Cam Edgelands

Project re-starting Spring and Summer 2022 after long COVID and construction-related restrictions.

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 new ‘modern’ cycle bridge parallel to the railway bridge linking Chesterton to Fen Ditton as part of a new ‘Chisholm 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.

This body of work continues landscape drawing, painting and printmaking work since 2009, particularly two earlier photobook projects:

The project here continues my interest in ‘life seen from benches’, focusing particularly on the old railway bridge and new cycle bridge seen from Bench 1. The aim is to complement the existing photobooks, widening my vision and deepening my understanding of documentary of the place through developing new skills:

  • Bench Diaries: diaries from the 7 benches sketching, iPhone documentary and writing from life
  • Building Bridges: using existing and new photographs of the railway and cycle bridges sequenced and composited in Premiere and After Effects, including sound.

Insights and any photographs from the project here will then contribute to finalising the ‘Bench’ and ‘Bridge’ Photobooks after completion of this degree in the light of contributions and feedback from local people as well as other audiences.

Bench Diaries: Life Sketchbooks and iPhone documentary

This project will start in Spring 2022 with a sketchbook diary of pencil and ink and wash sketches of life and landscapes from each bench along the towpath. Linked to Illustration Sketchbooks Assignment 5.

Building Bridges: experimental video

This project will start in June 2022 with existing and new still images and video, linked to Moving Image Assignment 4 projects.

Sustaining My Practice: Further Plans

There is significant potential for local sales of Photobooks, printmaking and art locally, in Cambridge shops and Cambridge Open Studios and other events.

Bench Photobook 2023 for publication

Revised photobook based on the sketchbooks and video and with new photographs developed with a local audience in Chesterton and members of the Cambridge Camera Club focusing on what we might want as ‘Building Back Better’. Some of the sketches might also be included and/or promotional video footage uploaded to social media.

Bridge Photobook 2023

Finalise Photobook from VCAP with updated documentary context. Details to be specified.

In Search of the Wild: Edgeland writings and/or large photoscreen prints

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.

Using photographs and/or drawings from the river Cam I could manipulate and juxtapose these with 6 well-known ‘English’ poems and/or my own writing in a similar vein:

  • ‘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)

Another alternative would be to juxtapose images with simple satirical captions as a book and/or wall art and/or cards.