Posted in 07 The road, Assignment 2 - Preparation, Assignment 2 ~ A journey, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment Two – Contextualisation

I feel I’ve really found the pathway or waterway I wish to take for Assignment Two. I’m so passionate about it, the images are quite different to my usual style yet it is the different images, such as the abstracts that I feel most connected to. I will research some photographers who photograph wide open places in an abstract way.

I do plan to return but perhaps I will return with the same lens. Or perhaps I will just see where the wind takes me and the assignment. With my photography, I had a different lens and that enabled me to experiment and create images I wouldn’t usually. Now I feel very drawn to the abstract portrayal of a landscape. Is abstract photography the onomatopoeia of the photography world? I remember my joy as a GCSE student to discover onomatopoeic words such as ‘crunch, crackle, fizz’ that perfectly imitate the sounds of the words they are describing. I only need to read the word crunch and instantly I feel as though I am hearing someone walking on dry leaves or chomping through their breakfast cereal. And in that respect, abstract photography captures the details, the sounds, the feelings of that place. Perhaps not all abstracts, some may be to challenge the perception, to tell stories but in regards to my assignment, I feel these images below that I captured, illustrate the feeling and senses of the river trip.


ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY – Contextualisation 

Nadav Kander created a series of images for his book, Dust where he photographed abandoned and restricted areas wrought by the desolation of man creating photos that are an oxymoron, they are devoid of people yet they are seeped in humanity, their very essence and destruction and responsibility is tied to humanity.  Two small towns that Kander photographed, Kurchatov and Priozersk were not even known until Google Earth discovered them.

He heads his work with the stanza from TS Elliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’

‘I will show you fear in a handful of Dust’ TS Elliot

I’ve read many thoughts on the meaning of this line, but just like art, poetry is subjective and one meaning may not resonate with another. My personal opinion of this quote in regards to his photography is the dust and the ashes of the place that have been destroyed or been left to rot by man, “I will show you fear” your mind is consumed by what has gone before, here is a handful of dust of all that is left. Let your terrified imagination fill in the terrible gaps. Yet could the quote also be taken to mean, you may be terrified of the world and the darkness and the huge scheme of things but I will show you the fear in the little things, in a handful of dust.”

Illustrating a series with a poem brings me back to my own assignment, I referred to my river trip with Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road not Taken‘. Perhaps I myself should illustrate my journey with a poem (written by myself) In fact the more I think about it, the more the rhythm of the river seems to echo the words of poetry. As in the poem Limbo, a powerful tale of the African slaves, the poem echoes with repetition until you feel you are almost swaying with the backbreaking rhythm of the boat as the slaves work the oars.


Photograph by Nadav Kander



One of the images on his website that grabbed me is reminescent of an abstract painting, a blur of blue and sienna, the raw colours of nature. The image is split into two layers, the sky and the earth, both whipping by as though as though you are viewing it from a moving vehicle. It feels like two stripes of paint, a unity of the sky and earth with no details or barriers to disrupt the rhythm. “My landscapes are really honed to the palm print of man, mans effects on their surroundings…it’s really about the endeavour of man which is behind those pictures.

Photo by Brett Weston

Brett Weston – He captures the landscape around him in such a flawless abstract style, taking a small square from a vast place and making that the main  His images remind me of the mantra in Rudyard Kiplings, ‘The Jungle Book‘ The strength of the pack is the wolf, but the strength of the wolf is the pack.” So as to say, he takes a very small portion of a vast landscape, turns it on its head to show the small portion is just as powerful as the landscape around him. The landscape draws its power from the details yet the details draw the power from the landscape. The undulating waves of the desert rising like tumultuous waters of the deep. His images can appear as multiple things at once, Is it trees and branches jutting out of still waters, or reflections of overhanging trees. Or are they bent and warped pieces of iron filing or paperclips, a modern piece of art.

Franco Fontana

I first came across Franco Fontana’s wonderful images whilst watching Masters of Photography where Fontana was a judge. Some of the wisdom he offered was so powerful that it has buried itself deep into my mind and often speaks those words in moments when I am studying. I wrote about him here  His images pack a punch of intense colour, the saturation so powerful you can almost taste it. I love the way he sees the landscape, in bands of colours, seeking out the beautiful masterpieces created by nature. Indeed his mantra is ‘to make the invisible visible’





Posted in 07 The road, Coursework

Exercise – 2.2 Part Two

 Watch one of the films mentioned in this section or any other ‘road movie’ of your choice. Write a short review (around 500 words), focusing on how the road features within the film’s narrative.

I chose to watch Maiden Trip, a documentary about fourteen-year old Laura Dekker who’s dream was to be the youngest person to sail around the world, solo. The documentary was created from all the footage she recorded herself on her journey, it provides a very intimate, personal look and even though she is on her own all this time, it doesn’t feel like she sailed solo as the viewer was with her.

She was born on a boat and spent five years on a boat, it’s all she’d ever wanted. The documentary started with a small boat, the Guppy, on a giant expanse of ocean which  created an extraordinary feeling of vulnerability; indeed the Dutch court took her to court when she proposed the idea of sailing solo around the world and after ten months they relented. Her father, who also sailed, told her, “If you want to do this, go figure it out.” She contacted sponsorships, planned the route, purchased the equipment. She paints the image of such a strong person fighting the courts and succeeding, intelligent planning the routes and reading charts. Despite her sailing background, not every teenager would have had the guts to go through with something so dangerous and soul baring.

The courts described her as “Delusional, spoiled, arrogant, impulsive,” she only just escaped being put into a home for unstable children and taken away from her father. Is a dream worth persueing if it could shatter your life? Even if she didn’t care, what about her father? She does strike me as rather selfish and as the film went on she did change in my eyes yet not in a positive manner (this is just my personal opinion and it has been said that the documentary did not show the true side of her, yet the footage clearly indicates how rude she was to the journalist and other people)

The ocean served as the road, to change her perception of life, promoting a personal journey. She was mature enough to handle the sailing, the isolation, even the loneliness especially after the huge stint across the Atlantic. However I do feel that she took a lot of risks on the islands she landed on, travelling in cars with people she’d just met. She clearly lacked experience and was too trusting or naive. This voyage could have headed down a more sinister route. This mindset didn’t change yet nothing bad happened. At first, she seemed lonely but as the journey went on she became more at home with her own company (though she seemed to enjoy that before anyway)

This mindset didn’t change yet nothing bad happened. At first, she seemed slightly lonely asking the dolphins to stay longer with her, her voice seemed shaky with tears but as the journey went on she became more at home with her own company (though she seemed to enjoy that before anyway)

Travelling through the Panama canal as the gates opened and her little boat sailed through Laura said everything was changing now, she was heading into the Pacific, past New Zealand, Australia and onwards to Africa.

The harder the toils thrown by the ocean the stronger she seemed to be, and the longer she spent away from human company, the more she prefered to be on her own. Her strength and courage in the face of danger never changed, she was as confident at the beginning as she was by the end. The course of the sea (the road) was sometimes still and sometimes fierce but it always gave her time to think and appreciate the wonder of each new day.

You could really feel her emotions her past, her friends leaving, her Mum leaving, her Dad’s breakdown and being screamed at, needing to deal with from a very young child. The situation has forced her to grow up quite quickly, she has a confident exterior but a rather fragile inside.

She wanted to be the first person to travel solo around the world but as the journey went on suddenly that doesn’t matter.  She passed New Zealand yet couldn’t stop if she was to gain her record. This upset her deeply, she wanted to throw in the towel and just go to New Zealand, the place she was born. Suddenly it wasn’t about the destination or the acclaim, it was just about her on her boat, being free with the ocean. She’d made peace with her past, and realised she wanted to return to her homeland New Zealand (which she did after the voyage) The more time spent away the more she became fixated on her goal to return to New Zealand, to completely cut her ties with Netherlands. As the journey went on, she was in charge of herself, organising customs at every place she stopped, handling the unpredictable personality of the ocean. She felt she didn’t need her Dad in the same way anymore, she’d grown up and looked after herself for two years. She’d undergone a change but it wasn’t all positive,  she prefered to be on her own and not have people bothering her. While at first she loved visiting islands she now prefered her own company, her boat and the ocean. She said after not seeing him for a year she didn’t miss her Dad anymore and prefered to be away from people.

In a spur of rebellion, she changed her boat flag from the Netherlands to New Zeland  She declared she didn’t have a home anymore.

On seeing the huge welcome prepared for her, the fans, her family who had flown out to the Carribean she said she wished she could just sail on. I understand the peace of isolation, at one with the ocean, but to want to ignore her family seemed very selfish.

I think the voyage gave her the chance to actually soak in her past, to explore it then to remove it, to push it into the ocean and venture forwards. It wasn’t just a journey of adventure but a journey of personal discovery.

In terms of social interaction, her journey of isolation (20,000 nautical miles in 519 days) changed her slightly in the fact that she appreciated some moments are more beautiful to be shared with someone else but she still prefered to be on her own. The journey was incredible and very insightful and I agree she changed but in my opinion it was in to a rather self obsessed person with disregard for anyone else.

Posted in 07 The road, Coursework

Exercise 2.2 Explore a Road

Exercise 2.2: Explore a road

  1. Whether you live in an isolated village or a city centre, roads are something we all have in common. Make a short series of photographs about a road near where you live. You may choose to photograph the street you live or work on, or another nearby. How you choose to approach this task is your decision, but use this exercise to develop the observational skills that will be challenged in Assignment Two. The objective is to try to think about something that is familiar to you in a different way. You don’t need to make any preparations for this exercise. Work intuitively, and try not to labour the exercise. Compile a digital contact sheet from your shoot and evaluate your work, identifying images of particular interest – to you or, potentially, to a wider audience.

I was inspired by  Chris Coekin’s monograph The Hitcher and how he shot with only a cheap compact camera. It made me think about the freedom you have when you shoot with something very simple, whilst I love shooting with my DSLR there’s nothing like an iPhone or compact cameras to get those shots that you couldn’t, especially in street photo -journalism where you don’t necessarily want to be pointing a giant camera conspicuously at someone. His journey is both a physical journey but also a personal journey, emotionally and metaphysical, the viewer also experiences a different type of journey, almost like they are accompanying Coekin on his great journey. It is so much more than a simple hitchhiking journey but a story of humanity.

The course said not to spend long on planning and work intuitively. The only preparation for this exercise, therefore, was scouting a location and deciding which camera to use. With my studies of ‘The Hitcher,’ in mind, I decided to photograph this exercise using both my DLSR Canon EOS60D with the 50mm lens (perfect to replicate human vision) and my iPhone.

I was a little confused at first as to whether I was doing right, ever since I was a young child I have loved and noticed all the details and little things, forever stopping to photograph leaves and cracks in a wall. So as this is what I naturally do I wondered whether I was doing it correctly. Was I looking deeper enough, or should I not be scrutnising everything so closely?

I chose a stretch of the road that I have never ever ventured on. There are in fact so many places I have never visited close to where I live because of my debilitating illness, even being in the mobility scooter causes a lot of pain and exhaustion but with my new treatment, I was well enough to explore somewhere a different. At first, it was a path I’d been on once but as we journeyed deeper suddenly we came to the beginning of a new path. A path I’d never even walked on. Whilst before I was enjoying seeing all the little things suddenly everything was so fresh, like walking from the dark into the light. Or seeing as it was the unknown, perhaps it was more walking from the light into the dark.

Below is my thumbnail of DLSR and iPhone images.


iPhone (frustratingly my iPhone went flat before I reached the final destination)


To choose three from the two sets I think these were the most successful images.



I just feel the wire wrapped around the trees makes me feel like I’m standing on the edge of something and I want to know what lies beyond deeper in the forest.

As you can see I had more freedom with the phone to photograph people, though I got braver and did some back shots with the DSLR.I still feel like I didn’t do this exercise justice. I was focusing too much on what was expected of me instead of simply enjoying taking photos for the sheer enjoyment and discovery. I was constantly thinking what people would think, why is she photographing a feather, that’s terrible composition, that’s overexposed. I have never felt this before and I’m unsure. Why am I suddenly feeling this stigma and almost becoming camera shy? This awareness of what I’m doing is even affecting my photography whereas before I’ve happily gone up to people and asked to photograph them and produced results I’m happy with. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m overthinking things, I just need to, like my tutor says, have fun. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going on a mobility scooter walk with my elderly adopted Auntie today so I will take photos to enjoy myself and compare the two when I return home.

In between the shoot above and the one with my Auntie I came across Maria Plotnikova.

Maria Plotnikova is a beautiful story teller and street photographer capturing the seen and the unseen of the streets of South America. It feels to me like she is just a passer by, immersed in the action, perhaps noticed by few but capturing images that document peoples lives on an emotional level. I especially love her use of shadows. Shadows and silhouettes are something I often seek out as well as the power of light in nature, the way beams illuminate the elaborate mazes and labyrinths of a leaves structure noticed only by those who stand underneath them. She uses crowded street scenes to highlight the smallest of details that go unnoticed.

Rosario, Argentina, 2012 © Maria Plotnikova

This is really inspiring as whenever I go anywhere that is exactly what I do notice, I may not notice the obvious, what the friend I’m meeting is where, but I’ll notice the dappled shadows on their feet caused by the perforated table acting as a stencil for the sun. Or I’ll notice the most beautiful and tiny spider on my hand creating an iridescent silk hot air before watching it being carried away by the soft wind.