“Many people are questioning the trajectory of their lives post Covid, and I would recommend to anyone who feels that they have stones left unturned, that they should consider post graduate study as a way to make room for themselves to turn those stones, explore what is underneath and open up the possibilities of a more interesting and fulfilling future.”
Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences
The roots of the project 180 Seconds of Forever came from a desire to understand why, while roaming countryside in the UK and abroad, I feel inexplicably drawn to some landscapes and not to others. Even living for 13 years in rural France and enjoying the landscape there, I did not feel that the mud was ever “my” mud in the same way as the part of Sussex that I had only lived in for 4 years before. The exploration has taken me through Environmental Evolution, Soundscape Ecology, and now, how changing landscape use affects our current psychological wellbeing as Pleistocene animals living in the Anthropocene. How might we regain a more meaningful relationship with our surroundings in the future?
Understanding our immediate environment is a complex process, built up from fragments of information as our eyes visit and revisit what we see, overlaid by what the soundscape tells us about the unseen ecology. Our experience is not indexical; it is the memory of fleeting bursts of attention accumulated over time.
Photography is lauded for its indexicality, but I have chosen to challenge this with a complex sequence of statistical layering and degrading of multiple images, recorded intuitively as I react to the locations over time, and by including sounds. The world is represented not as a rectangular spacial ideal, but an untidy temporal accumulation, often disturbed by the evidence of our own presence, evidence the landscape can communicate to the viewer through my imagery and its accompanying 180 second soundscape. Every pixel of a print presents unedited image data, raw from the camera, but the adjacent pixel might be from another image: from the identical perspective but with different exposure or focus.
Three influences that it might be useful for me to cite: The first would be Augusta Wood’s series I Have Only What I Remember (2009-2011), where Wood shut herself into the empty home of her dead grandparents for one month with only five slide projectors, a box of old family photographs, her 5×4 camera and tripod and fresh film, and projected layers of archive photographs over the now empty interior spaces, re-photographing the results. The intensity of Wood’s experience, visiting and revisiting the irregular compound images as she constructed them, is something that I wanted to bring to my work. I also desire to convert the still image into a temporal experience, and for that, the great Victorian panoramic paintings were an influence. Over 100 meters long, and wrapped around the internal walls of purpose built circular buildings they have been called 19th Century precursors to virtual reality, but their influence is more nuanced than that. Their purpose is narrative (The Bourbaki Panorama documents the retreat of the French army into Switzerland during the Franco-Prussian war) but they are static images. Unlike film, even, the viewer’s gaze has to visit and re-visit the image to build up a conceptual whole. Finally, Hockney’s “Joiner” images from the early 1980s will inevitably be a comparison. But with these, Hockney was primarily concerned with forcing his own changing perspective on the viewer, rather than allowing a landscape to gradually reveal itself.
This project is ongoing and I am currently working on prints that measure over one metre in height, but I also plan a future iteration in book form, where details from the images can be combined with other contextual information to create a very different interpretation.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to you course and made you choose it?
After a career taking photographs on location for books and magazines, a period living and France and a period teaching, I decided that it was time that I created space for a creative practice that I had planned to develop for many years but which always seemed to get pushed to one side. After researching the course modules and the staff who were to deliver them, it seemed to offer me the chance to develop a more specialist practice along my own preferred lines and with tutors who’s own practice overlapped with my own interests, while, as a part time MA Photography student, still maintaining work and family commitments.
What were the highlights of the course for you?
The highlights of the course have been discursive feedback on a wide variety of topics from a variety of well-informed tutors, and from meeting fellow students who are also asking some of the broader question of the medium that I am.
Was the location of your course in Brighton important?
Living in rural East Sussex and with children in settled in local schools, any institution I decided to attend would have had to have good transport links in order to make my attendance possible. This is the case with Brighton.
What are your plans after graduation? What’s next for you?
After graduation I intend to continue growing my creative practice alongside my teaching. The course has helped me to see my development more clearly, as well as giving me the chance to work through some of the creative questions that will become the root of my future practice.
What advice would you give to someone considering doing postgraduate study?
Many people are questioning the trajectory of their lives post Covid, and I would recommend to anyone who feels that they have stones left unturned, that they should consider post graduate study as a way to make room for themselves to turn those stones, explore what is underneath and open up the possibilities of a more interesting and fulfilling future.