In preparing for assessment, I’m writing a pdf response the course’s learning objectives. I set myself the constraint of 100-150 words for each objective, so as to not overwhelm assessors with words. However, learning objective 2 asks to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of your area of specialisation and be able to situate your own work within a larger context of practice in your field. This is not something I’ve written about discretely since an exercise early in the course, which asked me to consider in which genre my work is situated. I’ve therefore written this separate post that allows a slightly more expansive expression of my thoughts; useful to bring together as I begin to talk about my work outside the OCA, during the SYP course.
Situating my own work
My work is an amalgamation of several areas of specialisation. I’m not entirely comfortable with the term ; ‘specialisation’ as I feel that it is trying to hurd for the sake of a convenient label; I think art is more nuanced than this.
There is the cross-disciplinary genre of psychogeography, connected with the practice of wandering, Ian Sinclair’s writing London Orbital for example, as well as the effect of geography on mood and meaning. Discussions of human geography in my dissertation are also connected to this aspect. In making my work, I walked most of the 127 miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, generally with no preconceptions of what I might find along each stretch. While the psychogeographic films of Patrick Keiller, for example London and Robinson in Ruins, were an influence, my style of imagery is very different and aestheticizes the banal to draw attention to what I think of as its unusual beauty. In this respect my video is closer to Deutsche Börse nominee photographer Laura el Tantawy’s video works than Keiller’s that are straight film shots without panning or zooming.
Aestheticizing environmental degradation can be seen as controversial as photographers such as Richard Misrach and Edward Burtynsky have experienced, in essays such as Deborah Bright’s Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men. However, I share the view that it can be used positively to draw attention to places that might otherwise be ignored; I discuss this in my dissertation, referring to Eric Sandeen’s essay Souvenirs from the Landscapes of Modernity, which takes a different perspective to Bright’s on the work of Richard Misrach and others.
My project is readily identifiable as ‘Northern’, and therefore be connected with photographer’s who engaged with the Northern landscape and culture, such Bill Brandt, Don McCullin, and John Bulmer (who’s use of colour is a direct influence). However, we are separated by time and my work is concerned with the aftermath of the industry they photographed, deindustrialisation. This therefore connects my work to the concept of ‘aftermath’ photography, though the deindustrialisation of the space along the canal is a slow process, often outside directly observable time; unlike a war zone for example where there is sudden and violent destruction of what was before.
Finally, there is a strong connection with photography concerned with water and journeys along that water. Alex Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi has been a long-time influence on my work, with its stillness and observation of marginal places. More concerned with detritus left along the water as marks of human activity is Frank Watson’s Soundings from the Estuary. The absence of people in my work is similar, as is the featuring of detritus.
Bright (1985). Essay Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men at: http://www.deborahbright.net
Sandeen, E. (2011) ‘Eric Sandeen’s essay Souvenirs from the Landscapes of Modernity: Richard Misrach, Camilo Vergara, and the Visual Politics of Ruin’ In: Pictorial Cultures and Political Iconographies: Approaches, Perspectives, Case Studies from Europe and America. Berlin/Boston, GERMANY: De Gruyter, Inc. pp.315–354. At: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/detail.action?docID=736998 (Accessed 02/09/2019).
Laura el-Tantawy website: https://www.lauraeltantawy.com/video