‘Lost Reflections’: Sketchbooks

Losing things is about the familiar falling away. Getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing.

Rebecca Solnit ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ 2005

‘This question of whether something is fact or fiction is a reduction of the bookends with which we live our lives’

Walid Raad Infinity Award 2016

‘Lost Reflections’ is a body of creative visual work that explores interlinkages and overlaps between the ‘bookends’ of my personal responses to places and events and a more political ‘voice’ and activist approach to social and environmental documentary. Focusing on particular places and times, the projects explore the multiple layers and perspectives of subjective experience  and the creative process of selection and framing  particular aspects of  reality from the continual flow and combination of realities  seen, heard, read and researched.  

Reflecting on creative  interlinkages and overlaps between multi-layered internal and external ‘realities’  is my way of clarifying questions and ways of living in a beautiful but confusing and often distressing world. And inviting the viewer to do the same. It is also my way of becoming more aware of  inevitably subjective perspectives on ‘reality’, discovering new ways of seeing things and expressing emotions so they free me to act.

COVID-19 restrictions in many ways shaped the direction my work in this module took, and particularly the final portfolio:

  • Location-based social documentary was severely curtailed because of travel restrictions, and the need to keep not only myself safe, but also the people I might want to talk to. As COVID-19 swept through the rest of the world, audience-based documentary work was also restricted as overseas colleagues became sick and then overworked catching up or covering for colleagues, and were also not able to go to communities. This meant that several UK and international (Ethiopia, Philippines and Tanzania) projects were planned and started before February 2020, but then interrupted and postponed and/or turned into more subjective work.
  • My access to non-digital art facilities was seriously restricted. The need to separate our household living arrangements between ourselves and our daughter also meant that I lost access to my art studio, and printmaking studios were also closed for most of the time. This meant that my work on this module has been more photography-based than originally intended.

At the same time, these restrictions led me to go into more depth into photographic creativity and digital image processing that will inform my work in other media going forward. The mushrooming of on-line Zoom meetings also enabled more regular communication with some important professional feedback networks like Cambridge Camera Club. Though, particularly for photobooks, I need more sustained face to face review and discussion of physical products before completion.

The Portfolio of Photobooks and images selected for assessment are all part of wider and ongoing bodies of work. Some of the UK-based work will be followed up in Sustaining Your Practice. Other more global work will be taken forward after this degree, possibly as part of post-graduate study.

Portfolio overview

All links to high resolution images, slideshows and supporting documentation can be accessed through the padlet below.

Portfolio 1: ‘Bridge: Visions from the Underworld’ consists of a Photobook (PF1) and solar plate prints (PF1A) about the ‘Under World’ of the A14 road bridge over the river Cam in Cambridge. Colour and monochrome documentary-style images of human interactions with the built environment are combined with my own framed slices of reflected graffiti to pose questions about beauty and destruction of social edgelands. It is part of a wider ongoing body of work about ‘Bridge Edgelands’ consisting of photography and photography-based printmaking (photoscreen and solar plate). My work on the Bridge is in turn part of an even wider interest in ‘Cam Edgelands’ linked to discussions about ‘Edgelands in psychogeography and visual documentary.

Portfolio 2: Aldeburgh Diaries consists of a Photobook ‘Reflections in Grey’ (PF2) a  photobook of reflections and readings from ‘a journey around my room’ in a holiday cottage in Aldeburgh during the second Covid-19 Lockdown in December 2020. In a claustrophobic small square format it juxtaposes images of the rooms with ‘slices of textured light’, texts I was reading and newspaper clippings as an internal narrative about coping with Lockdown and also increasing external urgency of pollution and climate change. This contrasts with Shutterscapes II: Carnival Days (PF2Acolour/2Bblack and white), alternative selections and interpretations of a photo reportage series from Aldeburgh Carnival 2017 (Suffolk)  – processed and framed to present a sometimes humorous and nostalgic look back at a time of freedom before ‘carnival was cancelled’.

Portfolio 3: A Week in Teetotal Street is a collage of work from a stay in a holiday cottage in St Ives, Cornwall just before Brexit and the 2019 election. The final book juxtaposes personal ‘stream of consciousness’ photographic and sketchbook reflections with snippets of found text and local news about events and tourism. It is informed by other contextual photograph series, interviews with local people and library and on-line research as part of Part 2: Text and Image Woman Living Lost. It presents a very personal response to my feelings of claustrophobia and helplessness at the time and doubts and dilemmas of trying to be a ‘responsible tourist’ amid all the social and environmental conflicts in St Ives.

Portfolio 4: Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan  is a Photobook of black and white documentary images from a 6 day stay in Baizakh village in the T’ien Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan. It is part of a bigger body of documentary and creative photographic work for Part 4 Audience: Reflections from the Mountains of Heaven that I started to develop with audience feedback from Kyrgyzstan and UK, but that were curtailed by political unrest and COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan. This in turn is part of a much bigger and longer term series of ongoing projects about  ‘Journeys as Beginnings’  from my work-based travel in Africa and Asia  developing photobooks and interactive experiences with input from local and global audiences. 

Portfolio 5: Garden of Mindfulness is the start of a very personal ongoing body of  work exploring the process of ‘conscious creativity’ as a means of slowing my life down in a safe reflective space. Experimental sketches, printmaking and moving image work juxtapose my attempts at mindfulness  with dilemmas of managing our often cruel wildlife garden. Started in May 2021 when I finally gained access again to my art studio, selected images are included to represent some of the future directions my work may take.

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