University: Falmouth University
Artist Statement: Interested in the landscape that we inhabit, The Unnatural Revolution portrays the exploration into how man and industry have had a significant impact in altering the natural landscape.
Digital manipulation was used to demonstrate these drastic changes by blending the land and industry together to create realistic imagery. The viewer is then forced to question the reality of each image.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Having the opportunity to be able to explore and photograph so many unique locations within Cornwall was quite special and something that I was lucky to be able to do. It is difficult to define three years into a short sentence, but being able to design, build, light and then photograph a set in the studio as a team was such fun and an unforgettable experience.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Probably a mix of landscape and documentary with a bit of digital manipulation. I seem to always start exploring Photoshop to see how I can alter an image, but not enough to make it unrealistic. I love travelling and exploring new places through my camera, so I would say landscape best describes the category my work falls into at the moment.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? The changes within our landscape is a main theme that keeps occurring throughout, but I think sometimes I try too hard to define my work within this category. Sometimes I actually end up blocking how I view a landscape because I get too engrossed and can spend weeks trying to find the 'perfect' landscape to photograph.
I also have a soft spot for natural portraits which used to be my main focus because of the raw emotion and the detail you can achieve using natural light. Going to university in Cornwall helped me see this same emotion and beauty within the landscape. But I do love taking natural portraits of friends and family on the side of my more fine art based projects.
What have you discovered about yourself through the creation of this body of work? As much as I love travelling, I'm not one to delve into unexplored landscapes but this body of work has pushed me to go to these locations and explore what they offer. To also be more outgoing and adventurous when selecting locations to shoot because this creates a much more interesting photograph to look at rather than the every day mundane.
What encouraged you to use digital manipulation to showcase your findings for this series? Is manipulating your images digitally important to your way of working? For one of the first shoots for this series, I went on a nine mile country walk where the majority of the it was unoccupied fields. I opened my photographs in Photoshop as to begin with I was disinterested with them. However, when I started playing around with layering the landscapes with large industrial buildings, I began to realise that I could actually create new images from mundane photos. Taking these images to a tutorial at university, other students and the tutors couldn't believe that they were digitally manipulated which signified to me that this was the way forward for my series.
I guess I have always enjoyed playing around with my images in Photoshop whether for this project or previous ones, but I think it all happens subconsciously and becomes important rather than initially intending for it to be important. Not all of the images in this series are digitally manipulated which links into the idea of leaving the viewer to question the state of reality.
What interests you to explore deeper into man's impact on the landscape today? Watching the landscape change and become over populated by developers buying out fields for new housing estates, I became frustrated because the landscape I grew up with was changing and was no longer fields and countryside. Instead of documenting the building of houses, I wanted a bigger impact of how man is changing the landscape so I turned to the industrial impact which created much more of a visual eyesore.
What do you hope for your viewer to learn from your images when they first see them? Do they need to know right away that they are manipulated landscapes? When the viewer first sees my images, I don’t want them to assume that they are visually attractive. I want the overarching effect to be the impact of industrial changes on landscapes and not the initial beauty of them. The viewer should remain wary that any of the images could be digitally manipulated which leaves it to the viewer’s discretion to differentiate between reality and forged because as a whole, we are so accustomed to seeing industrial growth.
How do you know when the time is right to photograph a landscape? Are you always on the look out for new locations? I always try to carry my camera with me so if I see a location I’m ready to capture it in that moment. I don’t really think there is a right time to photograph a landscape; it just has to feel right in that moment. For this particular series the idea was to create a lasting impact with the viewer. This lead me to make certain decisions such as avoiding direct sunlight to bring down the mood and tone of the image. Wherever I go even if I'm sat in a car on a motorway, I use my eyes like my camera and mentally capture an image to see if it would make a great photograph. So in that respect, I am always on the look out for anything visually appealing, including new locations.
Your images play with emotions and perceptions of reality; where does your own state of reality lie when looking back at your work; with the newly built houses or do you remember the land for how it was pre-development? Personally I think it’s important to keep engaging with the changes throughout the world and how quickly these changes are happening. This seems to be a reality that people want to avoid or ignore the growing effects of development. Growing up in Cheshire I was surrounded by fields, however over time those fields have slowly made way for new developments to accommodate the growing community. In fact more recently I’ve noticed roads I’d driven down numerous times as a child were now much wider adding in more lanes and roundabouts in some cases, to allow for more traffic. The Unnatural Revolution series was attempting to demonstrate these changes at their core and how these developing changes can affect the aesthetic of our landscapes.
Do you think it’s important to question the state of reality? I have split opinions about this question. One part of me thinks that a photograph should be as realistic as it can be to depict the truth, but I also think it’s important to open viewers eyes to the world of manipulation and just how easy it is to depict reality. I could talk about this topic all day because my dissertation was in fact based around the ethics surrounding the use of digital manipulation. There are no limits to what digital manipulation can do to an image so when you can use the opportunity to keep viewers guessing about the state of reality, that’s an opportunity I think should be taken.
What are your future plans as a photographer? I'm still constantly taking photos for this project whether it be on my camera or phone but I'd love long term to be able to become a travel photographer and travel the world documenting the same industrial effects. Until that dream can happen, I'm continuing with my own work and part time job to kick off funding for my long term goal.