Walking on the Edge

‘Walking on the Edge’ is a body of work about walking and walks with a camera, sketchbook or printing plates as a process of exploration and discovery. It continues my interest in interlinkages, interferences and tensions between personal, environmental and socio-political ‘edges’ in documentary of place. Using a diversity of formats, each project explores what it might mean to ‘Make the World a Better Place’ through engaging with different audiences.

Inspired by the writing of Rebecca Solnit and others on the experience and philosophy of Walking, psychogeography and documentary practice, ‘Walking on the Edge’ extends and links ten existing photo series and sketchbooks from earlier OCA modules that remained unresolved. Partly because I had neither the skills nor capacities at the time to do what I wanted to do. But particularly because of the restrictions of the COVID pandemic 2020-2021 that prevented access to locations and/or local people for input and feedback. The nature of the final outputs will continue to depend on the extent and nature of COVID pandemic restrictions 2021-2022.

1 Woman Walking: Hagg Wood

This first body of work looks at the philosophy and experience of walking from a feminist environmentalist perspective.

It takes the same set of photographs and sketchbook drawings from a walk through Hagg Wood in the Holme Valley, Yorkshire managed by the Woodland Trust. But develops and interprets them in very different ways with very different messages:

Hast Thou Slain the Jabberwock’ is an ‘edgy’ black and white moving image interpretation – the way I felt and sounds exaggerated or invented – about how the threat of male violence affects women’s experience of walking, even in apparently ‘safe’ environments. Inspired particularly by the photography of Daido Moriyama, but also the prints of Emil Dore and others.

Trees Talking‘ is a sunny colour moving image interpretation – how things actually looked and sounded – building on scientific research on the ways in which trees link and ‘talk’ to each other. Raising the question of whether ‘edges’ between them actually exist.

2 Defending Edges: Suffolk

Communities along the North Sea have a very long history, recently shaped by their role in World War 2 and currently a somewhat elite tourist hideaway. But there is a constant battle against the sea.

Colours of Shingle: Shingle Street
Southern Marshes: Orford
A Very British Day Out: Orford Ness

3 Managing Edges: Norfolk

Like Suffolk the Norfolk Coast is threatened by constant encroachment and erosion from the sea.

3.1 Burnham Marshlands: The marshes of NorthWest Norfolk around the cluster of villages along the river Burn were the busiest ports in England in Tudor times. Now silted up following the draining of the Fens, they are managed wetlands by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

The ancient sandstone cliffs of the coast between Sheringham and Cromer are collapsing into the sea.

A very delicate balance between which parts are retained and which are left to flood. With very difficult economic, political and environmental decisions to be made. With important consequences for the whole of East Anglia as far as Cambridge in the context of rising seas levels over the next few decades.

Reframing Edges: Cornwall

Many of these projects build on existing photo series and earlier VisCom projects that remained undeveloped. Others are new based on ideas I did not have time to start. All will be updated and added too with sketchbook work and new photographs. They will also be developed for final presentation in a range of formats, building on skills developed in different degree and personal development modules during my work on this Visual Communications degree.

Making the World a Better Place

The project continues my interest in different subjective and objective ‘outsider’ approaches to documentary, focusing on environmental challenges, social challenges of marginalisation and rural poverty. and the changing and conflicting identities and interests that have underpinned debates around Brexit and future visions for our countryside and environment. But – further my response to First Things Next – I am aiming for different types of outputs that fulfil different purposes: direct messaging, for different audiences linked to a broad ethical commitment. Provoking questioning from the viewer rather than imposing one single message.

I look at how my creative process, particularly documentary work, can be significantly improved through working with other people to help me to develop alternative narrative threads and visual approaches, building on some of my professional qualitative research skills.

I also link with relevant campaigning organisations like National Trust, Woodland Trust, local Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Rural England.

Audience engagement

All projects are further developed with the benefit of hindsight and perspective of deeper investigation and local knowledge to have wider relevance, appeal and impact. My body of work will include different ways of engaging with audiences to improve my work in terms of:

  • refining the ‘messages’ by getting a range of local views and information on social and environmental issues through conversations and interviews and local social networking sites.
  • engagement with campaigning organisations to get their input and advice on how to make my work most relevant and contribute to changes.
  • feedback on the effectiveness of the ‘communication aesthetics’ from local, national and also international overseas audiences to improve my technical and visual communication skills through ZemniImages Facebook page crosspasted to other social networks.
  • finding different marketing, promotion and advocacy outlets for the different dimensions of the body of work. Including campaigning organisations like National Trust, Woodland Trust, local Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Rural England.

Max Min Just right
Creative prompts

  • Artist and subject: the visual artist as voyeur ‘shooting’ images of issues and themes that are not necessarily the same as the subjects of the photo.
  • Is the image showing how things are, or how the artist wants things to be? or how the audience wants to see them? Selective editing and erasure (eg cars and rubbish bins)
  • Different focus and viewpoint – is the artist directing the image or leaving interpretation open?
  • Present, past and future – places change over time – even over a few seconds – short term, long term, historical perspective and layers – the past is always present but maybe the message is for the future.
  • Exploration and deepening understanding of tensions and contradiction of reality over time