Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Exploited Forest - A Little Update

A few people have been asking to see a bit of my work in progress so it’s probably time to give a little update. Originally, Clive (my tutor) and I went through some test shots and we discussed how I wanted to approach the project. To summarise the discussion, Clive felt that he wanted to see the forest shot in a way that he hadn’t seen before and that my test shots were too traditional. This is understandable with a subject that he has worked with so much and knows so well.

Initial Strategy

Over the next few weeks I focused on a new strategy where I captured mostly detail shots, shooting small segments in a kind of forensic way. I then had a brief discussion with Paul (another tutor) who now wants me to go back to the original strategy because he finds it a lot more interesting and reveals a lot more about the landscape!

Second Strategy

So now I’m in a bit of a pickle. Do I revert to the original strategy that Paul enjoyed but Clive didn’t, carry on doing what I am doing until I can get an updated opinion from Clive or develop an entirely new strategy?

Guess it is time to follow my instincts…

All photographs by Scott Martin.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Kyle Ford - 'Forever Wild'

Whilst doing research for my project I came across this great little piece of work still in progress by Kyle Ford. The project is about an area of land in northern New York that has been governmentally sanctioned as ‘Forever Wild’. This means that the land enjoys the highest level of protection of wild land of any state.

‘Forever Wild’ is such an interesting phrase to me. It sounds so optimistic but is ultimately misleading. Through the tiny bit of research that I did before writing this (a 2 minute Google search) it is clear that this was never the intention, at least in the purist sense. Over the years it has been used more and more to attract tourism and recreation.

Through Ford’s work, It becomes clear that much of the beauty of the area remains (and he celebrates this) but over the years it has begun to be tamed by man to the point where I don’t believe it could be called ‘wild’ ever again.

I feel like the work has been constructed with real concern for the area. It simultaneously enables me to appreciate the landscape as it is now whilst also raising doubts about its future. I can’t help but wonder what will be left untamed in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time, and I feel that this makes it a real triumph. I look forward to seeing the work completed.

All photographs by Kyle Ford.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Elliott Erwitt - A Natural Comic

I guess one of my first inspirations right back at college was Elliott Erwitt. He has such a sharp eye for finding the comedy in everyday situations and he captures it brilliantly. I have seen some of his photographs countless times and they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Erwitt, E. 'New York City, 1974'.

Take for example, ‘New York City, 1974’. I love the way that it is composed in such a way that it takes more than a quick glance to notice the full joke. The first thing your eyes are drawn to is the tiny Chihuahua wearing that ridiculous beret and staring blankly into the lens. Then you are gradually drawn left to the boots of the owner that dwarf the Chihuahua.  It is only then that you notice the HUGE legs of the Great Dane.

Erwitt, E. 'Segregated Water Fountains, North Carolina 1950'.

I think what possibly inspires me the most is his ability to handle serious issues in the same manner. One of my favourite Erwitt images is ‘Segregated Water Fountains, North Carolina 1950’. It goes without saying that he is commenting on a very heavy and serious issue but he still manages to be successful through using his trademark style. What hits me the most in the photograph is that the two sinks are interconnected by a water pipe, which surely defies the object of segregation.

Erwitt, E. 'Florida Keys, 1968'.

Erwitt is clearly a natural comic. I have never seen anyone else with such a fantastic eye for humour in the everyday whilst also having the ability to create a picture that captures it in such an eloquent and telling way.

Truly inspiring. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Jem Southam - Landscape Stories

Jem Southam’s ‘Landscape Stories’ provided so much of the inspiration for my current project that I feel the need to declare my love for it.

I think what I love most about Southam is his sensitivity towards the landscape. You get a real sense of love for the subject, and what really impresses me is that he achieves this without ever needing to shout about it. It is shot in such a delicate and eloquent way that it fills me with warmth, despite most of the photographs being shot on typically drab British days. Maybe that is because I share the same feelings for these places and this weather… I would be really interested to hear a foreign opinion on this work!

Southam, J. 2005 (Landscape Stories)

‘Landscape Stories’ comes across as extremely personal and sentimental whilst also maintaining the utmost integrity. I get the feeling from the pictures that these are places where he has lived, rather than him just passing through. He has a complete understanding of the landscape and has a genuine relationship with it.

Southam, J. March, 1999 (Upton Pyne)

It is very easy to compare this book with some work from Joel Sternfeld (another photographer that I love!), largely because they often adopt quite a similar visual style. However, after first impressions are out of the way it becomes clear that they operate very differently. To me, Sternfeld’s pictures don’t come across as being as personal or as sentimental as Southam’s. Unfortunately, the work of both has so many levels that it is extremely difficult for me to understand why. Maybe it is because I get the impression with Sternfeld that he is a bit more of a passer-by in his landscapes than Southam. That is not to say that I love Southam’s work any more than Sternfeld’s because I don’t. I just love them for slightly different reasons.

Southam, J. January, 1999 (Upton Pyne)

The Exploited Forest

I don’t want to turn this into a blog largely about my own work but it is probably a good place to kick off the blog. I guess what I am doing at the moment would fall more into the ‘beautifully mundane’ category than the downright ‘positive’.

A bit of background for you…

The Forest of Dean has a rich heritage of coal mining dating back hundreds of years and it really boomed during the industrial revolution. However,  after the Second World War, mining in the area was no longer economical and one by one they began to close. In 1965 the last of the major gales was forced to close and now only a few collieries remain.

Obviously this has all had a major effect on the landscape, but gradually the land is beginning to recover and cover over the traces of what was once there.  Today, there is fortunately (for me) still plenty of evidence and this is what I am photographing. I am making quite mundane (but hopefully beautiful) pictures that celebrate the landscape whilst also holding some subtle reference to what was once there. My aim is that I will not have to explicitly reference what the spectator is looking at but that they will gradually build up an idea as they look through the entire work.  It is a work very much in progress.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Is it all that bad?

Type in ‘Documentary Photography’ into Google Images and immediately a world highly saturated with extreme violence and despair fills the screen. Is this really a true representation of the world that we live in? In Photography (and everything else for that matter) we seem fixated on the extreme. Our vision is constantly bombarded with images of war and famine to the point that we begin to believe that there is little else. But we are only shown so many of these pictures because we have this craving for negative stimuli. We can never get enough.

The most beautiful things are often right under our noses.  To me at least, the local cheese rolling festival can provide photo opportunities that are just as revealing about the human condition as a scene of domestic violence can.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these things require focus…

but so does the cheese festival.