Mode of operation (part one)

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but, having just seen the contents of Michal Iwanowski’s backpack, and reading Photographers’ Sketchbookslooks like the time is right.

Doing the work on the Roding Valley Park has involved frequent walks through the area at different times of day, and collection of different kinds of material (like sound recording and written notes) as well as making images. That has entailed having a light and compact set of tools ready at hand, which in turn has shaped the kind of work that I have made. A kind of iterative process of mutual shaping between way of working, form of the work and the place. Upshot of this is, reinforced by looking at other photographer’s working practices in Photographers’ Sketchbooks, thinking more carefully about working practices in relation to different projects, and what remains invariant (a component of practice that contributes to making an artist’s work distinct) and what varies with circumstance. And the question, at what level is the character of the distinctiveness of a body of work (and across an artist’s bodies of work), from the conceptual to the operational, formed? These are clearly important practical, and developmental, issues, but there is also, I think, a need to deconstruct the notion of personal practice, as utilised in arts discourse, as well as reflect on the development of our own practice.


Did portraiture course at City Lit last week. Preparation for getting to grips with portraits for major project. Made studio and street images with natural light, studio lighting (flash and constant) and on camera flash (including fill in). Lots to learn, but now at least have a basic grounding. And some ideas around the use of backdrops in the field. Selection of images below.

Hackney Wick

Needed some quick images for the oral presentation addressing the issue of gentrification, so stopped by Hackney Wick on the way to work. Here are the four images I used in the presentation. More work to do on the other images, and more visits to spend some time exploring further.


First attempt at linking sound and image. A lot to learn here. Initial recording is relatively high quality, but that has been lost in re-recording with image (as has the binaural audio, which has now become mono). This was just using a Quicktime screen recording. I’ll explore other tools. Click to play.

RVP soundscape for web


Exploring how I can get different forms of images to work together. In each case the central image is predominantly text or diagram (though, in the graffiti, for instance, there are both textual and diagrammatic elements, but maybe not immediately perceived as such).

(Re)visiting Roding Valley Park

Following discussion with Paul, Vincent and Clive in the Webinar last week (Friday 15th), I took at couple of trips back to Roding Valley Park (henceforth RVP). The  images present here focus on the creation of public spaces beneath the roads. I have incorporated found objects, maps and texts, and paid attention to the interface between the concrete (purposefully altered by humans with graffiti) and the relatively neglected natural environment (incidentally altered by humans). I am trying to convey as sense of the place in the daytime. There are technical and visual issues to be addressed (for instance, around lighting and dynamic range). I’ll follow up to explore in different lighting conditions. I have also made binaural audio recordings which I want to incorporate alongside the text and images. The sound from the roads is a key a feature of the experience of the spaces explored. I am also experimenting with the presentation of the images in triptych form to try to explore the play between text and image, regulation and disorder, human activity and environment.

The seduction of the sublime

It’s my last day in Newcastle this year. I took a cycle ride around the harbour at sunrise – the first day for a while that it hasn’t been overcast and/or raining. Unable to resist taking photos, against every intention. Such is the seduction of the sublime. Whatever, I’m going to miss this in Ilford … Watch this space for a conceptual turn.


Interaction through/with artifacts

I’m thinking about the relationship between the daytime and nightime users, and uses, of the place that I’m exploring (and, of course, the users may be the same people, but with different modes of engagement with the place, different interests and motivations and different relationships with others in that place at that time). One option for exploring this (without direct engagement, which could be highly problematic!) is to create artifacts that are left in the place for others (at another time) to interact with. I’m thinking about environmental artists, like Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long, who create artifacts in the landscape, and use photography as a way of recording these. Goldsworthy, in particular, recognises, and records, the deterioration/change that takes place in the work (made from objects found in the environment) with the passage of time. In this case, though, I’m thinking about human engagement and agency. So, an artifact is created, photographed and left for a period of time (overnight, and periodically subsequently) to see (and record photographically) how it has changed (or rather, been changed, by humans, animals, weather). This could range between total indifference and total destruction. Worth a try. Need to think about he nature of the artifact and the location. So I think the first steps (photographically) are to explore places within the park where activity and interaction takes place, and to explore the material for making that are available there, and subsequently to work on what can be made. Another option is to leave objects and explore/record their fate (and these activities and interactions leave their own artifacts for other to engage with and respond to, of course). But, I think it is worth figuring out whether making might work initially. Day/night is, of course, just one (extreme) way of differentiating between uses of the same space; this multiplicity of understandings and modes of engagement with the same spaces is a common feature of the increasingly intensive use of urban space. And in research, the use of artifacts to facilitate or provoke interaction and dialogue is well established. I need to explore the degree to which these have been explored photographically, and potential for images that illuminate, engage and provoke.

Roding Valley Park

This ‘park’ comprises of interconnected, overgrown and largely neglected spaces running alongside and beneath three major roads in East London. Daytime activities are mundane, nighttime activities furtive. A defining feature, and a key challenge in giving a sense of the place, is the noise from the roads, which, resisting visual and material boundaries, sweeps across the surrounding urban areas. My intention is to explore the relationship between visual, audio and textual (re)presentations in conveying a sense of place and the transition/transformation from day to night. Initial images are relatively banal.

A possible direction for development is to place work from this context alongside subsequent studies of similar ‘non-places’ and ‘edgelands’ in other places where I currently work: Singapore (where these spaces are developed by the post-colonial state as ‘green connectors’ for exercise, leisure and urban farming) and Australia (where colonial overwriting of traditional conceptions of land, access and ownership is opposed by Aboriginal communities). The very different conceptions of space of the government in Singapore and Aboriginal people in Australia both present a fundamental challenge to practice and discourse relating to public space in the UK.

Project starting points

A quick reflection on some topics to explore further through my photographic work: ageing, caring, memory, encoding and decoding (particularly in relation the neglect of interpretation in current cognitive approaches in dementia research and practice); collaboration, interactivity and co-production in arts and sciences; new and emerging forms of work and workplaces, and changing relationships with domestic and leisure settings and activities; public/private space and the digitalisation of surveillance; the ambiguity of ‘edgelands’ across cultures; creation of alternative narratives from shared visual, textual and audio resources; countering vulnerability, insecurity and the internalisation of authority through image making.