Continued Loss of History

As part of my coursework, I looked into the ongoing issue surrounding the battle site at Prestonpans. During the last three years, the community have been involved in a number of disputes within itself regarding whether or not to continue protecting the battle site or allow it to be built over.

Part of this is a moot point as the battle site has already been built upon partially; a sportsfield and sports centre are built on one part. A major road runs through the middle of the battle site and what is left is now disputed land.

Part of the community under the leadership of the community council wish to put commerce and industry first and continue to build over what is left, stating that “No one was interested in the battle site”. This was met with complaints and a campaign by parts of the local community to protect the battle site so that history can be protected for future generations. Whilst this campaign has had limited success in preventing the destruction of local history, it was met with a lukewarm reception by the wider community. Only when the battle was featured as part of the television series “Outlander” that wider recognition of the battle and its place in history was highlighted to a wider audience.

This success, however, is now being overridden by the needs of the county council who are starting to build a new town on part of the battle site. The loss of the locale is being highlighted by local historian Arran Johnston who has said that the loss of historical evidence presented by the landscape is “like knocking down a castle”

Johnston points out the landscape changes in Wallyford, where the original battle site for the Battle of Pinkie has been completely lost due to a recent housing development which has been built over the battle site. This loss of an important piece of the landscape means that any living history of the area is no longer relevant, as it can no longer be referenced.

Personally, this saddens me, part of this course has ignited a passion for capturing the local landscape within the concept of its living links to history; to see and hear that the landscape which has remained static for so long is now undergoing a destructive change at the had of mankind. When the landscape is gone, we lose a part of the history and links to the past.

References

Sharp, M. (2016). Row brews over draft plans to build over historic battlefield. [online] East Lothian Courier. Available at: https://www.eastlothiancourier.com/news/14537253.row-brews-over-draft-plans-to-build-over-historic-battlefield/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].

Smith, M. (2019). ‘It’s like knocking down a castle’: The fight to save Scotland’s battlefields. [online] HeraldScotland. Available at: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18063696.its-like-knocking-castle-fight-save-scotlands-battlefields/?fbclid=IwAR2ss32osxTETUAjHfRjx3qZgvAkgjhSzsrCTvLnuDLXkNZDpinKeydcWy4 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].

Alt-Text- How it works

As part of my research into answering a question raised by my tutor in my Assignment 5 results regarding how visually impaired people see digital images, I have been looking to how best describe the use of Alt Text.

It was during today’s “International Day of disabled persons” that Dr Amy Kavanagh posed a twitter link to the following page.

https://caneadventures.blog/2019/12/02/alt-text-on-social-media/

It contains a brief but precise description of how it is used within the boundaries of social media. The Alt-Text also works as part of an HTML flag for webpages and I have been using it to add brief descriptions to each of the images I post in the learning log.

It is through Alt-Text that visually impaired people can see images digitally.

Assignment 6 – Transitions

The assignment tasks the student with producing a series of images that responds to the idea of ‘transitions’ within the landscape. The student is to record the changes that a part of the landscape undergoes over an extended period of time. The student could revisit a very specific view or choose to explore a particular part of the landscape more intuitively.

There is an opportunity to photograph at very specific intervals or your routine may develop by other means. When completed, the assignment should address the notion ‘that the landscapes is an evolving, dynamic system’; the student may wish to confirm, question or subvert this assertion.

Method

In the first attempt at assignment 6, I was working with the concept of the transition of light by recording a long sequence of a day within a static frame and then, frame slicing the videos and manipulating the frame slices to produce a barcode of the day. However, by the third visit and recording, the frame sliced barcodes were too similar to show defined differences.  I posted the results in a previous post regarding Assignment 6.

When this occurred I decided to step back and reassess the work, I then returned to a familiar location, which was easily accessible to me and even if I was having a poor day due to the effects of my condition, I would at least be able to get there and record the scene. This location is a south-facing field on the edge of the town, it looks down into the shallow valley before rising up into the Lammermuir’s.

I found a location which would be easily identified which was marked by a piece of broken fencing. Knowing that the likelihood of the fence undergoing repair was low, I was able to use that as a reference point for facing south. I was then able to align a tripod using the fenceposts as outer leg markers. I kept the lens movements to a minimum known that if I kept the lens to a certain position the images would be almost identical.

Process.

At first, I believed that I would be recording the changes to the landscape through the different seasons and lighting conditions, which would result in showing the landscape as it changed and evolved through the growth of the crops in the field and the differing effects of the seasons of the land.

While I have captured the different environmental and lighting conditions, I feel that the evolution of this part of the landscape is only really shown in the immediate foreground and the midground of the field. The rest of the scene contains a landscape which has remained largely unchanged since the iron age. The Lammermuir’s still contain evidence of an iron age fort and standing stones which predate the fort itself. While there is much evidence of an expansion into the greenbelt by towns and cities in East Lothian, here, the landscape has not changed since the 1950s; when a small housing scheme was built on the edge of the field. Since then the only real changes to the land have been the yearly agricultural cycle which creates a product for human consumption in one manner or another.

Certainly, there is a small evolution in the landscape as the season’s pass, the crops in the field grow and are then harvested, but outside of that, the landscape is largely unchanged. It has lain unchanged largely since the Iron Age, standing stones and forts still where they were placed at that time. The changes made on this part of the landscape are few and far between taking centuries to complete a change.  Looking into the distance you see a land which is outside of time, for it has a sense of timelessness to it, no major highways cut through it and no industrial change has been placed on the land. It remains in pretty much the same state as it did over two thousand years ago.

The main foreground of the scene is a field whose change is only regulated by nature and the hand of man in the shape of the farmer, who manages the 3-mile long strip of land which rests between the river to the south and a public highway to the north. The dynamism of the field is driven solely by his demands, out with that, it is unchanged by the numerous walkers and cyclists who use the paths running along these borders.

This landscape, unlike other parts of the green belt, is not undergoing an evolution is use, it remains, open and for the majority visually unchanged and perceptionally unmanaged. Other fields on the opposite side of time are undergoing a dynamic change; in that, they are evolving from places where food was grown into places where people inhabit, the modern, posher version of tact housing. Large parts of the green belt are being buried under housing developments as societal pressures drive the change in the landscape. Here however within these scenes, the system of the landscape is under no pressure and therefore does not need to evolve or change.

This can be seen in the following images, where apart from the direct changes created by use of the land by the farmer, in this case ploughing, seeding and growing of produce, that the only other changes are driven by nature; lighting conditions, environmental changes driven by the weather and the growth of grasses and weeds by nature.

1. March 2018

Green field. A field which after being ploughed has been left fallow to grow weeds through the winter period.

Green field. A field which after being ploughed has been left fallow.

2. February 2019

Muddy Field - the field has now been ploughed. It is spring and the field is being made ready.

Muddy Field – the field has now been ploughed.

3. April 2019

Dark Sky in the morning - The field has started to sprout. The sun is just rising

Dark Sky in the morning – The field has started to sprout.

4. May 2019

Mid Morning - Grows are green. Under a blue sky a green field of crops

Mid Morning – Grows are green

5. August 2019

Mid Day - Weeds grow high in the immediate foreground. Again the field is green.

Mid Day – Weeds grow high in the immediate foreground

6. September 2019

Mid day - Weeds start to die back. The field however stays green awaiting the harvest which will be in winter.

Mid day – Weeds start to die.

7. November 2019

Mid Day - Wet and wild weather has churned up mud, but we still await the harvest/ Grey clouds with a little sun breaking through

Mid Day – Wet and wild weather has churned up mud, but we still await the harvest

 

It can be seen from these images that there is an element of placelessness within them. Similar to the images of Watkins and O’Sullivan (Briston, D. 2019), the landscapes are not defined territorially, nor geographically as a place (Sowers, J. 2019) rather, they are defined as a land of unknown elements and dangers. Here civilisation has stopped and is content to sit within the boundaries as created by the land itself. The Lammermuirs rising off into the distance uninviting and unwelcoming to man-made change. Much like sections of Yosemite, the land remains unchanged and under protection, although unlike Yosemite, the protection is done by the employees of the landowners, although there is some debate as to whether the land management is to the benefit of the wildlife.

Conclusion

While the land use overall in East Lothian is evolving and changing, the landscape, here, itself is unchanged to a major extent. The only real threat to the landscape is from humans as they continue to force the landscape to fit their shape, while at the main time ignoring the threats created by climate change. While this scene extends off into the peaceful distance, behind the camera, vehicles thunder along a major roadway almost constantly. In the air above, the main air corridor, where passengers and cargo are whisked high above the land.  The land itself is acting as a soak for the carbon produced, but how long before the land is unable to manage the excesses of man and starts to die.

References

Briston, D. (2019). The Evolution of American Landscape Photography Seen Through Imagery Made In Yosemite National Park. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/19519559/The_Evolution_of_American_Landscape_Photography_Seen_Through_Imagery_Made_In_Yosemite_National_Park?email_work_card=title [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

‌Edwards, R. (2014). Revealed: landowners massacre mountain hares in the Lammermuir Hills. [online] Rob Edwards. Available at: https://www.robedwards.com/2014/09/revealed-landowners-massacre-mountain-hares-in-the-lammermuir-hills.html [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

‌ Raptor Persecution UK. (2017). Merlin population in decline on Lammermuir grouse moors. [online] Available at: https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/merlin-population-in-decline-on-lammermuir-grouse-moors/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

Marzie Mohammadmiri (2019). Place In Photography: How Photographers Encounter Place. [online] European Journal of Media, Art and Photography. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/37910065/Place_In_Photography_How_Photographers_Encounter_Place [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

‌Seamon, D. (2015). Humanistic Geography–Lived Emplacement and the Locality of Being: A Return to Humanistic Geography? (2015). [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/4935949/Humanistic_Geography–Lived_Emplacement_and_the_Locality_of_Being_A_Return_to_Humanistic_Geography_2015_?email_work_card=interaction_paper [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

Shinkle, E. (2019). Prelude to a Future: Globalisation and Risk in Contemporary Landscape Photography. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/8703297/Prelude_to_a_Future_Globalisation_and_Risk_in_Contemporary_Landscape_Photography?email_work_card=interaction_paper [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].

‌ Sowers, J. (2019). Place and Placelessness, Edward Relph. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/4446545/Place_and_Placelessness_Edward_Relph?email_work_card=interaction_paper [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].

 

 

 

Assignment 6 Transitions -Abandoned process.

The process I was working on regarding assignment 6 Idea not just working out.

I had been working on an initial idea of a steady locked off tripod pointing at a particular landscape and videoing what was passing in front of the lens.

The resultant video would be processed in the same manner as in my learning log post Resuming the Journey. I was working on the conceptual idea of transition is not only the light passing during the day but also the transition of place and space as the earth revolves.

The first sets of videos were finally captured and ran through the algorithm to produce the first set of timeslices which could then be put into the barcode formats. However, on examination, I am finding too much of a similarity in the images and therefore they are not showing the transition even though the lighting conditions and condition of the landscape have changed as they are different times of the year.

The three Barcodes which I have produced are shown here.

Barcode Spring

Spring Early Day

Barcode Summer

Summer Stormy Day

Barcode Autumn

Autumn Fresh Day

 

I am now examining two other locations where there are physical transitions occurring on the landscape and will then make up my mind whether they are suitable for the brief or not.

Assignment 5 – Self Directed Project

Interpreting the brief

The brief for the assignment was largely unchanged from the ideas created in Exercise 4.6 which were “to research and photograph Jacobean doocots (dovecots) in the East Lothian district. The project will be guided by the doocots listed in the 1937 publication ‘Transactions of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field naturalists Society Vol 3’ which listed the doocots and their state at that point in time. “

I chose to expand the aims as follows:

 

  1. Lost History and lost landscape due to the perception that Agri-rural history not being important enough to protect.
  2. An examination of the concept of a space becoming a place and what happens when there is a change of place.
  3. Examination the concept of land ownership in Scotland which is at times in conflict with the Scottish law of “Right to Roam”. This extends to the ownership and stewardship of historical buildings by the landowners
  4. Examination the idea of accessibility for all, by looking into how actual accessibility and disabled rights translate into walking on public land.

 

The main Influences for the project is the New Topographics group. I chose to approach the subject of landscape photography in a nonstandard way, which allowed me to concentrate on the buildings themselves as they stand within the context of the landscape rather than the other way around. The project is directly influenced by the work of Hilda and Bernd Becher and Edward Burtynsky. My aim was to produce a set of images within this aesthetic to show that the idea of landscape photography can be malleable.

 

Undertaking the Brief

The first challenge of the brief was to gather the locations as described in the original survey. The publication which was produced in 1937 is based on a survey of Jacobean Doocots undertaken in 1931 by J. Whitaker. The survey was never completed due to the untimely death of Mr Whitaker in 1932. The final survey was gathered from his notes and has additions from several individuals within the society who had worked with Mr Whitaker in compiling the information. The locations in the published survey differ from modern-day locations in several aspects. First, the publications use place names which in some cases are no longer in use. Second, due to the change in the shape of towns over 80 years, some of the places no longer exist. Thirdly, due to the nature of the buildings, some had already been lost by the time of publication. Land ownership has changed in the region from just a few central landowners who owned large tracts of land within their estate to a large number of smaller private owners of small parcels of land which is some cases are formerly estate land. Where there were small farms who worked small fields, there is now large industrial-scale farming which was knocked down many of the walls and boundaries and who have opened up the land, by removing the smaller older farm buildings, so that they can use large modern farming techniques and machinery.

Initially, my aim was to gather a basic survey and plot using digital maps, GPS positions and digital footprints from modern maps, alongside historical and archaeological websites. This was only partially successful as parts of the digital footprint were, in fact, direct text copies from the 1931 survey. In other cases, the data had not been revisited since the 1980s and was out of date. It quickly became clear that accessibility was an issue. At times, it required gaining permission from the landowner, and some requests were not well received. I had to deal with a number of landowners who were not aware of the Scottish right of way. In other cases, it was quite simply, that the stewardship of the land, the access path to the building and the building itself had not been undertaken and that the land was being left to be as unwelcoming and inaccessible, possibly with the aim of having the public right of way denied as it was no longer in use. In the majority of cases, no consideration was given for ease of access for the disabled.

When visiting the sites to capture my images, my main hurdle was in trying to give each location the same treatment. I quickly found that I could not use the treatment of a set distance using the same parameters – angle, height, position relevant to the camera in an attempt to capture scenes which will be comparable with each other. At several sites, I was forced to use a telephoto lens to photograph the subject as access was impossible. The project was further hindered when during a return from one site, I suffered a major muscle spasm and I dropped all my equipment breaking camera and lenses. I had to buy a new camera and lenses which were significantly different from the originals, and so a period of adjustment was required.

I took several photographs at each location, from varying distances, angles and positions. I then chose images which were not always identical, not because the subject matter was too similar or boring but because each subject photographed differently from the same position. Sometimes I felt that shadow or highlight distracted from the subject and so these images were discarded from the final choice selection. I felt that the basic shape of the doocot remained the same which allowed the topographic aesthetic to continue.

Outcome

I acknowledge that the potential outcome of a new Topographics style set of images was in danger of being abandoned as the images were at times completely different. I continued because I felt that the project was still probable. Even though I had to modify my set of rules, I continued to photograph as close as possible to those rules. The project gained in the weight of the brief regarding the accessibility/landownership aspect of the brief. After examining the first sets of images again, the topographic idea was strengthened. I could see the differences and the commonalities within the doocots and started to understand how and why they were there.

I broke the subject matter down into three distinct build types of the Jacobean period; the initial beehive shape, the later Lectern shape and the final tower shape. After this final shape doocots fell out of use. I used these shapes as the identifiers for their topographical type, trying to keep within a strict Linnaean definition of type.

Here the project will take two different routes:

Exhibition – The works will remain in colour and be printed individually on A4 and hung in alphabetical order, as per the original survey publication. This will be done to allow the viewer a chance to observe the differing archetypes of doocots and their current state against what was written about them in 1931.

Assignment and Final Submission – The works will be gathered together in a format similar to the Typographic aesthetic, with the doocots ranked first by type and then within that subset alphabetically. They will be presented in monochrome, as I found that the use of colour caused the images to be far too busy and the subject matter was overshadowed by the colour. In some cases, nothing could be seen of the final sets of images but washes of green and brown.

As with Assignment 3, I have continued with the exploration of visual accessibility by placing braille in the images. Again, I have kept the braille to a minimum size, as it represents my own partial loss of vision and the continued disturbance it contributes to what I see. I decided with black braille this time, as I wanted the normally sighted viewer to understand that for some people with vision loss, that this is an invisible disability and so, is unseen, and like the braille, not understood by the main populace.

 

Beehive 

 


First set of 4 Beehives

Congalton/Dirleton/Dolphingston/Drylawhill


The second set of 4 beehive-shaped doocots

Nunraw/Phantasse/Preston Mains/Waughton


Lectern 

 


First set of 4 Lectern shaped doocots

Athelstaneford/Belton/Bourhouse/Crocegate

 


Second Set of Lectern Shaped Doocots

East Fortune/Friars Croft/Hermanston/Humbie


Third Set of Lectern Shaped Doocots

Johnstounburn/Lady Kittys/Nungate/Pencaitland


Fourth Set of Lectern Shaped Doocots

Preston Tower/Redhouse/Saltcoats/Spott


Fifth Set of Lectern Shaped Doocots

Tantallon/Tranent

 



Tower 

 


 

8 - Doocots First complete set of 4 Tower in B and W completed with Braille

Amisfield/Bolton/Colstoun/Elvingston

 


 

9 - Doocots Second complete set of 4 Tower in B and W completed with Braille

Haddington/Heugh/Lodge/Newton Hall

 


 

10 - Doocots Third complete set of 4 Tower in B and W completed with Braille

Ormiston/Prestongrange/Saltoun/Stenton Church

 


 

11 - Doocots Fourth complete set of 1 Tower in B and W completed with Braille

Thurston

 

 

 


Torn Done 

The black and white shapes represent the unknown effect of losing doocots. The red ‘X’ is representative of the more computer-driven iconography of a missing image link, usually presented through an internet browser.

 

13 - Lost to History


Inaccessible 

This was created to represent the hostility felt when approaching landowners when attempting to gain access to their land to locate and photograph a piece of local history.

12 - No Entry Private Land


Conclusion

Do I consider these images as landscape? Yes, I do. These doocots represent a space which was by kings statute created on the land as a representation of the Lairds fealty to King James VI and the money and the power that they held over their tenants. These spaces have in fact become places, lending of their name to locations, such as dovecot farm, or dovecot lane, even where the doocot has been destroyed. These images represent the land as pieces of history, some of which have already been lost and some of which are inaccessible due to the fencing in of property by later landowners.

By bending the Topographic rules which I had set in the brief, I have created a set of images which are not repeated regular architectural shapes. Each location shows its own individuality through its setting and the final image selected. Some of this is down to the different time of day, differing light conditions and differing lenses but also down to the location itself as each site had its own set of identifying features even amongst the most common of buildings.

The work took longer than designed into the original brief, due to the amount of research required to locate the physical doocots. Since the survey was never fully completed, I had to pick up where it left off and continue to locate the doocots and acquire access. This was not always easy as a disabled person and a person with visual impairment. I also had to manage the issues of surrounding my health condition, and my energy levels. I was not always successful in getting these to align and ensure that I was able to get out and photograph when the weather allowed it.

I am satisfied with the final work as it covers the points I wanted to raise within the brief

  • Local history some of which is being lost
  • Social Inclusivity of the landscape
  • Power, stewardship and ownership of the Landscape

All of these points are covered in the completed work both in exhibition form and in the submitted form.

Once the project is completed, I hope to offer Historic Scotland a number of images for their Canmore site. This will allow Canmore to update their database with the missing images and information about the current condition of the Doocots. These records could then be made accessible for the public and could also be available for reference through the East Lothian Council’s John Gray Research library and website.

 

References

British Journal of Photography. 2019. Edward Burtynsky: The Anthropocene Project – British Journal of Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/10/edward-burtynsky-the-anthropocene-project/. [Accessed 10 October 2019].

Welcome to Canmore | Canmore. 2019. Welcome to Canmore | Canmore. [ONLINE] Available at: https://canmore.org.uk/. [Accessed 4 April 2019].

Dovecotes of Old England, Wales and Scotland. 2019. Dovecotes of Old England, Wales and Scotland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.pigeoncote.com/dovecote/dovecote.html. [Accessed 10 October 2019].

East Lothian Antiquarian Society. 1938. East Lothian Antiquarian Society. [ONLINE] Available at: https://eastlothianantiquarians.org.uk/files/2018/02/1934-38-ELAFN-Soc-Transactions-Vol-III.pdf. [Accessed 26 September 2019].

Edward Burtynsky. 2019. Edward Burtynsky. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.edwardburtynsky.com/. [Accessed 12 June 2019].

Historic Environment Scotland | Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba. 2019. Historic Environment Scotland | Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/. [Accessed 1 October 2019].

John Gray Centre. 2019. Haddington Library – John Gray Centre. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.johngraycentre.org/about/library/. [Accessed 10 October 2019].

New Topographics: “Landscape and the West – Irony and Critique in New Topographic Photography” (2005) – AMERICAN SUBURB X. 2019. New Topographics: “Landscape and the West – Irony and Critique in New Topographic Photography” (2005) – AMERICAN SUBURB X. [ONLINE] Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2012/05/new-topographics-landscape-and-the-west-irony-and-critique-in-new-topographic-photography-2005.html. [Accessed 15 June 2019].

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape …. 2019. New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape …. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/new-topographics/?ds_rl=1263130&gclid=Cj0KCQjwrfvsBRD7ARIsAKuDvMN-Y5AzdamX3TGr-T1gX3l8aRTxOcphHJCNTWPtMRHyzUPbxrRkgKQaAoRCEALw_wcB. [Accessed 16 June 2019].

Ogilvie Homes. 2019. Dovecote Steadings, East Lothian – Ogilvie Homes. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ogilviehomes.co.uk/location/dovecote-steadings-east-lothian/. [Accessed 10 October 2019].

Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot, East Linton – Historic Buildings & Homes | VisitScotland. 2019. Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot, East Linton – Historic Buildings & Homes | VisitScotland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/preston-mill-phantassie-doocot-p255601. [Accessed 8 October 2019].

Showcase Archives. 2019. East Lothian Antiquarian And Field Naturalist Society. [ONLINE] Available at: https://demo.orangeleaf.com/collections/getrecord/ELCAS_EL335. [Accessed 7 October 2019].

Tate. 2019. New topographics – Art Term | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/n/new-topographics. [Accessed 16 June 2019].

Tate. 2019. The Purloined Landscape: Photography and Power in the American West – Tate Papers | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/21/the-purloined-landscape-photography-and-power-in-the-american-west. [Accessed 15 June 2019].

Tate. 2019. Who are Hilla and Bernd Becher? | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-718/who-are-bechers. [Accessed 16 June 2019]

Exercise 5.7 – Prepare an Artists Statement

This exercise asks the student to spend an hour or so researching and reading artists statements. Most of the artist’s statements can either be found on their own websites or on the website of the art galleries representing the artist.

The student is then asked to write an artists statement to accompany their self-directed project which will cover the work produced for Assignment 5.

I produced the following statement to accompany my work:


 

My current work looks at landscape, lost history, accessibility and land ownership today. Through the examination of the landscape, the people using it and the threats affecting it, the work will drive conservation on how man-made change of the landscape disconnects the land from its own history and how these ongoing changes relate to accessibility for disabled people to explore.

I am interested in the work of other artists and what I can learn from them. Specifically, I am exploring the techniques and methodology they used to approach landscapes and how they portray them. As subsequently how I can apply these to my photography. My series, Doocots of East Lothian, takes as its starting point an incomplete survey undertaken in 1931, which was published posthumously in 1939 and then left unexamined until now. I am applying the new topographic principle to the subject and am producing a sequence of images within a certain container of that aesthetic.


 

 

Exercise 5.6 Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning. 

This exercise asks the student to read, consider and makes notes of John Walkers essay “Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning. 

Walker opens his essay by asking the reader to consider a wedding photograph and the many differing contexts in which the image could be displayed; for example, within a photo album or as a framed picture on a mantlepiece. The photograph can be contextually read as a precious image which has personal value to the owner or if the image is displayed in the window of a commercial photographer, the photograph can be read as an example of their skill and competence. Although the image itself has not changed, the context in which it is displayed changes the context and its meaning to the viewer. 

I agree with Walker in making this assertion, for even if the framing of the image is exactly the same, the image is limited in context to what is seen within the frame. The viewer asked to consider only what is within the frame and not what was captured outside of the frame at the time. The context in which the image is presented, architecturally and socially, changes the reading of the image. 

The essay then examines the process of the resulting change of context by presenting additional information. This can be done either textually, presenting the image as part of a sequence, or presenting the image within the wider context of an exhibition. This provides the viewer with the opportunity to analyse the image with a wider view of the “reality” of the image.  

Once again I agree with this concept. Placing an image within an exhibition of images allows the content to build upon itself to provide a greater context within which to read the image. This allows a greater understanding of what is presented whereas titles are displayed, further detail is given as notes and the viewer can read each image as part of the greater whole. 

Walkers essay moves on to consider the effect of mobility of images. He does this by concentrating on the mechanical process of the photograph and the many differing contexts that an image can hold at the same time. Photographs – due to their ease of repeated production – allow a single image to be presented in differing contexts easily due to the way that they are presented. Two copies of the same image can have different contextual readings depending on how they are presented. Walker uses an image presented in a newspaper and the same image presented within the “white walls” of a photographic journal as his example to demonstrate this. Both are publications, but the image is presented differently creating two different readings of the image. 

He then goes on to present the idea of an image as a lifespan, not only considering the birth of the image, but the life of the image, and how and when it is presented. Walker borrows the terms ‘circulation’ and ‘currency’ from John Tagg. Tagg originated the idea of an image as money and how the image will move from context to context as it is presented in differing situations before the image finally disappears either due to destruction or being “banked” and forgotten in an archive. 

This is an interesting idea which I had come across but never conceptualised. Walker and Tagg both present the idea that not only will an image change hands over the years, but the reading of the image will change too. For example, Eddie Adams ‘Execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém’ when it was first published depicted what was happening in Vietnam during the conflict from a reportage point of viewWithin a fairly short period of time, the photograph took on the context of being an anti-war image,  having been used by the protesters to show the cruelty and meaningless of the Vietnam war. This use of Adams’ image has been surpassed with anti-war protesters using newer and more recent images from the internet; inside Abu Ghraib prison for example. However, these new images have already been replaced in the wider human consciousness due to the rapid evolution of the situation and of the news cycle. Adams. image continues to be printed in publications and shown in academic circumstances, however, it is still presented in an anti-war context rather than the original reportage use. 

Walker essay goes on to examine the work of Jo Spence and her exhibition ‘Beyond the Family Album’. walker posits that the reading of the image changes when the context of the exhibition changes. Quite simply the images can be read differently depending on when and where they are presented. Walker invites the essay reader to examine their perception and understanding of people who visit art galleries, What are the visitors expectations, why are they there, and what is the main driver for them attending a gallery or a specific exhibition within a  gallery? Research and analysis via survey of visitors can help to give an understanding on this abstract idea and provide an understanding on why the visitors are there and how they understand the context of the exhibition. 

Walker closes his essay by presenting the fact that a viewer of an image, no matter the context, will have their own preset concept of the context, mainly created through human memory. That viewer will first use this to read an image when they encounter it. Being aware of these preset contexts can assist the photographer when creating the context in which they wish to present the final set of images. Walker reminds the reader that pictorial stereotypes are everywhere, even within our own conscious and unconscious minds. As to the ideology that all individuals are different, therefore all individuals will read an image differently; I concur with Walker’s opinion that individuals are in fact part of a set or subset and therefore, due to commonality, will read an image within the same context due to a shared lowest common denominator, especially when you regard the concepts put forth by Barthes on Semiotics.   

The exercise then asks the student to design a draft for an exhibition of work which is being produced for Assignment 5.

I have designed the exhibition so that the images are displayed on a curved wall. The images will be displayed in 3 columns, the middle row should be easily accessible by a wheelchair user. The images which will be framed A4 prints will have no glass in them, to allow the braille dots to be read.

2D overhead layout of gallery display for exercise 5-6

Exhibition design for exercise.

 

 

References 

CBS News, 2004. Abuse Photos II. CBS News. Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/abuse-photos-ii/ [Accessed October 3, 2019].
Anon, 2019. Iraq Prison Abuse Scandal Fast Facts. CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/30/world/meast/iraq-prison-abuse-scandal-fast-facts/index.html [Accessed October 3, 2019].
Anon, John Tagg. PhotoPedagogy. Available at: https://www.photopedagogy.com/john-tagg.html [Accessed October 3, 2019].
Ruane, M., 2019. A grisly photo of a Saigon execution 50 years ago shocked the world and helped end the war. The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/02/01/a-grisly-photo-of-a-saigon-execution-50-years-ago-shocked-the-world-and-helped-end-the-war/ [Accessed October 3, 2019].
Anon, Saigon Execution | 100 Photographs | The Most Influential Images of All Time. Time. Available at: http://100photos.time.com/photos/eddie-adams-saigon-execution [Accessed October 3, 2019].
Walker, J.A., Context as a determinant of photographic meaning. Academia.edu. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/11911020/Context_as_a_determinant_of_photographic_meaning [Accessed September 21, 2019].