I have found this trip hard which is surprising given that rather than having a one-week slot staying in Bed and Breakfast I now stay in our home in Skye for longer periods. I decided to start my shooting for the Work in Progress Portfolio (WIPP) earlier in the module (in Week 2) which had served me well in Sustainable Prospects. However, I had not factored in, because I didn’t know when I planned my trip, that there was a very significant workload in terms of the academic work and reading required in the first three weeks of Informing Contexts. In addition, we had more lectures, tutorials and guest and impromptu lectures, which were great, but nonetheless sapped up the time and my energy. However, I felt it was important to ensure I had firm theoretical foundations to support my practice and contribute to my Critical Review of Practice and Critical Research Journal. I think that was the right decision, but it leaves me anxious about my practical work.
My tutor commented that he liked the lone tree shots I had shown in the Webinar last week, so I decided to focus this week on one tree and its environment, going out in all weathers, taking some night shots and spending lots of time sitting under its branches. Skye weather is notoriously changeable and so I experienced a range of feelings and emotions as I made my images. After a few unsatisfactory days of shooting I felt unsure about taking just one tree as my subject and unclear as to whether it had enough variety and potential for me to create a portfolio of eighteen images. Also, I was still hankering after the Reeds of Loch Cill Chriosd – my WIPP for Sustainable Prospects – as one that seemed to provide more diversity in terms of the reeds, the water surface, the sky and reflections. This lack of clarity and focus was extending into my practical work, so I decided to take some time out and write a Statement of Intent for my WIPP. This is my current draft:
The Lone Tree – Metaphors of my Mind
On the ‘Road to Elgol’, on the Hebridean Island of Skye, is a solitary tree standing on a rocky outcrop overlooked by the Red and Black Cuillin Hills. The tree is young, slender and fragile, but battles the elements with resilience and resistance. It stands on its own but is close to a small clump of other trees. It passes through the seasons and all weathers facing daily winter storms but comes through strengthened each year.
This tree provides me with an anchor and a close understanding of its life and circumstances. I have studied and shared time with this tree over a number of years. I feel its warmth if I sit against the silver bark and a sense of companionship.
For me, it offers the time and space to reflect on my life and particularly my history as a police photographer. I see the tree alone but surrounded by others, I see it fighting against adversity and resolving painful memories and dark images of the past and also see it enveloped by the beauty of the surrounding environment and able to cope and carry on with resilience and fortitude. It has times of contemplation, high energy, intense beauty and companionship but also stands alone.
This work is intended to celebrate the life of this tree through the seasons of winter and early spring and provide a sense of its environment, and its many faces, moods and aspects. I present this tiny fragment of the natural environment of Skye as a metaphor for my own existence. The feminine shape of the trunk, arms lifted up high adds poignancy to its position in my life. It is, with the Cuillin and the reed bed at Loch Cill Chriosd, a fixed frame of reference that I can return to as the seasons of my life run their course.
As far as my image making is concerned, here are a few examples of my recent work:
My mind has been racing about all the questions I need to resolve and how I will develop my work when I return to the tree in early April. By then, spring will have sprung, and I expect the tree will be in leaf. The snow on the Black Cuillin behind the tree, that has eluded me on this trip, will hopefully provide a backdrop, and the landscape, although still with a pastel palette will be much greener than it is currently.
Questions to Resolve and Things to Do
- At the moment I am intending to present my portfolio in colour rather than monochrome. This will be my first colour WIPP. I like the pastel winter palette and it serves most of my images well. However, I also have some images that are in effect black and white. How will these sit in my portfolio?
- In my WIPP for Sustainable Prospects I added my own words to each image. Although, the feedback was good, I wonder whether an explanatory preface to my work would provide a more effective solution. This will give my audience some context to my personal journey and an opportunity to consider this before viewing the individual images. This would also fit well should I choose to produce a book as part of my Final Major Project.
- I have done a lot of background research about other photographers’ practice and work both in this module and previous modules. So far, in Informing Contexts, I have reviewed the work of Paul Hart, Matthew Murray (Saddleworth), Pentti Sammallahti, Helen Sear (Rice Fields and Grounded) and Guy Tal. While I am away from Skye, I need to do more in depth viewing of some of their work using Gilda Williams’ How to Write about Contemporary Art and a handout from Informing Contexts that provides a series of questions when considering artists’ work.
- I need to print some images for consideration at the three critique sessions I have booked at the Falmouth F2F event next week.
Lots to do and think about!
WILLIAMS, G. 2014. How to Write about Contemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson.