Aldeburgh Lockdown Escape is a body of work based on a two week holiday in Aldeburgh, Suffolk during the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2020. This was a time when the very first vaccinations were being started and people were relaxing their behaviour in anticipation of a removal of restrictions over Christmas. And before the horrendous second wave in January and February 20201.
I had originally intended to do a street documentary of Lockdown. But in the event there was too much traffic pollution and too little social distancing for me to be comfortable going out except for one daily blow along the edge of the sea, and that only on days when it was not raining. At the same time the austere grey cottage interior had very interesting reflections and angles, and the reflected light through condensation on cold morning windows and the see-through cotton blinds were ‘sublime’. I worked on two completely new interlinked projects:
- ‘Reflections in Grey’ is a black and white Photobook of ‘a journey’ round our holiday escape two-room cottage, with snippets of found text from my diary, books I was reading and local news. 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.
- ‘Lockdown Landscapes’ two Photo Essays taken on the few days when I went out, selected to tell somewhat different narratives in colour and monochrome.
For high resolution images and slideshows see the galleries on my SMUGMUG Portfolio website::
The project builds on and complements the much more colourful and upbeat ‘Aldeburgh Escapes’ of carnival and morning light in Assignment 2.2 Amend: Shutterscapes and further developed in Assignment 5.1.1 Shutterscapes II: Carnival Days.
My photographic work on Aldeburgh here is part of a much bigger and ongoing body of work ‘Aldeburgh Great Escapes’ that will be further developed in Sustaining Your Practice, together with a moving image version of ‘Reflections in Grey’ and sketchbook, printmaking and iPad illustration work.
1: Reflections in Grey: Photobook
‘Reflections in Grey’ aims to ultimately be a series of rather rambling but hopefully interesting reflections on ‘politics of the sublime’ and the ‘new normal’ post-COVID-19. This is a completely new body of work – black and white photography of ‘a journey’ round our holiday escape two-room cottage under lockdown in December 2020. I had originally intended to do a street documentary of Lockdown. But in the event there was too much traffic pollution and too little social distancing for me to be comfortable going out except for one daily blow along the edge of the sea, and that only on days when it was not raining. At the same time the austere grey cottage interior had very interesting reflections and angles, and the reflected light through condensation on cold morning windows and the see-through cotton blinds were ‘sublime’.
Reflections in Grey builds on the feedback and experience of producing Assignment 3, A Week in Teetotal Street and Assignment 4.2 Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan and Assignment 5.2.1 Bridge. Like Teetotal Street I use a claustrophobic square format and combining personal and contextual narrative in layering and juxtaposition of images with diary extracts, texts of books I was reading and newspaper clippings. Like Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan I work in black and white photography with attention to cropping and framing on the page. But Reflections in Grey is a much more intimate work that takes photographic abstraction, study of light and textures and experimentation with tone, focus and viewpoint much further.
My creative process involved taking many photographs each day, keeping a journal (see below left), collecting clippings from local papers and taking video footage of the changing light, house sounds and traffic noise outside. As the holiday progressed these became more strategic in capturing emerging themes and ideas relating to my diary and also the reading of:
- DE MAISTRE, X. 2004. A Journey around My Room, London, Alma Books Ltd.
- MORLEY, S. (ed.) 2010. The Sublime, London: Whitechapel Gallery.
- SOUSANIS, N. 2015. Unflattening, Cambridge Mass and London, Harvard University Press.
My first version was a rough brainstorm selecting images and matching with texts in InDesign and shown below on the right.
The book so far – still small square format – is shown on the right. This current version revisited the image selection, sketchbook and found texts and re-ordered the narrative to have more of a thematic approach and flow. I cut a lot out, and focused on either minimum text or in some cases a David Carson approach to legibility there the overall texture of the image and text combination is more important for meaning that the legibility of the text itself.
For high resolution images and slideshow of the book, see the galleries on my SMUGMUG Portfolio website:
To see the book on Blurb:
This is still very much a work in progress. It is unlikely that I will get the Photobook from Blurb before I finalise my assessment submission. I then want to get audience feedback – preferably face to face discussions rather than on-line so that I can ask probing questions I have and discuss differing viewpoints without wasting peoples’ valuable time. But on the whole I think this book has potential as a concept, with implications wider than the immediate time and place of Aldeburgh in Lockdown.
2: Aldeburgh Lockdown Landscapes
Lockdown Landscapes I
20 images selected for the dramatic sea, stark light/shadow/shape contrast and feeling of loneliness and desertion.
See high resolution images in SMUGMUG Portfolio
Lockdown Landscapes II
20 images chosen for the more human, exhilerating and ‘beautiful’ sunlit moments.
See high resolution images in SMUGMUG Portfolio.
5.2 Taking Things Forward:
Aldeburgh Escapes 2021 onwards
The work for this module is part of longer term and wider body of work in a range of media around ‘Escapes on the Edge’.
In addition to the photographs here and in the Shutterscapes series, I already have a lot of photographs, sketches and video clips of Aldeburgh from previous OCA courses that I started to review, cull and bring together as a multi-media A3 sketchbook with collage and annotations. Including work in different styles from other local artists. But this needs more work before presentation. I have only very recently gained access to my art studio after clearing space for our daughter to live separately for COVID social distancing.
For SYP I plan to do more documentary as well as personal work on Aldeburgh:
- diversity in tourism – Aldeburgh is a disability-friendly place and the numbers of older people and people with disabilities is noticeable. There are also an increasing number of people from ethnic minorities. But I would need some time to do this sensitively as I feel uncomfortable/unethical being too intrusive as a photographer.
- environmental issues – pollution, effects of climate change and rising sea levels on erosion of the town and the thorny issue of nuclear energy and development of Sizewell C. Although this may well bring jobs for some, it will alter the local environment and tourist industry beyond all recognition.
- ‘imaginings’ and folk and political narratives suggested by textures around the town developed as a short book of ‘Moot Tales’ and/or as short animations.