Edgeland Derives


‘Exploring Edges’ consists of new work based on 10 ‘derive projects’ on environmental and political issues on geographical ‘edges’ in East Anglia, Cornwall and North of England. Each project explores in different ways the interrelationships between documentary, visual creativity and activism and how this is affected by different styles in different media, different narrative forms and for different audiences.
Starting from sketchbooks, photography, video and written reflections from walks, car and/or boat journeys, together with conversations with local people and on-line contextual research, I develop a diverse body of work including illustration, printmaking, creative photography, short documentary and allegorical books and moving image work. These projects build on earlier Visual Communication, photography and art projects not presented for assessment because my work was disrupted by COVID restrictions and/or I did not have the necessary technical skills or digital equipment and/or the images lacked narrative focus.

I chose to cover a number of locations, partly to be more COVID-proof over autumn and winter 2010-2022. But also because I find working simultaneously on a variety of projects frees up my thinking on possibilities and generate a wider range of ideas for projects selected for more resolved treatment. This will also generate starting points for many ideas in future, and a good basis for audience and market diversity.

Through the series of projects on different locations and in different media I aim to establish a flexible and adaptable creative process going forward through contrasting and comparing:

  • different approaches to the initial documentary process and experience in different contexts: some locations are completely new, others ones I have got to know well. In some cases I am more or less stationary (eg sitting sketching or video on a tripod) watching life go by over time, other contexts are linear where I make decisions when, what and how to make an image (eg walks long narrow paths), other contexts allow much more experimentation in where I walk and make images (eg psycho-geographical transects). In all cases there are questions about how far I follow a random process to disrupt preconceptions versus more considered seeking out of images to illustrate issues based on prior research – and anywhere in between these two extremes.
  • different creative processes and combination of media to create one or more final outcomes and ways in which working in one media can inspire new approaches in apparently different media. For example moving image and audio to inspire photobook design, printmaking to inspire drawing and painting etc. This will also further develop my technical skills across a range of media for future work. Some media eg printmaking series of photobook will be used in the final product, other media eg on-line video may be used more for promotion. Again selection will be guided by audience/market research feedback.
  • different narrative forms and ways of combining images and the documentary narrative potentials and challenges presented by single images, single image series, books/e-books and time-based media.

Fen Edgelands: Cambridgeshire

Cambridgeshire where I and my family live is an area of rapid economic growth. The projects here look at environmental and social issues around ‘river edgelands’ of the Cam and Great Ouse and tensions between communities, increasing pressures on picturesque public spaces and environmental protection and bio-diversity.

These places have not been photographed to any great extent. So my own photography is likely to find a local and/or tourist audience. Projects here will focus on:

  • Personal derive narrative maps in Cardcut and Drypoint. Possibly as illustrated walk guides or e-guides.
  • Photobooks
  • Photography-based prints in photoscreen, lithography and solar plate.

Colours of Shingle: Suffolk

The Suffolk Coast has some of the most remote landscapes in UK and are extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels with climate change. It was also prominent in the defence industry for World War II. The continually shifting shingle banks present particular challenges for balancing environmental concerns with social and economic inequalities – with large areas of inland agricultural land owned by aristocratic families and large-scale farms, and decline in fishing (and smuggling). A key industry now is tourism that creates its own tensions. COVID annual festivals were cancelled, but in 2021 started to be replaced by smaller art events that re-interprete life on the edge.

There are already good local professional photographers. So I envisage using my photography and new sketchbooks for:

  • Printscapes in drypoint and cardcut, including some personal maps.
  • Short narrative books using creative photography eg textural histories, eco-poetry.
  • Moving Image work with shingle text.

Photos to be uploaded with permission from National Trust.

Love and Other Islands: Cornwall

Penwith in Cornwall is one of the poorest parts on England. The decline of the fishing and mining industries have led to high levels of unemployment. The tourist industry makes some contribution to the economy for some, but leads to serious pressures on housing and increases inequalities. For the outsider however it is also a magical place, Celtic heritage and museums of histories of hardship being a major selling point for tourism.

These four projects build on social documentary work, particularly photography, but there are already many local professional photographers.

My photography together with new sketchbooks will form the basis for a series of allegorical political narratives illustrated in printmaking media like gelliplate, drypoint, linocut, cyanotype and collagraph. As short books and/or Stop Motion/mixed animations.

Creative process

Aim to significantly extend my technical drawing, photography and printmaking skills.

Photography, photobooks and slideshows

I continue to explore the range of effects of digital black and white and colour processing in Lightroom, Photoshop and DxO FX filters on interpretations of images. I look at different Photobook designs.

  • how do different media affect how people interprete messages
  • how do different media affect how we see and interprete things
  • How does mood affect what we see and how we use media
  • How do our expectations about audience perceptions affect what we communicate and how

photographic interpretations from the first set of impressions.

Sketchbook drawing, painting and collage

Potential for serious drawing in sketchbooks on location was limited because my only access was in the winter when there were no crowds. Quick pencil sketches and notes as the basis for collage that can be used to interrogate my photographs. And be of interest in themselves as product. And some of the sketches and photo references worked up as ink drawings and/or graphite and/or gouache.

Karen Stamper sketchbook site

Mapping and abstraction

Documentary Print-making

Prints: solar plate, cyanotypes, screen print, cardcuts, linocut based on photographs and sketches that and woodcut over the summer of 2021.

Video and moving image

Documentary animations from these different outputs for Vimeo channel.