Category Archives: Viewpoint

Assignment 5 – Response to Tutor

05/02/18

Comments on assignment:

I had a long and wide-ranging discussion with my tutor David for assignment 5. I will try to summarise what I took from it here.

  • My title ‘Forestry in Scotland‘ was too broad.
    • Agreed! Am trying to think of something more descriptive that isn’t too wordy – that is the difficult bit.
  • Lighting is inconsistent
    • This is about having most of the shots in a fairly flat light, if not downright stormy while 2 images were taken in bright sunlight with vivid blue skies. I hadn’t even thought about this as a problem – but on looking at the series as a whole they do rather stand out and produce a jarring note. I do have some replacements already available – I hadn’t even considered using them as my brain went ‘sunlight- that’s better’ without thinking it though.
  • Looking at the final edit in detail
    • This was very helpful, and I have done as suggested – my wall is now covered with prints. I am definitely going to go and re-shoot a couple of the ones that I had originally discarded but fit better into the theme. There should not be a problem getting cloudy days in Scotland in winter.
  • How do you show changes in time and season?
    • This I’d something to think about further for an extended project – maybe mark a spot and re-shoot at monthly dates – showing the changes in the trees, which might be fairly subtle.

Overall the discussion was very helpful – and hopefully I will get an improved final edit. At the very least it gave me a lot to consider and made me think more clearly about what I was aiming for.

Suggested Reading:

Paul Nash – an artist I had not come across before – related to the work produced by Arnatt. Destruction, here in the context of a response to WWI. Dead trees and land. Interestingly, the present push for re-forestation in Scotland was a direct response to the lack of wood available for military uses in WWI. So his horror in some way translates into the trees of today, and to their use as a resource for the community.

Nash, Paul, 1889-1946; We Are Making a New World

©Estate of Paul Nash/ Imperial War Museum

Images from Keith Arnatt – 2 of which are incredibly similar to some of the images I took for this assignment. If I had not taken them prior to seeing these I would have thought ~I would have been deliberately copying them. In reality it points up how the direct impact of forestry on the landscape leaves the same type of temporary destruction today as it did 30 years ago.

He also suggested a link to a fascinating and very long (2 and a half hours) audio interview with Keith Arnatt – this doesn’t finish – but cuts off mid sentence – so no concluding words of wisdom.

http://sounds.bl.uk/Arts-literature-and-performance/photography/021M-C0459X0036XX-0100V0

I took reams of notes  and was left with a lot of questions:

https://scottishzoe.blog/2018/02/12/notes-from-keith-arnatt/

Questions:

What narrative do other people impute to your work?

Could the subject matter of art be about the difficulties of being an artist?

Is the editing process actually the creative act?

Who are you taking the pictures for (and where are you displaying them)?

What is the role of preconception?

The photograph as an instant versus the painting/sculpture over time?

Does it matter what you photograph as long as you pay attention to it?

In reality all these questions are the ones that this degree is exporing, at one point or another. There are clearly no absolute right or wrong answers to any of them.  It is something to consider .

Michael Lange – another photographer I had not seen before. Some stunning images of deep in a forest, dark, minimal changes of tonality and colour. Lange started work as a photojournalist and has moved to fine art work. The images are redolent of the pine forest, not partially cut down, but what appears to be old wood. Again, these are the images I wished I could have taken to show the forest as it might be – although we have less major forests in Scotland than there are in Germany. His title – Landscapes of Memory – is relevant to the type of work I would like to move on to if I can extend this project.

Michael-Lange-photo-eye-wald-2016-954x714

© Michael Lange

Jem Southam – is a photographer who is exploring how memory and knowledge changes how we respond to the places we see. He looks at the same place over different times, different seasons and over several years – showing how a place will echo the season.  There are more changes where he is taking images in the South West of England’s than there are in the pine woods in Scotland – but links into the idea of extending the project – possibly for the landscape module.

FS_9094

© Jem Southam

Bloomberg and Chanarin – only managed a very quick glance at their work – but will be perusing this in more detail at a later date.

 

Assignment 5 – Reflection

03/01/18

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:

I feel that this was reasonable for my stage. The selected images are in focus, and correctly colour balanced. They show a range of details from close up to distant focus. I have tried to keep the design and composition straightforward and simple enough to show the point without overcomplication.

Quality of Outcome:

I think that I have communicated my idea about the forestry work in Scotland. It was difficult to keep it simple and within the confines of 10 images and a very short introductory paragraph. This would have been easier as a longer piece of work – and could have then included images of other woodlands.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I am not sure that there is a great deal of creativity in this! The idea is simple, taken from my surroundings.

Context:

I spent a reasonable amount of time reading around various other photographers work on woods, forests and the impact of man on the natural environment. Reading the websites on the National heritage of Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland , although not directly linked the photography, was especially useful as it made me aware of the historical implications of what I was seeing.

 

Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple

02/01/18

Forestry in Scotland

There were so many things a tree could do: add color, provide shade, drop fruit or become a children’s playground, a whole sky universe to climb and hang from; an architecture of food and pleasure, that was a tree’ (Bradbury, 1950).

When most people think of Scotland they think of heavily wooded areas, either replete with ancient forests or full of forestry commission pines. In reality it is neither.  At present only about 17% of the land area of Scotland is covered by trees, which, while lower than most other European countries, is a significant improvement from the 5% it was in 1919 when the Forestry Commission was started to increase the amount of timber available in Britain following shortages in World War 1. This initially led to the planting and harvesting of vast areas of soft wood, often non-native species, leaving desolate tracks, but since the 1980’s there has been a change towards planting of mixed species and use of the woodlands for a wide range of activities including timber production, biodiversity, carbon capture and social uses. ((Nature.scot, 2017)).

In Scotland most of the forested land remains under private ownership, but some is also owned by the government and managed by the Forestry Commission Scotland. (Scotland.forestry.gov.uk, 2017) There are complex planning agreements in place to make efficient use of the land that is suitable for forestry, as much of Scotland is too high and with too poor soil for tree plantations. There are still areas of land stripped of trees awaiting soil regeneration, and replanting and these look desolate and unwanted. Other areas are full of new growth and light.

This is the land I live in and travel though on a daily basis. It changes over the years but also remains eerily the same.

References

Bradbury, R. (1950). The Martian chronicles. New York: Doubleday.

Nature.scot. (2017). Managing our woodlands | Scottish Natural Heritage. [online] Available at: https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/land-and-sea-management/managing-land/forests-and-woodlands/managing-our-woodlands [Accessed 29 Dec. 2017].

Scotland.forestry.gov.uk. (2017). The Scottish Forestry Strategy. [online] Available at: http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/strategy-policy-guidance/forestry-strategy [Accessed 29 Dec. 2017].

Final Images:1 - Forestry in Scotland2 - Forestry in Scotland3 - Forestry in Scotland4 - Forestry in Scotland5 - Forestry in Scotland6 - Forestry in Scotland7 - Forestry in Scotland8 - Forestry in Scotland9 - Forestry in Scotland10 -Forestry in Scotland

Contact Sheets:

All Images:

 Cut:

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple – Initial Thoughts

28/12/17

Research

I started with the premise from Robert Adams essay ‘Truth in Landscape’.  ‘Our discouragement in the presence of beauty results, surely, from the way we have damaged the country, from what appears to be our inability now to stop, and from the fact that few of us can any longer hope to own a piece of undisturbed land’(Adams,1996).

When you think about images of forests they are broadly divided into two camps, with photographers who have celebrated the beauty, solitude and wonder of woodlands and those who have shown the devastation that mankind has performed. Some photographers have taken both types of images.

Marc Wendelski:

An example of this school of photography that concentrates on the damage we have done is the work of Wendelski who has taken a series of images in Germany based on the destruction of ancient forest during the process of open cast mining for brown coal and the activist that set up camps in the forest to protest this.

http://wendelski.be/?page_id=11

From this idyllic picture of sunlight though the trees

wendelski 1

© Marc Wendelski

to the destroyed countryside and swathes of mud

Joseph Koudelka:

A similar piece of work has been carried out by the Magnum photographer Koudelka. He has done a vast photographic report on the coal mining industry in the Black Triangle in Czechoslovakia. I was lucky enough to see this when it was on show in Edinburgh. The images are graphic, black and white, very sombre. In the Edinburgh exhibition relatively small individual images, approximately 1m x 30cms were laid out in a line, so you followed the trail of disaster around the room. The destruction here has been going on for much longer than the damage in Wendelski’s pictures in Germany but is startlingly similar.

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R1Z9ERT

Fay Godwin:

Godwin is particularly interesting in that her viewpoint and type of images she took changed over time. Her earlier work as shown in the ‘Secret Forest of Dean’ (Godwin, 1986) exemplified the beauty of a natural environment and how people could live in harmony with it, while in later work such as ‘Our Forbidden Land’ (Godwin, 1990) talks about how landowners limit access for their own use, and specifically, in reference to Scotland, talks about the environmental challenges caused by the widespread forestry work in the 70’s and 80’s, again many of her earlier pictures are simply beautiful.

Fence, Parkend Woods, Forest of Dean, 1985, Fay Godwin

Fay Godwin – Forest of Dean, 1985, (copyright now British Library)

Keith Arnatt:

Arnatt was also involved in the work about Dean Forest that was commissioned by Forestry Commission at the same time as that of Godwin. His work is difficult to track down, but the images I have seen ( in ‘I’m a Real Photographer‘)seem to fall more into the camp of the land is for use by industry, in contrast to Godwin’s more bucolic images (Arnatt, Hurn and Grafik, 2007).

Keith Arnatt - Dean Forest

© Keith Arnatt – Dean Forest

 and so we reach right around the circle to the original quote

Robert Adams:

Adams is the quintessential American photographer showing the beauty and wonder of the forest. A good example of his work is shown in the book ‘An Old Forest Road’ (Adams, 2017) which concentrates on barely visible paths in woodland, lit by seemingly random gleams of light. These pictures make you want to wander endlessly, exploring for no purpose other than to see the trees.

Interestingly, with the exception of Wendelski, all these images are in black and white. Some of this is because this was the accepted use when there were taken (Godwin and Arnatt) but some, like those of Adams are very recent. Is this because of the general idea that ‘art’ images should be in monochrome, because the more recent photographers are paying homage to the older ones, or simply because the colour green does not always print well? Certainly, monochrome does give some stunning images and shows the detail well. It also becomes difficult to tell simply by looking at an image of a forest when it was taken, this century or earlier. Monochrome tells the mythos of a forest well.

Practice

I started by taking images of forestry works when travelling around Scotland. Most have been taken close to me in Fife, but some were taken as far north as Fort William. In spite of this it is difficult to identify the place from the images and they become a generic series of Scottish forest images. The majority of the images were taken in the summer and early autumn, some taken in winter, again this is difficult to tell from the images, as although the light is different the dark green of the pine trees does not vary much across the year. This would not have been the case if I had been concentrating on deciduous trees.

I spent a considerable time deciding on whether to go with monochrome images, as was prevalent on the examples above, and discussed this at length with both my tutor, and the Scottish OCA group at our December meeting. Eventually I decided to use colour images, as some of them, such as the cut logs, stood out in colour and gave more information, and, even though the work was influenced by Godwin and Adams, I felt that colour was best for telling my own story.

References

Adams, R. (1996). Beauty in Photography. New York, NY: Aperture, p.14.

Adams, R. (2017). An Old Forest Road. Koln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter Konig.

Arnatt, K., Hurn, D. and Grafik, C. (2007). I’m a real photographer. London: Chris Boot, pp.38 – 41.

Godwin, F. (1986). The Secret Forest of Dean. [Bristol]: Redcliffe [for] Arnolfini [and the] Forestry Commission.

Godwin, F. (1990). Our Forbidden Land. London: Cape, pp.138 – 142.

Koudelka, J. (1992). Josef Koudelka: The Black Triangle • Magnum Photos. [online] Magnum Photos. Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/environment/josef-koudelka-black-triangle/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2017].

Wendelski, M. (2017). BEYOND THE FOREST | MARC WENDELSKI. [online] Wendelski.be. Available at: http://wendelski.be/?page_id=11 [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].

Wendelski, M. (2017). Marc Wendelski | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/mwendelski [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].

Photography as Information – Exercise 5.3

04/12/17

A picture contains a story, not always the whole story, but enough clues that you can infer or imagine what the artist was intending. A good story can be read several times, a magical one never looses its appeal.

decisive-moment-henri-cartier-bresson-1

© Cartier-Bresson

In the Cartier-Bresson image Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare the eye returns repeatedly to the point at which the foot almost, but not quite, touches the reflection below. Is he jumping or running? Where is he going? Is it a man in a hurry – or a boy playing? If you took the same image today was that a female figure? A hundred stories are possible.

81TNHg05SYL

© Ronko Kawauchi

Illuminance – described as an ‘exploration of the extraordinary in the mundane’ (Aperture,2011) or ‘a mix of intimacy and deceptively casual observation’ (O’Hagan, 2011) is a photobook by Rinko Kawauchi. The cover shows a rose bright to the point where all colour and detail is lost, against a vibrant maroon background. It somehow retains the essence of a rose and allows the imagination to recreate any rose, with the luscious scent, and warmth of a garden in a summer evening. Technically, one could consider the image grossly overexposed, but it does not matter. The rose is still there.

d6059527a

© Hiroshi Sugimato

Hiroshima Sugimoto’s theatre images share the same aura of infinite possibilities. What film was playing? Who was watching it? Was I there?

These two images were taken on the same night, at the same gig, of the same person, from the same vantage point. One shows the person as a portrait; the other implies his presence by the outline of light though his hair.  The information that I am at a rock gig is conveyed by both – but one gives the detail, the other the feeling. Which is ‘better’? Which carries more information? It depends what you are wanting from the image. I would print the colour one as a reminder of the night, but the monochrome one was wanted by the musician for his personal records.

References

Aperture.org. (2011). Illuminance. [online] Available at: https://aperture.org/shop/illuminance-rinko-kawauchi/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].

O’Hagan, S. (2011). Photography books of the year 2011: a snapshot of Christmas gift ideas. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/13/photography-books-2011-christmas-gift [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].

 

Exercise 5.2

10/11/17

213-024-LC-jpg-10297-600x483

Hawthorn Hive, beached section of mine ventilation duct; bricks among boulders. Afternoon 2/12/99. © Sirkka- Liisa Konttinen, courtesy Amberside

This image is from the series ‘The Coal Coast’ by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. It was originally shown at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in 2003, and published in book format as ‘The Coal Coast’. The image is taken on the east coast of England, in Durham, and shows a discarded section of mine duct on the beach, looking remarkably like an enormous snail shell. The rest of the beach is desolate and deserted. The Durham coast has had a long history of coal mining, and for many years the spoil heaps and the rubbish were simply dropped onto the beach, building the surface up several feet above its original level. The coal industry is now finished and the remnants on the beach are slowly being removed by both man and the sea. The broken mine duct stands as a metaphor for the destruction of the environment by man and the loss of a way of life. It is still visible, as it is both large and a good distance from the edge of the sea, however, over time, it too will vanish.

This image immediately reminded me of the similar history of mining along the Fife coast where I live. Much environmental destruction was wrought over the years, however the traces of that are now only visible to those who are aware of the history of the area and know what they are looking at. My image is made as a response partly to the internal context of the image – unexpected things seen on the beach, but mainly to the external context of the history of the area and the effect on the local population and job availability.

untitled-16

Sanitary-ware remnants, Torryburn Beach at high tide.

This image shows remnants of the broken down mine washrooms, that were left on the beach. The tide is high and gradually working at smoothing and polishing them. Eventually they will also disappear, or simply become unrecognisable. They stand, at present, as a reminder of times past, work lost, and also the loss of many lives in the mines that ran under the sea here.

 References:

Konttinen, S. (2003). The Coal Coast. Newcastle upon Tyne: AmberSide.

 

Coal Coast – Fife Version

06/11/17

While thinking about an image to use for Exercise 5.2 (homage) I went back over several of the exhibitions I had visited recently. When looking at the images, one by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen from the Coal Coast series struck me and I remembered that there is some unusual debris on part of the coast in Fife near Torryburn. Oddly enough, there is the usual beach flotsam and jetsam but there is also a stretch of about 200 metres of coast that is strewn with old bricks and sanitary-ware (broken up large pieces of ceramic sinks).  The local mythology – which I haven’t been able to confirm – is that it comes from the destroyed wash-houses of one of the local pits, and was put on the beach at that point to stop erosion. There is no logic to why the erosion should be particularly bad just there, and I suspect the truth is that it was just dumped, although that is odd in itself, as there is no road nearby and the shore is very gradually shelving for at least a hundred metres, so you couldn’t get a boat large enough to bring the rubble in close enough.

I felt that there was a possibility of doing my homage shot on the beach as there are several possible links with the image I was thinking of, so I went back over both the exhibition images as a whole and re-thought about it and the accompanying film which I have discussed in more detail in the blog post below.

https://wordpress.com/post/scottishzoe.blog/2478

Coal mining in Fife has a long tradition, with coal having been dug since the thirteenth century and the Fife coalfields were the largest in Scotland. Many ran under the Forth and were very deep. The nearest pit to this stretch of coast would have been the Valleyfield pit which closed in 1978. There is little surface evidence left of this extensive underground industry except the occasional pit-head and the endless bings (spoil heaps). The last deep coal mine at Longannet, which stretched well under the Firth of Forth was closed in 2002 after flooding. There continue to be ongoing attempts at open-cast mining, which scar the countryside and cause aggressive debate.

I have been to this beach on many occasions, and also to the pit-head further along the coast at the Seafield Colliery however have never taken any images of the debris, so I went back this weekend at high tide, and again at low tide to look at the area and the surrounding coast.

Setting the scene:

The chimney in the distance is part of Longannet power station, which is now disused. At low tide the mud flats stretch out for about a hundred metres, although I would not advise walking on them, as the tide can come in extremely fast, and much of it forms quicksand.

The surrounding flora (winter variants):

There is a wide variety of wildflowers and bushes along the edge of the coast here and they attract thousands of birds, many of which are protected species.

The bricks:

Part of the rubble is made up of bricks that come from the local brickworks and are stamped with the source name: Lochgelly, Bowhill, Hill of Beath, Lochside. More evidence of an industrial past now gone.

The evidence:

It remains a mystery as to how the sanitary-ware reached this spot – and why in such a localised and inaccessible (except by foot) point.