1.3: Bench

The river Cam is a beautiful place where I have walked for nearly 40 years. But it is in many ways a barometer of changing social divisions and trends between traveller and council estate residents, and affluent middle class and university outsiders. It is also a place of increasingly intensified public use, particularly during the COVD pandemic when it was difficult to walk at all because of the many unsocially-distanced new joggers along the narrow tow path. There is also now a rather ugly new cycle bridge along the railway bridge linking Chesterton to Fen Ditton as part of a new ‘Chishilm Trail’ cycle route. This will reduce some of the pressure and the cycle route will be interesting to explore. But the character of the area is rapidly changing.

Edgeland Diaries: Sketchbooks 2021-2022

‘Bench’ revisited: documentary photobook

BENCH is a body of work charting different views over time of and from seven benches as a reflection of changing lives and environments in ‘Edgelands’ along the River Cam where I walk nearly every day. The river Cam is a beautiful place where I have walked for nearly 40 years. But it is in many ways a barometer of changing social divisions and trends between traveller and council estate residents, and affluent middle class and university outsiders. It is also a place of increasingly intensified public use, particularly during the COVD pandemic when it was difficult to walk at all because of the many unsocially-distanced new joggers along the narrow tow path. There is also now a rather ugly new cycle bridge along the railway bridge linking Chesterton to Fen Ditton.

Photobook 2017

The project builds on, extends and updates work for a personal development assignment for OCA Landscape Photography. This started with photos taken regularly – at least once a week – from when I started the course in November 2014 through to just before May 21st 2017 – the day of opening of a new rail station that is likely to significantly alter the area. Increasing the litter – but maybe more attention will be given to clearing it up for possible tourists from London.

The draft Photobook produced can be accessed on: https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/7935361-bench

I also used the area, particularly Bench 7 at Grassy Corner for a local history research project on the same course.

https://photography.zemniimages.info/portfolio/spaces-to-places/

Bench 2022 Photobook for publication

I have continued to take regular photographs since the 2017 book. I plan to start with a series of psychogeographic A6 sketchbooks and iPhone diaries reflecting on my responses to changes as part of my work on OCA Illustration Sketchbook and Psychogeography short course. But these will continue into 2022. The sketchbook images and iPhone diaries will provide a narrative text that will either be incorporated or just inform my narrative and new selection of photographs. This information will also be supplemented from on-line sources and material from public meetings I attended.

But the main output envisaged is a photobook developed with a local audience in Chesterton and members of the Cambridge Camera Club focusing on what we might want as ‘Building Back Better’. Ideally this would be a book ready for publication – depending on the COVID restrictions over the autumn into Spring 2022. Or at least a good redraft ready for finalisation later in 2022. Some of the sketches and/or iPhone photos might also be included and/or uploaded to social media.

Edgeland Printscapes

Printmaking is inevitably a very considered technical process, compared to clicking a camera shutter. It is one that can be based on photography, but also where different realities can be combined and condensed in a single image.

Based on the observational documentary approach of Bench, I will select a series of photographs and sketches as the basis for documentary narrative prints in different printmaking media. This continues earlier printmaking projects of the river, particularly the screenprints in VCAP 1.1 Bridge.

I will explore the visual effects of a range of different print media and how they can be used to interprete and communicate different narratives including: photo screen and drawn screen prints, lithography, solar plate, drypoint, cyanotype, linocut, collagraph and card cut, monoprint techniques.

There is potentially a local market for art prints in Cambridge, as well as on-line.

In Search of the Wild: poems from the Edge

The project builds on my own reflections on my ‘search for the wild’ and the mixed underlay of  frisson and fear of the wild ‘Edgeland’ from a female perspective. See  ‘A Subjective Voice’  and other reflective pieces on landscape that I developed for OCA Landscape Photography.

‘Poems from the Edge’ project poses questions about ‘Edgelands’ – psychological as well as physical. It juxtaposes manipulated ‘edgy’ photographic images with well-known ‘English’ poems and/or other texts to create contradictory meanings about our relationship with the natural peri-urban environment. Underlying the interpretations will also be questions of the ‘female gaze’ – what difference might my gender make to the questions and responses.The word ‘from’ meaning also possible future ways forward, as well as present and past.

This is potentially a series of short books and/or on-line After Effects vimeo publications setting images. On a technical level I aim to significantly develop my proficiency with Photoshop, Light Room, NikFX and After Effects to produce something ‘edgy’ based on Japanese black and white photography of Daido Moriyama and others, and Urbex photography contrasting with Martin Parr style brilliant colour and producing style contrasts between the poems in both image and text. Some of the text will be redacted.

Using my own existing and further photographs from the river Cam (my daily walk) I could manipulate and juxtapose these with 6 well-known ‘English’ poems:

  • ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ Wordsworth (focused on litter imaginings of flowers and animals)
  • ‘On a lane in Spring’ John Clare (looking at water pollution)
  • ‘Tyger Tyger’ William Blake (mystery of the one wild patch where deer are said to roam – though I have only seen one and I think they are now gone)
  • ‘Xanadu‘ Samuel Taylor Coleridge (uses photos of the underneath of the A14 road bridge as another imaginary place of mystery and imagination – I have many pictures of stories told in pealing paint and gathering mould in puddles)
  • This sceptred Isle William Shakespeare (looks at ideas of identity and invasion/intrusion using photographs of cans left by Polish beer parties, exclusion of travellers and migrant labour from a designated traveller site contrasted with power graffiti left by University rowers).
  • ‘Jerusalem’  William Blake (uses pictures of pylons and power lines across the landscape)