WIPP – Towards a Resolution

Figure 1: Phil Hill (November – December, 2020) PHO704 WIPP Iteration and development.


Figure 2: Phil Hill (November, 2020) WIPP Justification and Development.

I have aimed to create some iterations of my portfolio that consider the feedback that I was receiving (Fig: 1). After working through a series of versions and some additional justification (Fig: 2) I have settled with a version of my WIPP, which I believe takes on board feedback and also is true to the project that I aiming to present (Fig: 3).

Figure 3: Phil Hill (December, 2020) PHO704 WIPP ‘More lonely ere’ spreads.

More space to breath.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Early version of WIPP with images close together.

Key feedback was that my images were too packed in (Fig: 4), so I have sought to space things out so that they can be viewed in isolation and also some together (Fig: 5). This latest iteration continues the linear journey story structure but it is now laid out in a way that the reader can take in at a more subtle pace. I have also created my WIPP in 8×10 format to consider the 6×7 negative’s 5:4 ratio, which feels much more balanced than trying to place my images onto a standard ‘A’ size page.

Statement of Intent

I have now included some text to start the sequence off:

‘More lonely ere’ is a body of work inspired by Robert Frost’s poetry.

Located inside the M25 but not London and within the boundary of Hertfordshire but not the pastoral idyllic of the Home Counties.

This is a between place.

The project is a journey through a separated existence of individual rhythm to evaluate the idea of home and sanctuary; it forges a new relationship with spaces and the people I share them with.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (December, 2020) WIPP opening statement.

The text is a way to frame the project and set the reader off on the journey. I wanted to leave it fairly ambiguous so not to over explain, which has been a challenge of mine. I have placed references to the process, for example:

  • The title ‘More lonely ere’ translates to ‘More lonely before’ (ere being an old term for ‘before in time’), which suggests that by going on the journey the reader/narrator is less lonely than at the start.
  • Inspired by Robert Frost’s poetry – not specifically stating the poem ‘Desert Places’ where the title is from (1936: 44). Giving the reader something to discover, should they want.
  • Located inside the M25 but not London and within the boundary of Hertfordshire but not the pastoral idyllic of the Home Counties. This is a between place – I purposefully left Watford out of the statement of intent to continue the ambiguity and discovery for the reader. There is enough information of the location of the place and I aimed to provide a sense of its ‘in between status’
  • The last part refers to the personal connection to place that is part of the exploration. The idea of individual rhythm is one that I research from the Roland Barthes’ book ‘How to Live Together’ (Barthes, 2012) in which he considers the way that society lives in the same spaces but according to an ‘idiorrythm’ where we work, eat, sleep in the same towns and cities but rarely interact.

End plates

Figure 7: Phil Hill (December, 2020) Contact sheet of contents and titles for WIPP Submission
Figure 8: Jack Latham (2016) Back pages of ‘Sugar Paper Theories’
Figure 9: Jane Hilton (2013) Supporting information in the back of ‘Precious’

In this latest iteration, I have added a contact sheet of images at the end (Fig: 7) in a similar way to how Jack Latham did in ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Fig: 8), which adds some contextualising information for the images. Jane Hilton discussed this in relation to her book ‘Precious’ (Fig: 9), noting that she intended for the reader of the book to have to work for the information about each of the people she photographed (Hilton in Smith, 2016). I have discussed the need to not over explain my reasoning for the narrative structure yet felt that a certain amount of contextualisation once the sequence has been viewed without any text would be an interesting way of creating further intrigue into my process of putting the work together. Here I have attempted to include elements of the narrative structure and also further references to the poem of Robert Frost and the Edgelands that I photographed. I hope that some text would also bring the series further together in the way that I am creating titles for the images based on characterisations of the people and the place.

Constructed

This WIPP submission has become one of the most contrived and constructed sequences of images that I have created. The evolution from the way that I consider photographed and what they can do has fundamentally changed over the course of this module. One of the biggest takeaways for me, is in the use of narrative structure to construct my stories. This is a key element in the development of my work that I fully intend to carry forward into the FMP.

Bibliography

Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Hilton, J., 2013. Precious. 1 ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

Hilton, J., 2016. A Small Voice Podcast: Episode 35 [Interview] (April 2016).

WIPP Development – sequence conundrum

Although, I have been enjoying the sequence that I made in combining my portraits and landscapes, I seem to be receiving similar feedback of the differences between my landscapes and my portraits. It was suggested in the last webinar (26/11) that I might consider a sequence of only landscapes as they are stronger, which is Interesting as feedback for the last module was that my portraits were stronger. For Sustainable Prospects, I have created more of a focus on the landscape and potentially gone too far the other way!

Figure 1: Nial McDiarmid (2012) Hertford Street, Coventry
Figure 2: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Mum

The challenge that I have is in my portraits are formally shot and in the landscape but not of the landscape. Colin made reference to Nial Mcdiarmid and how his portraits do essentially the same in that the location is almost irrelevant (fig: 1 & 2). I have referenced Mcdiarmid’s photography before and found his work to be quite influential (even owning Town to Town), however if I consider the lesson from the Messy Truth podcast episode with Alex Coggin (2019), have I been aware of this influence in my consumption of it? This is something that I will need to investigate further.

Resolution?
Figure 3: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Tom
Figure 4: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Alistair

Are my portraits really that disparate from the rest of the images? Yes and no. I take on board the feedback received from Colin and others and is something that I will need to be aware of moving forward. More can be done to place the people in my portraits into the landscape. I do feel like I have made improvements into this for this module compared to the way that I approached my portraits for the last one. For example, I have aimed to include elements of the location much more into recent works, and have consciously shot some further away to show more of the location (Fig 3 & 4). Colin’s critique is of course based on the formality of my portraits compared to some of the landscape imagery, which is a mixture of formal and less formal compositions. Ross mentioned this when I asked for peer feedback and suggested that it is my formal gaze that creates the strongest images for him. It would be useful to re-evaluate this gaze and see if there are other ways that I can approach the images I make of people, which at the moment is possibly tied to the challenge I find it in approaching and creating them.

Figure 5: Vanessa Winship (2014) images from ‘Georgia Seeds Carried by the Wind’

When I consider the work of others, there are photographers who combine formal portraits with images of the landscape. For example, Vanessa Winship’s series ‘Georgia Seeds Carried by the Winds’ (2014), which mixes differing levels of formality in the portrait in line with Winship’s signature style (Fig: 5). It is clear that these are people all from the same place however, it could be argued that seen in isolation, each portrait is alienated from the place that it was photographed. With Winship there is a great sense of building the narrative through the sum of its parts as each image individually is as great as the whole.

I have looked at Winship’s work before to try and resolve the disconnect others note of my portraits and landscapes. I like the way that her images suggest a subtle nod to the location that they are taken. I also enjoy the idea of having the reader work for this, which I feel Winship does quite well. The narrative structure that I am applying should also be considered as a sum of parts that includes locations and characters. I have taken this so far but clearly have further to go.

Formal?
Figure 6: Bryan Schutmaat (2015) From ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’

One method to resolve this may be to only sequence formal composed portraits with those landscapes considered more formal. The resolution may then be in the treatment of both people and place by me. I have written about how Bryan Schutmaat seems to create a character from the land (Fig: 6). Perhaps when I treat the landscape in the same formal way that I photograph people, it could be considered that my landscape is also another character in my narrative and part of the structure that I have applied. This again is a way of utilising Graham Harmon’s Object Orientated ontology in the way that all objects, animate or inanimate have characteristics that create an influence: “All objects must be given equal attention, whether they be human, non-human, natural, cultural, real or fictional” (2018, p. 9). I will aim to create a new iteration of my wipp that includes the more formal people and places photographed.

Figure 7: Pieter Hugo (2013) Pieter Hugo, Ann Sallies, who worked for my parents and helped raise their children,  Douglas, 2013.

Pieter Hugo’s book ‘Kin’ (2015), also mixes the formality and contextualisation of political and personal portraiture with the landscape (Fig: 7). Jean Dykstra notes that “It isn’t clear, for the most part, how, or whether, many of the subjects are related to each other: but this body of work would seem to suggest that their specific relationships are less important than their shared humanity” (2013) that seems to support the observation of Winship’s work of the sum of the parts creating a collective whole. What is clear in both the work of Winship and Hugo and potentially where I need to put the work in, is the defined cultural signifiers that also place a sense of the location on the work. This is a clear area of development for me if it is also not being seen in my images by others.

Text?
Figure 8: Pieter Hugo (2015) Spread from ‘Kin’

Hugo uses Text in Kin (Fig: 8), providing snippets of information into the people he has photographed and potentially an area for me to look at. The right title may be all that’s needed to lift the contextualisation and place clear links on the people to the land.

Let go?

It is also important to respond to the feedback that I am receiving and create an iteration without people. I am keen to share a sequence without portraits to see if they really can exist without images together.

Bibliography

Coggin, A., 2019. The Messy Truth: Alex Coggin on Authorship [Interview] (May 2019).

Dykstra, J., 2013. Photograph Magazine – PIETER HUGO: KIN. [Online]
Available at: http://photographmag.com/reviews/pieter-hugo-kin/
[Accessed 27 November 2020].

Harmon, G., 2018. Object Orientated Ontology – A New Theory of Everything. 1st ed. London: Pelican Books.

Hugo, P., 2015. Kin. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.

Winship, V., 2014. GEORGIA SEEDS CARRIED BY THE WIND. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vanessawinship.com/gallery.php?ProjectID=175
[Accessed 27 November 2020].

Working Title

Considering the feedback that I have received for the first iteration of my WIPP (Fig: 1), I wanted to create a title for the work that lends a certain ambiguity to the reading. As the work is in part inspired by the Robert Frost Poem, I looked again at how Bryan Schutmaat titled his work ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’ (Fig: 2), which was inspired by the poetry of Richard Hugo. His title is taken from a line in the poem ‘Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg’: “Hatred of the various grays the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,  The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls who leave each year for Butte” (1992). Hugo’s poem uses the idea of ‘degrees of gray’ to paint a picture of the ebb and flow of human relationships, which relates to Hugo’s own personal experiences prior to writing this poem (Potts, 2012). For Schutmaat, this is a translation into the relationship between the people and the landscape in his photo series.


Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Peer Feedback on WIPP V1 blog post

Figure 2: Bryan Schutmaat (2014) Cover of ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’
A Desert Place vs Between Stars

Initially, I thought about titling this series ‘A Desert Place’ in a direct reference to the poem however, this could be quite obvious so instead I have considered the metaphor within the poem to see if any connections to my work can be made. A phrase that jumps out at me immediately is “Between stars – on stars where no human race is” (Frost, 1936, p. 44). Frost uses this line as a way of contrasting a vastness of space with the narrators own internal desert, which aims to create a kind of hope of putting one’s own personal challenges into a kind of perspective. According to analysis by Li Wang, this comparison “serves to aggrandise the speaker and the importance of his own personal desert” (2013, p. 2095). I can use the line ‘between stars’ as a way of emphasising the in-between nature of my images, or rurality of them. It also references the idea of connection to place.

More lonely ere

Another line from Frost’s poem is: “And lonely as it is, that loneliness Will be more lonely ere” (1936, p. 44). The word ere is a preposition meaning ‘before in time’ and I quite like the idea of naming the series ‘more lonely ere,’ to create a sense of the connection that I am attempting to explore with the sequence. This again is a way of placing me into the series and also an attempt of putting emphasis on the reader being the protagonist on the journey. As Wang also notes:

“It is an archaic word. As we have known that Frost’s language  is  so  simple  and  ordinary  that  the  common readers  can  understand  it.  But  this  only  archaic  word  appears  here  to  remind  us  of  focusing  on  what  the  adjacent sentences want to emphasize. It emphasizes the intensification of mood. The implied rebirth in the necessary melting of the snow and the re-emergence of the field as a real thing is an unassimilated lump of hope”

(2013, p. 2096)

I believe that this provides the best link between the poem, the metaphor and my images. Ultimately, my journey story is an intensification of mood from ‘the call’ at the start through ‘the journey’ and ‘the ordeals,’ toward a resolution and ‘the goal.’ Within the bleakness of some of the images that I am presenting, my aim is that is some kind of hope still, represented in the end of the sequence, and the goal (Fig: 3). The idea of ‘more lonely ere‘ essentially translates to ‘more lonely before,’ as to suggest that the act of completing the journey provides hope for a better relationship with place.

Figure 3: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Project Development and Narrative
Cover
Figure 4: Robert Frost (1936) ‘A Further Range’ book cover

I have taken further inspiration from Robert Frost and used the cover from the book ‘A Further Range’ where ‘Desert Places’ is published as inspiration (Fig: 4). Initially, I sought to emulate the cover but found that I need to develop this further and as I evolved the title, I aim to do the same with the cover. The basic referenced elements are there and I have change the colour to a green as a further reference to rurality and also included a three star symbol between the title and my name to visually represent the in-between element of the title (Fig: 5).

Bibliography

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Hugo, R., 1992. Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo.. Re-Issue ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Potts, M., 2012. On Richard Hugo’s, “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg”. [Online]
Available at: https://michaelpotts.livejournal.com/8861.html [Accessed 26 11 2020].

Schutmaat, B., 2014. Grays the Mountain Send. [Online]Available at: http://www.bryanschutmaat.com/grays [Accessed 26, November, 2020].

Wang, L., 2013. An Artistic Analysis on Robert Frost’s Desert Places. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(11), pp. 2092-2097.

PHO704 WIPP Peer Feedback

Figure 1: Phil Hill (September, November, 2020) Initial Work in Progress development

Figure 2: Phil Hill (September – November, 2020) Initial Work in Progress Portfolio development – PDF.

I have asked my peer group to give some feedback on my current iteration of my work in progress portfolio (Fig 1&2).

What I have found is that I am still trying to explain and add as much information as I can into the justification of the work. As a result, both Tim and Ross struggled with the ‘Journey’ concept in my work because I led with this explanation, which might have suggested that this is what the work is about when in fact the journey narrative is just the frame. Colin had suggested to me that I construct my story structure and then disregard it for the presentation, or at least keep it to myself. The structure is mine to disseminate as appropriate. Clearly, there are challenges to giving too many of the ‘secrets’ of my narrative construction away. This was supported somewhat, when I shared the same work with Kim and one of my work colleagues Ryan. I kept my justification very simple by stating: the work was inspired by the poem ‘Desert Places’ and an exploration of connection to place. Both of them were much more receptive to the work. My aim is to really consider the statement of intent for the work and see how it adds to the reading of the work, whilst supporting what I want others to see in it.

Ross Feedback

It’s tricky as I’m not familiar with the classic journey system for it. I think if that is important for you then you have to stick with it but I think there’s a better edit in there purely aesthetically if you were to mix the images in a different way. I think if they were all landscape format I would get almost a film still and maybe connect that in an easier way to the idea of the story. I find the mix of landscape and portrait more confusing if I am trying to think about it in that form but it’s the first time I’ve looked.

I am less drawn to the abstract images and the close up images personally. I prefer the more formal images that you create where there is a clear structure to either the portrait of the image of the object, tree, car, wall etc. I like that more topographic approach in your work.

I think the link to paths throughout do suggest at a journey but I find some of the images a bit confusing. The opening image is the only image taken inside, or I think it’s inside? The image of the hand with flower, although I really like it, seems out of place as well. I’m less drawn to the images where you are looking down as well as like I Said, I think your work is really strong when it has a formal gaze.

  • I attempted to justify the Journey structure first, which has created a challenge to the reading as Ross is attempting to resolve the sequence solely on this piece if information. This is quite valuable in the way that I will need to approach the statement of intent for the body of work.
  • I agree with Ross on The image of my Dad holding the Dandelion (Fig: 3). When showing the sequence to Colin he felt the same. I really enjoy this image but it does feel out of place in this sequence. I was keen to hang on to it because of the reference across Edgelands (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011, p. 141) and one of the metaphors in ‘Desert Places’ (Frost, 1936, p. 44) however, the image is clearly aesthetically different to the rest of the sequence.
  • Ross did also mention that I might want to consider taking an image from each section and building it up, which is something that I might consider moving forward.
Figure 3: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Dad holding Dandelions
Tim Feedback

I have more questions than answers when looking at this.

  • This comment is actually great. Exactly what I want from my sequence. Using the journey structure I hope that the sequence encourages the reader to explore and investigate. I am not aiming to answer anything with the work, only present a narrative version, or ‘truth.’

Presented in this way, I do struggle a bit to take it all in. The individual images are great, really strong, but the question is it’s about how it all comes together.

Your first image, the one of the looking through the window, of me is the standout image. And great that it sets us off on a journey of the hero. Through the piece we meet experience the various encounters, and people who aid or distract the hero on the journey. But are they a distraction, to our own experience of what the hero is going through.

I like how you have structured the narrative in the screen shot, through the phrases. The ‘Call to Action’ etc., as I then can see more of what you are trying to achieve and how you have thought about it.

The questions that pop into my mind are:

Too many different sizes to the images – does this lessen their impact

What if you removed 90% of the portraits. What would you feel

The ‘Goal’ completes the journey started out by the first image

Is the ‘Journey’ happening too soon. Are we not going out from urban into countryside as the goal.

This has made me think that there are images of ‘paths’ and that there are images where the path is ‘blocked’ and therefore our journey through the piece is about us, through the hero, finding a path from inside to outside, and the goal.

  • As with Ross, I went to a great length in explaining the way that I structured the sequence. This is a clear identification of the need to withhold some information from the reader to illicit a more receptive response from the work. For Tim, I even presented him with the structure infographic (Fig: 4), which then feels as though took over from other aspect of what I am aiming to do with this work.
  • There is some work to do on the structure as some of the images in the different sections may not be working. If both Ross and Tim are saying similar things here then it is important not to dismiss the feedback because of the way that I described it – this is only part of what I need to resolve here.
Figure 4: Phil Hill (November, 2020) WIPP compared to narrative ‘journey’ structure.
Colin Feedback

Colin was responsive to the way that I have created my first sequence. There are clearly areas that need development and I am continuing to work with the series on my wall to make adjustments and edits to the work. A key area to consider from my tutorial was to continue working on the narrative to narrow it down a bit more – Think of a direction and build it into the narrative.

Narrative Developments

I consider the journey story as a frame and not necessarily to be followed in the strictest sense as it may lead to quite a ‘closed’ linear sequence that leaves little room for ambiguity and multiple reading. This felt confirmed by me aiming to justify my WIPP iteration by explaining this structure process. I am also not aiming to answer any questions with this work – raising some, more likely. I like a level of ambiguity in the work as it acknowledges that the reading of the work is not mine to control, I only aim to lead the reader on a poetic journey through the landscape.

Referring to the journey structure, the idea of defined elements of the structure, for example ‘the call,’ the helpers,’ ‘the hero’s companions’ do not necessarily relate to the embodiment of a lead character or person at all. These can be an idea, or particular imagery that suggests a means of viewing the narrative. Christopher Booker suggests as much when discussing the idea of ‘Overcoming the Monster’ (2004, pp. 31-50), in which stories will create language to paint a picture of “immense menace and evil” (p. 37) over actual embodiments of what we might consider a monster. The same can be said for any of the structural elements that I am applying to my sequence. Instead they should be represented by a visual language that I create through the edit of the work.

If I were to be pressed on the idea of a protagonist however, this is potentially a story told in the first person, in which the viewer becomes the person journeying through the landscape. Ultimately, I am going to use Colin’s suggestion and build this up using the structure and the trope and then remove it to the bare minimum so that the reader is required to look for it. Of course, when questioned about the work, I can build up the picture of the narrative once again.

Bibliography

Booker, C., 2004. The Seven Basic Plots. London: Bloomsbury Continuum.

Farley, P. & Symmonds Roberts, M., 2011. Edgelands – Journeys into England’s true Wilderness. London: Vintage.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

PH0704 – Oral Presentation: Developments

Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Oral Presentation 1st Draft.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Oral Presentation Version 1 script

I went ahead and started the oral presentation and for some reason thought it was still 10 minutes. I completely missed the part of the brief that said this was needing to be seven minutes. A lesson in carefully reading the brief, which is something that incidentally I tell the students that I teach constantly. However, I have found this in good time and was able to revisit my original supporting script and presentation and even though I have had to cut 3 minutes of discussion from it, I actually think it is better as a result. Some of the topics that I was aiming to cover were done so quickly, which is also reminiscent of the feedback I received for my written work from Source magazine. I tend to try and crowbar a lot into my work, which is to the detriment of overall quality. The 7 minute version is becoming much more concise and also a bit more refined.

I would have liked to discuss some of the topics omitted however I can expand on these through my blog, which is probably a better place for these discussions.

Reflection – Project development

After speaking with Colin, I was pleased that the progress I am making with the edit of my work. Key to its success has to be in the way that I am applying narrative structure. I have tended to ignore its potential previously and unsure of how it could apply to a photographic series. However, I have discovered that it is a really valuable tool in the sequencing of my work, which I have always struggled with. The way that the ‘journey story’ narrative creates a kind of fantasy world also really resonates with the way that others have viewed my work. Michelle in the first module even stated as much in how my work highlights a kind of fantasy element to the subjects that I am photographing. Colin has also previously stated that some of my images have an idealised romanticism to them. What the journey narrative allows is a way of bringing these areas of strength in my work together in a cohesive way. I now realise that the success of my FMP will depend on the way that I eventually sequence using more narrative tropes and tools.

Work to do

Figure 1: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Dad holding Dandelions

I am far from done. There are some images in the present sequence that I am unsure actually work within the narrative. Potential to slim down the current set. For example, the image of my dad holding the dandelions (Fig: 1) is quite disparate to the rest of the sequence and may need to be taken out. I also need to continue looking at the journey and seeing how this can be reflected in the sequence.

I also feel the need to return to earlier research and see how this is reflected in my current work. I started the module looking at the idea of inanimate agency, informed by the idea of Object Orientated ontology. This is how to consider the way that the landscape and places impact on the people, over how we place a bigger value on human interpretation of objects. For example, Graham Harmon notes Edmund Husserl’s discussion of ‘Two Berlins’: “how can there be two Berlins, one of them a content inside the mind and the other and object outside it? In that case, there would be no way for the two Berlins ever to come into contact, and knowledge of Berlin would not be possible” (2020, p. 15). This is what photography does, effectively creating a third ‘Berlin’ – or in my case, Watford – bearing no relation to the concrete actualities that were in front of the camera at the time of the photograph. I spent a great deal of time researching this as an impact that the photograph has on the way that we remember and how the qualities of the medium of photography have an effect on the way it is read contributing to a nostalgia. Narrative structures feel like a natural progression for my work to further the construction of my own making. This has been one of the most revelatory progressions made during this module and as above, a key element to take forward into my FMP.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (November, 2020) WIPP test viewed in Adobe Acrobat Reader
Figure 3: Phil Hill (November, 2020) WIPP test viewed in Google Chrome browser

Presentation At the moment the first iteration of my WIPP was created as a PDF in a series of 4, 10 page spreads. I have found there are limitations to this and need to work towards a better display of the work. InDesign limits the amount of pages in a spread and also the presentation varies depending on the way it is viewed through a program, such as Acrobat versus viewing the PDF in a browser (Fig: 2 & 3). I am aiming for the work to be seen in a linear way, so it might be better to display the work using my website where I can better control the experience. That being said, there is also a need to acknowledge the need to some flexibility and relinquish control to the reader – they will inevitably construct their own narrative.

Bibliography

Harmon, G., 2020. Art and Objects. 1st Paperback ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Initial Sequence

Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Editing process – initial stages

After placing all of the work on a wall in my house, I found it quite useful to start creating sequencing and pairings of images that work well together (Fig: 1).

Figure 2: Ed Ruscha (1966) Every Building on Sunset Strip book

As the sequence for submission is going to be in the form of the journey narrative, I am keen to have it viewed in a linear way, so have place the work left to right in what could work as an accordion style fold out book. In a similar way to how Ed Rucha’s ‘Every Building on Sunset Strip’ (Fig: 2). I am going to attempt to experiment with this in print form to see how it might work as a physical publication and consider the ways that I might apply the technique later for my FMP. However, I feel that for the WIPP submission, I will possibly resort to creating this digitally to emphasise the reflection and development of my approach to images making.

Narrative Structure breakdown

Figure 3: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Initial sequence using Journey Story Narrative structure

The images in this initial sequence have been placed into the sections of the Christopher Booker’s journey narrative structure (Fig: 3). I have also aimed to take into consideration the metaphor presented in ‘Desert Places’ (Frost, 1936) and how the town shifts between rural and urban.

The Call
Figure 4: Phil Hill (November, 2020) View through kitchen window.

This begins at home (Fig: 4), Frost’s idea of identity and safety. I have used windows before in my submission for informing contexts. During the height of the first lockdown, there was a sense of everything being ‘radioactive,’ yet the home was a sanctuary away from this. The window creates a boundary in which to view this hostile world whilst remaining somewhat protected. There is a sense of wonder by having a viewpoint through the window, low and toward the sky that means the viewer id still curious and intends to want to investigate it.

Figure 5: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Carbenders Park, Watford.

The tree in the houses (Fig: 5) is a link to the rurality that exists all around. Nature existing within the urban environment and the many overlapping elements. This tree, obviously established is potentially older than the housing estate that surrounds it. Perhaps there were many more like it.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Fire Station, Watford

A more typical sight of Watford and to contrast the tree is the side of the fire station that flanks on of the older pathways cutting through the town (Fig: 6). It’s brick structure showing a level of built up urban environment that exists here.

Figure 7: Phil Hill (October, 2020) St Thomas Church – Disused
Figure 8: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Ryan

An early pairing for this module is the images of the Church and Ryan (Fig: 7&8). Religion has quite a presence in Watford with many bases for churches here. The symbolism of the boarded up church is an interesting one in terms of the narrative, suggesting that there is a need to seek faith or truth. I paired this image with the portrait of Ryan, owing to his tattoo on his arm of silhouetted figures with outstretched arms, or in the crucified position,[1] which could represent another break of faith. I am not aiming to paint an over picture of religion here however, the symbol comes with preconceived notions of faith, truth, identity that feed into the narrative here.

Figure 9: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Brick wall remains near M25

The bricks and the railing are also from the edgelands and make a good reference to the idea of rurality (Weisheit, et al., 1995). In terms of ‘the call’ there is a sense of a breakaway or move away from the present existence.

The Hero’s Companions
Figure 10: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Mark
Figure 11: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Cephas

Here I felt was an opportunity to include some of my portraits. Mark, who is a volunteer at the food bank across the road from my house (Fig: 10), and Cephas who is the caretaker at the school where my wife works (Fig: 11). It is useful to remember that in a journey narrative, the idea of a hero’s companion is to show that the protagonist of the story is not alone in the journey so it is worth acknowledging that within my own community there are people who support it.

The Helpers
Figure 12: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Mum
Figure 13: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Dad holding Dandelions

Here are two images of my parents (Fig: 12). I have included these as a way of considering the idea of connection. The hand holding the dandelions, or weeds is my dad (Fig: 13). In Frost’s poem, weeds are the ‘primitive thing without trace of man’ (Wang, 2013: 2094) and dandelions are also referenced in edgelands: “earth inheriting dandelions might also make their presence felt” (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011: 140). I quite like the connection made between the weeds considered without trace being held by a person. Within the journey story it becomes a parting gesture before the start of the journey and how to regain the connection between people and place.

The Journey
Figure 14: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Pathway running alongside the M25 motorway
Figure 15: Phil Hill (September, 2020) Whippendale Woods
Figure 16: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Broken Tree Swing, Bushey Country Park
Figure 17: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Den, Bushey Country Park

The body of the narrative I have sequenced is the journey itself. Starting with a pathway that leads into the journey (Fig: 14), I have included a sequence of the more rural part of the town which is the main part of my own exploration. Referring to Frost’s metaphor of the woods being the people and the society I sequenced my images to show an upturned tree showing its roots, symbolising disruption (Fig: 15). A broken tree swing (Fig: 16), showing more of a trace of people, and a built den within the woods (Fig: 17), which is another trace and also referenced within ‘edgelands,’ (2011: 41). There is a sense of the shelter and potential to re-build in the sense of finding identity and connection to the place.

Figure 18: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Alistair

I also placed a portrait of Alistair, the fly fisherman holding a Rainbow Trout (Fig: 18). Alistair, come to fish to escape the everyday stresses of life and the fishing can also denote a perseverance to continue on the journey. This image I paired with the tree and the house, which is in the same location providing some context and also linking back to the idea of rurality of nature and urban elements. The image if the trolley on the pathway, which is another reference to a journey.

Figure 19: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Izzy, Callowland Allotment.

I also included another portrait at the end of Izzy in an allotment (Fig: 19), which is another reference to ‘edgelands’ that suggests that allotments are more of a political tool over a beloved pastime of self-sufficiency, noting: “Allotments have been used as a sop to the dispossessed for centuries. The General Enclosure Act OF 1845 took 615,000 acres from the poor and gave them 2,200 acres of allotments in return, just because we love and value allotments should not stop us from seeing that they also represent paternalistic tokenism” (2011: 108).

What I aimed to show with the journey is much more of the pastoral elements suggested by descriptions of Hertfordshire that tend to overlook Watford (Else, et al., 2003: 250). There is a great deal of rural beauty however there are still problematic elements to consider, such as the subtle political tension in the perception of a benign allotment, for example. Or in how a community so tied to the identity of commuting how been uprooted (represented by the tree and the people and society metaphor present in Frost’s ‘Desert Places’) and trying to rebuild (the den). With the fisherman and the person within the allotment there is another opportunity to show the connection to the land and people and this represents a kind of discovery within the journey.

Arrival and Frustration
Figure 20: Phil Hill (November, 2020) North Watford Playing Field

After the journey comes some obstacles to overcome, which was my aim to show here. In ‘Desert Places’ Frost writes: “In a Field, I looked into going past” (1936) and Li Wang suggests the field represents nature, therefore in my sequence it is a way of acknowledging a return to the more urban parts of the town (Fig: 20).

Figure 21: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Obscured Billboard
Figure 22: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Damaged car.

The frustration then, might be a return to the existing environment of Watford, which is built up and overlooked, supported by my selection of the covered billboard (Fig: 21). The crashed car is a way of creating a visual stop, much like what happened to the car itself (Fig: 22). Frustration is evident in the damage done to the car. I also wonder what happened to force the car to stop so suddenly and whatever crashed into the back of it to keep going. The momentum of the narrative has halted in order to confront the next stage of the narrative.

Final Ordeals
Figure 23: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Tom
Figure 24: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Bag of Shredded paper.

Firmly back in the built up areas this section is about confronting those elements. The portrait of Tom (Fig: 23) in mirrors the portrait of Ryan (Fig: 8) to show a return to near the beginning. The bag if shredded paper suggests an unburdening or casting out of items not needed any longer (Fig: 24). There is also an idea of confusion associated with a bag of shredded documents and a curiosity of what they might have been.

Figure 25: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Buddleia bush blocking a pathway
Figure 26: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Roadside memorial.

The image of the Buddleia is blocking a pathway (Fig: 25) yet in edgelands its resilience is associated with hope in the sense that even in a wasteland (2011: 137), they are able to propagate. Phil Barker notes “The experience of being human is intangible. As a result, descriptions of human experience rely heavily on metaphor to convey something of that whole lived experience” (2000: 97) and I have also placed an image of a roadside memorial, which on the surface denotes a death in that location but also death can be considered as a new beginning.

The Goal
Figure 27: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Jess and Darcie

Back to nature. The portrait here is of my wife and daughter (Fig: 27) so there is a sense of personal connection this image. The goal of the series is to find a connection to place therefore the journey narrative is designed to move through all of the ups and downs felt by living in a place that I initially felt no connection but am since starting to make my peace with it.


[1] Which is incidentally from the cover of a Muse album created by Storm Thorgesson who utilises symbolism for many of his most successful covers.

Bibliography

Barker, P., 2000. Working with the metaphor of life and Death. Med Ethics: Medical Humanities, 26(2), pp. 97-102.

Else, D. et al., 2003. Lonely Planet: Britain. 5 ed. Footscray: Lonely Planet Publications.

Farley, P. & Symmonds Roberts, M., 2011. Edgelands – Journeys into England’s true Wilderness. London: Vintage.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Wang, L., 2013. An Artistic Analysis on Robert Frost’s Desert Places. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(11), pp. 2092-2097.

Weisheit, D. R. A., Wells, D. L. E. & Falcone, D. D. N., 1995. Crime and Policing in Rural and Small Town America: An overview of the issues, s.l.: National Institute of Justice.

Journey Narrative – Project development

Now that I have placed all of my images on the wall, I have started to look at how they fit into the metaphors of Robert Frost’s ‘Desert Places’ (1936). I quite enjoy the connections forming between the idea of edgelands and a kind of freedom in the detritus that exists there and the way that Frost paints a picture of someone needing to come to terms with themselves and the land.

There are a number of images that fit well into Desert Places metaphor: The open spaces, the weeds & overgrown plants (primitive without trace of people), Stubble in the field (the traces of people), home (Safety and one’s own identity), and the woods (people and society), which fit quite well with the images that I have been producing (Wang, 2013, p. 2094). The poem as a whole has proved to be really beneficial in the way that I select my images for the WIPP. This of course is an ongoing process and once I start to form a more solid narrative I will look at the images that I have identified and see if there are any refinements to make.

Structuring the narrative

With the initial images identified, I am aiming to continue working with the idea of the journey story. Initially, I have been looking at the hero’s journey however, I am thinking that it would be beneficial not to place to rigid of a structure by sticking to each of the 12 steps outlined by Joseph Cambell. I will use a version of this to start thinking about where the images might be placed in a linear way  – or perhaps even considering it part of a loop, as the hero’s journey suggests.

Christopher Booker suggests a structure to the journey story (2004), much like the hero’s journey:

  • The call (to action)
  • The hero’s companions
  • The journey
  • The helpers
  • Arrival and frustration
  • Final ordeals
  • The goal

My intention is to apply the above to the sequence of my images. I will also aim to highlight the metaphor found in Robert Frost’s poem along the way and reference to idea of rurality and edgelands in the way that the countryside and urban elements ebb and flow throughout the work.

Constructed narrative – contrived?

Although I have started to apply the journey structure to the work, there are no real traditional plot elements so to speak. My narrative is to be subtle and will loosely follow this structure, which is contrived and constructed. This is a further departure from the way that I have always thought of photography and is developing into a much stronger approach to the sequence. And this has been valuable, as previously I had based this primarily on aesthetic choices, which is quite subjective.

My aim is that my next WIPP will have a more refined narrative that connects the people and the places through the metaphor and idea that I have been exploring. It will of course still be subjective and ultimately, I still have little control on the reading of the work – if any. This will provide a good starting point as I move into the FMP to test whether I have been able to communicate my ideas more effectively than my last submission, and identify how to apply this to my final project work.

Bibliogrpahy

Booker, C., 2004. The Seven Basic Plots. London: Bloomsbury Continuum.

Frost, R., 1936. A Further Range. Transcribed eBook ed. s.l.:Proofreaders Canada.

Wang, L., 2013. An Artistic Analysis on Robert Frost’s Desert Places. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(11), pp. 2092-2097.

Grants and Funding continued

Continuing to look at ways of funding my work, I have made an application to the Carmencita film lab and Kodak grant (Fig: 1), which provides up 50 rolls of film together with processing and scanning.

I was particularly drawn to this grant as the timeframe would give me the opportunity to gain valuable resources to support my FMP. Although, I would consider this still in the development stages, I have also found it quite useful to consider my ideas for FMP and create a proposal based on this and it will inform the FMP proposal that we will be asked to create.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) Carmencita/Kodak Grant application