Future Photograd: Joanne Coates

We have had a lot to catch up on with Joanne recently, and so in this post we're bringing you some images and insights into her new work. We're excited to follow her journey and see where all of these amazing opportunities take her!

Continue reading to find out more..

From the series  We Live By Tha' Water

From the series We Live By Tha' Water


Series Description

We Live By Tha’ Water is a body of work that allows room for the unexpected. It speaks about a deep rooted anxiety with society as the sea is used as a metaphor and a place where worlds meet islands at an edge, land where cracks can be seen from afar. The sea is the last frontier against power. The series is drawn out of a fascination of power relations, it is a poetic and emotional response to the eerie elements that make up modern societies. It concentrates on the hinterland, using the island as a metaphor for the place in-between what is visible and what is known. A place between madness and sanity.  A complex visual culmination of personal anxieties and mental erosion. The unsettled foundations of the project allow for a playfulness to take place, where ruptures, and interruptions allow a sense of mystery and ambiguity to guide a dark narrative on the modern day. Using narration as a form of alternative navigation allowing one to re-frame ways of thinking and seeing.

From the series   We Live By Tha' Water

From the series We Live By Tha' Water

Series length

I started planning this work in 2014. I knew I was going back to Orkney to work with The Orkney Fishing society. I first visited in 2012 whilst making work in my first year of university, that work was The Plight of the Fishermen. I spent a long time researching the work, I was lucky enough that Simon Roberts was generous with his time and skype'd me to talk about the work I was making; he gave me great advice and really made me think about some points that hadn’t occurred to me before. I was worried about taking so much time out to make the series, whilst making a living. Simon made me realise this is vital to do. From making the work in Orkney I’ve been able to get commercial work in Scotland that supports me making the series. It’s important to consider people such as David Lynch who spent years, literally YEARS (I think seven to be exact) making Eraser Head. Realistically, unless you are incredibly lucky you will have to find ways of making work, supporting yourself and still will only just get by.

Series influences

I’m influenced by theory, philosophy, literature and film, by Andrei Tarkovsky, by Adam Curtis. Not directly so, but ideas from being immersed in different worlds of writers and artists often lead me to understand issues that unnerve me better. I visited the Archives at Orkney Libraries often, and was really interested in the sound collection particularly. It’s a great resource; I was able to make prints from old glass negatives and pour over archival material. I was also lucky enough to meet a group of artists doing a residency on one of the smaller islands, Papa Westray. Thinking in new ways across different art forms.

Images from the series   We Live By Tha' Water

Images from the series We Live By Tha' Water

Other influences were people, the people of Orkney, which is what makes the place so unique, it has a very Egalitarian society with artists, filmmakers, archaeologist, beach combers, writers, marine biologists and more. The narrative nature to our human encounters is also a huge influence. It all ties in, for me I can’t define one influence as they are all interconnected in some manner.  I met up with all different people in the community, a PHD student and writer Rebecca Ford for example, it just really spirals it’s so hard to name one influence or person in isolation. As human beings we work in this network of influence and shared culture. How can we really define what influences us when we understand so little about how we think? Of course the sea, and the islands themselves were a main influence. The remoteness they give allows for a clarity of vision. It also means working there you work for larger stints. Time and money don’t allow for easy access to Orkney. 

We Live By Tha' Water  installation image

We Live By Tha' Water installation image

Future aims for the work

I am currently having an interim exhibition, that I have quite specific ideas around how I want it to be shown. For this exhibition it had to be portable and not attached to the wall so I got a chance to play. I really would like the work to be made into book form but as the work isn’t finished yet and I have a very specific vision for how I’d like it to be, I’m still thinking things through. I feel the book format best appeals to this project but I don’t want to make a book in a rushed manner, it will be a very slow process for me. In the future I would like to exhibit the work but again I have a very specific, expensive and unorthodox vision for the work. This is not something I feel would take place as a quick process. 

Is the series finished?

No! I am as we speak on a ferry in the Pentland Firth, the point where the Atlantic and North Seas meet, heading back to Orkney to exhibit the work and continue to work on it. I lived in Orkney for the first half of the year to make the work and have been working there and supporting myself by working around the UK.  I am working on the project throughout October, November and December. I’ve been making field recordings, working with marine biologists about mapping, writing a text, playing and experimenting with different ways of ‘seeing’. 

From the series   We Live By Tha' Water

From the series We Live By Tha' Water

Anything else you’d like to include.  

An interim show is really helpful, I’m about 3/4 of the way through the project. I got some really great advice at a portfolio review from Richard Page that made me think differently about exhibitions. The advice was that not every exhibition is the finished piece, use it to play, to try new things, to try out your ideas, to see what works. Have interim shows, have living room shows, basically do what’s right for you. I’ve also started talking about my work more as I used to be quite closed off. Al Palmer, who runs Brown Owl Press, is a photographer himself and gave me some great advice and really understood the projects core.

Joanne's Interim Show at CHAT conference on rurality 2016, it's then going to be exhibited at Orkney College throughout November.