Category Archives: Part 4

Exercise 4.6 – Proposal for the self-directed project

Project Brief – Following on from the research undertaken regarding the loss of historical landscape due to land development. This project aims 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. 

Influences and Research – Images will be captured and presented in the style of the New Topographics group. The project is influenced by Hilda and Bernd Becher, and Edward Burtynsky. The research will be guided by the 1937 paper.  

Locations will be gathered together using maps and digital footprints; arachnological and historical guidance from websites as to the locations, positions, and state of each of the doocots as to guide me to the doocot. Information from the Scottish archaeological group and from Canmore will allow me to obtain a fixed GPS position. In the event that a doocot has been destroyed whatever in that GPS position will be photographed. The research will also help in accessibility issues. Some access may have to be obtained where the doocot has fallen into private possession. 

Likely Treatment – Doocots will be photographed at a set distance using the same parameters as possible, angle, height, position relevant to the camera in an attempt to capture scenes which will be comparable with each other. Images will be monochrome from digital 35mm. The text for each Doocots will be taken from the 1937 document and will include size, shape, style, and number of pigeons roosting at point of the design. 

Potential Outcome  – The final collection will be displayed in a gallery as part of an installation. The images again will be marked with braille text allowing visitors with visual impairment to read the photographs through touch. Each image displayed will have a full braille description of the image as well as a standard card with details. 

Budget/Resources – Since I am unable to drive myself and with mobility issues, I will be using a vehicle for transport, this will be used to carry the photographic equipment as well. 

In the event of any issues with an image I have already scheduled in time for reshoots 

All images will be taken digitally and then go through Post Processing before Printing and Braille Marking before being mounted in Frames.  

Estimated Schedule – the project will take 900 hours in total, not including travel time. 

This project builds upon the work undertaken during part 3 of the course, culminating in my work on Assignment 3; and is constructed on the ideas presented in that work. 



439 words 

Exercise 4.5 – Signifier and Signified

The student is asked to read ‘Rhetoric o the Image’ by Roland Barthes, whose essay contains an analysis of an image through semiotic analysis: quantifying how meaning is constructed and/or how a message is communicated. 

Barthes describes the two levels of meaning as sign and myth; where the sign is comprised of a signifier and the signified. Myth is the level of meaning where the viewers own experience and knowledge is taken into account when they read the image. 

The student is then asked to find an advert and identify the signifiers and the signified using Barthes method. 

After collecting and reviewing a number of adverts I chose ‘Trails’ by Adidas. 

Trail running shoe advert by Adidas. A man in a red top runs through a forest trail.

Trails by Adidas



Signifier  Signified 

open forest 

Freedom, wilderness, open and fresh air, no barriers or rules.  
Runner  Individual, health, happiness, self-reliance, healthy living, the pursuit of health and happiness. Excitement. 
Mud Trail  Non-urban, create your own path 
Running shoe with deep grips  The wearer will not slip or fall. Can go anywhere. 4×4 all terrain. 



Being dyslexic and having visual difficulties meant that reading Barthes essay was almost impossible. It took a few days just to plough through the text before having to sit down and construct an understanding of what Barthes was trying to communicate. 

Exercise 4.4 – Of Mother Nature  and Marlboro Men

The student is asked to read the essay ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men’ by Deborah Bright and then note the key points of interest and any personal reflections from the essay.

Bright’s essay was written in 1985, the midpoint in the Regan Presidency when corporate America and Reaganomics were the driving power behind the American ascendancy. The third opening of American manifest destiny was possible, the American dream, of expansion into space and leading the world into a new future. The first Manifest destiny had passed and was now a distant memory kept alive on  TV screens playing old John Ford movies and in the advertisement ego of the Marlboro man; the last stand of the cowboy in the middle of the US, along with his horse and his cigarettes, alone in what remains of the American landscape around him (usually the high plains or Arizona’s painted desert.

Bright is correct in framing the Marlboro man images as proto-political landscapes, these images are redolent of the geographical photography of O’Sullivan, Adams and Weston, all of them missing any feminine point of view or interest. After all, Landscape painting was a male-dominated domain, one which in the 17th and 18th centuries were not welcoming to women, who were thought not to be intelligent enough to understand or produce worthy landscapes. Marlboro man’s version of the American pioneer completely erases the pioneering women who successfully drove west with the wagon trains and made a substantial contribution to American life and to American history.

As was pointed out, in Andrews ‘Landscape and Western Art’, pp 166, Landscape painting, while attempting to reflect a certain amount of scientific accuracy, was also a constructed text of selected subjects. Thus, as in the case in Constable’s Hay Wain where the workers have no faces or real detail, they are background figures, happily performing their duties.  In reality, the workers in the fields were rioting due to a lack of work and income, partially due to war and partially due to the start of industrialisation and the industrial revolution which would render a vast number of these workers’ jobs as redundant. Constable did not include these social and political changes and upheaval as they were unsuitable subjects for a gentile landscape painting. Constable deliberately chose which parts of the landscape he wanted to represent and through that choice, disregarded the rest.

This very same choice was being made and driven within American Landscape photography from the 1940s onwards. With the growth of tourism, advertising was the biggest manufacturer of landscape images, ditching the landscape representation of change through human interaction and instead presenting the characteristic image of the wide-open America, a landscape which stretches on for miles, unexplored but yet ready and prepared to welcome tourists with roadside lodges and all modern amenities available.  The marketing of the male gaze of the landscape, by the same marketing men as the Marlboro man, created the idea of the ‘back to nature’ trip, where for a short period of time, people would harken back to the nostalgia of the rigours of the pioneer life, but without the danger. These trips would, of course, be captured on camera as a memory of the holiday – nature fit for human consumption.

Certainly, within this aesthetic, the landscape of America was treated as the unexplored wilderness of Ansel Adams Eden-like interpretation. Very much like Constable’s Hay Wain, the political landscape is ignored in favour of the spectacular but sanitised view of the subject. Bright in the same way, points to Szarkowski whom she suggests lifted the works of O’Sullivan and Weston out of context and repackaged them ‘as the indisputable sires’ of landscape photography.

As a counterpoint, Bright suggests that the work of the New Topographics photographers was the start of a movement of social critique within landscape photography. It was a limited movement Bright details due to a lack of understanding and expectation on what should be critiqued and how. Certainly, the 1970s was not the hotbed of social activism and revolution that we see today, and now the barricade to keep art free from ‘overt politics’ has been broken down.

Bright is correct in saying that the artist themselves influences the final image, through their own practice and perceptions, both social and political. Bright is also correct in stating that in the 1980s, there was a lack of support for Landscape created by female photographers and artists and by using methods of mass production and low costs, female artists had replicated the methods used by male marketing teams to make their work available to the larger public. Therefore, circumventing the interwoven gallery-led market for art, which has allowed them to articulate their ideas and politics through their landscape imagery.

In closing, Bright suggests that women may eventually break the idea that Landscape photography is the sole domain of white male photographers, who like the Marlboro man, are explorer, guide, hunter and preserver, solely responsible for the land. It can be seen outside of America that this is already happening with the work of Artists such as Fay Godwin, Susan Derges, and Vanessa Winship. It can be seen as Bright wanted, that breakthroughs are happening, for example, the work of Lois Connor whose use of large format platinum prints, creates exemplary monochrome landscapes of beauty. Connors imagery of Utah, South Dakota and China are as resplendent as the work of Adams or O’Sullivan, in my opinion.


Bright, D. (1985) ‘Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men An Inquiry Into the Cultural Meanings of Landscape Photography’, (), pp. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 1st May 2019).

Andrews, M. (1999) Landscape and Western Art, Reprint edn., Oxford: OUP.

Investopediacom. 2019. Investopedia. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Thebalancecom. 2019. The Balance. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Brendan seibel. 2018. Timeline. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Adagecom. 1999. Adagecom. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Guggenheimorg. 2010. Guggenheim. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Adrian shirk. 2015. The Atlantic. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Denverpostcom. 2007. The Denver Post. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Nytimescom. 2019. Nytimescom. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Danzigergallerycom. 2019. Danzigergallerycom. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Vanessawinshipcom. 2019. Vanessawinshipcom. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:

Loisconnernet. 2019. Loisconnernet. [Online]. [7 May 2019]. Available from:



Exercise 4.3 – A Subjective Voice

The exercise asks that we reflect on any current and previous circumstances and experiences that we have had which may influence or have influenced our view on the landscape. Once these have been considered, any factors which act as an influence when researching and photographing the landscape should be noted in the learning log.

One political issue which has always been at the concern in relation to the landscape, is who owns what? Even with the Land Reform Act (Scotland) of 2003, there are still times when trying to gain Statutory Access Rights has been difficult due to obstructions both legal and illegal created by landowners.

Recently the Guardian ran an article regarding land ownership in England where it was found that 1% of the population owned almost 50% of the land. This is something I feel is socially unfair, especially where I now live where one man owns all the Scottish land south of the river Ettrick all the way to the border.

Very much like Ingrid Pollard, I am interested in the politics of the landscape, who can use it, who cares for it, who owns it and who profits from it. Even the politics of access is of interest to me, as old abandoned buildings are subsumed into people’s gardens and access to these pieces of history is cut off.

Growing up, I could only see the open landscape on three sides of the village, the fourth side was open water, the wide expanse of the river Forth, between myself and the Kingdom of Fife. Now I am becoming concerned with the expansion into the greenbelt by developers, where there was once fields and fields of corn, potatoes or sprouts there are now ever-growing housing developments. A walled-in set of fields where I was once employed to pick vegetables, is now all houses, crowded within the very same walls.

These environmental concerns again tie in as a factor and influence when I am researching and photographing. I see it as a race to capture and document what is disappearing socially, historically and environmentally.

This was partially reinforced by the images from the Robert Blomfield when I recently visited the exhibition of his work at the Edinburgh City Art Centre. Blomfield captured Edinburgh through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, an Edinburgh which has now almost already disappeared as the City’s narrative changes.

These are just some of the themes around the landscape which I am exploring, amongst others are; access for people with disabilities, social change driving up house prices and driving out the poor, loss of the historical landscape through gentrification.

It is important that I keep these factors in mind when working to ensure that I do not end up with mixed messages.


ScotWays – ScotWays. 2019. ScotWays – ScotWays. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2019].

HeraldScotland. 2019. Do we really have the right to roam? | HeraldScotland. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2019].

The Guardian. 2019. Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population | Money | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2019].

Museums and Galleries Edinburgh. 2019. Robert Blomfield: Edinburgh Street Photography | Museums and Galleries Edinburgh. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 April 2019].

Exercise 4.2 – The British Landscape during World War II

The student is asked to read the short extract from ‘Landscape for everyone’ taken from ‘Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourists Imagination’ by John Taylor. The student is asked to Summarise the key points of the extract along with any other observations or reflections from the text. 

The current idea of the English Landscape really starts with C.F.G Masterman, when in the introduction to E.O. Hoppes Book ‘England’ Masterman absorbed the other nations of the United Kingdom into the single concept of one country of ‘England’. Mastermans perspective of a single historical landscape and country which could be viewed as single frames; frozen moments of time, where the countryside moved from wilderness through agricultural, cultural, religious and industrial influences to its current contemporary state. 

As the country entered into 1940, the phoney war had failed, British troops were evacuated from Dunkirk and the fear of losing the war started to loom over the country. There was a genuine fear that suburban England would be invaded and occupied.  

[The Phoney War was an eight-month period at the start of World War II, during which there was only one limited military land operation on the Western Front when French troops invaded Germany’s Saar district. The Phoney period began with the declaration of war by the United Kingdom and France against Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939 and ended with the German attack on France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940. While there was no large-scale military action by Britain and France, they did begin economic warfare and shut down German surface raiders. They created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to swiftly and decisively cripple the German war effort. ]

Mastermans concept of an England which had been “unconquered for a thousand years” became a central column in propaganda; The imaginary ideal of the typical ‘English’ village where the close-knit community built around the village green, the village church and the squire tied itself to the landscape and therefore into the unbeatable English spirit, which would fight back and destroy any invaders. This was built upon by C. Henry Warren in ‘England is a village’ where he wrote that ‘England’s might is still in her fields… and in the end, they will triumph’. The propaganda ideal that Nazi Germany could be defeated as long as English people worked the fields and kept the dream of England alive in their hearts, hands and eyes. an idea that Orwell touched upon in his Essay ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, Orwell wrote the essay as he prepared to shelter from a bombing raid. He expressed his opinion that Britain needed a socialist revolution and that the working class and the middle class could come together to form a classless society and through working together defeat the wealthy upper classes of Germany who funded the war.  

In reality, as part of the propaganda drive and to render any invasion impossible, the countryside was vandalised by camouflage, blackout and the removal of signs, place names, and road signs. This made journeys difficult if not impossible to any strangers to the area. The countryside became the refuge for city dwellers, evacuated children and the military, making it both welcome and bleak at the same time. 

This instability in the idea of the countryside was mainly resolved by offering wartime readers and viewers a link to the past, a sense of victory through a feeling of continuity; distilled from Masterman and Hoppes original ideal, the love of English scenery and beautiful England which became the foundation for the principles of victory.  Rather than show pictures of evacuated working-class children looking lost and forlorn in their new location, it was turned around so that it became a chance for the children to discover the beauty of the landscape for the first time. The upheaval and societal change were accommodated through the showing of images that reminded the viewer what they were protecting by fighting the war.  

Taylor points out that through the management of images and stories in the magazine ‘Picture Post’ the Ministry of Information worked hand in hand with the publishers to promote the ideology that the landscape of England was for everyone and worth defending. The landscape which in real terms was closed off to people was presented in layouts comparing the differences between the English way of life and that of life in fascist Germany. These articles were laid out as simply as possible to show everything that the British people were fighting to protect, the peaceful village life and individual freedom versus the military regime, persecution and loss of freedom and identity in the war machine. These presentations showed that every class had something to lose and therefore by forgetting class differences and working together to protect the English landscape they would be victorious.  

Throughout the extract, Taylor refers to the homogenous idea of England, which is interchangeable with Britain, a unified national heritage which really started in the 17th century with Francophile propaganda. The English heritage a prize which sets the British apart from everyone else, it is now part of the populist and underdog culture, caring for what is unique in their heritage, what is special to them, which is unknowable and untenable by outsiders. 

I am not sure I am comfortable with the idea of the British part being monolithic and uniform, it is too close to the Norman Tebbit cricket test where consensus is not only demanded and forced, it is taken for granted. It is too much of a central bias, which pretty much ignores any outlying country, state or region, a normative idea of a nationial being only English.  


Taylor. J (1994) A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourists Imagination, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press.

Orwell. G (1976) The Lion and the Unicorn, : Ams Pr Inc..

Mischi, Julian. (2009). Englishness and the Countryside How British Rural Studies Address the Issue of National Identity.



Exercise 4.1 – Critical Review Proposal

I have sent the following as part of an email to my tutor.

My idea for Assignment 4 Critical Review which I would like to propose for consideration; the subject will be The Memory of Photography, probably based around the background landscapes from a box full of family holiday polaroids that I was recently given.

The main part of the project is to examine the photographs and see what memories of the landscape arise from these polaroid photographs.