My draft Assignment includes an evaluation but I thought it would be useful for my personal development to reflect in more depth.
I have mixed feelings about this Assignment. Time pressures/deadlines meant that I had to take a fairly narrow focus and be disciplined about not getting involved or side-tracked into wider avenues. There was little time either for experimenting with different approaches. On the other hand I surprised myself by how disciplined I could be, developing an inner voice that kept me in check, especially as I’d always been interested in Horsell Common as the site of the ‘Martian’ landing – living across the road from it from 2006 to 2014. I think that newly developed inner voice is going to be good for me in the future – new learning even at my relatively advanced age.
It was only during Assignment 3 and the Basingstoke Canal that I realised how ‘new’ the modern town of Woking is (as distinct from the earlier Settlement now known as Old Woking). It isn’t so obvious because Woking Borough as an urban district took in the older villages Byfleet, Horsell and Pyrford – all of which are mentioned in H.G.Wells book “The War of the Worlds”. I also hadn’t taken in the import of Woking being a ‘Cemetery’ Town either and the influence of the London Necropolis Railway Company. The historical reading was important in giving me a sense of the Woking of the 1890s and why H.G. Wells thought this was a good place to live with its Railway line to and from London and with surrounding areas to explore.
During my own walks and photography sessions I came to understand the fascination of Horsell Common and its Sandpit for H.G. Wells. This transferred to me and I think it improved the way I was using my camera to focus on areas of the Common that I thought could have been of interest to him. I gained a new sense of looking at an area I had known well which was also helped, I think, by the fact that I hadn’t been back there very often since 2014. Come to think of it I was also looking with new eyes because of two lots of cataract surgery during the past couple of years!
I took some test shots with my iPhone to begin with, to accompany my Project Proposal and also showed them to member of “Bridge” Group – a group set up by Anna Goodchild which is an extension of South-West OCA Group. Members of “Bridge” were very supportive, see here under the entry for November 2019. The photography sessions proper started in the New Year. I took quite a large number of photographs, so the editing process took some time; a good exercise though because I think I’m becoming more able to let go of images that don’t fit with others even though they appeal to me. I made strong efforts to concentrate my choices on images that would fit together as colours and shapes as well as provide an underlying narrative ‘uncanny’ effect without being too obvious; which is why I left out the gloomier images. I’ll be pleased though if I can make use of their darker mood in my future experiments.
The time factor meant that I played it safe, didn’t experiment with different approaches or technique . I had thought of using a Holga lens and maybe polaroid photography but decided against this in the end. A holga pinhole lens could fit with early photography certainly though which is something to remember for the future. One aspect I haven’t explored up to now is whether H.G. Wells was interested in photography; I’ve got an idea he probably wasn’t, but I could be wrong. I kept a note of interesting artists which I summarised separately here and, with more time and space available for experimentation, I have made a plan of action for further work.
There were several themes that occurred to me during my walks and the major one for H.G. Wells at that particular point was his disquiet at the behaviour of the English in Tasmania. Another current theme closer to home but connected is in the wider area where I live so much has happened due to land speculation intended for the profit of the developer rather than the inhabitants. This type of speculation, whilst not always apparently making a profit, has shaped the land. Even now, as I’ve written before, there are further large developments proposed without an existing infrastructure to support them and which will take away land such as Horsell Common. I feel thankful that so many years ago, the Earl of Onslow was philanthropic enough to ensure that Horsell Common, at least is safe – so far as we know. It could be said that I am looking backwards as opposed to what might happen in the future but I don’t think that’s the case because what I’ve been doing is looking at the choices that have been made about land ownership and management over time and the results of this for our present generation alongside the stories that we build around our environment.