Last week was largely about organisation, getting ready for Landings.
This week has been focused on preparing for the portfolio submission. This requires a lot of reflection:
What am I doing?
What is the point of the work I am making?
Where do I go next?
I’ve always known that my project is about climate change, although during the course of the project, that has changed to the climate crisis. It’s a big subject, it concerns the fate of the earth, it’s ecosystems and all of humanity. When I have been struggling with the project, I remind myself that there is no more important subject. This is something that demands attention. If I’m struggling with making work around this subject, it’s me, not the subject. Confronting myself with this reality has been enormously beneficial. Knowing that the subject is big and important has helped me focus and define exactly what I’m doing.
The current body of work focuses on the coast. The original motivation was to find areas on the coast that were threatened by sea-level rise. I deliberately set the constraint that I would only travel within the South East of England (where I live). This was to avoid the charge of double standards in travelling overseas to photograph a problem, which in some part is caused by people travelling overseas. After I had imposed this constraint, I researched the area and found that it was very vulnerable to sea-level rise and hence I had a large amount of material that I could work with.
Initially, I took the approach of photographing places that were likely to be inundated and photographing them in a style that suggested imminent disaster. This tended to use the motif of dark, threatening skies. This worked for my first shoot, but I rapidly saw the limitations of the approach which was bourne out in discussions with tutors. So I reappraised this approach and started producing images that were lighter in tone and relied on a sense of disquiet, rather than a Gothic sense of menace. I feel this has been a successful move. The focus is more on the subject matter than the mood. It seems to me that the revised style allows a greater ambiguity in the image. It is in this ambiguous space, where the viewer questions the meaning of the work that they are seeing, that I have a chance to convey the sense of loss and foreboding which is the core of this project.
So I now describe the portfolio as a meditation on the coast, on how it is and how it will change. I want the viewer to identify with the pictures and consider how this scene will change as sea-levels rise. Then maybe, after consideration, they will change their own habits and start listening to those people (like Michael Mann and Sir David Attenborough) and organisations (like Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace) that advocate structural change in our society to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.
This crisis means that there plenty of opportunity to do new work. But I think I have taken enough pictures of the coast for now. For future work, I would like to focus more on the effects of the climate crisis on people, my fellow human beings. This will mean a move away from the landscape genre and a move to a documentary and portrait based body of work. This is very unsettling as this sort of work is alien to me. But I didn’t join the MA to be comfortable. I need to broaden out my practice into different ways of working and this realignment of the Foreboding project is an obvious way to do that.