Category Archives: 2. Process

iii.Context

 

Historical context

Although I’d read around this topic quite a long time ago I waited until until I’d finished the photography sessions to read again and further as I wanted my mind to be clear to the present moment.

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During the late 18thCentury the growing industrial revolution was beginning to transform people’s lives. Steam engines were beginning to transform industry. Britain had built up-a large overseas empire. Owning land was the main form of wealth and groups of rich men had already formed turnpike trusts to improve and maintain certain roads – tolls having to be paid to use them.  There was money to be made and, of course, wasted as The South Sea Bubble had already shown early in the century http://www.thebubblebubble.com/south-sea-bubble/  – an early version of the technology shares crash in the early 2000s.

The first canal had been dug in the north of England and many more began to be dug throughout the country to make it cheaper to transport goods. In the late 1770s a group of Hampshire landowners promoted a new canal scheme to link Basingstoke with the Thames via the Wey Navigation at Byfleet in the borough of Woking.  Below is a PDf of notes made from my reading of several sources looking at the history of the Canal and its relationship with Woking:

History of Basingstoke Canal

 

To cut a long story short, the Basingstoke Canal Navigation Company went bankrupt in 1866, with seven owners during the next fifty years each finding the canal to be nothing but a financial liability – factors being the eclipse of most of the national waterways system as a result of the development of road and rail transport; the decline of both industries and the importance of agriculture in the South and larger /cities such as London and Bristol bringing in produce from other parts of England or abroad rather than from neighbouring counties. Commercial traffic on the Basingstoke Canal gradually dwindled – the last load of timber delivered on its route being in 1949.

By the 1960s the Canal, closed completely, had become weed-choked and silted, with crumbling locks and an overgrown towpath. Work began, in 1973, to totally restore the canal, after years of campaigning and lobbying by those determined to give new life to it. Hampshire County Council bought one stretch in 1970 and, in 1976, Surrey County Council purchased the rest of the canal between Woking and Frimley. The work took 15 years to complete, was supported by armies of volunteer labourers and publicised by boat rallies and events.  It was formally reopened in May 1991.

Between 2008 and 2011 a sustainable cycling town project was delivered within Woking, with the emphasis on connecting people with places, using sustainable modes of travel in walking and cycling and connecting to public transport for longer journeys. 26.31km of new off-road cycle network was constructed, with 12.9km along the Basingstoke Canal (The Saturn Trail) being ‘the jewel in the crown’.

Artistic Context

Even though I found the note recording tedious at the time I realise I gained a great deal of inspiration from the Projects/Exercises in Part 2. Throughout the process of the Assignment I had in mind those words of Mark Titchner  (see here) about gathering ideas together on how a City (or Town in my case) brands itself and how that can reflect on me as a resident; to source background material; see how historical areas have changed, and view the City as a non-static evolving place.  Titchner also uses as few words as possible to allow space for the viewer to insert their own meaning. His other sentence that really impacted on me was “The World isn’t working” – against something that someone else had said “Every problem has a solution”. The latter sentence is quite often used in business, but it had much force when said to me by a tour guide in Canada who was a member of its First Nations people and very much involved as a mediator between them and the Canadian Government.

I recognised the thought again during one of my walks

(grafitti on a wall under one of the Canal bridges)

When I did the reading for the Edgelands Exercise (2:6) (see here)  I also looked at Farley and Roberts chapter on Canals (2011: 117) and how canals are uniquely “able to offer a portrait of the decline in manufacturing, and the shift of power from water and rail to road” and how they now lead a double life, being adopted as natural features in the countryside, being associated with tranquillity and leisure, whereas in urban areas they are often ‘wet skips’. Therefore, I was alerted to seeing such changes on my walk.

(Grafitti seen on one of my canal walks 2017)

On the short stretch I walked there wasn’t much opportunity for creating any ‘land art’ in the sense that, for example,  there were no flowers to gather/arrange and, to my pleased surprise, hardly any litter to portray as a blot on the landscape.  Also, there was nowhere to sit apart from at the Woking junction with the path.  What I’d had in mind was the work of Stephen Turner which I’d looked at during my previous Module, having seen work at the Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, which he’d produced whilst  travelling with the Exbury Egg (see here) .  What I did do was to create a cyanotype from a digital photograph of one of the buildings.  I was quite pleased with the result, especially having exposed the cyanotype in natural, albeit not very strong, sunlight. The exposure took about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, it was only when I looked closely that I realised I had forgotten to flip the negative which meant the building was the wrong way round.  I did have another go a few days later having remedied the problem but, unfortunately, it was a poor exposure.

On the topic of alternative photography, I had also had pinhole photography in mind for some time, and using an empty drink can, but seeing such a lack of litter along that stretch of the canal has made me think that it might not be a good idea to attempt there.

Throughout, I had the work of Simon Roberts, his views of the British at rest in “Merrie Albion”, “We English”  and National Property: The Picturesque Imperfect  https://www.simoncroberts.com/work/national-property/  and his concept of the landscape as a stage on which people enact their lives and this is something I know I will carry forward in future assignments.

Amongst others my tutor pointed me towards Michal Iwanowski’s work Go Home, Polish which ponders on where home is and geopolitical agendas from the perspective of each individual.  On a smaller scale both these topics are very relevant to me, given that I have moved house and place quite often.  There is something within me felt as ‘home’ and this does link for me with Mark Titchner’s thoughts on how the way a City brands itself reflects on me as a resident together with how, in many respects, I become an observer of ways in which a community is affected by political choices.  My tutor also referred to Paul Gaffney  whose work I have seen beautifully presented in its soft-covered book. He chose his path, whereas mine on the canal was pretty much laid out in front of me, although I did have a look up some of the paths to the road. The most important aspect though is that Gaffney’s work has a slow, visually lyrical effect for me with no people and just the spaces, which I could equate with slow art and slow walking.

In terms of eventual presentation of the Assignment my first thought was a concertina book as this mirrors the ‘ribbon’ of the canal within the landscape.  I also appreciate the work No Sign of Canals on Mars: The Illustrated Travel Diaries of Eileen Burke by Tim Daly  (Fugitive Press) .   The work includes wool, postcards, a diary, various ephemera and c-type prints in a wallet. All placed in a small archive clamshell box.   A wonderful illustration of how ‘souvenirs’ can be put together to create a whole.  Again, probably not practicable from a short walk but that approach is on my presentation ideas list.

 

 

 

ii. The editing process: Assignment 2

ii The Editing Process

On the first walk I took 105 photographs and on the second 111.  On an initial look-through I realised (well re-realised) that I’m not very skilled at taking photographs of ducks.  I also felt concerned that I might have taken too many pastoral/pretty photographs.

First edit:  76 images from Session 1 and 79 from Session 2 chosen to process in Camera RAW.  (PDF available if my tutor wishes to look at them)

Second edit:  Total of 117 chosen

Third edit:  Total reduced to 89 but this was slow progress.  To begin with I was looking for the best of the photographs,  but I knew that some had been duplicated, in terms of the same view from different directions or a detail of a view and I decided this was the time to do more analysis. Analysis Table PDF below (numbers not an exact match due to cross-referencing)

Analysis of Photographs that made it to the third edit

Fourth edit:   Total reduced to 66. Contact sheet PDF:

Edit.4.ContactSheets.

I printed the contact sheets and after looking through decided I would keep the ones of litter in case I decided to do something with them at a later time, but not to include them in the final edit as this would give a disproportionate view of the walk.

Fifth edit: Reduced to 46 images in total. Created contact sheets which I printed and then sorted manually. Contact sheet PDF:-

Edit.5.ContactSheets

6th edit:  Total reduced to 30 images and this was a difficult process. Looking for a representative flavour without the series appearing too touristy/glamorized – not an easy task given the combination of water, Autumn greenery and reflections.  Also representative of what – objective in terms of how a walk on the canal might appear to be most people or subjective in terms of what I noticed but, then, I chose which scenes to photograph and now I’m editing them.  JPEG Contact sheets below:-

 

Penultimate choice:16 images which, at the moment I can’t seem to reduce to 12.

 

The next steps are to attempt to reduce to twelve for feedback, write about artistic influences/reading and then reflect on the whole process.

 

 

i.The walk along the Canal – Autumn 2018

Journeying along the Basingstoke Canal from Woking to St. Johns: Autumn 2018

 This wasn’t my first experience of walking along the canal. I sometimes walk over it to get to The Lightbox and the town centre if I decide to park in the nearby Brewery car park rather than in the Town Centre. In walks along the separate Wey canal I’ve walked to where it joins with the Basingstoke Canal in Byfleet.

This is just a brief flavour of the walk before I move on to another post on the editing process for the photographs:

I knew that the canal had fallen into disrepair and disuse over time; that it had been re-invigorated and re-born as a leisure area with the help of financial sponsorship and volunteer labour, having continuing improvements, including the creating of a ‘proper’ cycle path.  A new footbridge was built over the canal in Woking when the World Wildlife Fund in the UK built new offices on the Brewery Road car park. There were some protests about that – loss of parking spaces; it would tower over the canal; mask/spoil the view of it and digging might cause flooding. However, the building has melded in well, with its green ethos and following land contours. The new footbridge has statues at each end of the two famous, Woking born and bred cricketers, the identical twins Eric (1918-2006) and Alec (1918-2010) Bedser – both of whom lived in Woking all their lives, never married and always lived with each other.

I had two separate sessions of walks along the canal stretch on the 14thand 26 November 2018. On the first day I went in the afternoon.  It was a sunny, bright Autumn day and I quickly decided that the sun was on the wrong side of the Canal – especially being lower this time of year – shining in my eyes and also causing too much contrast, although the positive was that the ripples and reflections in the water were lovely to see.  On the second day I went in the morning.  The sun was in a slightly different place but, of course, I realised that as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west it will always be in the wrong place on that side of the canal!  There are paths on the other, town side, which are reached by occasional footbridges, but these are not continuous along the route.  didn’t walk all the way to St. Johns so didn’t reach the locks on this session and there were no boats travelling on the water, it being out of season, although a (very) few were moored. I didn’t give myself any strict rules as to what and when to take a photograph (channelling Stephen Shore maybe, who I wrote about here.  I realised that, apart from the ripples and reflections I was also attracted to ducks and the paths leading off the canal onto the road on my righ, t and a couple of times I did walk over a footbridge to the opposite side to see how the view differed. There was only very occasional litter – the odd empty drink can – and occasional graffiti which was interesting rather than annoying.

I came across people running or walking along, with or without dogs and babies in prams and soon learned to get a sense of when a cyclist was looming speedily and silently behind me. The path isn’t that wide and the water in the canal looked quite deep.

I was aware of the noise of the traffic speeding by on the main road into town on my left but it was screened enough by trees/shrubs for me to enjoy the quietness of the canal at that time of year, protected as it is from the roads either side.   I felt slightly suspended in time and decided in it’s a very pleasant way to get somewhere else, especially on a relatively warm, bright and dry day.  I wouldn’t be too keen to walk there at night though, especially going through the tunnels under the road bridges. The other aspect was my view of Woking as a town from a distance – the large buildings at the start; a couple of large, empty building plots and then the houses by the side of the canal. On the first session, if I looked back, I was very aware of the towering apartment blocks being built in the Town Centre, with their even higher cranes. The Council are very proud to boast that they have made the decision to do this rather than take up green belt to build housing – positive in one respect but, then tower blocks have their own problems and possible dangers, in addition to which some of them are going to be built over new shops at a time when present ones are being left empty as businesses fail.

On the second session when I walked further there was an obvious change as density of houses lessened on the opposite side. I was surprised at the number of locks (five on that stretch) which seemed very close together and made me realise how much the land rises and falls in this area when there I was walking along and feeling ‘on the flat’ with easy walking.

Next for the editing process and further thoughts after re-reading and research.