University: Blackpool & the Fylde College
Genre: Documentary Landscape
Artist Statement: 53.9230° N, 3.0150° W: This particular series examines both the temporal and perennial states of human activity on one of the North’s foremost fishing towns, encompassing industrial decline and social impact. Exploring the relationship between landscape, identity and broader social issues. It concerns the meaning and significance of places for their inhabitants and users. The project involves a process of walking and investigation and is a significant factor in the creation of the work.
Identity is defined as the qualities of a place that are recognised or distinct from other places. Place and identity are inextricably bound to one another. The two are co-produced as people come to identify with where they live. The narratives we hold from the memories of those places shape us. Exploring the relationship between place and identity deepens our understandings of identity formation and the role of place in social and psychological development. The bonds between place and identity can influence social formations, cultural practices, and political actions.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? I think the biggest standout moment for me was being told I was too technically lead. I would quite frequently consume myself with the technical aspect of a photograph rather than the subject. This forced me to slowly scale back how I thought about my work and forced me to think of the narrative of the images I was producing. Also, being encouraged to explore many different genres and styles of photography was an experience, even though landscape photography is what I love it was nice working with fashion students to produce the imagery they needed of their garments. If it wasn’t for the university environment, fashion photography is possibly something I wouldn’t have explored on my own.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? I regularly explore themes like deindustrialization, place, identities and gentrification. I find there is a relationship between a community’s identity and the surrounding landscape. My dissertation was also based on how national identity is represented through the landscape.
How do you define an ordinary place? Is there something that you always look for in a new location? An ordinary place to me is defined as an everyday space, one that we pass daily and overlook as nothing interesting. I don’t specifically look for anything in a location I get more motivated and interested by the political issues surrounding the landscape, whether it is an urban space or a natural environment.
What do you find interesting about everyday spaces? Is it that, because place and identity come hand in hand, this idea can be forced onto any environment, the outcome is just what changes? I find an everyday space interesting mainly because it’s usually a story waiting to be told, it has a history and sometimes the use has changed from its original intention. My interest in the identity of a place mainly started with this project, when I first set out looking at Fleetwood. My first focus was the deindustrialization of the dockland area that had shut down and how it was largely an unused, fenced off space and has been like that for a long time. The Docks, which was the first body of work I produced in the area, was literally just about that tract of land. It was at this point after spending a lot of time in the town that I realised it was a town struggling to move on from its former identity and as such, still had a huge story to tell because of deindustrialization.
I don’t think that this idea can be forced on any place; I rather think that all environments have their own cultural identities, which are distinctive. Each place will have its own distinctive story, which will always effect how you treat the subject matter.
What does walking bring to the process of making your work? Would you like to experiment working in a different way? Usually I will visit a place many times and do lots of walking and exploring, usually over a period of several months, this allows me to really get to know the place. There was a project I did recently called On the Fringe, which is based around the idea of the “all-inclusive holiday” and the social impact it has on the landscape and the place. In order to do this I went to Benidorm. My time was limited to capture this place, as I had only booked a week, so I did lots of advanced planning and research. I used Google Street and Google Earth a lot in order to research locations. I also used sites like Trip Advisor for local information and read a lot of reviews on various hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. This was a different way of working for me, but I have found that sometimes you need to be able to adapt if you want to be able to do the work.
What visual and theoretical influences did you have when making 53.9230° N, 3.0150° W? I used a lot of theoretical influences in this project. My starting point was Marc Auge’s theory of place and non place, but this also led me to the idea of place identity, which is a theory proposed by environmental and social psychologists and proposes that identities form in relation to environments. This theory is now sometimes used by urban planners and architects when transforming existing places and in creating new ones. For visual reference, I think the biggest impact was viewing the work of Christian Patterson. His projects Redheaded Peckerwood and Bottom of The Lake showed me that mixing styles of photography, like landscape and still life, is possible providing that there is a narrative. The work of Daniel Shea was also very inspirational particularly his Blisner, III and Blisner, IL as he documents the influences of urbanisation and industry on the landscape and community.
What camera equipment did you use for this body of work? I used a medium format Yashica TLR for this project, Ilford Pan F film and a tripod. For the still life shoots I also used a Bowens flash head with softbox and a reflector.
Why did you decide to juxtapose your chosen locations with objects? Do you think this gives the viewer a more intimate feeling towards the place and understanding of its identity? I felt that this project needed more context. I originally thought about environmental portraits instead of objects, but I ultimately felt that it wasn’t enough to represent the identity of this specific place. The juxtaposition of the landscapes and objects does give the viewer a more intimate feeling, as this identity is something that was formed and ultimately lost with the collapse of the main industry of the area and now the town is struggling to move on from that identity.
Are you working on anything new at the moment that you can tell us about? What are your goals for the future, photographic or otherwise? I am still working on the same project keeping the same themes and narrative and just continuing the story. I feel this place still has a lot more to give. For the future my biggest goal is to get my work published as a book.