A walk on the landscape

So, by the featured image you can probably tell that I enjoy pushing the boundaries of photography and what a lot of people consider conventional photography. I do not believe that photography should be constraining and the boundaries should be pushing in whatever way your practice takes you.

My practice involves walking in the landscape and a couple of years ago when I was completing my final year of my undergraduate studies I took the decision to bury my film negatives. This lead to a series called Biosigna which gave the landscape an opportunity to have a voice through my photographs of that landscape.

I decided to take this a step further and to take the negatives of the landscapes that I had photographed and attached them to my boots. This allowed me to walk on the landscape to give a different dynamic to the work. It is about being in the land as well as the process of the land leaving an imprint in other ways on me. I am at the early stages of developing this work, but wanted to share my initial outcomes. This is a process of thinking out loud, which I am enjoying.

 

My walk in the woods

I am back from my walk. I look with me my trusty Hasselblad and even though it was a struggle, I did manage to find pictures. It is hard to look when you don’t know what you’re feeling or even looking for. But that is the beauty of photography and this project. Even though I am searching for Thule, albeit closer to home than the ancient explores thought it to be, I am searching. There is no tangible outcome, the walk and experience is the outcome. That is what I need to hold on to, obviously I am studying for a degree in photography so the visual is important too! However I have this belief that when I feel I have found my Thule or Silence as is one interpretation of the word, then that will reflect through my images.

So I walked, photographed and collected. I collected damaged leaves. It is quite interesting because when I was a child I would only collect perfect leaves: with no dents, rips, discolourations or imperfections. Now I am fascinated by the qualities in the damaged leaves with rips and imperfections galore. The more fragile they are the better. I am contemplating what to do with them, if anything. Do I frame them as they are? Do I create photograms or lumen prints or cyanotypes? There is much that can be done with them, but what feels right? I like the idea of making a print and framing it with the leaf, or just framing the leaf. There is something beautiful about just having the leaf alone. It conjures up different memories for different people and isn’t that what art is all about?

I am reminded of Mark Dion’s work and his Cabinet of Curiosities. Maybe this is something that I could replicate in my own way with the leaves and other objects that I collect along my travels.

Hello again

I have not written for about a month and it seems much longer than that. I have been struggling. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I have been more tired than usual these past few weeks, I have been working hard both with my MA Project and my teaching job. Usually I can function, but I have been struggling to compartmentalise my thoughts, which has led to an increase in anxiety and along with that problems sleeping at night. It is a catch-22, you are tired, so need to sleep and then you can’t so wake up more tired. This is a cycle that I am hoping to break now I have decided to make myself sit here and write something.

I have found myself with a writers block, which is a problem when you have to write for your masters degree. I usually enjoy writing, and find that it comes relatively easily but this is something new. I find I think of something to write about and the words just don’t come. I sit here and get frustrated. Normally my real thinking time is when I’m on the train – recently all I can here is noise. Noise from the train, the passengers and I just want to hide. I’m thinking a small hut with an amazing view somewhere in Iceland or in the Arctic would be nice! But no, reality is what I must face and I need through my photography and exploration through photography to get myself moving again.

My project is laden with ideas and I have so many avenues to explore. So this morning I am off with my camera to do just that: explore.

I will tell you how it goes!

Rain

I have begun walking the south west coast path, you could say scouting locations for my final MA project, but no I have begun it properly. Scouting is part of my research, but I consider that I have started. 
On my walk from Maidencombe to Watcombe I have found a beautiful wooded area. I was in these woods when a shower of rain started. It was not heavy, but enough to come through the leaves and create perfect droplets on the leaves. The sound was exquisite and is impossible to describe, which is not good for a writer. It is best summed up by the poem by Walt Whitman. 
“And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,

Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer,

as here translated:

I am the poem of earth…”

Walt Whitman, The Voice of the Rain

The Lure of the Water

Water has two effects…one it is calming the other is terror. For a lot of people in the world at the moment it is causing a lot of pain and fear. People trying to escape oppressive regimes in boats that are either overcrowded or not seaworthy. For other there is a fear of tropical storms which raise towns and villages to the ground causing death and destruction.

I am fortunate, I do not live in an area where I need to escape with my family to be able to live safely, nor do I live with the fear of tropical storms or hurricanes. I grew up by the sea and currently live by the sea. I have never been far from water in my life…either rivers or lakes. I like to holiday where there is water and be able to walk by the river if I am in a city.

Even though I have a romantic view of water: with a feeling of calm and serenity, I am fully aware of the power and strength of the water. That if you do not respect the water it will find a way bring that reality to bear.

I love the water, I have decided to base part of my MA project around the water. Being by the sea gives me an opportunity for reflection that is not always possible anywhere else. The draw of the horizon line, wondering what is out there and if I could get there what would I find? The idea of searching for something greater than myself, in whatever form that is, is something that I want to explore by walking part of the South West Coast Path.

Spitsbergen

Ice fascinates me, as does the lure of the north…the high north, basically Iceland and above! I have been reminiscing this evening about my trips to Spitsbergen in 2011 and 2012. It is a long time ago, but I can still feel the cold on my face, the wind in my hair and the beautiful, crisp fresh air.

I had dreamed about visiting Spitsbergen and the landscapes did not disappoint, they were beyond anything I have ever seen or could have imagined. Mountains, glaciers, ice flows, wildlife, flowers it was all so stunningly unspoilt.

As well as visiting many different glaciers and walking along beaches and visiting hunters cabins we visited settlements such as Pyramiden and Barentsburg which are former Soviet mining towns, Ny Alesund which is full of research stations from around the world and the ‘capital’ Longyearbyen. These settlements were so different and it was fascinating to get an insight into these different regions which have vastly different purposes.

As I stood in these landscape I thought about the will and survival of the animals and people to allow them to proposer here. Animals are full of courage and survive instincts while humans also full of courage are geared more towards hope than survival.

Talking to the people who live in these regions about the long dark winters is when you hear the stories of what is seemingly survival, but when you look further into it what they are really talking and feeling is hope. Hope for the arrival of the first light, hope that the snow ploughs work, hope the supplies can arrive and don’t run out. The hope of the families that are with them.

Hope is a beautiful thing and something we tend to value all to little in this world of materialistic elements. In these places you are stripped of everything, it doesn’t matter which iPhone you have, or how big your car is…it is about the hope that the sun will soon rise up above the horizon again.

My Masters…

I am just about to start the final year of my Masters degree in Photography. I am full of excitement and trepidation as I love the research and the photographing – but what I don’t particularly enjoy are the sessions where we are with our tutors and the rest of the group.

There are times last year where I got nothing out of some of the sessions…believe me I tried, but when all day (and I mean all day) is spent listening intently to everyone else project, and then realising you are last and most people (we are a group of 10) have had to leave early is not good practice. Also the clock is ticking as the remaining students and tutors want to get a certain train home and it turns out you get less than 10 minutes to talk about your work (when others have had an awful lot more time than that). It’s not fun and when I was struggling with a mind-block on my work it made it even more unhelpful.

I am incredibly lucky to be doing an MA, my mother never had the opportunity and my grandmother (aged 99) didn’t have the chance to even contemplate going to university. So in a way I should not be complaining, but these situations are not how I learn. It is that simple. My time is limited and I need every moment available to work on my project and talk to people about my work. Not sit in a room and watch the clock. It is difficult to gain ideas from other peoples work because all our projects and ideas are so very, very different.

So, I will be going in with a different, more upfront attitude. I need to get things out of the sessions and I intend to. This is the final module and I want to have the advice and help I need.

Just another blog…

There are thousands of blogs around the world perpetuating the same things: life styles, hopes and dreams, baking, photography and many others. This is my blog, falling into all of those categories and none of those categories because it is mine and mine alone.

So why am I writing this? Well, I need an outlet to write and think out loud. I realised at some point over the summer that a journal was not going to work. I needed something where I could talk to the wind at any time of the day or night without scratching round for a pen that worked and a post-it note. So Devon Sweet Pea was born at lunchtime on 9th September 2016. I am in the final year of my part time MA in photography as well as teaching 3 days a week at a further education college and am in need of this space to write and think.