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.


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.


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

Oxfam A updates 12/11

Figure 1: Phil Hill (November, 2020) One Tree app mock-up walk through

Continuing to develop this idea in preparation for the upcoming presentation, I have created a mock-up of the ‘One Tree’ app that shows some of the basic functions (Fig: 1 & 2). Throughout this process we have been keeping a collaborative document for notes and research, which I have found an invaluable method on working on a project, especially when we are all remote (Fig: 3).

Figure 3: Phil Hill Et al (October – November, 2020) Live Brief collaborative team notes and research document

The app has been quite a departure from the photography that I am sure was to be expected for this live brief however, when we were putting together ideas for the brief and raising awareness of the global carbon impact of social media, it was quickly realised that this kind of campaign would effectively contribute to the problem so we felt it important to create some kind of solution. That being said, an app would also contribute to the problem but it also provides the tools to both raise awareness and also contribute to the solution. The information provided by such an app would support informed choices about how we are individually impacting the environment. We also consider that social media and social interactions are also a new kind of ‘everybody street’ that we might use to interact with others even more so than one’s own neighbors.

Project Development, Reflections, Narrative ideas

Figure 1: Phil Hill (October – November, 2020) Research project images for webinar and tutorial.

I have been aiming to continue photographing with a focus on how the landscape images are linking to my portraits. I decided to use this as my point of discussion during the peer webinar and see how the images are being read and also potential ways to take this idea forward (Fig: 1).

During my tutorial with Colin he noted that my images had a sense of the idealistic and romantic about them, which is something that I am keen to pursue. He also noted that I should continue to experiment as I am not quite there yet with how the work is coming across. This is where I started to look at the idea of ‘Edgelands’ (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011) to see if there was a way that I could create better links however, I am still unsure if this is successful.

How I see this developing is through the narrative of the work is in the need to spend some time working on sequencing and my edit; overlooked for the sake of shooting more up until now. Colin essentially said the same as I need a structure in which the project can rest. Furthermore, I should create a narrative for the series even if, as Colin noted, ‘that narrative is wrong.’ This was something that came up again during the peer webinar, where Mike also noted that I should construct a story for the sequence, even if it is a made up.

Narrative ideas

Paper Movies

I like the idea of a constructed narrative utilising the images that I have already created. This is something that Todd Hido advocates, referring to the process as ‘Paper Movies’ (2014, p. 114), where he advocates that “The book can lead you to synthesize ideas and can become your permanent record of a body of work. When you pick up a book, you expect something from it. It has structure: a beginning, a middle, an end” (p. 114). I have previously been quite critical of photo books, owing to their limited audience of single demographics, which is supported by Simon Norfolk’s assertion that they only have appeal within the bubble of photography and is detrimental to the dissemination of that work (2019). However, perhaps I need to re-evaluate my position on this to use the photobook as a tool to create an effective narrative. Once this is resolves, it could provide a launch pad onto other ways to disseminate the work; and this is key to the way that I view the photobook.

In terms of how to approach my sequencing, Hido also notes: “I find it really helpful to work with pictures on paper, little printouts that you can move around on a table or on a wall. I’ve never found a fabulous pairing or a great sequence on a computer screen” (p. 114). I have been told this a few times during the MA, Michelle Sank is a big proponent of ‘living with the work’ for a while. This is something that I have attempted at various stages, however not really left those up for any length of time that could be consider valuable. During the last lockdown, it was also a challenge to print images so I had to become reliant on the screen. Perhaps, this is an area that could create value in the sequence and ultimate narrative of the work, so my intention is to fully ‘live’ with the images and see how they start to form, as Hido notes: “And then all of a sudden you have these chains of pictures that start to show the shape and structure of the story” (p. 114).


One other point that Hido makes with regard to the sequencing of his work is to think about music: “There may be motifs that appear and repeat themselves in different iterations in a long sequence. You can create a rhythm by being consistent from image to image and by paying attention to how the image hang together” (p. 114). Colin also made a similar observation during my tutorial when talking about the rhythm of a good photography book. How to relate this to the sequencing of my work, I am unsure however, feel that once the images are placed on a wall, this is something that will be important to consider.

Journey Narrative

One element that I use in teaching media, is the development of a strong set of defined characteristics that help form a visual image of a character within that story. This also includes the environment, as understanding the characteristics of the world in which a character inhabits will help to understand the way that the character will react to situations and events within that world.

Figure 2: Joseph Campbell (1949) Graphic depicting the ‘hero’s journey’ as studied by Campbell.

There is also the ‘hero’s journey,’ which although is potentially a cliché, could be a useful way to sequence the work and does lend itself very well to narrative construction and mythologies. There are different interpretations of this and the language used for each stage is hackneyed, yet the ideas that they present could be useful and present a method of creating a structured approach to sequencing (Fig: 2).

Additionally, my constructed narrative could also refer to Vladimir Propp’s character theory, which argues that stories are character driven and are the most important draw for audiences (Sampson, 2015) – useful to consider when placing my portraiture into the sequence.

Desert Places – Robert Frost
Figure 3: Robert Frost (1936, p. 44) Desert Places Poem

Earlier in the MA, I briefly looked at the poem of ‘Desert Places’ by Robert Frost (Fig: 3) after reading an analysis of Roland Barthes’ essays ‘How to Live Together’ (2012). It’s not something that I felt really worked at that point of the project however, I am keen to return to it and see if there is any way that it could relate to the work that I am making now.

The poem refers to a person travelling through the countryside on a winter evening who is overcome by feelings of loneliness (Wang, 2013). Li Wang creates a detailed analysis of the poem, referring to the metaphors it creates:

  1. Desert Places. It is the man’s moral and spiritual wildernesses.
  2. Field. It represents nature.
  3. Weed. It is the primitive things without trace of the man.
  4. Stubble. It’s the trace of the man’s presence.
  5. Woods. They are the people and society
  6. Whiteness. Open and empty spaces
  7. Snow. A white blanket that covers everything living.
  8. Blanker. Representing the emptiness that the speaker feels.
  9. Home. It is a place that man can feel safety and finds his own identity there

(Wang, 2013, p. 2094)

Figure 4: Bryan Schutmaat (2019) from ‘Good Goddamn’

Wang suggests that Frost is creating a personification of the landscape and people are essentially in the shadow of nature (2013, p. 2095), which is quite similar to the way that Bryan Schutmaat does the same in his work ‘Good Goddamn’ that gives a real sense of the landscape’s impact on the character awaiting incarceration (Fig: 4). We know very little of the detail of this character other than he is about to go to jail and the journey created by his interaction with the land creates a striking narrative to this series. Wang suggests that the underlying meaning of Frost’s poem is in the realization to the narrator that they are insignificant in the grand scheme of things however, Wang notes:

“If he does not want to live in the world meaninglessly like the nature, he should not have shut himself off to the world and let feelings as loneliness and coldness… run his life”

(p. 2096).

There are links that can be made to the themes and metaphor, which Frost creates. I especially resonate with the idea of the desert place being a moral and spiritual wilderness and how the woods represent people and society. Linking this to the idea of edgelands and rurality, there is potential scope to start creating characters from my existing portraits and also a character out of the land that is acting on them.

There are also links to be drawn to Barthes’ idea of how we exist in the same places but also separately, according to our own individual rhythm – or idiorythmically (2012, p. 132). I have equated Watford to a kind of edgeland town and during the last lockdown, I also felt that Barthes’ idiorythm reflected a general way society needed to remain separate. However, Frost’s Desert Places could be a more apt analogy and I will see how I can create a sequence around some of the themes here – especially as we are now in a new lockdown.

I am going to now focus on sequencing and seeing how my images are working together. The I can identify areas that need additional imagery or work to refine in other areas.


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

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.

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).

Sampson, R., 2015. Debate: Propp’s Character Conventions In Modern Film. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 06 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.

Professional Practice Developments

With the aim of developing my professional practice, and after the content from week 7, I have started to consider ways that I can improve the way that I am sending my work out to potential publishers, editors etc.

Key Takeaways from the presentation
  • Embedding images into email: Makes great deal of sense as editors will receive many emails per day, so reducing the amount of work it takes to get to those images is fundamental to getting my work seen
  • Portfolio: Having a physical portfolio is important as many people who see digital work all day appreciate the tangible qualities of print. What I personally like about a physical portfolio (a box of prints anyway) is the way that it allows the viewer to arrange and sequence work as they see fit, which allows a much more personal viewing experience. I have a box and sleeves, but have not updated the images within it. Something that I aim to update soon. The only caveat or course is the limit to face-to-face meetings that are happening now however, there is still potential to send portfolios for review if this is preferred.
  • Treatment: Not something that I have truly considered however, there is much potential to create a ‘treatment’ that highlights my unique visual language when writing proposals, for example.
  • Language: During the presentation Amy Simmons mentioned how using the language that is in a brief when creating responses and treatments. Something that I feel that I have been aware of but not sure, if I really capitalise on it. Considering this, I think it would be useful apply this tip when grant writing, which would really show consideration for their values. It would also be useful when writing pitches to publishers.

Much of the content within the presentation, I already knew, or at least was reminded of from my former practice as a freelancer. I have not been applying much of the tips to my recent sharing of the work, which linked to the amount of time that I used to do this regularly. The presentation was an important reminder to ensure that I am following some of the more effective ways of getting work in front of potential clients.

Keeping things a secret

Many of the photographer interviews that I listen to refer to certain projects and work, which is under wraps for the time being, or secretive until they are published. During Anna’s live lecture, she also mentioned that publications such as the New York Times would not publish anything that has already appeared on Instagram or personal websites. I have been quite keen to place everything that I have been photographing online, yet this could actually be detrimental to the success if my work – especially as I would also include a link to my website. My audience online is modest however, making the work freely available for public consumption would have an undermining impact on its monetary value, for both publishers and myself; whether or not my copyright is respected. Instead, it would be beneficial to share bodies of work after I have explored other avenues. This would retain its exclusivity and potentially monetary value. Ultimately, the work will end up online; it is just a question of timing.

On this note, I am going to pause the sharing of my work on Instagram and instead present it to potential clients in the first instance. I am also going to archive some of the images that I have shared recently to support the re-packaging and sharing of my carnival work and see how this affects its potential for publication.


Simmons, A., 2017. Week 7: Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons, Falmouth: Falmouth University.

Tell a Story – Again (Week 7)

I have been reflecting on ways to utilise and market my work for publication. This is to extend the reflection that I started when gathering feedback on the previous story posts (Fig: 1 & 2). In doing so, I have come back to the work that I produced for the first module to create some new sequences and consider the different ways the images might be read.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Week 6 ‘Tell a Story’ Task
Figure 2: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Additional ‘story’ created to gain peer feedback.

After the previous week’s forum and some of the feedback I received, I also do not want to try and explain away the images and see how they might be forming the narrative themselves (Fig: 3):

Journey into the Edgelands

After my initial discussion on the idea of ‘rurality’ (Beynon, et al., 2016) and how Watford exists as a place between countryside and urban sprawl, I have been considering this as a way to create links between the people I am photographing and the landscape. It was suggested that I also look at the book ‘Edgelands’ by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley (2011), which I have found to be particularly useful in exploring the boundaries of what makes the countryside and a town.

Figure 1: Roy Stryker (1939) Shooting Script for a small town

I have found that from some of my earlier research on the shooting scripts written for the FSA photographers by Roy Stryker (Fig: 1), as suggested by Todd Hido: “One of the most remarkable documents I’ve ever seen was the shot list Roy Stryker made of the things he wanted FSA photographers to shoot in order to convey the feeling of a common experience” (2014, p. 123). What I found immediately when reading through Edgelands, is the connection and links to the way that Stryker defined the areas that he wanted photographed in how Symmons Roberts and Farley are creating definitions of things and places within the concept of an ‘Edgeland’ informed by the experience of walking through them. What I have also found particularly revelatory, is that I have been photographing such places and objects fairly consistently (Fig: 2) and even more so, many of the areas that they refer to in the book are also places in the locality of Watford, for example the Lea Valley and the Ovaltine building in Kings Langley, not far from here (Fig: 3).

Figure 2: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Den photographed for Surfaces & Strategies WIPP (Unused). Dens are referenced in ‘Edgelands’
Figure 3: Zoopla (2020) Ovaltine Building in Kings langley

Symmons Roberts & Farley note: “Edgelands are part of the gravitational field of all our larger urban areas, a texture we build up speed to escape as we hurry towards the countryside, the distant wilderness” (2011, p. 5). This is a statement that I have particular resonance with as my own connection with the place is born out of this need to escape. Watford is built on its significant transport links; the direct rail into London, which is quicker than if you lived between two zones within the city in some cases. The M25 & M1 motorways cut through the town and multiple junctions service it. Historically, the canal also passes through. All of these transport link serve to bypass, go round, or straight through the town, to speed you in an out of London, or to the countryside (Fig: 4).

Figure 4: Google (2020) Map of Watford and surrounding area.

It is a concept that Marion Shoard also discussed in ‘Remaking the Landscape’ describing them as “vast in area, though hardly noticed” (2002) and in this sense, Watford is essentially an edgeland in the sense that its infrastructure has been designed to take you away from it. Considering Symmons Roberts & Farley’s own definition of what an edgeland is “The trouble is, if we can’t see the edgelands, we can’t imagine them, or allow them any kind of imaginative life. And so they don’t really exist” (p. 5), which is seemingly supported by Lonely Planet’s guide to Britain that makes no mention of Watford, even after making this assertion about Hertfordshire:

“Amid the ever-widening commuter belt surrounding London, the tiny county of Hertfordshire has somehow managed not to lose all of its open farmland to the suburban developer’s bulldozer, which lends the area a charming pastoral quality” – Lonely Planet Guide to Britain

(Else, et al., 2003, p. 250).
Figure 5: Lonely Planet (2003) map showing Hertfordshire without Watford

To be fair, Watford is neither Charming or Pastoral so probably doesn’t warrant a mention, yet Hemel Hempstead, a town a mere 7 miles away, does make the map (Fig: 5) and is mainly famous for the Buncefield Refinery fire of 2005 (Lewis, 2015). Instead Watford blends into the M25/London homogenisation on this map. A YouGov survey also recently concluded that 27% of people thought that Watford was a part of London (Cowen, 2020), suggesting that it’s place in the commuter belt is confused with being another part of the city – it is already on the TFL map after all.

Figure 6: Keith Arnatt (1986-7) From ‘Miss Grace’s Lane’

Using this as a basis for experimentation has a great deal of value as I have found it quite challenging to begin looking at landscape in a different way to how I have been approaching it up to this point. It is also quite a nice development that builds on the idea of the shooting script and how I have been utilising the black and white medium to reference photographic works, such as the FSA. The challenge however, is when hanging my approach completely on the concept of Edgelands it is the shear amount of work that has already been produced around this, whether explicit or implicitly. For example, Keith Arnatt’s notable series ‘Miss Grace’s Lane’ (Fig: 6),  also referenced in edgelands, explores the concept quite effectively, albeit attempting to empirically look at the detritus left down country lanes: “this is the work of an artist noticing things in the landscape without recourse to judgement or polemic” (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011, p. 69). Perhaps my own differentiation and take on the subject might place more of a subjective viewpoint on the reason behind pointing a camera at such places, which is based in my own experiences of them.

Images inspired by Edgelands and rurality

I have started to photograph Watford as a kind if edgeland with the aim of showing the boundaries of the place; The locations and objects that frame the town and also where the rural elements start to creep back in (Fig: 7). From this investigation, I hope to be able to create a visual language that explore the characteristics of place and the impact that this might be having on the people who live here.

Experimenting with the approach
Figure 8: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Reflection on the surface of the image

I wanted to explore the idea of a boundary by utilising the qualities inherent in the photographic process to create a visible boundary, which I discussed in a blog post on ‘Flatness’ (Fig: 8). I enjoy the abstraction that these images create (Fig: 9) however, made a decision to re-look at my existing approach informed by edgelands. There might still be potential to include some of these into the wider narrative as that starts to form, perhaps in a similar way to how I aimed to resolve my wipp in Informing contexts, maintaining links to imagery and research there. However, the work may become disparate, which is something I am keen to avoid as I respond to feedback on the links that I make with my images.

Figure 10: Richard Billingham (2004) From ‘Black Country’

There was a chapter in edgelands dedicated to the way that artificial light inhabits the land at night, disrupting and penetrating spaces that would naturally be void of it during this time: “What does an edgelands night look like? Looking up, a cloudy night can give back anything from a muddy orange to a bruised magenta, with many nuances of pink and red and brown in between” (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011, p. 233). Richard Billingham photographed such places in his series ‘Black Country’ (Fig: 10), utilising the way that colour film resolves artificial colours to create and interesting mix of flood lit orange and fading blue skies that create a solemn feeling of a nigh time landscape void of people. Not wanting to emulate this but also consider it as a way of showing the boundary, I created an experiment in black and white (Fig: 11) to explore the concept however on reflection feel that it is leaning to far towards an entirely different direction that needs development together with the need to additionally develop the technical execution of the technique. Again, there is potential to include some into the wider narrative once the sequencing of the work starts. I am considering methods of including a more cinematic approach to this, which might be valuable to have some time of day options.

Photography as dialogue

I have referred to this concept but not as yet really sought to develop it. If I am aiming to have a better dialogue with the place that I live through my images, what is it that I am trying to glean from the images that I am making? Is the communication that this suggests clear and concise? Clearly, I have some work to do in this area to better define what I mean by a ‘dialogue.’ Tiffany Fairey & Liz Orton, when referring to Ariella Azoulay et al state:

“They call for a renewed articulation of photography that moves us away from a singular, vertical focus on the work of specific photographers and seeks to understand photography as a ‘certain form of human being-with-others in which the camera or photography are implicated’”

(2019, p. 299)
Figure 12: Phil Hill (February, 2020) Discussing Patrick Waterhouse and Martin Parr

Therefore, my own approach will require me to analyse all the ways that I am engaged in conversation and collaboration with both people and place. Fairey and Orton’s discussion around this topic is particularly important to the way that I have been approaching as they make particular reference to the work of Patrick Waterhouse (Fig: 12) who I have discussed and referenced as a good example of collaborative and socially engaged work, yet they note that caution is required “as it is unclear how much control the Aboriginal participants have had over the final published collection of images” (2019, p. 303). I had ultimately not considered this argument when discussing this work.

Figure 13: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Developing a funded project application.

Consideration to the above will play a particular importance to my work putting together a funding application for a socially engaged community project (Fig: 13) and in turn will inform my research project in preparation for the FMP. I must aim not to impose my ideas of an outcome on those I am working with but instead come to a collective agreement, which is only facilitated by me.

What I am still missing and how to develop my approach?
Figure 14: Vanessa Winship (2012) Colleen, Lexington, Kentucky

There appears to still be a disconnect between my portraits and the landscape images I am creating now. Much of this is born in the way that I am separating the process of photographing. I specifically go out to photograph one or the other and rarely cross over. This is a clear area of development for me. Key influences for the way that I have produced portraiture are informed through the work of Vanessa Winship and Alys Tomlinson who use a individual approach focussing on the subject together with a shallow depth of field (Fig: 14) however, it is still clear, even subtly, that the portraits are connected to the landscape and detail images. I must make more of an effort to provide subtle hints of place even when solely focussed on the individual. Sequencing and juxtaposition may play a part in this when I come to editing my next WIPP

Robert Frost Desert Places and Roland Barthes Living Together.

An area of research that I intend to return and see if I can inform these connections is Roland Barthes’ lectures on ‘How to Live Together’ (2012) and the links that Stene-Johansen, et al (2013) make to Robert Frost’s poem ‘Desert places’ (Frost, 1936), which may provide a justification to the way that individuals live separately yet in the same spaces, or ‘iddiorythmically’ (2013, p. 16).


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

Beynon, M., Cawley, A. & Munday, M., 2016. Measuring and Understanding the differences between urban and rural areas, a new approach for planners. Environment and Planning B. Urban Analytics and city Science, 43(6).

Cowen, J., 2020. The number of people who think Watford is in London. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 30 October 2020].

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

Fairey, T. & Orton, L., 2019. Photography as Dialogue. Photography & Culture, 12(3), pp. 299-305.

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.

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

Lewis, K., 2015. Buncefield explosion: ‘I thought a plane landed on us’. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 30 October 2020].

Shoard, M., 2002. Edgelands: Remaking the Landscape. London: Profile.

Stene-Johansen, K., Refsum, C. & Schimanski, 2013. Living Together: Roland Barthes, the Individual and the Community. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Funding – Developments 30/10

This week I met with the Art Development and events officer for Watford Council to discuss my idea for working on a funded project and also ways that I might be able to gain support. This was extremely valuable as I was able to gain a number of insights into the kind of projects that Watford funds and also consider ways to strengthen my own application.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Initial Idea into a funded project based on community.

With the aim of working on a community themed project, which aligns with my research project goals, my idea is to work with students that attend the college that I work at and work with them to create a picture on the impact that recent current events is having on their generation (Fig: 1). The idea has been well received by people that I have shared it with, artist’s Jennifer Essex and Harry Mann noting that there are opportunities for a range of community engagement with such an idea (Fig: 2). That said, they suggested that I might consider widening my scope to include other institutions and also I should aim to take my time to develop a really strong application to the Arts Council.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Development and discussion with Artist pair, Jennifer Essex and Harry Mann about my Arts Council application.

The Art Development officer was also very positive about my idea for the project and also made some suggestions to strengthen my approach. Chiefly, my application would need to demonstrate the following:

  • Education: This is an area that I had in mind for the project as I am keen to apply my teaching experience to create a more socially engaged approach. Potentially, I would include a number of workshops that could initially include photography and talks to work with the young people and give them the tools to create their own stories.
  • Collaboration: Very much linking to the above. My aim is to work with the people I want to photograph and also give them the opportunity to shape the direction of the work. Their contribution will be incredibly valuable to the process.
  • Sound Budget: Something that I am currently working on. I think value is at the heart of what I am aiming to achieve here so my budget will need to reflect this. I am keen to create the work on film as it lends a tangibility to the project that the 16 -19 age group may not have experienced so will need to justify this additional cost of production.

Additionally, he also mentioned the following, which would really help support my application and getting the project off the ground:

  • My idea was inspired by the idea that the demographic of an FE college has one of the worst levels of social mobility, coupled with the ongoing economic impact of current events and the way that FE was essentially forgotten about during the summer exams issues, with some of the student still awaiting outcomes for their exams and qualifications. I am keen to showcase this age group and highlight some of the challenges faced by them. The Arts Officer was keen on this aspect of the idea and although he suggested that this shouldn’t be overtly political, it is something that exists and should be part of the application and project.
  • Watford was due to be Herts city of culture. Postponed due to Covid. However, there is potential to put something together for this ready for next year when this is planned to go ahead.
  • There have been relatively few applications to the Arts council from this area and they are keen to see some happening. This is particularly positive as I was concerned that the south east would be an area of high competition and it would be a challenge to cut through. Not to be complacent however, I intent to work on a robust application and ensure that it can be a success.

As a result of this meeting, I will be developing my draft proposal to share with Watford Council and consider the ways in which it can be supported. The Officer mentioned that there are also a number of other funding options available that my idea might suit, which provides additional potential to have my project funded.

Oxfam A – Update 30/10

We have collectively decided to push forward with the idea of an app, which builds on whet that group pitched last year. However, our app is designed to highlight the impact of that the internet has on the environment.

The app would primarily be a widget that highlights the amount of carbon produced by an individual and then provides a series of tools to offset this.

We felt that this very much fulfils the brief set by Oxfam as this impacts everyone who uses the internet and in particular smartphones. These ubiquitous devices are fundamental to the way that we live so it is important that the correct information is provided to highlight that it has an impact too.

My role in the group has been to start putting together some graphics and mock ups of what a potential app and widget might look like (Fig: 1 & 2).

Figure 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Initial App icon sketches
Figure 2: Phil Hill (October, 2020) App and Widget icon development
But where is the photography?

As it stands, the app doesn’t have much to do with photography. However, there are opportunities to include tools that consider the impact that photography has on the world, in terms of its carbon footprint. For example, Tom suggested that we might include some kind of digital clean up where you could delete any unused images that are perpetually stored on a server somewhere, using power.