Assignment One: Combined Image

Produce a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings. Use traditional ‘cut and paste’ techniques to produce a series of photomontages using elements from two to five original or found photographs. Re-photograph the finished piece.

Using digital montage techniques produce a digital montage using elements from a minimum of two and a maximum of five digital files. Use components you have shot yourself.


Water is something that humanity has cherished since the beginning of history, and it means something different to everyone. (Fagan, 2011)

Water is the commonest symbol for the unconscious. The lake in the valley is the unconscious, which lies, as it were, underneath consciousness, so that it is often referred to as the ‘subconscious.’ Carl Jung

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. William Wordsworth

I decided quickly that I wanted to take the landscape option. I mourn the loss of summer every year but find that getting out with my camera in autumn can help the transition into the colder seasons. Instinctively I was drawn to local areas of water, we are fortunate to have an accessible canal network and a lake locally. I decided to work on a series inspired by the local lake, I didn’t necessarily want it to be about the lake but wanted to use that as the catalyst and see what developed.

I took photographs over a number of days.  I did not want to limit myself to a particular perspective so they were quite wide-ranging in scope from points of detail to the lake itself, from the houses around the lake to the carpark that provides access to the playing fields. The lake is a very popular public space; it has an active angling club, is concerned with wildfowl and conservation and is a two minute walk from the local small retail park.

Initially, I thought I might pick up a theme about the creation of the lake itself and the housing estate in which it is located. It is an entirely human made lake created to manage the water drainage for the estate. Originally the land that the estate and lake were built on was a plant nursery, particularly known for its Rhododendrons. My mum used to work there when we were children and it was a huge change to the area when the land was sold for development. I wondered about the politics of such changes and the tensions between perceived need and environmental impact. Not to mention the money that has been generated, the small retail area recently changed hands for £16.6m.

I wasn’t sure this was a direction I wanted to take and instead I became more interested in why I was attracted to the water, what was it that made it such an obvious choice for this assignment? I had been doing a project of my own around ripples and here I was again turning to the water. I started to do some research about the connection between humanity and water and came across ‘Blue Mind’ (Nichols, 2017).

Nicholls (2017) talks about the difference between Blue Mind and Red Mind, and that our red minds are toxic, over-stretched and overstimulated. This helped me decide what I wanted to do was create a series that worked with my emotional response to the water rather than a representational landscape.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein

I then mind-mapped some word association about the lake to try and understand my connection to this body of water:

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Grand vista
  • Blueness
  • Symbol of: change, purity, life and wisdom
  • Calm
  • Reflection/s
  • Subconscious
  • Emotions
  • Transformation and change
  • Tranquillity
  • Peace
  • Happiness

I started by experimenting with different images and introducing water into the actual production process, soaking and bleaching the photographs. Folding, shaping and bending to echo the shapes of the water. Printing on acetate to create layers. Having researched other photographers working with constructed images I also thought I might build the collages rather than flat cutting and gluing. I started by just overlaying the different images.

After reviewing Corinne Vionnet’s layered work I also wondered about the images of lakes that others take and whether we have an archetypal view of a lake. I collected a range of images from royalty free sites and created a contact sheet.

Twenty small lake/landscape photographs

Lake views

It was fascinating to see that just in this small collection there are lots of parallels – the big vista, leading lines, a specific vanishing point, strong horizons and lots of blue! I also noticed that they are mostly composed of triangles and used that to create a series of four collages. It was interested to note that even though I broke up and subverted sky and water my eyes were still making sense of them of lakescapes.

As I finished this I noticed piles of the offcuts I hadn’t used in the above set and liked the abstracts they suggested. I also played with some digital versions.

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.  Henry David Thoreau

While I was quite pleased with the results they felt emotionally distant and weren’t as evocative as I was looking for so I went back to my original images and decided I would go for a much simpler and cleaner approach that concentrated on the water rather than a ‘lakescape.’ Jung believed the archetypal nature of water was a reflection of the emotions and the unconscious. Water represents the often unknowable depths of our inner life. It can both sustain life and be a threat to it when it rages out of control. I decided on using the background ripples as a strip rather than using the whole page as it spoke to me of panoramas and horizons. The different overlays are used to convey a range of emotions and give a feel for the water.

I then took the same ripples into a digital process to create the final image.

I shared my process and the images at a Thames Valley Group meeting and got a positive response as well as some suggestions, like creating a physical ripple with an acetate print (instead of on paper). Group members talked about the final set evoking a sense of peace, of wondering what was beneath the surface, and liking the physical ripples. We talked about what water meant to us and one member described his experience of being a sailor and the importance of coming on deck in the morning and seeing the horizon, a moment that created a sense of calm and reassurance.

Preferences for the digital versions varied across the group. My preference is for serenity as the final image. From my perspective it speaks of the benefits of connecting to water  and nature as well as acknowledging we all have hidden depths we don’t, or can’t always access.

Digital collage of blue ripples and leaves

Serenity

References:

Fagan, B. (2011). Elixir: a human history of water: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Nichols, W. J. (2017). Blue mind: Macro Edizioni.

Paul Nash – uncanny landscapes

A monochrome abstract painting of the sea

Paul Nash Winter Sea, 1925-1937, York Museums Trust

During one of my many internet meanders during this section I came across Paul Nash’s painting ‘Winter Sea’ (1925-1937, York Museums Trust). It struck a chord with what I was thinking about for my water collages so I did a bit more research and found his work is showing at York Museums Trust until April 2018. I then discovered that the exhibition has been curated by John Stezaker and some of his work is also being shown.

“Nash felt a kinship with his surrealist contemporaries like Giorgio de Chirico and Rene Magritte. But his particular contribution to British art was to keep this estranged sense of unreality focused on the representation of the everyday world rather than on inner worlds or fantasy spaces.” Stezaker, York Art Gallery

I had some awareness of Nash’s paintings but hadn’t really realised how significant an influence he was. Views seem to vary on the quality of his surrealism but I find his landscapes from between the wars stimulating and intriguing. Seeing them alongside Stezaker’s own work is an extraordinary opportunity.

Coincidentally York Museums is one of the organisations included in a project I am currently working on so I am hoping to get to see the show in York at some point soon.

References:

https://www.yorkartgallery.org.uk/exhibition/paul-nash-and-the-uncanny-landscape/

 

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Towards assignment one

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble

pricked and the green thread

nibbled away, the petal fell, falling

until the only flower was the falling itself.

Water is another matter,

has no direction but its own bright grace,

runs through all imaginable colors,

takes limpid lessons

from stone,

and in those functionings plays out

the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

Pablo Neruda

 

In looking forward to the requirements for Assignment One I have been thinking about what I might do. Sometimes I find the subject immediately suggests itself but all I could determine at this point was that I was going to do the landscape option. I’m not sure exactly where but I know water will be involved, either the local canals or the lake. I have started collecting royalty free images of lakes and following on from my reading about Corinne Vionnet’s images have been thinking about archetypal viewpoints of lakes.