It is difficult to know where to start with this project at this time as I will be leaving the UAE permanently in a few weeks. If I carry on looking into the ideas of borders, this will be very much based on internal borders in the UK so I cannot start actually photographing until I return. The other idea, in keeping with my own interests and the travel I have planned over the summer, is to tour the circumference of Wales, but again, I cannot start that for a few weeks. A third idea, which I can start to develop now, would be to look at the actual experience of travel rather than just the destinations. With a short trip to Bangkok in a few days’ time, this may be worth pursuing to see if anything arises that could be developed further. This is also in keeping with the Ed Ruscha challenge and my resulting booklet Nineteen Airports and a Metro Station, though obviously the photographs therein stretch back over several years so could not be part of this unit.
The trip to Bangkok yielded some definite possibilities regarding the actual process of travel, including shots from the airport and from the main railway station.
Although these photographs are far from cohesive as a group, I think there is a potential thread there that could be developed – the plan is to keep reading and taking photographs as I travel and see if anything more specific develops.
One mini project that I tried on the trip to Bangkok was to document the journey to the airport by way of billboards we passed. As the journey was around sunset, I decided that I would keep the camera settings the same for the whole journey and see what transpired. I took nearly 20 photographs, of which a few illustrative shots are below.
Although a week after the fact, I can still see what I was trying to get at, I do not think it was a particularly successful experiment, failing on two pretty fundamental fronts: a) it isn’t really saying anything and b) the pictures are not very interesting.
I managed to expand my photographs documenting the nature of travel itself this week with some shots taken out and about in Dubai (including an evening spent aboard the QE2). However, there still seems to be little coherence and I am leaning much more towards starting the project in earnest when I return home in three weeks.
Having almost entirely decided to start the project properly once I am back in the UK next week, I decided to spend my last week in Dubai on a mini-project that I have been planning for some time. Based on the ideas of psychogeography (as discussed in length in unit two) I printed out maps of several world tourist attractions and overlaid these onto a map of my local area. I then pinpointed where tourist photographs would have been taken on the original map and went to the corresponding point on the Dubai map and took a tourist photo there. I then processed these photographs in Instagram style.
Overall, I really like these photographs, primarily because they make me laugh.
No photographs taken due to relocation from one continent to another, but plenty of research into sites to visit along the Anglo-Scottish border next week. In addition to actually visiting the border crossing points, I will head for Berwick to see Berwick Rangers who play in England but in the Scottish league, as well as visiting Carter Bar which is both a border crossing and the site of the last action of the Scottish War of Independence. I’ll also spend some time in the towns and villages closest to the border – I have no particular agenda here, just to wander and see if anything strikes me. Furthermore, I’ll head for Hadrian’s Wall and Gretna Green.
Some very useful photographs from the trip to the Anglo-Scottish border. I managed to photograph much of what I intended to, along with some interesting new views – such as the two graves, one with a Scottish name, the other English, side by side in Kelso cemetery.
In terms of processing, I have long been impressed with the aesthetic of Don McCullin’s Somerset landscapes (see Contextual Research) and thought that a switch from the colour, desaturated landscapes of the previous unit to very low key black and white would suit the subject matter – my view of borders in general, particularly in the lead-up to Brexit, is extremely dark, as is, in my view, the future. I also included a moderate amount of vignetting again to reflect my own view on the situation, raising the idea of tunnel vision.
Clearly, there are too many photographs here, and many that replicate similar ideas. However, I will begin to narrow them down once I have visited the Welsh, Manx and Irish borders in order to create a sense of cohesion across the entire project.
Another useful week, this time shooting the border between England and Wales, which I travelled north to south. Some immediate points of comparison have arisen with the Scottish photographs – a graveyard (this time one where the border runs through the middle meaning some bodies have their head in England and their Feet in Wales), a football team (TNS are the most successful team in the Welsh league but their home ground is in Oswestry, England), an ancient wall – Offa’s Dyke, and the sites of historical battles.
Again, far too many shots, but once I have visited the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland, it should be possible to narrow this right down. With the book-making task, I sequenced these photographs geographically – west to east for the Scottish border and north to south for the Welsh. However, there are clear points of thematic cohesion arising, meaning that, depending on what I find in the rest of my travels, I will be most likely looking for a thematic rather than geographical sequence for the final project.
Following feedback from webinars, I have spent much of this week redeveloping the photographs so that they are less obviously ‘processed’, particularly regarding the skies which several people said, quite rightly I now think, detract attention from the actual subjects of the photographs.
Also, with research into the upcoming trip, a definite rationale is emerging. The photographs of the two borders so far (and I would anticipate much of what (if anything) I find int he Isle of Man) depict the remnants of events that took place between 5 and 8 centuries ago. Thus, by and large, they are somewhat bucolic with any direct evidence of battles, violent death and long-term enmity long-since buried (both literally and figuratively). The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a very different matter. As there is currently a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the future of this border post-Brexit, I thought it might be an idea to create a juxtaposition between the older borders and the one that still has fresh wounds, perhaps as an object lesson in avoiding repeating the past.
The Isle of Man presented one specific logistical difficulty with regards to this project – it doesn’t have a physical border to photograph. Instead, I continued to look at thematic links with the photographs I had already taken, and found that there were a fair few to be made. I found the site of the death of a national martyr to link to Llewelyn ap Gruffudd. I found a churchyard with graves side by side showing a huge range of differing influences throughout history, from 7th and 8th century viking graves, through medieval Scottish and English graves and more recent identifiably Manx graves. I also found the remnants of a wall, albeit this one a World War Two barbed wire fence from when many of the seafront guesthouses were turned into internment camps, and several battlefields from different points in history.
A very heavy week of photographing the more recent and raw history of the Troubles and how borders within Ireland (both national borders and sectarian borders) reflect the conflict. Some very clear thematic patterns have emerged, as detailed in the captions below. For the first time, I think the problem is going to one of having too many photographs for the project.
Having had the time to look through the photographs, I have narrowed it down initially to the following themes, each with two or three photographs from Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man and one contrasting photograph from Ireland. Although an upcoming trip to Moldova and Transnistria means I will be away until the day before submission, I will still use this time to reflect further on which photographs and how to sequence them. I will also look into processing the photographs to subtly increase the sense of threat that Brexit has certainly brought about in Ireland.
- Physical borders
- The landscape