Liz Orton

University: London College of Communication

Graduation: 2014

Websitewww.lizorton.co.uk

Statement: I am a visual artist working with images, text and video. My practice engages with the ways in landscape is constituted through encounters with bodies and technologies. A Handful of Soil For The Whole Horizon develops these ideas through the book form, producing an ecology of images about a forest that brings together the real and the imagined. It uses photographs, diagrams and text, both found and made, to create a web of visual connections and disconnections based on documented and staged actions and disturbances. 

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook cover

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook cover

What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? I’m currently gripped by Ed Clark and Crompton Black’s Negative Publicity. The book is like a dossier – made up of numerous documents, images and text - and its structure mirrors the complex trails and traces of evidence compiled by the authors. It is a strong reminder of photography’s relationship to the political, and of the possibilities and limitations of photography as an investigative tool. The density of material in the book reflects the bureaucracy of extreme rendition.

One of my all-time favourite photobooks is Fig by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. The book explores the way that images are implicated in various political and cultural systems of classification, creating unlikely and uncomfortable associations that are both challenging and poetic.  

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

Direction: My route into photography was very circuitous. I was involved in participatory photography for a long time and didn’t really take my own photographs until about ten years ago.  

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon was the first project in which I broke free from the structure of the photographic series. The work plays with visual language, forcing connections between different images, and challenging traditional ideas of narrative in photography.  

When I exhibited the work for my MA I used lots of white space as well as a table to allow for different relationships to emerge between the images. I enjoyed re-presenting the work within the constraints of the book form. 

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

Considerations: I wanted the key images in the book - which I had appropriated and edited with permission from a botanist - to be experienced differently. They work as tip-ins on different paper stock (glossier and thinner), half the size of the other pages. Their repetition is like a punctuation or grammar that helps structure the book and create a rhythm. The paper is Munken uncoated and it’s light enough in weight for the images to be seen very faintly on the other side, which is an affect that I like as it brings together images through the page. The book is perfect bound so that it can open flat – that was really important to me. 

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook

Interior: I love the complexity that can arise from text and images working together. The text in my book is at the back, so it’s both in relation to the images but separate. I hope it both illuminates and complicates the sentiment and thinking in the visual work. 

The text is an appropriated and heavily edited form of an essay called Circulating Reference by Bruno Latour. The original text is about a field trip to the rainforest and describes the way that knowledge about nature is amassed in movement across a chain conversations and actions between people, images, text and speech. I am very interested in appropriation as a gesture. I think the notion of the photograph as a site of authenticity and originality is not sufficiently challenged in photographic education. The text concludes, “What a beautiful move. This discovery of strange and contradictory behaviour is worthy of a forest able to create its own soil.” This beautiful move seems to refer to many things: the understanding that knowledge is embodied and relational; the movement within and between images; and the relocation of a version of Latour’s text into my book. 

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

From the series A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon

Inspiration: I am quite resistant to the word inspiration, which implies a sort of mythical golden light that emanates from great people. For me it’s much more a slow drip of influences from diverse sources, both within and far beyond photography. Recently these have included: Ali Smith’s How to Be Both; Michel Serres’ Variations on the Body; writings by Kathleen Jamie; Maria Gafarova’s way of seeing the world; Bill Baker’s Field Guide to Palms in Papua New Guinea; Tim Morton’s Ecological Thought; cycling, walking and running (I think differently when I am moving); Jaoa Ribas’ book on the Holocene; Elena Ferranti’s description of the body’s dissolving boundaries; Jean Luc Nancy’s The Ground of the Image; recent work by Haris Epaminonda; Rosi Braidotti’s Metamorphoses; Ariella Azoulay’s Political Ontology of Photography; conversations with Sophy Rickett about the novel Paradise by AL Kennedy; Dart, a long poem by Alice Oswald; Find a Fallen Star by Regine Petersen. 

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook

A Handful of Soil for the Whole Horizon photobook

Advice and Future Goals: Blimey I don’t know that I can give any useful advice really. Just keep making and thinking and making and thinking. Accept anxiety. Stick with the ideas that you feel passionate about. Remember that struggle is productive – it helps move things on.