Category Archives: Assignment

Assignment 2 – The Journey

The main requirement of Assignment 2 is to produce approximately 12 photographs that are made on, or explore the idea of a journey.

Having failed to get the first attempt to gel together, I went back to the drawing board and started to draw together threads from parts of the coursework so far and that I could reconfigure my ideas and inspiration on the subject, including territorial photography, edge lands and the exploration of a road

Statement of Concept.

I examined this as both a journey along a path, but also a journey down memory lane. The area I was photographing is a small part of what is now the “John Muir Way” a section of beach where I spent some of my childhood. It is a post-industrial area where local history is fighting to stay alive.

The journey took place along a concrete pathway which was laid down over the metal and asbestos pipes which carried the ash from the coal power station to a lagoon area. These ashes were used to create a piece of land recovered from the sea. The journey passes the disused sites of different industries now lost to the place.  I started at the edge of the town and worked back along the walk towards the other edge of the town where the power station once stood, passing history, pollution, the remains of the fishing industry, salt panning and the use of the land by the local population along the way.

The main techniques I wanted to use were colour, a wide-angle lens and the decision to keep the main part of the horizon in the upper third of the frame. This meant at times using walls and buildings as the lead part of the horizon. While the point of view was limited to a certain focal length and depth I feel that this worked as the eye is drawn along the structure out into the far horizon. I tried to keep the images off centre to bring in the concept of moving the viewer’s head from side to side as if they were looking while walking. The project is led by the movement of the images through the viewer’s point of view rather than the artist forcing a fixed stance, especially in a wide lens where the main part of the subject is usually pushed in the centre of the image due to the structure of the lens and the heavy centre point that it creates, similar to how ‘Wyle’ presents the walls and fences in his work ‘Maze’ ‘Wyle.D 2010’. I was also influenced by the work of Raymond Depardon in ‘Glasgow’ ‘Depardon and Boyd. 2016’ where he captured both the landscape and the feeling of Glasgow in the 1980s within each scene.

While working in colour I wanted to still keep to Ansel Adams zones so I tried where possible to capture the widest range of contrast while not blowing out the whites and destroying in the darks.

Final Images

“The Journey into the past”

In the beginning.

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The edge of town and the John Muir walk.

Here at the edge of the town, the path is signposted as part of the John Muir Walk which takes walkers along across country from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. This small section of the walk continues round the coast and carries right along to the town of Dunbar. Here walkers step onto the concrete path and over pipes no longer in use, as they start along between the sea and the bordering town of Prestonpans.

Looking back

Looking back the way, over the years more pipes were laid down and covered in concrete as burners of the coal fired power station were taken out of service and the station started its own journey towards final shutdown and decommissioning. The concrete for the main part is uneven, rusting and slowly falling into disrepair. The responsibility for the maintenance for the walkway is disputed and as the dispute goes on the path falls away to the waves.

Waste sluice

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Outlet

Water quality in areas like this was not high on the list of important subjects. Raw sewage was pumped directly into the sea from sluices and pumps. When the local authority built two new housing schemes in the 1950s to take some of the overflow from the relocation of Glasgow’s slum tenants and relocate them in other communities, the pipes and sluices were expanded to carry the effluent straight into the sea where I like a lot of the towns children swam. The sluices are no longer in use and now sit disregarded, another viewpoint for the houses built right on the other side of the path.

Houses overlooking the sea.

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Behind the baracades

Every available piece of land which is no longer dedicated to ongoing industry, jobs or shopping has been torn down and built on. Modern houses barricaded behind high walls to prevent them being hit by waves and storms. This was green hills and a play area when I was a child.

Rusting bike.

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Bike.

Unlike other parts of the walk in surrounding local town communities, there has not been a sense of urgency in cleaning the beaches and preventing pollution in this area. Walkers and tourists pass by, unbothered at the mess dumped by uncaring locals.

Where the pottery stood in the 1800s.

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Rotting history

The location of the pottery had been forgotten until a local builder contracted to build houses started finding pottery shards in the rubble. Work was stopped and the remains examined. It is not known how soon after the last potter died that the original building was torn down, but even now shards can be found along the coastline.  There was a brief attempt to create a resurgence in the history of the town as part of a local diaspora studies project but the murals erected at that time have quickly been left to fend for themselves against the elements.

Broken pipe.

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Everything is broken

Another example of the human waste pipes which used to carry effluent straight into the sea where people used to fish and swim. Now the pipes are left to crack and fall into the sea in their own time.

Blocked.

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Bricked up.

Mixed among the brickwork are the doors, hatches and entryways which were formally used to access the beach for fishing or for access to the salt pans.

Rocks on the beach.

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Once a port of call.

What used to be part of the local harbour protection has been cut off from the walkway, the rocks are now used by the occasional rock pooler or as somewhere to sit and drink during warmer weather.

Behind the shops,

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Former Rockpools.

There used to be twin cottages with boat stores beneath, so that the local fisherman could get out and gather fish for sale locally. The property was bought over, and extensively renovated on television. Meanwhile the backs of the shops continue to deteriorate as they pass from tenant to tenant as businesses start up and close down.

Attempt to revive history.

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Left over.

During the 1960s, there was an attempt to bring back civic pride in the area. A statue was commissioned to represent the three main industries of the town; fishing, mining and salt panning. This was all built around a walkway down onto the coast to encourage people to look out over the water and see a better future. Now it sits, crumbling at the edges, vandalised. The statue ignored while vandalism and graffiti cover the walls with new ‘civic art’.

Bonfire ashes.

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Ashes.

Here the walkway disappears underground as the land has been pushed down on the coast to allow more house building. Before the houses were built, there was a row of wooden sheds where the fishermen sat and tended their nets. They would tell tall tales of danger in high seas to bright eyed children who stopped to watch them (myself included). I can remember weather beaten hands and faces, woollen hats and the smell of the sea.

The bones of Reaper II.

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Reapers Remains.

 

Recently a boat ran aground during the night. After an attempt to tow the boat back out to sea which resulted in the bow being damaged, the boat was beached and for a short time the owner tried to undertake repairs. After some reported friction with locals and the police, the owner decided to torch the boat and leave. The keel-line and some metal remains are all that is left here at the other edge of town.

Contact Sheet

Here is a PDF of all the images taken for this assignment in contact sheet form. Landscape-Assignment2-ContactSheets . The images chosen and shown above I believe to be the images most expressive of my concept and gives the viewer a journey along the same path.

Conclusion

There were a number of challenges to overcome. First of all the path is not built with mobility in mind and so I had to leave the path at some points and rejoin at others backtracking where I could.

Technical challenges included limiting myself to one lens where the focal depth was 11 to 16 mm; this challenged me as I had to think hard about where I could point the lens and what I was capturing. I deliberately attempted to keep the horizon in the top third of the lens which caused problems in framing a large number of the shots. I had to revisit the locales twice as the first time the lens developed a problem and a number of images were marked with a blue bloom in the middle of the frame.

Communication challenges included the framing of the images and trying to tell the correct story within the framework of a journey. I wanted to keep the images simple but at the same time reflect the psychogeography of the locale. Can I communicate the issues within the town as it struggles with growth and the loss of history both in the destruction of the landscape to build houses but in the rise and fall in interest in the history of the area.

The images that I chose represented the edge land of Prestonpans, as it grows outwards, it rolls over what is underneath, the industries are gone, blocked up and in with bricks formerly produced in the town. As the sea washes away the harbours, fishing beds and remains, the town washes away its past by pushing it to the edge and forgetting about it. I wanted to represent the walker on the John Muir walk and what they see both of the walk and what they pass; do they ignore the area in the rush to get to better views or do they examine and think about what is being lost.

References

Scottish Natural Heritage. 2018. The John Muir Way. [ONLINE] Available at: http://johnmuirway.org/route. [Accessed 24 August 2018].

PrestounGrange. 2018. Prestongrange online. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.prestoungrange.org. [Accessed 21 August 2018].

PrestounGrange. 2018. Prestongrange online. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.prestoungrange.org/core-files/archive/scottish_pottery.pdf. [Accessed 24 August 2018].

Wylie, W., 2010. Maze. Steidl

Depardon, R., 2016. Glasgow. Editions du Seuil.

Adams, A., 1995. The Camera (The Ansel Adams Photography Series, No. 1). Bulfinch

Alexander, J., 2015. Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography (Required Reading Range). Fairchild Books.

Assignment 2 – Attempt 1 – The Journey

Concept

After reading the assignment requirements, I first selected a few ideas and jotted them down. After examining a few ideas, I decided to take a journey down part of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the intention to examine how the city buildings themselves though they are ever present have pushed back into virtual Edgelands. I planned on doing this by journeying down the single street looking at the how the the yearly festival is changing the perception by visiting the changes in social structure, photographing how the changes made  its effect on history and the value given to the landscape by visitors and locals alike.

Planning, preparation and attempt

While preparing for this; I made a short plan of the journey, the journey was to move from the top of the royal mile, just outside the castle esplanade, down to the Tron building which at one point was one of the main historical boundaries of the city.

Due to the ongoing degradation of sight in my left eye and now the presence of a vestigial cataract in my right eye, along with my mobility issues, it was decided that I should undertake the journey in a wheelchair, mainly due to the concerns of my partner that in such a busy location that I may be knocked over.

Reluctantly I undertook the journey in the wheelchair and it upon three main issues.

  1. Edinburgh is not laid out for wheelchair users and they streets and paths are unpassable due to space or lack of maintenance to the path and road surfaces.
  2. Quite simply during the festival, space is at a premium and locations to shoot images from a wheelchair level were limited.
  3. What I was capturing swiftly became unsuitable for the assignment, mainly as the images captured had too many people in them. It became difficult to photograph the buildings for the people.

After examining the photos, I have decided that I would upload them and publish them to my learning log as it was an idea which ultimately failed as I made up my mind that the idea did not work.

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Royal Mile Close – closed for business

Here a historical yard area called a close, has been sectioned off so that an outside entertainmeant area could be created.

Here it can be seen that the original buildings have been ignored so that the small courtyard can be converted and sectioned off.

At the top of the Royal Mile sits the camera obscura which has been on this site since 1835. Many people walk passed it thinking that it is nothing more than the first gift shop in the shopping gauntlet which is the Royal Mile.

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Towards the Cathedral

At the first main junction down the Royal Mile, you cross over the mound, and continue heading down the old town. In between the court buildings can be seen the gates to the performance area; a section of road closed to all traffic so that public performances can be made and shows can be touted or leafleted to the passing public.

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The only smooth crossing.

Heading through the crowded junction, we cross the actual mound road. This is only one of two smooth crossings for wheelchair users in the whole of the street. Between people, poor road surface and barriers, the crossings become crowded and at the green crossing signal, it is everyone for themselves.

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The Fringe Gate.

Here compressed between two anti terrorist gates, we squeeze further down the street. Here be performers, leaflets and buskers.

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Chess Anyone?

A man sits dressed as a chess piece challenging passing tourists to a game of chess. Very few look up to see the buildings that surround them.

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Church or Shop

The Cathedral is surrounded, all 4 sides have been given over to commerce and entertainment. Inside hang flags from many historical battles, outside is has been decorated with coloured plastic pigeons.

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Overhead leafleting

As we passed the crowded pavement at the Cathedral, we passed a large number of people handing out leaflets for their shows at the fringe and festival. Every single person handed a leaflet over the top of my head to my partner.  The journey had soured for me; having been bounced, bashed, sworn at, pushed aside and now ignored, I lost all focus and inspiration for the journey.

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Last Stop

Here we stopped the journey, we were within site of the destination, the Tron church, but I was disheartened and depressed at the journey. What should have been fun turned sour at the lack of the milk of human kindness.

Conclusion

While the idea of a journey was being conveyed I felt that there was little to no landscape or cityscape available and that the part of the city I was journeying through were repeating themselves. While buildings could be seen to be passing, the perceived lack of interaction with the buildings of visitors could not be discerned due to the amount of people and the difficulty in obtaining clear and concise images.

I feel that the images did not gel and the concept was flawed in its design. I shall go back to the drawing board and work out what to do now.

Assignment 1. Beauty and the Sublime. 

Interpreting the brief

The brief for this Assignment reminds you that it may feed into Assignment 6 at the end of the course. The brief here is open for some interpretation as it asks for between 6 and 12 images which convey from the photographers’ point of view, beauty and sublime.

The terms beauty and sublime have over the years had a number of definitions and the terms themselves have broadly lost their artistic values due to misuse and misinterpretation. One only has to look at the number of different uses and identities that Sublime has within the book ‘The Sublime’ to see how devalued the word has become.

I wanted to return to the ‘as near as the original’ definitions as possible for applying them to my interpretations on landscape photography

In this series of pictures, I settled on trying to capture some of the imbalance as described in Exercise 1.9. I wanted to see if I could get both sides of a social contrast within a single scene.

I wanted to capture the changes in Leith, which was a port town before being merged into the City of Edinburgh. The port of Leith was one of the industrial hearts of the city. The large ports and docks built, maintained and broke ships as well as handling cargo destined not only for the City but for locations to the north, south, east and west of the city. It was the first port of call for any immigrant to the area and provided many jobs on the docks and beyond for many residents. The area is now undergoing a large social change as buildings have been knocked down or repurposed for luxury housing, student housing, shops, malls, casinos and large-scale housing developments.

Visual Culture

Using landscape painting as a jumping off point for this assignment, I knew that I wanted to go to beyond the limitations of what I could see within the scene through the viewfinder. I felt that I could go outside the limitations of a 35mm frame by accepting that I could expand the visual canvas as the original landscape painters had done. With this in mind, I wanted at least a few of the scene to be stitched together from several images to provide a final image.

Images for Assignment 1.

Using my knowledge of the red filter for Black and White exposures, I wanted to get both the sky and the cityscape exposed properly together. After taking a light exposure reading, I set the camera to manual and chose the f-stop and the exposure speed which best suited the whole of the scene. After taking the images I then stitched the 7 exposures together in photoshop to produce the final scene.

 

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East Dock Entrance.

 

Entering the broken gates of the port, the gatehouse, longshoremen housing and storehouses are gone. Expensive housing has been built and a casino sited at a loading point. The cargo cranes are abandoned, unmaintained and rotting, providing housing for wild pigeons and gulls. Further expansion is planned as dockland is cleared awaiting the return of developers. 


 

Sitting behind an expansive mall is the Royal Yacht Britannia, it rests in a berthing area where ships would have unloaded grain. Now visitors can view the recovered land where large-scale houses rapidly rise on ground made up of broken buildings and dirt. They can view the rotting spine of a loaders platform as it dissolves into the sea and view the refueling of cable laying ships and mobile oil and gas exploration ships. 

 

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Britannia to rotting docks.

I stitched together 9 images to make this panorama. I wanted to capture the wide expanse of the area as well as the emptiness of it.  

 


 

The central point of this image is around about the 500-foot mark of the original sea wall, meaning that originally I would have been 500 feet from real dry land. When it was built it was a berthing and rest area for local shipping. During a storm the entire dock area would fill with ships seeking protection from rough seas. The lighthouse would have been the beacon that many sailors would have been happy to see on a rough day 

 

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Lighthouse to recovered land.

 

The lighthouse now lies empty, graffiti covered, its rooms, platform and the area underneath, between the supporting columns is an area for underage drinking and drug use. Stretching off into the distance is what is left of the ports and dry docks. The large mall and parking structure sits behind the royal yacht and nearly everything to the right is reclaimed land. Developers have pushed down the buildings and are slowly turning the land over to luxury housing. Many of the houses at Platinum point are beyond the reach of many locals who cannot afford the £265,000 for a 2-bedroom apartment. 


 

 

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Platinum point pool.

 

Due to the worldwide collapse of markets, the development of the area has stopped while the developers build on a smaller scale in other parts of the area. This has left the planned plots to fill as lagoon sites and the plots have become a housing for wildlife. It is only a matter of time before this pond it taken back by concrete and steel and the wildlife pushed further away. In the meantime, this plot reminds the apartment owners that their houses are built on nothing more than temporary land and at some point, the sea will reclaim it. 


 

 

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Unused plot and road.

 

As already stated the developers have built amenities and infrastructure for houses which they have not yet built. Nature is trying to claim back the land, helped in part by residents who, having left, have dumped their patio plants onto the scrubland. These plants are beginning to take root and will potentially cause more problems in the future. Until then, the area is used by dog walkers, teen bike riders, and wanderers. 


 

 

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Behind the Gasworks.

 

The now unused gas tank dominates the skyline, it can be seen for miles. There used to be two such structures here before the first was taken down so that a small mall could be built as an amenities service for the local area. It is smaller areas like these that the developers have moved on to, throwing up student and luxury housing with the minimum of social housing within it. Until they start building the land lies unused, the skeletal remains of demolished buildings pointing out the last indications of local history.


Self-evaluation of the work

These images were not the ones that I originally planned for the assignment. I had planned on more Turneresque landscapes and it was only when I was in discussion with my Tutor prior to undertaking this Assignment that I changed direction and looked towards social politics through landscape.

I wanted to rekindle some of the social discourse that I had in my last course,  to examine what changes are happening during the gentrification of an area I knew well, along with documenting the rapid loss of local history as buildings are torn down in the rush to build houses that no one can afford.

Having decided on very wide landscapes I had to make my mind up on how I wanted to do it. I knew that I could not regiment the number of exposures needed as I would have to overlap and get in camera all of the landscape that I needed in one set.

Having no car and having to rely on a driver I had to plan the route carefully so that I would get everything I wanted in one day, otherwise, it could be two or three weeks before they were available again [and this would have up my course timetable completion into doubt].

I was pleased with the plan and although it was a difficult day I feel that I achieved what I set out to do.  While not all the landscapes stitched together I was able to fall back on some of the single images that I had taken which I felt also suited the series.

Contact Sheet.

Full contact sheet of images taken for this assignment.

Technical Choices

All of the images were taken either handheld or supported by a crutch used as an improved monopod. I decided to apply filters in post-production as I was interchanging lenses and the filters that I  have do not go up to 62mm. I chose Black and White for most of the images as I felt that they best represented the mood of the image. In a couple of the images I also boosted the saturation to see what happened with the colours but in most cases, single bright objects overtook the scene and pulled the eye away.

 

Visual Outcomes

The framings for these images are a response to the framings from paintings I have seen as part of this course. I wanted to get the scale of each scene, in such a way that at times the viewer is overpowered by the scale and may feel some vertigo as the image slips under their feet.

Over the day I made a number of images and through careful selection finally settled on the six that represent my interpretation of beauty and the sublime. In three of the images, I pushed my experimental boundaries to obtain a challenging series of images, where I have tried to define and express my emotions within the scene.

I tried to get both beauty and sublime within the same frame. Those that present my interpretation of the sublime were executed in a similar vein but I tried to continue the visual series with contrasting light and shadow.

I feel that they also have an uncertainty as they diversify from the weather conditions in which they were taken.

Reflection on assessment criteria

Overall, I am happy with this first assignment even with the personal challenges I had before, during and after the shoot. So far the coursework has guided me and encouraged me to undertake research into an area that I have not been exposed to much so far. It has given me some more creative ideas and techniques which I hope to carry on into the rest of the course.

References

Anon, 2010. The Sublime. (s.n.).

Roberts, R., 2011. Edgelands. Michael Symmons Roberts, Paul Farley. (s.n.).