser, Berger, Kleon, Bate, Bear and Albers, Tagg, Webb and Muybridge.  Some of those works had bits that struck me straightaway, while others may have gone right over my head at first reading.  What I found though in many cases, those things that may not have resonated at the beginning have managed to find purchase in the dark recesses of my mind and like a jigsaw puzzle are starting to form a picture that I can understand.  It is not that there is anyone definitive bit that unlocked the mystery nor am I sure yet that I can clearly articulate what about any or all of them is most meaningful and relevant to me and my practise.  I do know that I feel far more comfortable with the idea of critical theory and that it has made a difference at how I view my work.

I know I have further to go in this journey and I expect ultimately it will have been and evolution and not a revolution.  The quality of my work has improved even though the focus of this course is not on the technical aspects of making photographs.  It has improved in part because of more disciplined regular practise, in part because I have obtained or improved upon technical skills, in part because I now have an eye toward what will become of my work once it completes post-processing, and in part due to a better appreciation for and understanding of what photography has been, is and could be through my research and readings of critical theory.

I am still searching for my voice in the photographic world.  While I came into the programme as a natural history photographer, and it is something I quite enjoy I am not convinced it is where (or rather the only place) my future practise will reside.  My past photographic work has been as eclectic as the rest of my life which has included several different successful careers.  I have broad interests and it comes as no surprise then that my photographic work might reflect that.  I believe there will be touchstones that will tie together work in different genres as they are the same things that sit at the core of my value system and worldview.  My natural history work is borne from those perspectives, but so too is the sports and action photography work I have done and do.

The first two modules of this course have forced me to think about my practise as I have never had to before, and has begun to give me the tools to analyse and vocabulary to better articulate it.  The framework is starting to take form, but the details are yet to be resolved.

I have for sometime been researching photographers who work in golf.  There are those that work in the more journalistic end and photograph tournaments, and there are those who work more in the advertising and public relations end of the spectrum doing landscape work that in many cases falls into the fine art category.  And there are a few that cross those indistinct boundaries as well.

Why have I been researching this?  Coul Links, where I have been doing my project work, is proposed to have a golf course of world class stature built within and adjacent to environmentally designated and protected land.   I have also been working on a personal/ commercial project at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club which is situated 3 miles to the south of Coul Links and of which I am a member.  Golf has been a not unimportant part of my life for 60 years.  I have been highly ranked internationally as a competitor and I derive great pleasure from the game itself, the ground on which it is played and the people who are part of it.  Why wouldn’t it be natural that my passions should intersect?

Kevin Murray is among the best in the business and while his work is largely in the advertising and PR category, he does fine work also photographing professional golfers and events.  His work can be seen at http://kevinmurraygolfphotography.com/ .  Paul Severn is another well respected golf photographer whose work covers an even broader spectrum of the game.  His work can be found at https://www.severnimages.com/index.  There quite a number of other excellent practitioners whose work I have reviewed, but these two serve to illustrate some key points about the genre.

What makes a good golf course photograph and is it different from normal landscape photography?  To answer the second part it isn’t that different from good landscape photography in that it requires attention to the lighting and choice of angles to reveal aspects to render the scene in a way that draws out the most interesting elements.  There are additional aspects that seem common to the best work such as the inclusion of the flagstick somewhere in the scene.  A certain amount of elevation adds dimensionality revealing contours and features such as bunkers.  The best courses in the world, and hence the most photographed, have holes or cultural attributes that make them iconic and instantly recognisable to followers of the game.  Augusta National during the Masters with all the azaleas in bloom or the clubhouse at the end of Magnolia Lane; views of Ailsa Rock from Turnberry; the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse behind the 18th green on the Old Course at St. Andrews.  Inclusion of these iconic elements is standard practise.

How does photographing golfers fit within the practises of environmental portraiture or street photography?  I would argue that it is not that different at all.  Photographing at a tournament or just golfers playing a casual round is very much like street photography in that you are looking to capture a particular moment that will be fleeting because it is either based on getting a specific action sequence or emotion and while it requires anticipation and planning to be in the right position, the actual moment isn’t always controllable or predictable.  Getting a photo of a golfer in his or her environment with purely natural lighting is again in my opinion just a variation on environmental portrait work.  The photographer is attempting to see the subject in their environment and capture some attribute of personality or emotion that is distinctive and recognisable.

The photos below are some of my work in this genre.  Why?  It bears on my project work if, and I believe it will, Coul Links development is approved.

 

 

Referenced Books:

Bate, D. (2016). Photography; The Key Concepts. The Key Concepts (2nd ed.). London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Bear, J., & Albers, K. P. (2017). Before-and-After Photography; Histories and Contexts (1st ed.). London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2

Kleon, A. (2012). Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. Steal Like an Artist (Vol. 53). New York: Workman Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Muybridge, E. (1979). Muybridge’s Complete Human and Animal Locomotion, Volume III. New York: Dover Publications.

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. Penguin Books. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2

Tagg, J. (1988). The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Webb, R., Boyer, D., & Turner, R. (2010). Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Referenced Web Pages:

Kevin Murray Golf Photography | Golf Photos | Top Golf Photographer. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2018, from http://kevinmurraygolfphotography.com/

Paul Severn Golf Photographer /Golf Course Images/Golf Tournaments/Golf Picture Library. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2018, from https://www.severnimages.com/index

Week 11- Do too many cooks spoil the broth?

Perhaps the same is true with tutors, or not.  I have simmered this stew for a couple of weeks now as when I initially conceived it I was reeling from all the completely different flavours that had seemingly been dumped into my pot.  It seemed everyone had a different view of my work and not always did I get a clear understanding of how it might be made better; only that it wasn’t right.  There were exceptions thankfully, like when Cemre took several of my proposed WIP photos and arranged them in a particular sequence in a horizontal grid and then explained why she thought that worked.  In other cases, one tutor would like a particular photo while the next thought it was rubbish, and in other cases, I was told what I was trying to communicate wasn’t clear but without much more in the way of explanation of why or what sort of things might make it better, other than try arranging them differently.

To be honest I felt confused and lost, and even at moments a bit angry.  It was clear something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.  With advise sometimes so diametrically opposed, I didn’t know which direction to go.  I had to in the end, step back, lose the emotional attachment to my work and reaction to the criticism and figure out how to sort through the various comments to determine if there were any common elements among them, discard the outlying and off the wall remarks (there were some doozies) and integrate what was left to something I felt I could action in curating and editing my portfolio.

The first insight I was able to distill was that what I was showing was too diverse and divergent in theme and aesthetic.  It was said in different ways and it took some time to understand that “I can’t read your visual language” was similar in meaning to “the macro work is distracting and disconnected from the larger scale work”, or “photos in this series have a very different feeling.”  I had to admit, I didn’t really know what I was trying to “say” with my photos.  My project is big, maybe too big, and it contains a number of different aspects at this point.  I have so much to say that I ended up saying nothing because the breadth of this story from a final project perspective (and yes, we are a long way from that point) cannot be told in 18 photographs that I have now.  At the end of the FMP, it may be possible to tell this story in a relatively small number of carefully curated photographs.

I also had been “hung up” by the fact that I got into this programme as a natural history photographer, even though it has never been the only thing I have done, and it is not the only thing I want to do.  It was clouding my judgement in curating my portfolio.  It is somewhat ironic, because I have always hated labels and I have spent my life defying norms and expectations.  Why should I allow myself to be pigeon-holed now?  So once again something else to let go of.

I did finally work it out on my own I think.  At least I took a decision, cut away a lot to arrive at a portfolio that is I hope worthy of submission.  It is a few paragraphs in a chapter of what might eventually become a novel or perhaps a short poem, but it seems to be coherent and cogent.  That I got there is a testament to the progress I have made thus far in the course.  I couldn’t have even had this discussion several months ago.  When I felt I had the pot on with no recipe, thankfully Cemre slipped me a couple of key ingredients that allowed me to decipher the rest.  Photography, like cooking after all is art and the flavor combinations are limited only by one’s imagination.  Baking is science and there isn’t much latitude in the recipe. I didn’t want tutors to hand me a recipe after all.

Do too many tutors spoil the broth?  At first, I thought so, but each was bringing their favourite spice to the kitchen and in the end it was up to me to understand the implications of using that particular spice and make a decision whether or not it belonged in my stew.  There were times when they made it tough to get around the kitchen to be sure, but once I cleared them out, and some of the inappropriate spices in my cupboard, I was able to put together a pretty tasty offering.

Week 8 – Reflections

This week was given to more experimentation and to finalising a venue for my exhibition in August.  While I feel strongly that the longer-term story based on my project is on solid footing and will be able to be told, it will take some time to get there.  So, I have been trying to find ways to make work in the interim that is more contemporaneously interesting as well as being a potential element in the ultimate story of Coul Links.

I also continued my reading after finishing Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography with two short books by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, and I am reading Berger’s Ways of Seeing.  The more critical theory I read it seems that everyone has their own view on the topic and there isn’t any universality of thought.  Nonetheless, I am finding these reading somewhat thought provoking and they are providing me with a different vocabulary for thinking about and discussing my work.

Case in point, I asked two tutors for thoughts on some of the experimental work I had done this week.  While both were encouraging and supportive of my efforts to push myself, I got diametrically opposed opinions about the work itself and which of the test cases was most interesting and effective.  Fortunately, my own thoughts aligned reasonably well with one of the tutors.  On a related note, after a few weeks of working with tutors in Surfaces and Strategies I find myself looking at my photos during post processing wondering what I can take out of them.  While some of that can be done with cropping, some of it requires me to use Photoshop and I am seeing my skills and confidence with that tool improving as well, though there is still much room for improvement.

I revisited Sergey Larenkov’s work this week and was directed towards work by Richard Barnes in which he photographed Civil War re-enactments, and work by Deborah Baker.

Nothing in what I have done or read is changing my core methodology with respect to my project, but I believe aspects of the macro work I have been testing and the experiments this week with a model “playing” the course routing in its current natural state and repeat photographing the same perspectives when the new course is finished.

I am working somewhat in parallel in curating my WIP Portfolio, my Landings exhibition, my local exhibition(s) and a September one day speaking engagement where I have been asked to show my work.  I need to get this decided quite soon for the exhibitions so I can get on to the elements of this term that are graded. I have also been asked to leave some of my work on display for sale in the venue that will host my primary exhibit.  It is an entirely new thing to think about how to value my work.

 

Richard Barnes: http://www.richardbarnes.net/projects/#/civil-war-1/

Deborah Baker: https://www.crafts.org.uk/Makers-Directory/Baker,-Deborah.aspx

Berger, J. (1972).  Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Kleon, A. (2012). Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

 

Week 7 – Reflections

This week’s lessons revolved around publications and the various forms they might take with our work.  We were tasked with creating a dummy book that I discussed and posted in my previous post.  In my webinar with my tutor Michelle Sank, discussed the need for more thoughtful and perhaps non-traditional graphic design and provided me with some references to research.  I was aware that given the limited time and the fact I started with the idea of doing a Zine exhibition guide and along the way morphed it into more of concept for a three part book that it lacked the necessary attention to graphic design.  When it comes time to do a full blown book for my project I will have to seriously consider using a good graphic designer as it is an area in which I have limited experience.

Michelle asked to see a few of the photos of my most recent work in a larger size.  I am continually amazed at how differently she sees photographs and how quickly she is able to identify elements to remove or crops that make the photo have stronger impact.  I am a bit stuck in what I know, not because I want to be there or am uncomfortable elsewhere, but rather I am still finding my way through the labyrinth of photographic practice en route to discovering my own unique voice.  Michelle was encouraging and felt she has seen a definitive shift forward in my recent work and I have been experimenting with both different techniques i my macro work and different moods in my my post processing.  Some of the specific ideas she gave me about photos were almost startling to me and turned what I thought was the main focus of the photo on its head by telling me they were to predictable and in Flusser’s vernacular “familiar and redundant.”  I made the changes she suggested re-cropping and or removing elements from the photographs.  I have to admit those changes did indeed change the feeling and impact.  I need to find a way to see more photobooks and acquire in my own mind what is familiar in the genres in which I work.  How can my photos, again in Flusser’s words, become “informative, improbable images that have not been seen before?”  I’ve work yet to do, but the journey is begun and I am moving forward.

 

 

Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2

Week 6 – Reflections

I entered the week thinking that I would do an exhibition in addition to the Landings 2018 and then part way through began to doubt whether there was time and an adequate body of work to do it justice.  By the end of the week I had convinced myself to only do the online exhibition and to do planning about a physical exhibition.

Work I made during the week and a subsequent conversation with Gary during his office hours convinced me to reconsider again and pursue a local exhibition.  I believe I have enough work from aspects of my overall project to mount a small exhibition.  The focus will be more on the place and its inhabitants than on the larger repeat photography aspects of grander changes to the landscape, though I may include a few elements in a triptych or polytych.

I find my work evolving during this module.  My focus in past has largely been up and out looking at birds and the landscapes they inhabit.  I also have produced images with rich colours and postcard lighting.  Of late, I have rediscovered the intricacies and rich biodiversity of the world  beneath my feet and a technique in which to capture that world in a more complete way.

Bombus pratorum-22

Hover Fly (Episyrphus balteatus)-25

 

While I was shooting macro work I suddenly found myself in the middle of a flock of sheep being moved from one pasture to another on Coul Farm.  While it was very much a current event, in and around the dilapidated steading buildings, it evoked a feeling of the past with a single shepherd and his dog working this herd as has been done for hundreds of years.  It also struck me that if the golf course goes ahead, it will be a thing of the past on this particular plot of land.  When I was processing the images, it felt wrong to use my normal approach in colour and yet monochrome didn’t work either.  I found a point of desaturation that was not quite complete that created real impact to the photos.

Coul Farm Sheep-2

Coul Farm Jake and his flock-7582-2

I am confident that these and other images from my WIP will make a good exhibition that will appeal to the people here in Dornoch who will see it.

 

Week 5 – Reflections on One to One Tutorial

I found this a productive session and frankly altogether too short to really discuss all I might have liked to discuss.  Nevertheless, Michelle provided a lot of encouragement and offered some insights and opinions about some of the work I showed.  I was a bit surprised by some and would at some point like to delve further into the “whys” behind the comments.

I can take a technically good photograph, but my usual subject matter is one in which it is somewhat difficult to distinguish one’s self from the other many fine professional and amateur natural history photographers in the world without resorting to gimmicks or excessive manipulations, both of which strike me as antithetical to whole point of natural history photography.  So we return to the question of what makes my work unique and identifiable?  I do not yet have the definitive answer to that question.  My work is becoming more focused on outcomes; that is to say I take fewer photos just to take a photo of something that catches my eye or interests me and consider what will I do with the photo and how does it fit or support an output in some form.  I am much more aware of the need to tell a story with my work.  In some of my projects I begin with with a clear idea of the story line and am able to capture images to support that narrative.  In my research project though, it is impossible to determine how the story will end at this time, and it may be many years in fact before we know the true outcome.  So while there are clear elements to the plot, it is somewhat of a mystery story: who is the villain and who is the hero, do either exist, can nature and man work together in harmony in this instance?

Michelle suggested I look at the work of Stephen Gill and Susan Derges.  I found Gill’s work unappealing, uninspiring and largely uninteresting, both in subject matter and technique.  He is an experimental photographer and he does unconventional things to make his art, for which he is to be commended, and he obviously has attracted an audience, but his art does not resonate with me.

On the other hand, I was fascinated by the work of Susan Derges.  I didn’t realize at first that she specializes in cameraless photography and I found myself wondering how she managed the perspective in many of her photos.  Her work dances along the border between realism and abstraction, and contains just enough of each to capture and hold my attention.  When I then learned that much of her work is constructed in a darkroom I was completely gobsmacked.  Michelle has urged me to consider whether there is a place in my project for something along the lines of the photograms I did in last week’s activity.  Derges work is far more sophisticated than my simple cyanotypes, but it has shown me there are perhaps possibilities of which I was not aware and had therefore not considered.

So the search for Ashley Rose’s unique perspective continues.  Under every rock and leaf there seems another possibility.  Perhaps this is another journey with no final destination, but rather one of exploration, discovery, experimentation and reflection.  Yet another story with an uncertain ending.  Stay tuned for future episodes.

 

Derges, S. (n.d.). Susan Derges. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://susanderges.co.uk/
Gill, S. (n.d.). Stephen Gill Portfolio. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from https://www.stephengill.co.uk/portfolio/portfolio

 

Week 1 Reflections

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.

Some final reflections on Positions and Practice and the reactions of classmates to marks and the future

I have to say that photography, while it has technical aspects which can be evaluated relatively objectively, is in the end an artistic endeavour and as such is subject to people liking or not liking your art, but they really have no right to judge whether it is correct as an artistic work. Yes this course is supposed to push and challenge us to explore beyond the current bounds of our comfort zones and we should venture forth into uncharted territories if only to discover those are not places we would like to work in the future.

Those of you who are more established professionals are in something of a more difficult situation it seems to me, because you have in part made a statement as to who you are and what your practice is about and it represents your current livelihood. If that is working for you I don’t think you should be changing on the basis of the first modules grades or comments. I do think what has been evaluated is worth considering how it relates to your current practice and whether there may be things that could enhance that practice. I think the MA is an opportunity to explore different directions and alternate perspectives as a way of confirming past decisions about your current practice or informing paths to expand, enhance or redirect your practice. For those of us with a cleaner slate and no reliance on current practice for income, it is wee bit easier I think because we only have the future to concern ourselves with for the most part.

I firmly believe what we get out of this course is in our hands. The coursework is only the barest minimum of what is required to earn the degree. Everything else you put in and take away is entirely up to you and should be directed at satisfying what you hope to achieve from the course. Except for certain genres of photography where the briefs are completely restrictive, we otherwise have the latitude to do whatever we please and create something with which we are satisfied. If others happen to like it, it is a bonus and if then they want to buy it, jackpot. But I doubt most of you are doing this to just hit the jackpot and suspect that if you produced something that was commercially a success but in your mind a poor piece of work that did not express you as an artist, you wouldn’t be very satisfied. So I have to believe if this is a credible program the tutors ultimately want each of us to be certain who we are as practitioners and confident about what we do. In these early stages they will poke and prod, challenge our assumptions, make us doubt ourselves as steps on the road to self discovery and establishment of certainty in our own minds of who we are and what we want to do. So explore, test your boundaries, but when you know yourself and are 100% committed, stand up and fight for those convictions as artists.