Category Archives: Assignment 5

Response to Tutor Feedback on assignment 5

After submission of the draft assignment on 9th February (see here) I had  taken my ‘draft’ set of photographs to a meeting of OCA Thames Valley group on 15th February (see here)   My tutor sent me interim notes on my draft Assignment on the 18th February which gave me time to further reflect on my concept for the Assignment, and the response from fellow students, which I emailed to my tutor (see here)

Our video discussion of the Assignment was on 21st February and a PDF of the report can be accessed below.  The report also includes notes on our discussion of preparation for formal Assessment and I will write on this in a separate blog post:-

CBanks_LDS_A5 Feedback

We discussed the assignment in depth and the formative feedback is quite detailed so now I will focus on what seem core aspects.

Beginning with positive encouragement:-

Effective images, technically no issues – through selection and attention to wide vistas and closer details, the series draws you into this intriguing site….. the areas of water, butted to green then to dust, the way the ground almost looks as if it has sunk (I imagine due to a reduced water mass?) add to this undertone of peculiarity, surrealism.

 We discussed book design at length – based on my draft Blurb PDF and another thought I’d had about an altered book given that I have several copies of “War of the Worlds”.  We agreed that the altered book idea should be one for the future as this would need more experiment and planning and could be a Level 3 Project. I was reminded that the front cover is also an entry to my portrayal of the place – the viewer is standing on the threshold.  This links with my tutor’s comments on images which capture whole trees – they still work, “ … but it feels a little odd, pristine or overworked”; an image taken further back might allow the eye to wander more.

Great that I have developed a title, “The Eve of the War” and conceptual umbrella for the work – but what war am I referring to and why? The title seems too heavy for the tone of the images themselves; use the images as a guide to what is really being communicated.

The links to climate change seem tenuous as they link to the story rather than this particular place. When I had taken my draft images to the OCA Thames Valley Group meeting on 15th February I had received positive feedback on the whole but comments indicated some confusion regarding my narrative around my choices, what point of view was I taking and how that could be affecting the sequencing of my images.

My tutor suggested I could extend the parameters of the site and look for other images to provide visual counters between, say, density and sparseness; also visual echoes and others which allude to the idea of liminality which had occurred to me .

My concept

  • Allow my images to speak to me and coalesce into a firmer concept which can be vocalized. I have had one attempt at writing a more focused artist statement (see here) which had some positive responses from fellow students, but am still not satisfied that it entirely captures my perception of the Common. I’m hoping I will be clearer once I have looked through all the images again.
  • Words such as other-wordly; uncanny; surreal can point towards a liminal landscape which can provide a site for the imagination, for stories; provide thresholds between past, present, future, fantasy
  • Do some reading around liminal spaces and write a short blog post. My tutor has sent me a PDF of a Journal Article “Walking the wateryscape: Exploring the liminal “ by R. Keating et al (2012) together with an access link to Journal of Arts & Communities Volume Numbers 1-2.

Book design

  • Re-consider the front cover image, placement of the title and typeface. And give a rationale for choices.
  • Reconsider the title; match this with the images. I have chosen images which appeal to me; what is it about them and what are they saying to me? Listen to them.
  • The margins are at risk of being too narrow; give more space if in doubt unless working with a flat binding.
  • The images merit a larger book – a Blurb lay flat book would be good and worth the extra cost.

 

 

 

Further Reflection on my Concept for Assignment 5

 

The themes for me from the start were:

  • Aggressive invasion by the English in Tasmania, which disturbed H.G. Wells to the extent that he turned this on its head by describing the Martians behaving in the same way but being ‘beaten’.
  • Lack of communication and empathy with others who are different
  • What would it have been like for H.G. Wells to live in the Woking area briefly at the time?
  • What attracted Wells towards Horsell Common and sparked his imagination?
  • Destroying habitats and ways of living and being – Tasmania; European colonization generally; why the Martians had to leave Mars and find somewhere else; the struggle now between competing forces – the need for housing therefore attempts to develop green belt land or nibble at the edges of it; fights to protect it; fears now of increasing Climate Change; the Space race now to construct the technology to travel to other planets; my fear that if we eventually live on other planets we will slowly destroy their environments as we are doing on Earth now.

I knew that the Assignment needed to be more focused so decided to think myself into Wells’s mind-set and visit locations which are mentioned in his book.  I soon discovered that I was being too ambitious in scope and it was better to concentrate on Horsell Common since the Martians chose to land there. The Common is familiar to me and I’ve photographed there many times in the past, but it did seem different this time. I decided to take photographs of anything which caught my attention in some way rather than plan to walk in specific places. That and the fact that I hadn’t visited there for a while helped too, I think, as there had been interesting changes.  I realised anew what an unusual environment this is with its unusual and striking features and ‘uncanny’ aspect. I decided on the title of ‘The Eve of the War’ to portray the Common just before the Martians landed and with aspects of it that would act as foreboding signifiers – portents of a danger to come.

Our monthly meeting of OCA Thames Valley Group took place after submission date but, knowing that it had been submitted as a draft and that my tutor would be providing formative feedback, I took my ‘draft’ set of photographs to gain some peer feedback – see here   The feedback was positive but, as can be seen,  comments indicated that there was some confusion as to my narrative around the choices, the point of view I was taking and how that might affect my sequencing of the images.

My tutor sent me some interim notes the day afterwards, ready for discussion, and although generally positive, she also asked questions along similar lines but more challenging.  What war was I referring to; was I searching for Wells’s imaginary war and his prophetic ideas of how we have waged war against nature/our earth.  Is my project about climate change, space exploration or a visitation? If my series is about climate change then, unless this is in the sense of the apocalyptic, this is achieved by Wells’s story rather than this particular landscape and my images of it. Therefore, is this why I would feel that this is what makes the story so resonant today.  My tutor suggested returning to the images to question what they are really saying – sense of the unease, other-worldly, nature looking alien – is this notion of the ‘uncanny’, “unsettled” of more interest? In which case there are other images I could also use.  Alternatively, is this about a visual means of exploring a place that has been turned into a visual one through TV and film; to absorb the ideas that Wells was expressing and see if I could find traces of it on this site?

The issue has been that, for me, there are so many aspects which is probably why the book has been such a success continuously through the years with its various editions and other media stemming from it.  This fits very much with Tom Lombardo’s description of science fiction as ‘The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future’ (2015) with archetypal, mythic, and cosmic qualities.  (I wrote about his book here

Thinking over it all now I’m aware that all those themes were at the back of my head as I was walking around the Common, but I felt involved in what I was seeing and also connecting with its history. The sandpit, part of the Bagshot Beds, formed millions of years ago when the ‘Great Bagshot River’ deposited thick sands; all those people passing through history.  It was as if I was actually walking alongside H.G. Wells each of us with our different thoughts – looking at our surroundings as if through a stereoscope.  Looking back at my original proposal for the project I see I entitled it, ‘The War of the Worlds: Projections from the past to the future’ but I don’t think that quite fits now.

Looking at the Project in another way, I wanted to look at an area I know well through the mind and eyes of H.G. Wells to understand why he thought that the Sandpit on Horsell Common was a good place for Martians to land their Spaceship.  I have always thought that Horsell Common was an unusual place, something out of the ordinary, but this time I saw it with slightly different eyes through allowing myself to become even more in tune with it. I was looking at the remnants of an ancient landscape; sand the colour of the desert; pale silver birches in the sparse soil, thin trunks like fingers reaching to the sky and old trees, skewed branches clinging together on entwining roots. Hanging on to life in a changing world. Perhaps that’s the conversation I would have with H.G. Wells if we had ever met.

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Reflection on Assignment 5 (Draft)

 

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.

Assignment 5 Draft – “The Eve of the War”

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.

Evaluation

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

Artist Statement

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%.

TheEveoftheWar

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.

 

 

Assignment 5 – Photographer and artist influences

 My original proposal for the project included a beginning list of artists I wanted to investigate further. The timescale for completion of Assignment 5 didn’t leave much spare time for experimenting but I have continued to add to the list as interesting photographers and other artists have come to my attention. I am attaching as PDF an updated list.

Update and review of artist-research-suggestions-for-assignment-5

With completion of the draft Assignment itself I will have much more time for experiments but need to retain focus.  I have, therefore, divided some of the ideas into possibilities now and possibilities for the future.

Possibilities now

Aletheia Casey 

 The use of overlays paint or digital as in her works No Blood Stained the Wattle and The Dark Forgetting.  These are emotive works exposing as they do the treatment of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the early colonialists in Australia. There is a link though here with the impetus which led to the novel The War of the Worldsand I think that Aletheia Casey’s techniques could be transferred to the photographs I have already taken on Horsell Common.

Lewis Bush  

Apart from the complexity of his approaches to contemporary issues in photography, I am also interested in his use of altered books, an approach I had in mind from the beginning of Assignment 5. I already have several editions of War of the Worlds.  Again, this would, in essence, be a handmade book.

John Angerson

His projects English Journey and On This Day involve the use of ephemera, period artefacts etc alongside contemporary photographs of locations to connect present with past.  So far, I have vintage postcards so would need to collect more material.  I’m thinking here of a handmade book.

Possibilities for the future

Joan Fontcuberta

His fertile imagination has produced such fascinating work, much of which has involved not only the creation of elaborate ‘archival’ documents but organisms and animals too. I found an interesting article here which describes him not only as a conceptualist but as a “contextualist” whose projects adopt/appropriate authoritative resources used to legitimize photographic materials, and vice versa, in order to subvert them.

Fontcuberta’s later project Trauma (2016) builds on the hypothesis that images undergo an organic metabolism from a variety of processes which results in photographic wounds and scars. The latter veil the original subjects of the photographer’s lens.

Joan Fontcuberta: Trauma, 2016 from àngels barcelona on Vimeo.

This would take me into a more conceptual approach, using old photographs which I have already collected. But I would like to experiment with a completely different approach

 

Next Steps

  1. I will begin by printing some of my photographs onto Watercolour inkjet paper – probably at 5×7” size as experiments for overlays with watercolour paint.
  2. Experiment with digital overlays
  3. Decide which of my editions of War of the Worlds I will use as an altered book and then make a plan for how I will alter it.
  4. I also need to think about text
  5. Last year I gathered some striated red pebbles from a beach in Devon and I recently asked Anna Goodchild, OCA graduate if she could gather some of the red sand from Paignton beach and post it to me. I’ve also gathered sand from Horsell Common.  The impetus for this was a sand print that used to hang on the wall when I was a child – from a time when my mother went to the Isle of Wight with her parents. This layered sand print was something I’ve always remembered – in fact I purchased one such from eBay a couple of years ago whilst I was studying the Digital Image & Culture module and working on some letter from Egypt from my father. When the framed print arrived I was sure that this was the same one even though I knew it probably wasn’t. It’s squirreled away in a cupboard somewhere – must find it for inspiration.

 

 

 

Assignment 5: Third and Fourth Edits from Photography Sessions

Third Edit

In the next stage I decided to put edits from three sessions together and then reduced 51 down 40 images

 

 

Fourth Edit

I printed the contact sheets from the third edit and cut them into separate images.

 

I must have spent around three hours moving them around, seeing how they fit together,  matching colours, forming different sets which seemed to belong to each other.  I didn’t think there was a way to prune them down into one coherent set.  If I had different series could it be possible to link them?  Were there linking images?  if so, I couldn’t finding ; which isn’t to say that there aren’t any somewhere in all the photographs I’ve taken.  I decided that, for the time being, they fell more easily into three sets and this reduced the number to 21.

4th Edit Contact Sheets before division into sets

 

Three of them were of the Bell Barrows.  Six came together in a set with a dark mood that I called “Premonitions” for the time being. Twelve came together as Horsell Common and the Sandpit, with a cover image,

Premonitions

Horsell Common and the Sandpit

 

I will stay with Horsell Common and the Sandpit for now and format these images into a Blurb book tomorrow and evaluate my draft submission..

First and Second Edits on Photography Sessions

 1.Session on 23rd January 2020 tracing the Bronze Age Bell Barrows on Horsell Common

A separate area of the Common which used to be a whole, bisected by tracks, but is now divided by main roads. It could be easy to miss the Barrows if the signpost wasn’t there in its car park.  Quite near to Basingstoke Canal, although that wouldn’t be there in the Bronze Age of course. Even knowing the history of the Common it’s hard to think way back to when this area was fertile enough to attract these Bronze Age people who probably travelled from Wessex.  H. G. Wells doesn’t refer to them, but I wonder if he noticed the mounds as he cycled past and whether this put the notion of a Martian spaceship arising from the earth.

24 images of which 15 selected as a first edit after processing through Adobe Camera RAW. I noticed the moss growing on trees; the sculptural aspect of the small trees clinging to the earth; pale grasses growing on the approaches to the Barrows and the tracks over them.  I’ve kept wondering how they survived; maybe because they’re built on land not deemed ‘useable’ in the past, unless there was also some superstition about them which I haven’t found out about yet.  What’s also interesting to me is that the Barrows are across the road from where the Muslim Burial Ground was built  – completed in 1917 and so not there when H.G. Wells lived in Woking –  but a reminder of the contribution made by around three million Indian service personnel who fought alongside the Allied troops during the First and Second World Wars. All of which adds weight to the description of Woking as a ‘cemetery town’.

Contact Sheet

 

2.Session on 29th January 2020 on Horsell Common

In the afternoon there was some sun to brighten this dull day so I thought it would be a good time to go to catch the late afternoon light. I spent two hours on the Common and it was just going dark when I left.  I had some problems with the dynamic range due to the sun shining through the pine trees but hoped to level this out when editing.  The silver birch trees were quite striking at that time of day.   As the sun became lower I noticed how it warmed the colour of the sand.  I knew there was a sarsen stone on one of the main paths and ,when I couldn’t immediately find it, asked a lady walking her dog if she knew if the stone was further down towards the other car park.  She was puzzled, so I explained what it was and said I knew it was there because I’d taken photographs of it a few years ago. The lady said that she’d been walking her dog here for years but had never seen such a stone and would now look out for it.  I carried on walking and there it was opposite the side of the small lake. I had always thought it must be a marker stone and had once been sure that it had some inscriptions on it; perhaps noting place distances but I must have dreamt that.  It’s smaller than I remembered but there’s something solid about its weathered sides leaning with age as it is.

I also remembered how when we first went on the Common thirty years ago we got lost because it’s easy to lose direction there at first especially amongst the pine trees, plus there are so many different paths through them which can all tend to look the same.  In fact, we even bought a compass but found we didn’t need it after a few days and were able to give directions to other walkers who had got lost.

The Horsell Common Preservation Society has done a lot of work in bringing the Common back to more of the heathland than it had been and encouraging heather and grasses to grow back so, as I was walking, I was imagining that this might be a little closer to what it might have looked like when H.G. Wells cycled or walked through it and wondering what he might have observed that made him think of Mars/Martians. The Sandpit, of course, although the colour is yellowy rather than red; trees as barriers to escape; fallen tree trunks almost like prehistoric creatures; skeletal clumps of silver birch trees; low light shining on the silver birch trees as if being lit up by rays from something descending;  creeping tree roots like tentacles and twisted roots of old trees entwined around each other.

Initial processing in Camera RAW

103 photographs from this session processed in Adobe camera Raw using the same process – lens correction to remove Chromatic Aberration and enable Profile Corrections; into Transform to straighten if necessary; back into the main panel to look at highlights, shadows, whites and blacks.  Adobe Raw now has a ‘dehaze’ function which is kinder than ‘clarity’, brings some colour back to skies if highlights have been reduced and brightens colours slightly.  I felt reassured that I had some reasonable images. The next step is to discard the ones that aren’t good enough to consider – too much dynamic range, lost shadows, highlights too bright, choosing between similar images to find the best composition. I rejected four of them – three because highlights were bleached out on pale silver birch trunks to the extent that they could not be recovered. – the low early evening sun was too bright on them against the darker pines and I just couldn’t get the balance right which was a shame because the shadows  against the light trees would have had the kind of effect I was looking for which was the sense of something looming..  The other two because the shadows were too dark.  This left me with 99 images some of which were slightly different viewpoints of the same scene, so I had choices to make.  The first edit left me with 92 images little difference but this was because I needed to take a closer look at some of the similar images to remove slight vignetting on a few or crop very slightly.  With so many trees around it’s hard to avoid having stray ends of branches creeping into the top of images but they can also appear like tentacles.

Second edit

Left me with 51 images, some still similar but I could work with that.  Contact sheets below.

3.Session on 5th February 2020 on Horsell Common

I had been thinking for a while that it would be good if I could include some misty images as a metaphor for time past. There was some fog this morning so off I went. Not as satisfactory as I’d hoped because the fog lifted quickly. I thought about the fact that there are older houses on the edges of the Common so thought to include some.  The main problem was the modern features and it was tricky to compose in such a way to exclude these, particularly with some many trees getting in the way of the view anyway.  I hadn’t been entirely satisfied with choice available of the Sandpit images and the sun was lying better this time of day so more taken to give me a wider choice.  However, I was also aware of being strict with myself and not taking some photographs because, I told myself, “You already have several like this”. The result was 22 images. 12 chosen for further consideration.

Contact Sheet