Assignment 5 – Draft Submission to Tutor
My tutor approved my original project proposal (attached) with some cautious comments regarding ‘some ambitious starting points’ and, in view of the short timescale, to keep shoots as simple as possible being mindful about any experiments.
Overall, working on this project has been quite a rich experience for me. Since my move to Ottershaw I have rarely visited Horsell Common and I was pleased to see how careful conservation applied with light hands and sensitivity has improved it. Thanks to the Earl of Onslow more than a hundred years ago and, now, Horsell Common Preservation Society the public have access to a wonderful area. Attempts to nibble away at its edges for other developments have, so far, been successfully resisted and I hope that continues.
For my own benefit I felt the need to understand more about Mars, its fascination for so many people and the role that science fiction has played in suggesting future alternatives. I also needed to understand more of H.G. Wells’s life, thoughts/beliefs and literary output; although I concentrated mostly on the period during which he lived in Woking. I already knew a lot about the history of Woking but hadn’t realised to what extent its early growth was owed to the land speculation of the Necropolis Railway Company. This reminded me very much of the history of Silent Pool (Assignment 3). The early postcards were also a help in imagining what Woking looked like in the late 19th Century. Summaries are in my Assignment 5 Research Notes section.
I didn’t follow through on the possibilities I outlined for photographic approaches. The “search for Ottershaw Observatory” could have been a good map but I didn’t follow through on this for two reasons. Firstly, I realised that there was no way I could go on extended trips across Woking and nearby areas as this would have been a much larger project. Also, in 2016 a local historian Ian Wakeford had produced a very good set of illustrated walks to help celebrate the 150th year of H.G. Wells’s birth which included contemporary maps and photographs and he speculated that, in referring to Ogilvy’s house, Wells might have been thinking of a particular house in Ottershaw – a place called Queenswood – or, possibly Ottershaw Village, Ottershaw Park or Foxhills. Wakeford also included photographs of the last three and a map showing the locations.
I had said I would keep an open mind anyway and do an initial shoot and that’s what I did. It was Horsell Common and the Sandpit that fascinated me, imagining how Wells could have been viewing all those tree roots, the dark pines, the silvery birch trees and the colour of the sand. It would have been more open though and so probably a good spot to land a Martian space-ship. Even so, I couldn’t put myself into a mindset of wanting to destroy all of the area and its people. I felt the pull of the Common more strongly. Maybe it’s because such land is rarer nowadays whereas in Wells day it would have been pretty commonplace.
My photography and editing sessions are here I took photographs from various angles and at various times of the day. In my final edit I had difficulty in finding links between all of ones chosen so I divided them into three sets. My chosen set for submission is of Horsell Common and the Sandpit and my title is The Eve of the War.
The Eve of the War
Throughout this Module I have been interested in the way in which people use the landscape as a stage for creative endeavours; ‘performance’ and also as ground for stories. I used to live in Woking and one of the areas that fascinated me was Horsell Common which H.G. Wells had used as a landing ground for his book The War of the Worlds (1898). The book itself has had many manifestations since then, including a radio broadcast, films and television series. Wells’s Martians invaded Earth due to their own dwindling resources and the book is amazingly prescient given our own Space explorations nowadays plus the growing fear that Climate change will lead to the end of life on our planet Earth.
The purpose of my project has been to explore Horsell Common and photograph it ‘as if I was H.G. Wells’. What I have discovered is that the Common does have features that are striking and unusual and could easily have influenced his choice of it – twisted tree roots, dark pine trees, ethereal silver birches and, most of all, the Sandpit ; all of which provide an ‘uncanny’ atmosphere viewed in a certain way.
I used Blurb Booksmart software to format a standard landscape size book to see how the images look together and it is without text. I can already see how one image is too large for the space. A PDF is below and it is best viewed downloaded as a PDF from safari and read as a two page display and at 100%.
The images as a set are below too for comparison . I slightly altered the sequence, deciding that two of the images are too much alike so one of them is better as the back cover.
A personal reflection on the whole of the project follows, including artistic inspirations.