Having re-read A Russian Journal, I feel empowered to push myself further and to dig deeper. I am now working full time and my creative practice has become harder to fit in. I have been going through my notebook to remind myself of my responses to the sites of my memories, and on reflection, I feel that the more uncomfortable responses have enabled me to create my strongest work.
With this in mind I have started planning my next trip to Falmouth, the town for a long time I have considered home. On reading through my notebook, I am a little unclear of what the notion of “home” means to me. My last trip over the summer has left many questions unanswered and a return visit is needed to double-check my previous findings. Perhaps I will feel entirely different on my next visit?
My next trip to Falmouth will be in late October, when I have a half term off work and some time to explore those memories again. My previous trip had me camping on the outskirts of the town, and the forced isolation led me to really think about my responses to the locations I had revisited. It was a useful experience. Unfortunately, the campsite will be closed when I return next which feels a shame as I was able to really dig deeply into my mind in the confines of my tent.
For my October trip I have resorted to booking a hotel. Falmouth has hundreds of hotels to choose from, but my choice is simple to make. I grew up in a hotel in Falmouth and I lived there from 1993 to 2002. I have booked myself into the hotel that was my childhood home.
Even as I write this from Bristol, I have a sense of trepidation and nervousness about returning to that building. Not that it is the site of many significant, drastically unhappy memories, but because this will force me to confront my memories head-on. I am sure the hotel itself will be a pleasant enough place to stay, I don’t know, I’ve not been there for many years, but right now this feels a little uncomfortable.
This could be an overwhelming experience, to paraphrase Casey in Remembering: A phenomenological Study, there is a burden to memory that I am potentially about to unpack.
As I reflect on my own creative practice over the summer, something that has become clear to me is that the notes I have recorded are becoming as important as the images themselves. I have recorded in my notebook my thoughts, feelings and responses to revisiting the coastal sites of my memories, with many interesting and unexpected thoughts recorded. These accompanying notes have formed a type of journal which has become a way for viewers to further decode my intentions when making my photographs.
To research this approach to text matched to image recording, I have started to re-read John Steinbeck and Robert Capa’s book A Russian Journal. I first read this book on my own European travels, having purchased it outside the Robert Capa Centre in Budapest while backpacking around Eastern Europe a few years ago.
The book was written in 1948 when author Steinbeck was joined by Magnum photographer Capa on a trip around Soviet Russia. Steinbeck, an American and Capa, a Hungarian refugeed to America, held typical pro-west views of the Soviet east. Shortly after the second world war and at the very early start of the cold war, Steinbeck and Capa wanted to record how post-war Russia actually existed. Their self-established remit was to capture and record everyday Russia and its citizens without any editorial or political slant. In an age where the Cold war was in its infancy, it seems the west had unrealistic views of the east and the east held similarly unrealistic ideas about the west. A Russian Journal attempted nobbily to clarify western held opinions about the Soviets.
Capa’s photography throughout the book depicts Starlin’s Russia with honesty, showing everyday life as it presented itself. These images are outward facing, with western eyes recording eastern life as it was with integrity. The images would have come as a surprise to their intended audience, where every day Russians were shown to be a peaceful nation and preoccupied in rebuilding a country ravaged by war. This is in contrast to western opinion at the time, who largely believed the totalitarian regime of Starlin were set for another conflict in post war Europe. Steinbeck’s text mirrors Capa’s photography, with overtones of surprise felt by the warmth and generosity the Russian people afforded them.
I have enjoyed re-reading this text very much. It is a fascinating historical record of post war Russia created at a turning point in history. However, regarding my own creative practice, there is little I am able to take away from Capa’s photography in A Russian Journal in terms of aesthetics. These images are looking outwards to the world and recording what is there, while my own work is far more internally focused on myself, where I am rediscovering memories and unpacking them.
What I am able to borrow from the work of Steinbeck and Capa is an upfaulting desire to dig deeper into my own work and experiences. The trip they started took them on a journey of discovery that became more involved and deeper as the trip progressed. I can empathize this with response very much. They were enthused to understand Starlin’s Russia on a deeper level, beyond just what was visible on the surface. With this in mind, I am driven to explore my own thoughts and feeling even further, and this will be presented in my written journal and in my own photography as I move this project forward.
Steinbeck, J., 1994. A Russian Journal. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.
On Wednesday the 4th of September I visited the Martin Parr Foundation to see the By The Sea exhibition by Czech photographer Markéta Luskacová. Luskacová first visited England from her native Czechoslovakia in 1975 and has resided in the UK ever since.
The exhibition and accompanying photobook are centred around Luskacová’s work photographing the coast at Whitley Bay in the north east of England and its visitors in the 1970’s.
The body of work forms a social record of the people who visited the sea side resort of Whitley Bay and so finds itself a suitable temporary home within the Martin Parr Foundation as Martin Parr himself is well known for his work around the British coastline.
The work is focused on the people who visited the beach as a leisure activity in the 1970’s rather than the location of the coast itself. My own interest in this exhibition is the draw that those people felt to the coast which carries some similar parallels to my own current work.
The images, all captured on black & white film, depict the beaches of Whitely Bay as places of joy. The visitors, irrelevant of questionable weather conditions, are shown to be enjoying their visit. Reflecting on my own draw to the coast, I can say that climatic conditions have little correlation to my desire to be at the coast. In fact, my most content recollections of the coast tend to be centred around the off season months and stormy weather conditions where the coast feels less busy.
To contextualise this body of work in 1970’s Britain, the people visiting Whitely Bay were likely to have not travelled very far. In an era of depression, the north east was at this time an industrial heartland and so the workers from this area are likely to be the people captured. It is clear from the images that holidays on the beach would be planned in advance and still take place irrelevant of poor weather. These people were strong willed industrial workers, they were going to beach and the weather would not put them off. I am able to share a similar mindset in that my desire to be on the coast is also born out of opportunity; if time allows me to visit the coast I will go and poor weather would not be a consideration.
I was very touched by it all: the families with children, old women in their best hats, elderly couples with grandchildren, teenagers courting shyly or boisterously, the ponies and donkeys walking patiently to and fro on the beach
The use of black & white photography has removed the warmth that is often produced by the bright colours found in coastal tourist areas. This has allowed the photographer to create images that focus on the people, their expressions and reactions to the seaside, rather than their surroundings. There is a comparison to be made here with the host of the exhibition, Martin Parr, who is well known for the opposite approach. Parr’s kitsch, colourful, saturated images show bucket and spade Britain in a totally different, yet still joyous light. Perhaps a distinction of optimism versus realism could be applied to this comparisons.
The images themselves lack much in relevance to my own practice. This is a body of work recording people by a photographer looking outwards to the scenes around her, while my own work is firmly centred on my own thoughts, feelings and draws looking in whilst visiting the coast. Whilst I have still enjoyed viewing this collection of images, there is not much for me to draw on aesthetically. The main influence I am able to benefit from here is based around the draw and motivation to be near the sea.
On the 13th of July, I returned to Falmouth in Cornwall which was my home from 1994 until 2004. Falmouth was the first place I lived near the coast and where my attachment to the sea started. I have always considered the town to be my home as I spent my formative years there and it is here that I feel the most draw to the coast. I stayed for several days and camped on the outskirts of the town near to Maenporth beach which is one of the locations I was planning to visit. Spending my time visiting various locations that hold meaningful memories for me, I retraced the steps I would have taken as a teenager and young adult.
The following text is an excerpt from my notebook where I recorded my thoughts and responses as I moved between the various locations making photographs.
Things have changed on the surface of the town and perhaps in me. Falmouth is different now, it is developing rapidly and continues to do so. The personality of the landscape has changed, adjusted and been remodelled. Not so many familiar faces and certainly those I have seen are not people who I need to reconnect with.
This does not feel like “home” anymore and that notion makes me reconsider exactly what is “home”? How do I define “home”? Something is missing, there is a disconnection between myself and this space. I have lost my perceived anchor to this space.
The coast is busier than I remember, but perhaps I was not aware of the busyness before. I see people who are my age, when I lived here. They could be me. Could I have been youthfully this ignorant? Or has the passage of time increased the popularity of the town? I see young people carelessly doing the things I once did, but my response is one of distain. Did I behave like that? I hope not. This feels absolutely uncomfortable.
My internal draw to this area feels diminished, less powerful than I thought. This visit does not sit right with me. I feel uneasy being here. The comfort I derived from the notion of “home” is missing. I am on the outside looking in now. I have become a visitor, where as once I was a participant.
Visiting the places that played such pivotal roles in my youth has stirred mixed and surprising feelings. Nostalgia has afforded me a rose tinted view into the past, while the present is lacking.
Perhaps this visit is a cathartic experience, freeing my memories and allowing myself to accept the present.
Also within my note book I recorded some notes on the Edward S. Casey text, Remembering: A Phenomenological Study which I have been dipping in and out of over the last few weeks. The following paraphrased notes feel relevant to my uneasy response at revisiting the area.
Memories can harbour powerful emotions for humans and some memories can be a burden to us. The power to recollect is a huge responsibility and some memories can be crushing. Casey explains this by asserting that memories are a “weight of the past” and the past is fixed. As the past is over and completed, the ability to recollect can hold crushing consequences on the current. Casey also suggests that the ability to selectively forget whilst impossible to do, would be of considerable benefit to humans. Being able to forget painful memories of the past at will would hold huge advantages.
Film 11, 120
Film 12, 120
Film 13, 120
Film 14, 120
Film 15, 120
Film 16, 120
Image 165 is shot at Pendennis Point in Falmouth which is a wooded peninsular at the mouth of the Carrick Roads. This is an area I particularly spent a lot of time in and around as a teenager. The building visible is Little Dennis, an outpost of Pendennis Castle which is also situated on the point. Little Dennis is openly accessible and was the location of many memories for me. It provided shelter from the wind on the exposed peninsular and was the sight of many teenage late night gatherings.
This image is slightly soft due to the failing light, but I don’t feel this detracts from the meaning it holds. The image depicts Little Dennis relatively small in the image which is also framed by rocks and shot through foliage from a small cliff top. Making some sort of sense of this image, Little Dennis remains as it was, firmly seated on the rocks beneath it. There is a time aware constant-ness about this fact; it remains static and unchanged. Yet the foliage framing it provides a recent addition to the scene. This image represents an element of my youth that is not likely to change soon, where as the foliage framing it makes a seasonal appearance.
Image 180 is also shot in the area of Pendennis Point. The local beauty spot is dotted with seating to allow visitors to enjoy the space. This image shows one of several seating areas cut into the rocks at almost sea level. I can vividly remember this particular space having a concrete table and seats arranged in it. It is clear that over time this arrangement has eroded and finally been removed, leaving behind stumps of what was previously. I approach this project revisiting memories and the locations they are held in, this image reminds me of the profound effect of time on the landscape. As memories fade, so do many of the spaces housing them.
Image 205 depicts the broken window of one of the victorian seafront shelters situated on the seafront in Falmouth. An internal window is broken while the outside windows remain intact. The shattered glass echoes the fragmented pattern found on many of the images due to the seawater evaporating marks. I have been considering these individual cells present on the images to be linked to my individual memories of space.
These shelters placed at scenic locations hold many memories for me. They were often used by my friends and I when we had nowhere else to congregate. This shelter specifically holds many memories, both good and bad, happy and more troubling, from my youth. Perhaps the broken pane surrounded by intact glass exists as a metaphor for these combined recollections.
Image 196 is clearly informed by the work of Sugimoto, with a near still ocean and a clear, uninterrupted horizon. The early evening light has rendered the sky with a soft yellow hue which builds upon the calmness of the image. The water is still and peaceful while the warmth of the sky provides a sense of serenity. The bottom of the image shows the rock pools of Castle beach giving the scene a sense of scale and a slightly foreboding feeling that the water is not quite as welcoming as it might appear. There is a lone buoy slightly off centre reminding the viewer that this space also hosts human emotions of solitude and remoteness. The openness and sense of scale are profound. There is a lot within this image that represents my own attraction to the water and the beach.
The salt water marks present here remind me of stars in the sky. This creates a feeling of timelessness and permanence. When the sun goes down and the the stars illuminate this scene, it would look very similar to how it looks in daylight. The water, rocks and sky would remain in the same place. Added to this, the saltwater adds agency to the image tying it to the space it was created in.Image 220
Image 220 was created at the back of a car park at Swanpool Beach in Falmouth. This is a relatively small beach with a large carpark situated behind it. The car park is perhaps bigger than it needs to be and therefore does not often get filled. The far end of the gravel car park is overgrown as users choose to park as close to the beach as possible.
The image shows a lone plant growing out of the rough carpark surface. It feels that the plant is out of place in the scene and and that it does not belong. This is mirroring my own response experienced when visiting this space. I felt like an outsider and no longer rooted to the area. Notions of social remoteness and isolation also accompanied this visit to Swanpool. I felt very aware that I did not belong any longer with the many changes happening around the site reminding me how the space has altered since my previous frequent visits.
Also clear in the image is the elaborate markings made on the negative by the seawater wash. The different areas of the image show a variety of incredibly detailed patterns which perhaps can be metaphorically likened to variety of emotions I experienced when visiting this space.
Image 224 depicts the same space as Image 220. The disused car park area is also littered with discarded building debris around its edges. I feel this is likely to be closely linked to the nearby development of houses and not related to the beach nearby. What was once a well kept utilitarian space designed for parking has become something else as the character of the space changes. For me, my response to the location is similar to that of Image 220, one of uncomfortable unfamiliarity and distant change. My relationship to this space has changed as the space itself as changed.
On the 10th of July I drove down to Dawlish Warren in South Devon. I left Bristol at 5.00am with the intention of arriving in Dawlish early enough to miss most of the crowds. I arrived just before 7.00am on a very hot and bright morning.
I spent a lot of time specifically at Dawlish Warren between 2004 and 2008 as I had moved to the area from Cornwall to take a new job in a book publishers in Newton Abbott. It was not a particularly happy chapter of my life although I was very successful in my work. I felt very isolated socially and did not make a lot of friends in the local area.
Excerpt from my notebook recorded during my visit:
The little resort of Dawlish Warren is a bleak presence on the coast. Everything is run down and dated. The idea of this type of seaside resort seems dated and perhaps Dawlish is catering for an older generation who are attracted to a resort like this. It feels budget and tacky, bucket and spade.
I recall walking here when I lived locally. For me it was an escape from the realities of a stressful job. I would struggle to leave the pressures of work behind, often even taking home work over the weekend. Here I could not do any work, the beach provided a forced freedom for me. My walk would last two or three hours, but those hours were a break from work. The resort of Dawlish Warren exists as a refuge from work, for me and for the tourists that visit. The train line that runs across the beach separates the pleasure ground from the realities of life. That same train that transports me to work passes by harmlessly at regular intervals.
Everything here feels manufactured, placed in the landscape with purpose. The sea defence groyne’s, the tacky gift shops and the Victorian railway designed with the purpose of popular development. The developed resort is a veneer on the landscape. It feels fake and superficial. This is a manufactured environment. The rolling waves add a welcome lone air of authenticity to this location. The waves are real.
It is a veneer of manufactured pleasure. Forced pleasure. Is this why I am drawn to this space? To facilitate forced relaxation? Dawlish Warren is a Heterotopia, a place of otherness sat in the landscape in contrast to the working week of its visitors.
Film 8, 120
Film 9, 120
Film 10, 120
My first trip to Dawlish Warren was a success and I feel I have been able to visually record my initial thoughts and responses to the space well. My trip has stirred many memories, some of which are long forgotten and uncomfortable. These memories can now be retrieved and confronted with the benefit of hindsight. To paraphrase Edward S. Casey in his book Remembering: A Phenomenological Study, remembering can be a burden with powerful consequences. Recalling or re-enacting events of the past can be an unbearable responsibility.
This is a holiday destination and my visit coincided with what was in the start of the season. I would really like to revisit when the season is over, as my memories of Dawlish reach beyond just the tourist season. This is a different place in the winter and I think this must also be recorded for the project.
I feel image 153 represents a success from my first trip to Dawlish. This has been particularly affected by the seawater washing process and it is clearly visible where the water has pooled on the negative when drying. The image shows a view directly out to sea with the largest portion of the image being made up of sky.
The staining present has created a coloured band vertically up the image that has an almost rainbow effect to it. This makes the photograph have aspirational qualities when thinking of memories. The long beach walks would often be accompanied with thoughts of future plans, and especially particular to this location, dreams of an exit strategy.
Image 157 represents a lot for me. Clear in the picture is the town of Teignmouth where I actually lived. This picture exists as a glimpse of my previous life in the metaphorical distance. Also shown is the train line that I would often commute on that divides the coast from the sea. One side of the line represents the freedom of the water and foreshore, where the other side is linked to the stresses of reality and work.
The salt and seawater staining on this image is particularly interesting. It exhibits a pattern similar to a honeycomb with several segregated individual cells. This notion of separation visible mainly in the sky area of the image mirrors the message of a split message that the photograph carries.
Edward S. Casey cited defined areas within the landscape as a characteristic of the memory recording process. He cited that a perimeter defines the outer limits of place and confines place within. This image, split in my mind as two seperate zones with differing meanings attached, illustrates this characteristic of memory.
Image 147 is aesthetically one of my favourite images created so far within this project. This image has a real sense of abandonment and banality to it, which reflects the resort in general. The small building is actually part of the railway workings that supply the small train station at the resort. The dead end of the road and overgrown foliage seem to fuel the concept of this area being a finite destination. You come here and stop, once passengers exit the train, there is nowhere else to go and so the forced contentment starts.
The artefacts resulting from the seawater washing have had yet another different effect on this image. Visible predominantly in the sky area, there are two clear areas of salt patterning. On the left there is a well defined section of white salt marks, where on the right the water has effected the negative with a light red haze and grain. This seems like the white area is in the foreground emitting from Dawlish, while the red haze is further afield over Devon, thereby building upon the notion of a divide.
Image 159 is another favourite so far. Shot from the level of the beach looking inland and up to a glorious blue sky. The sea defences are a manufactured presence on the landscape designed to protect the interests of the owners of the resort. At this location, the defences are formed by an ugly utilitarian concrete ramp that would look more at home on a nuclear bunker. Hidden from view and on top of the ramp is the tarmac promenade on which are placed a neat line of pastel coloured beach huts. The beach huts have identical pitched roofs, all proudly pointing up to a deep sky. This is an unusual view of the space and not a typical tourist snapshot. The memory connection here for me relates to laying on the beach and looking up to the sky. The features of the sky are ever changing and I would often stare up into the clouds getting lost in my own thoughts.
On the 8th of July I returned to photograph Portishead early in the morning. At this point I was still working before the end of term and so a quick trip to Portishead was all I was able to manage. I moved to a slightly different yet still very familiar area of coast within Portishead for this shoot. The following is an excerpt form my notes written at the beach:
It is a sunny day and the coast should be busy. At least I feel it should be busy, perhaps this is an ideal ingrained into my mind that the coast ought to be busy. Certainly in Cornwall I feel it would have been on a day such as this.
The area around in is a small shingle beach approached from a steep wooded hill. The path down to the beach is well trodden yet the area is deserted. Perhaps the steps collapsing on to the beach has kept people away. While it is empty for my visit, there are tell tale signs of visitors, both recent and historical. Discarded barbecues, empty drinks cans and charred remains of fires signify that the beach has been used for leisure by someone. It reminds me of the generic memory of twenty years ago, where it would have been me and friends doing the exact same thing. We would have cleared up after ourselves, that is the difference. The presence of nitros oxide canisters scattered amongst the stones places this event very much of the recent past.
Walking along the rocks and broken concrete of the foreshore, it is clear that this small immediate hinterland is uncared for. It feels overlooked and forgotten, of no use to anyone. The sea has eroded a world war two military facility and the water is slowly taking back this tiny area of coastline. There is a metaphor of the life I had in Cornwall being also a thing of the past and finally falling apart. As the tide comes in and out, the waves provide a constant and evolving change, yet evidence of the past remains. Again, metaphoric of my own life on the coast.
Film 6, 120
Film 7, 120
I am really pleased with my second shoot in Portishead. The pictures make it look more appealing than it really feels. The overhanging foliage framing the water make the foreshore look almost tropical yet the truth is far from it on the outskirts of Bristol.
My technique of drying the hand processed negatives with recovered water has been refined now and although unpredictable, is generating some really interesting and individual images.
I think image 110 is a real success. The rusting and warped metal post are suggestive of times long past, but clearly important times. It would not have been an easy thing to do to transport the necessary building materials on to the beach, so I am able to deduce that this was once considered an important space. The way the post has eroded, rusted and warped back on itself provides all sorts of visual metaphors to my own memories of the beach. They include placing value on the space, abandonment and the irreversible passing of time. There are some interesting artefacts places randomly over the image derived from the seawater. These seem to echo the deterioration of the metal and go on to mirror the permanence of my memories.
Another image I am pleased with is image 105. This image is made up of primarily sky and water, with a slight suggestion of the foreshore in the bottom right corner. The presence of the dried salt marks on this image is very profound and detracts the viewer away from just the space it depicts. The salt has created an intricate web of unique marks across a significant portion of the photograph. Looking into the detail of the salt provides an interesting and individual pattern where each area is totally different. Thinking about memories and recollections as unique things, this image creates a visualisation as unique as a human memory. It appears as a salt fog across the sea, forcing the underlying image to be less obvious to the viewer. I hope this photograph is able to spell out that this project is more deeply linked to experience and memory of space, rather than a simple series of seascape images.
I have known of Hiroshi Sugimoto for quite some time and have been inspired by the powerful nature of his seascape images previously. Beyond aesthetics, I have not really researched the work of Sugimoto in much detail, so I will use this as an opportunity to look into his work in detail.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is a Japanese artist and Architect well known for his photographic images. Sugimoto works around broad themes but I will be looking at his famous seascape work. All of the images are shot on a 10 x8 large format camera with monochrome film. A familiar feature across all of the images in the series is that they have been focussed at double infinity, allowing Sugimoto to create images with a haunting, surrealness to them. Additionally, the images are shot in landscape format with the horizon centred to create a divide between sky and the sea.
Beyond these factors the series varies a huge amount in terms of content. The horizon, which we could easily assume at sea should always appear as a fixed image, is different in each image. Differences in weather, time of day or night and location forces the viewer reconsider what we perceive the ocean to look like. It would be very easy to assume one image of the sea and sky would look very similar to another, but this series of images demonstrates a uniqueness to each image. The concept of this series brings together the very essentials of earthly existence, air and water. Sugimoto is encouraging the viewer of his images to think, reconsider and have an emotional interaction with work. The work is highly conceptual and carries a meditative, zen-like message.
“Every time I view the sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on a voyage of seeing”
Ligurian Sea, Saviore, 1982
The Ligurian Sea image shot in Saviore in 1982 carries a suggestion of the unknown to it. The sky and the sea merge seamlessly as the horizon is shrouded within fog or sea mist. The lack of a defined horizon ensures this image invokes feelings of uneasiness within its viewer. Concepts of scale and distance become blurred and confused, and to view the image it is a real challenge to settle on how far away the invisible horizon might be. The gradient of tonality to this image is exceptionally beautiful, with the sea in the foreground rendering at almost black that gradually rises up, beyond the perceived horizon and up to the sky. This is a highly emotive image that I would like to see in person to truly gauge where the promised horizon might be situated.
Caribbean Sea, Jamaica, 1980
Demonstrating the scope of this series of images, the Caribbean Sea, shot in Jamaica in 1980, depicts the sea in an entirely different way. This image carries a clear message of openness and clarity, similar to that I personally feel from the ocean. There is a great contrast between the sky and the water, with a clearly defined horizon and therefore a familiar sense of scale for the viewer to consider. The foreground shows very small ripples in the water allowing us to derive emotions of tranquility and calmness from the image. In contrast to the Ligurian Sea image, the Caribbean Sea puts its viewer at ease with its simplicity of form and a clearer relationship between sky and sea. Gestures of shape and light ensure this image is well balanced and visually accessible to its viewer.
Baltic Sea, Rügen, 1996
The series takes yet another twist with the Baltic Sea image, shot in Rügen, 1996. Clearly created in hours of darkness and with a lengthy exposure that Sugimoto is known for, this image is more about what is not visible as opposed to what is. The night time scene of the ocean is rich in shadow detail with only a mere suggestion of a horizon illuminated by a featureless night sky. Creating feelings of eeriness and the unknown, the Baltic Sea contradicts itself with a message of silent calmness to its viewer.
I very much enjoyed researching Hiroshi Sugimoto and his seascape imagery. While not directly related to my work in terms of human memory and recollection, the theme of the sea does have some parallels. I am especially interested in the communication of human emotions that Sugimoto’s images are able to carry. In this sense, I will attempt to let his work inform my own practice further and this is how I am able to link it to my own work with memory. Although I could imagine the Sugimoto centered horizon featuring in my own work, I am particularly inspired by impactful nature of this series and its ability to portray emotion effectively.
Continuing my experimentation and beginning to start shooting relevant spaces, I visited the familiar location of Portishead which is the nearest area of coastline to my home in Bristol. While making my images and collecting seawater, I recorded some thoughts in my notebook. The following text relates to how it felt to return to the area and the memories it ignited.
The coast around Portishead holds a lot of memories for me. When I first moved to Bristol just over 10 years ago, I spent a lot of time in this area. Spending time on the coast at Portishead was perhaps a final way for me to reconnect with the sea and the happiness I associate with it or at least an attempt to do so. Being near the coast makes me reminisce to my childhood and teenage years living by the water. The draw to return is still very strong, and by spending time on the coast I thought I might be satisfying that desire.
I have not been to this area for probably 8 years, the reason being that the desire was not satisfied. I approached Portishead and the north Somerset coast with rose tinted spectacles, nostalgically hoping that spending time here would create the contentment I felt as a younger person. I recall memories of meeting a friend here, like I would have met a friends on the beaches of Cornwall. We spent much of the night on the beach at Portishead but I recall that evening missing something. My draw tot he coast was certainly there, but it was not the same. I was trying to re-enact events of the past. My new friend did not meet my perhaps unrealistic expectations and did not fill the gap I was hoping. I was trying to fill a social gap that I had left behind in 2004 in Cornwall that was never to be filled again in the same way.
At this point I feel that Portishead should probably be the final area visited for the project as it is home to the most recent memories I will be working with. Logistics have made me start my journey into the past here and so the final body of work will need to reorganised chronologically.
Film 5, 35mm
Shooting a mixture of 35mm and medium format images, I felt that the medium format images rendered the scene in a far more appropriate way for this project. I am much happier with the square format photographs in terms of image quality and viewing experience. The aesthetic point of each image is displayed much more clearly with the square images and the larger surface area allows the salt water to form larger, more interesting marks. The 35mm images require further enlargement that on an aesthetic level, leaves the salt marks too large and prominent. I will be focusing on medium format images as the project progresses from here.
Final Process Gallery
After a lot of experimentation, I have settled on the process I will be using. I will continue to hand process the colour C41 films with the Digibase kit I had purchased as per the standard instructions. After the final wash the negatives are removed from the developing tank and cut into strips. At this point they are placed on a flat surface outside and gently rinsed in the recovered seawater. The seawater is allowed to sit on the negatives to evaporate leaving salt artefacts on the images. This final wet process is key to building the agency between location and final image. The negatives are finally scanned and inverted to make prints from.
Film 4, 120
The salt marks left on the negatives from this shoot have added a unique aesthetic to each image. The unique marks are as unique as my memories and can never be repeated. The set of images also generate a feeling of passed times which is exactly what a memory actually is. I feel that the overcast sky also encourages the feeling of the less than perfect, which is mirrored by my overall experience of the Portishead coast. There is ultimately an emptiness about these images, these are places designed for enjoyment but the human element is notably missing from the photographs.
In the chapter Place Memory, Edward S. Casey discusses in depth the relationship between place and memory. Citing numerous references to Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and Husserl, Casey provides a historical perspective to memory of place as well as challenging some of those theories with contemporary discussion.
From the outset, Casey discussed what we understand memory to be. He establishes that memories are human constructed, and we must be able to retrieve and reclaim memories for them to be any use to us. Our memories are therefore entirely down to us as beings to utilise them. He goes on to theorise that a given memory is constructed of a grid system with time and place as axis. Places or sets of places have images positioned upon the grid in time order. He refers to these locations as “sites”. Subsequent remembering of these items occurs by revisiting the site on the grid and traversing it step by step to retrieve the place memory.
Casey breaks down several characteristics key of Place that allow memory to function. This gives some perspective on the function of memory and the role it plays within my own practice.
Variation of the landscape around us affords us the opportunity to remember. The irregularities between different surroundings trigger a memory to be attached. These “landmarks” allow us to attach lasting memories of place.
The limitations of place also form a memory holding response to the landscape. A perimeter defines the outer limits of place and confines place within. This in turn allows us to attach memory.
The expressiveness of the landscape is linked to the inherent emotionality of space. This can be likened to our own responses to place. Place has the power to symbolise emotional expressiveness and embody it as memory.
This is an in-depth text which discusses some complex theories of memory. It has been challenging read and I am sure there are several themes to the writing that have escaped me so far. That said, the chapter does provide some theoretical context to my project which I will be referencing when discussing my own work. I will be continuing to dip in and out of the text as my project continues.
S., E., 2000. Remembering, Second Edition: A Phenomenological Study (studies In Continental Thought). Indiana University Press.