Inspiration: Stanley Donwood, Scarfolk, Richard Marrs, Tom Burns.
Painting, charcoal/pastel, printmaking, Photoshop compositing, Stop Motion, video, Premiere. sketchbooks. Photobook. Online gallery.
‘Edges Shifting’ is a personal and documentary project that develops a body of photography-based work about the Suffolk coast in the context of its social and environmental context that might have a range of potential audiences and markets.
The Suffolk Coast is a minimalist and haunting remote shingle landscape along the North Sea shaped by its role in World War 2 and currently a somewhat elite tourist hideaway. It has been the subject of work by other artists, photographers, poets and writers who have seen it in different ways. There are also a number of historical and environmental books by local people.
Developed over a six month period January 2020 to December 2021 through Brexit and the COVID crisis, I bring together work by local people available on-line as the basis for my own subjective work that I then share forvfeedback in my social networks.
A documentary photobook from photographs taken on my first visit to Shingle Street coloured by heightened emotions on a gloomy day before Brexit.
A collage sketchbook of photos, conversations witg local people, available information on-line or in local publications, annotated with my own questions and thoughts.
Photographs of the landscapes in and around Shingle Street digitally processed in different photographic styles for a tourist and/or fine art market in response to audience feedback.
A second documentary photobook and on-line slideshow presentation reflecting insider and outsider views of Shingle Street.
Part 4 asks me to undertake a self-directed project that aims to make the world a better place, focusing as much on process – particularly audience involvement – as outcomes.
I wanted to further develop my approach to landscape documentary photography, focusing on communities and environments along the Suffolk coast between Southwold and Felixstowe. Focusing particularly on the environmental challenges of this part of the coast and the social challenges and contradictions surrounding Brexit, compounding pre-existing issues of rural poverty, inequality and neglect.
I initially thought of doing some comparative work including Orford, Aldeburgh and Dunwich, looking at the multiple interactions between these locations and their distinctive ‘Southfolk’ identity. They are linked by history from prehistoric times and trade with Europe, particularly the Netherlands. The swallowing up of Dunwich by the sea and Orford silting led to the rise of Aldeburgh. The locations are all linked by the Suffolk Coast path and tourist development, the decline of fishing and the work of artists presenting at art and music festivals in Southwold, Aldeburgh and Snape. I intended to include work on fishing and tourism as a comparison to work I had done on Cornwall in Assignment 3. I started by reading books on the Suffolk coast including Sebald’s Rings of Saturn and sections on Suffolk in Daniel Defoe’s A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain (1724–1727) work by Robert MacFarlane and Stanley Donway on Orford and some You Tube surfing on different locations. I chose to start at Shingle Street because that was the only area of the coast I had not been before, and the most remote.
The first visit to Shingle Street was a moody cloud/sun day – 30th January 2020, the day before Brexit. In true flaneur fashion I wandered around taking photographs of things I noticed and thought indicated something significant or interesting about the place. Mostly grey and melancholy signs and seas/shinglescapes, reinforcing my feeling of alienation from ‘English’ surroundings where the majority of the population voted for Brexit, and also for Tory MP Theresa Coffey. As former Environment Minister and now Work and Pensions minister, she opposes gay rights, most environmental and social protection legislation, and welfare and housing benefits.
This series of photographs is the basis for 4.1 ‘Outsider on the Edge’ a largely textless photobook and slideshow personal project – audience and benefit to the world to be determined at the end with the benefit of hindsight and perspective of deeper investigation and local knowledge.
Despite the feeling of alienation, I found Shingle Street intriguing. After a week of intensive on-line investigation following Google and Facebook chains, and links from ‘The Shell Line’, I decided there wer more than enough interesting angles on this one location for the whole project – including other photographers, artists and writers as well as active Facebook page and website for the local magazine ‘Village Voices’. And that I would learn much more from following up on the different angles and potential audiences and purposes than covering too many locations in a more superficial way.
I revisited Shingle Street a week later on February 5th, a sunnier day determined to have a break from Brexit issues. And to follow up on some names, addresses and locally available books about the area. This time we spent more time in the local pub in Hollesley, and Oxley Marshes as well as Shingle Street itself in order to get a better rounded picture of the area. People were extremely open and friendly, including many who were very knowledgeable about the area as well as photographers and birdwatchers from other places. The campsite proved very reasonably priced with a very helpful owner, to enable multiple visits and staying overnight. Thus confirming my decision to focus only on this one location and visit at regular intervals to develop local ‘audience engagement’ with people who could fill in gaps and provide feedback and potential market links with visiting tourists.
Making the World a Better Place
The project continues my interest in different subjective and objective ‘outsider’ approaches to documentary, focusing on environmental challenges, social challenges of marginalisation and rural poverty. and the changing and conflicting identities and interests that have underpinned debates around Brexit and future visions for our countryside and environment. But – further my response to First Things Next – I am aiming for different types of outputs that fulfil different purposes: direct messaging, for different audiences linked to a broad ethical commitment. Provoking questioning from the viewer rather than imposing one single message.
I look at how my creative process, particularly documentary work, can be significantly improved through working with other people to help me to develop alternative narrative threads and visual approaches, building on some of my professional qualitative research skills.
My body of work will include different ways of engaging with audiences to improve my work in terms of:
- refining the ‘messages’ by getting a range of local views and information on social and environmental issues through conversations and interviews and engagement with relevant local social networking sites.
- feedback on the effectiveness of the ‘communication aesthetics’ from local, national and also international overseas audiences to improve my technical and visual communication skills through ZemniImages Facebook page crosspasted to other social networks.
- finding different marketing, promotion and advocacy outlets for the different dimensions of the body of work. Including campaigning organisations like National Trust, RSPB and Rural England.
Focusing on colour, I continue to explore the range of effects of digital processing in Lightroom, Photoshop and DxO FX filters on interpretations of images. I include consideration of individual images, collage and photomontage and approaches to text.
- how do different media affect how people interprete messages
- how do different media affect how we see and interprete things
- How does mood affect what we see and how we use media
- How do our expectations about audience perceptions affect what we communicate and how