Category: PHO702: Week 1: Photography – The Shape-shifter

PHO702 Informing Contexts Week 1: Where Am I Now?

At the current time my photographic practice still lies very much within the the field of Documentary Photography with images being made mainly on my iPhone 6 and shot almost exclusively using the Black & White/Monochrome options available within the native camera app. I’m beginning to use my Canon DSLR more but again shooting mainly in Black & White directly to .jpg/.jpeg using 50mm and 24mm prime lenses. In both cases I attempt to make the image almost totally “in camera’ with absolute minimum of post-processing being carried out. The work I make is very “eclectic” in nature – I like to document what I see around me in as truthful a manner as is possible whenever and wherever I may find an opportunity to do so, which probably accounts for the vast majority of my work being made on the Apple iPhone 6.

My current work can be (broadly) divided into three main areas :-

  1. Main Research Project
  2. Personal Project – ‘Done with that’
  3. Personal Project – ‘Station to station’

Examples of the work and the ‘aim’ of each project is considered below:

Main Research Project:

At the present time, this consists of a study of two ex-mining communities. Merthyr Vale in the Taff Valley, South Wales and Pendeen in the district of Penwith, Cornwall. Most of the work for this project (to date) has been made in Merthyr Vale although a visit to Pendeen as been scheduled for after the Face-To-Face meeting in Falmouth.

In this work I’m very much trying to understand my reactions upon returning to Merthyr Vale some 30 years after the closure of the colliery and the changes that have taken place in the village as a result of that closure, while attempting to reconcile those reactions with the image of the village that is generated within me by the ‘hiraeth’ that is generated within me before, during and after those visits.

For some reason the village of Pendeen also generates the same feelings and emotions of ‘hiraeth’ that Merthyr Vale does. This feeling is something that I also experience when visiting other areas of the UK but appears at its most intense in the ex-mining areas. For example: Whitehaven in Cumbria and Newtongrange in Mid-Lothian. The feeling of ‘hiraeth’ that is generated whilst visiting Pendeen (and the surrounding area) is particularly intense in comparison to Whitehaven and Newtongrange.

What is this ‘hiraeth’ though – there is basically no direct translation from the Welsh into English, ‘hiraeth’ is an intense longing for a place / location / idea / person or time that may or may not actually physically exist. It is not something that can be conjured up at will but rather something that ‘comes on you’ – Mae hiraeth arna I / There is a hiraeth on me.

Personal Project – ‘Done With That’:

The work in this project is very much based upon what we (as humanity) discard and where we choose to discard it. Its not just about the litter and rubbish items themselves but also the places in which they can be found – I’m not deliberately looking for such items, rather I’m photographing them as I encounter them during the day.

In this project I’m trying to find an answer to my own question of ‘Is it possible to photograph litter / rubbish in a more artistic manner, a way of invoking guilt at having thoughtlessly discarded an item yet also trying to reveal something of the strange beauty that such objects can sometimes have. Am I succeeding? I don’t know but there is still a long way to go with this project.

Personal Project: ‘Station to Station’

I travel five days a week between the West Wales towns of Carmarthen and Llanelli by train for the vast majority of the year. I’ve decided to try and capture something of these two stations where I seem to spend a lot of time (frequently in the dark and rain) and the people who make the same journey each week. Much of this work concentrates upon the infrastructure of the stations and the trains themselves.

Over the past year I’m coming too realise that these three seemingly separate projects are beginning to ‘run together’ in interesting and sometimes very un-predictable ways.

There are, however, weaknesses with such approaches to the projects. The process can sometimes seem too diverse and difficult to capture in the way that I want to. I do not like to carry out too much ‘post-processing’ of the resulting images made – I want to make the image, as far as is possible, in camera. Using my Canon DSLR camera will give higher resolution images but, the iPhone allows me to remain almost invisible and therefore able to capture / make (sometimes) candid images that the very presence of the Canon would destroy or render impossible. Yet, does my ‘almost invisibility’ when using the iPhone interfere with the very concepts of ‘hiraeth’ / emotional involvement that I wish to express…..

My intention, throughout the coming unit (PHO702: Informing Contexts) is to continue making images in each of these areas, examining any links that may occur between them and developing those that I feel to be worthwhile.