Posted in Assignment 1 ~ Beauty and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One – Taking the Photos

With the new direction for the assignment, replicating the Rorschach ink blots and fear of the Witches Fingers I started shooting. Below are all the photos I took at each location.

Carlingwark Loch – Castle Douglas – Scotland 

The trees hung over the lake like witches fingers, I loved the reflections in the still dark waters.

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A Lay-by – North Wales 

While Dad was double checking the map I wandered around the lay by gazing up at the trees that surrounded me. The forest felt so dense, unpenetretable, the barbed wire seemed to reinforce it. I experimented swirling the camera to create the efffect that they were moving.

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Lytham Hall – Lancashire  Boasting many acres of forested land, a wildflower garden and many woodland paths bedecked with snowdrops and bluebells there was an abundance of unusual trees, twisted, strange trunks, interesting formations. I’ve included all the image I shot there (hence the appearence of several duck photos)  When I glanced up I saw the Rorschach ink blots in the canopy.

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Posted in Assignment 1 ~ Beauty and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One – Peer Review

Below are the photos that have made the shortlist. I have several in my mind which I believe are the stronger images but I want to hear an honest opinion as to which should complete the final set.

Through imitation of Rorschach inkblots and fear I have portrayed my interpretation of the sublime through an alternate landscape, my fear landscape focusing on Freud’s theory of the Uncanny. A fear landscape in an actual landscape.

Focusing on Freuds theory of the Uncanny where a familiar object, paradoxically, appears unfamiliar and unsettling, I want to depict my childhood fear landscape. As a very young child, I  was scared of the trees which reached out like witches fingers. Part of the assignment will depict the feeling of the trees looming over me, thrashing, reaching out to grab me whilst the others replicate ink blots (used in Psychoanalysis to determine character traits, thoughts, fear. I want my images to use the uncanny, to allow the imagination to possess the subconscious to see shapes, faces, monsters or dreams. I have to include 6-12 images.

I have never submitted an assignment in black and white but felt the monochrome would work well with the theme.

Slide show- Witches Fingers

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Posted in Assignment 1 - Preparation, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One – Artist Research – Fear

The interpretation of fear is something that has been explored in many dimensions of art, for such a broad subject that encapsulates many levels it can be challenging to focus on a specific form. Whilst I have my plan of recreating the Roscharch blots through my childhood fear of trees there are many ways to go about this. I have studied the photographers below and whenever I refer it to my own practise I have highlighted my thoughts in bold.

There are the haunting photo manipulations of  Joshua Hoffine in his series ‘Basement’ where he brings to life the darkest of childhood fears by creating terrifying and disturbing evocations that have escaped the confines of a horror movie. The fact that I can’t bear to even include the photo here or look at more than one or two shows how these childhood fears still cling on to you many years later. It’s a jolt out of sense and reality. The adult sense knows images such as zombies or monsters in the mirror are not real but there is something inside of us all that only needs to see or feel something uncanny to be taken straight back to the terrified child hiding under the duvet where all things are possible, both dreams and nightmares. How could I bring this level of terror into my photography? Perhaps nightmarish faces twisted in the gargantuan tree forms, the tree branches reaching out towards my throat. Shadows reflected on my skin, embodying the fear. I notice that whilst he uses graphic images that leave nothing for the imagination, these images are shocking but the ones are that are more permeable are those that are suggestions. The silhouette of a clown against the sheet in the garden with the disillusioning bright balloons just visible. The arms creeping out from the back of the couch. 

The portrayal of fear doesn’t always have to be hypostatized so grimly, a more colourful and slightly upbeat depiction of fear, and with a focus on fighting it, is Rivane Neunschwander ‘s ‘Name of Fear’ exhibition where Neunshwander worked with school children, embodying their fears in the shape and form of cloaks which the children wore and were photographed in. They were also put in an exhibition. The manner in which they were portrayed, these cloaks hung on a rack with some on the wall resonate with me especially as the cape harks back to roots of psychoanalysis. When I suffered from OCD (which was caused by my Lymes disease as the bacteria attacked my brain)  it was the darkest time of my life, I always felt it was like a death shroud, tied around me, I was unable to escape, whenever I found the edges to hurl off it would cling to me again like an octopus coming back and consuming its prey. This is a subject I have only ever discussed with my family, it’s something that has held me in a cage and I fear to talk about it as I know the cage is in the distance but the door is still open. Perhaps now is the time to think of exploring this in an upcoming assignment, working with the landscape of OCD, with a cage, a shawl and the journey in escaping it. I never foresaw myself focusing on such dark aspects within my photography as it is something I have always been so afraid of…however, perhaps the way to escape the fear is to embrace it, objectify it and destroy it.

The Name of Fear  – Photographer – Rivane Neuenschwander

I will research this later when I work on Assignment Two, my thinking is that a cape has always been seen as a symbol of protection, of something mystical and magical, the unique trait of superheroes, fairy tale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and fiction, Lord of the Rings feature cloaks from the elves to shield them from the enemy’s eyes.

Focusing away from photography, an unusual mixed media art exhibition by Nathan Margoni focuses on the two worlds of imagination a child inhabits, the nightmares where a child wakes up screaming from the monsters in their mind to the day time where these monsters came to life but in a different way, manifested in their childhood games. Comprised of nightmarish large scale sculptures and paintings of deformed monsters, mechnaical gnashing teeth, fleeing victims, a pustulated giant foot all brought to life with a glue gun, human hair, every detail seethes with an unsettling clamour of fear mixed with fascination and obsession with mortality. Margoni features himself both as the monster and the victim, he is the hunter and the prey enhancing the situation of childhood imagination.

“In darkness we feared demons, in light we wore their faces to make friends scream with giddiness.” 

Children, or grown up children, are able to take the reins and become the monsters, seeing through their eyes through a distorted fish eye view as their teeth chomp at broken dolls. The art piece enables you to use levers to open and close the creatures mouth. The artist, Margoni, features himself as the fleeing victim as in the piece ‘Oh no, Run for your life’ a gigantic repulsive foot mashed with the faces of squashed victims and debris is poised above the diminuitve Margoni. You can live as both the victim and the monster. It feels almost Lord of the Flies esque experiencing terror and rage, fear and hate, helplessness and brutality. It is unsettling to say the least.

Joe Rondone / H-P Staff

Vincent Bousserez’s pictures carry that unsettling and familiar feeling of lying awake at night as shadows were manifested as monsters and ghosts hiding in your room, creeping around the bed as you slept and seeping into your dreams transforming them into paralysising nightmares. Bousserez’s inspiration came from visiting an old house in the country, he had the parents walking around to create the disturbing shadows. The fear reflected in the childrens eyes takes you back to the time. It is something that almost everyone on the planet has once shared. Fear. I love the use of shadows to create the unsettling effect, going back to my earlier thinking of the tree shadows and silhouettes across the skin. I am loathe to create an exact depiction of my fear, I want it to be more abstract, I want viewers to find their own depictions of their lives in my work. Everyone has something that scares us and when faced with something unsettling it has an inherent and inevitable way of being incarnated into the real world. 

Photographer – Vincent Bousserez

The more I study fear the more I want to show the many levels there are, how I may have once been scared of the shapes of trees in the night or scraping down the window, how I feel no such fear anymore, how it has come circle.

Posted in Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime, Research and Reflection

Freidrich’s – Wanderer above the Mist

I went on quite a journey with this painting as my thoughts and personal interpretations shifted and changed like the eternal flowing of the mist. 


A man dressed in formal attire stands at the apex of a rock gazing out at the uncertain world before him. The world is whipped into a foaming tongue lashing at the rocks, disappearing into the mist-strewn background. It is uncertain whether the man is gazing out at mist covered mountains or perhaps a tumultuous ocean. Is this oil painting( by German artist, Caspar David Friedrich) an encounter of the sublime? We do not know. The mystery comes from the ambiguity, we do not see the Wanderers face so how can we determine or speculate what his expression is? Is he terrified, horrified, staring stoically or impassively. Does he feel like he is the commander of all he surveys? Does he feel like a God as he gazes out at this fearsome landscape?

There are several ways in which this image can be interpreted.

  1. Awe. The appreciation and fascination of the sublime and natures unrivalled power.
  2. Terror. The Wanderer stares in sheer horror (one theory of the sublime is that it is a feeling of terror but in a positive, such as the thrill of fear such as standing at the edge of a precipice waving your foot into oblivion. It is not certain that you will fall and die but it is still a possibility which sends the body into fight and flight response.
  3. Control – Standing in a powerful pose, acting as a God or conqueror.

Personally, my initial feelings were that his body language was not attributed to that of fear, but more of control.  One foot is raised higher on the rock, in a commanding pose, almost like he was addressing his troops, spurring them on with a motivational speech, preparing a battle cry; the landscape is his army. He is placed in the foreground, central everything points to him being the dominant element. There is such a sense of power in this image, the way the sea seethes over the rocks, whipping through the man’s hair, though this is the only true indication that the sea is creating any effect on him.

It is interesting that the rocky precipice the man stands on is believed to be part of the Kaiserkrone in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Saxony, Germany. Kaiserkrone means ‘imperial crown‘ Perhaps if my theory that the Wanderer is not as such as a wanderer but a conquerer, then this is symbolic of his possible thoughts, that he has dominium over the landscape.  Man, has played a part in both the formation and destruction of the plateau, perhaps this painting bears homage to the Eternal struggle between man and nature to conquer and destroy.

Yet the more you review this image, looking past its face value, I don’t think there is such a dominant possession here.

My perceptions of the painting changed as I researched Romanticism, the art movement that revolutionised art, music, poetry, in fact in the age of the Industrial revolution Romanticism rose up, every aspect of life was altered by Romanticism and therefore it can not really be called an art movement more so, a revolutionary movement. There are some who believe we still live in an age with the effects and elements of Romanticism. Romanticism was inspired by the sublime, awed by an appreciation of nature, finding a way expressing oneself, it was about photographing what was inside rather the exterior of life.This image is a powerful representation of the sublime.

The more I looked at the image and the more I read about Romanticism my thoughts shifted like ripples in a pool reaching out to new ideas and exploring new paths, I feel the image isn’t so much about conquering nature, as more standing in awe at the vast creation before us, the majesty, and how small and insignificant we feel when we compare ourselves to the natural world. This can be seen in Thomas Cole’s paintings of the sublime, I studied one of his paintings earlier in the course, Ox Bow Lake, and analysed how he’d included himself. The inclusion of small figures in a vast scene is something that is very typical of Cole’s works and also Friedrichs, for example the below image, Chalk Cliffs on Rügen. We see the scale of nature compared against man and again there is contemplation and appreciation from the figures who have their backs turned. Creating a sense of ambiguity.  The fact that the Wanderer too, has his back to the viewer allows an intimate look into the world, to look beyond the figure and to the nature, the appreciation of it which is what Romantics would have wished.

To be a romantic is to take the side of nature against industry, it’s to prefer a daffodil to a viaduct, a tree to a factory, at the moment when huge swathes of Britain are being covered in the often monsterous new cities that are making new cities reach.” William Wordsworth. 

The ambiguity of the figure allows a connection but the viewer is able to explore new vistas, new meanings, perhaps finding their own symbolism. The figure acts almost like a photographic full stop allowing the eye to rest on the figure, explore the vista and so on.


Friedrich experienced a terrible encounter with the sublime as a child. He and his brother were skating on a frozen part of the Baltic but the ice gave way and he was plunged into the cruel waters. As he fought for his life his brother tried to rescue him and tragically died. Friedrich was targeted by depression and tried to slit his throat on one occasion. With this in mind could the image be interpreted as an almost spirtital realm, is he looking out thinking of his lost brother, trying to reconnect through nature and the sublime. Is this a portrayal of a man about to end his life?

Friedrich was adamant that “self-expression had to be associated with physical and spiritual isolation.” and he himself was fascinated and in awe of nature, beautiful vistas and isolated landscapes.  This is just as the Romantics intended nature and the psyche to be viewed as. Others saw it as a “spectator who cannot intervene, (who) looks at the turbulent and unpredictable of the natural world.”


Those are my personal opinions of Wanderer in the Mist yet as beauty is in the eye of beholder, so true is the meaning or intepretation of a work of art. The viewer acts as an element in the painting, they are just as much as part of the art as the painting itself. A  painting is just a piece of pigment on canvas without a viewer. There is a quote about this but I can’t seem to find it.  Just like the most complexing and infuriating books or tv programmes, if something is left ambigious then one can speculate and speculate as seasons change and worlds shift but we will never know. Perhaps that is where the beauty lies, we will never know but that doesn’t stop us from exploring.

Posted in 03 The beautiful and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

The Sublime and Taoism

Approaching Assignment One I have decided to focus on my interpretation of the sublime. At first, I had intended to focus on beauty, after all, it is something that is believed to be innate to all, we have our own perception and definition of it and therefore can convey what it means to us. However the more I researched the sublime the more I found myself drawn down the path. Perhaps the element that most intrigues me is the fact that it is a term that breaches human comprehension, there is no set definition of the sublime, despite all the complex investigations and analysis there doesn’t seem to be an agreed or determined meaning. In that sense, it feels almost spiritual, unearthly, transcending into a new level. The course states that the sublime is something that we may have all felt at some point in our lives yet we have been unable to articulate the feeling into words. Recently I was researching Philosophy and religions in National Geographics ‘Knowledge Book’ and was introduced to Taoism in Chinese religion and philosophy.

Originating in fourth century B.C, Taoism is believed to have been founded by Tao Tzu who authored the Tao Te Ching (A piece of writing consists of 81 verses discussing the Tao) Tao means simply,  ‘way‘ and each person has their own Tao which should not be tainted or disturbed by immoral, corrupt or sinful acts. This makes me think of the Super Ego in Sigmund Freud diagram of the psyche (with the ID being impulsive and impatient, the Ego, ensuring that the ID is thoughtful and balanced and the Super Ego where moral lessons, family lessons and judgement lie.

The Tao is not a God which people, especially in Western cultures, can be led to believe (though there are deities in Taoism that are worshipped they are part of the Universe and bear references to historical figures)

“There was something undifferentiated and yet complete,
Which existed before Heaven and Earth.
Soundless and formless it depends on nothing and does not change.
It operates everywhere and is free from danger.
It may be considered the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao.”

– Tao Te Ching

The Tao has no being, it is the blueprint of life in the Universe, yet it is more of that, it existed before the Universe, before Heaven and Earth, before life and death. It is described as the nameless yet it’s origin and meaning are a less significant, more important so is living at one with the Tao, the Universe, using it almost as a teaching to leave in harmony and peace which Taoism promotes. Some view it as a system of guidance. A way to go beyond the world and discover a place of peace.

Stepping past the limitations of the purely rational mind reveal a world very different to the one most of us believe to be real. A world less rooted in dominance, control, oppression and violence than the world created by the purely rational mind. Damien Walters

In my personal opinion I feel that the Tao and the Sublime are inextricably linked (and the psyche too) both are open to interpretations and exist I feel on a higher level beyond human comprehension.  The Sublime is articulated quite well through  The Tao Chin. This version below has been translated by Stephen Mitchell though there are many variations.

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realise the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

– Tao Te Ching

Though I am new to Chinese Philosophy and Taoism, it feels to me like what is described here is not just the Tao, but the unconscious mind, the psyche and in regards to this assignment, the sublime too. Something that is heavenly, ethereal, transcendental. “The unnameable is the eternally real” in short, to put it into words would make it redundant and strip away such powers of majesty and wonder.

“No true translation can ever be achieved because the subject itself is beyond communication in language” Le Guin

Therefore it cannot exist when it is written down and forced to become a theory, an analysis or a definition. It is like catching clouds, you can’t pin a cloud down just as you can’t pin the Tao down or the sublime.  And in that respect this is why I feel the sublime is in the same genre, it is something that is spiritual and powerful, a feeling that many, if not everyone, has felt at some point, yet its power is realised in the fact that it cannot be articulated. The Sublime resists comprehension and understanding, throughout this learning log I often refer to my metaphorical butterfly, I feel there is no better way for to convey my thoughts on the subject  The more something is pinned down and classified the more it will fail to be beautiful or ethereal and will be surely a calculation, a mathematical equation. Like a butterfly once free and now impaled in a frame for all to admire or stare in horror at. Just like the butterfly, if the sublime was to possess a cemented definition then it would fail to become the sublime as it’s beauty comes from its resistance, from being devoid of control, devoid from classification. And as ‘The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao,’ the sublime that can be described is indeed, not the sublime.

“There’s a certain beauty in your resistance, your defiance of categorisation…but it’s a beauty we can’t afford.”  Jeanine – Divergent 



The Tao that can be told is not the true Tao


National Geographic – The Knowledge

Pears Encyclopedia



Posted in Coursework, Part One ~ Beauty and the sublime, Research and Reflection

Challenging the name of art

“Beauty and art were once thought of as belonging together, with beauty as among arts principal aims and art as beauty’s highest calling.” Beech 2009

This quote proposes that once, the existence of art was purely for the benefit of creating something beautiful and the most potent way for this to be realised was through art. And this quote has even more weight nowadays, in the 21st century where greed, vanity and strong subjective views run rampant, the artists that rise to the top are generally those that aren’t visions of beauty but more so works of art that are created to shock. A quick look at Tracy Urmins works is enough to unsettle your stomach, a closer analysis would probably create a Tracy Urmin art work in your mouth! She is the perfect example of the state of the art world, her works may seem standard, random, you may think nothing of it if these objects were placed out of context on table or in a home but placed in the critical context of art Urmin’s works are twisted, morbid and vulgar depictions dripping with dark, distasteful meaning and full frontal sexual innuendos.

This of course is just one layer seen in the art world (of course not all spectators rave about such things, but for the benefit of this discussion, I am focusing on the ones who are drawn in by this illusion) it would seem that to be noticed you have to have a degree of shock, to bring something new that has not been seen before. In the case of Urmin’s the Unmade Bed, critics said it was a farce and that anyone could create something like that. She responded with “Well, they didn’t, did they?” No one had ever done that before.  The more deranged and distorted art is produced the more the bar is raised until it becomes a bar in a parallell dystopian world, more disturbing, startling art is produced, more madness concealed in grotesque shapes, rotting animal corpses and direct sexual references in seemingly innocent objects.

Perhaps anything given the name of art can be immortilised, beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Is this a strange game we are all playing?  No-one wants to admit they don’t see anything for fear of being outcast by society. This is what Marchel Duchamp’s ground breaking experiment in 1917 brought to light. Duchamp had recently submitted a nude portrait to the gallery but several days before the exhibition opened, he was instructed to remove it. Perhaps this motivated him and become the reason he sent ‘Fountain’ the Urinal to the Society of Independent Artists that had just been established. He submitted the Urinal under a pseudonym, R.Mutt which he scrawled on the implement. Despite the gallery being unorthodox in that they must accept every submission, it was refused. However Duchamp had it photographed and it was put on display at Stieglitz studio and soon it reached the publics eyes.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 

The Fountain may be a very useful object in its place, but its place is not in an art exhibition and it is, by no definition, a work of art.” was a statement given by the official board when approached by the press.

It raises questions, are we seeing this as a piece of work in itself or the message it conveys, and the ridicule it places on those who see the elite or sublime in it? In that sense it became a piece of art in itself, become a beacon, scorning the art industry and those that scrutinise it.

An experiment similar to Marchel Duchamp was initated in SanFrancisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Two American teenagers, Kevin Nguyen and TJ Khayatan were so Unimpressed by the standard of art at the gallery that they decided to prove whether they could pass off an innocent object as a piece of revered art work. They placed Nguyen’s glasses on the floor of the gallery and stepped back.

Photo by TJ Khayatan/Twitter

It began as a joke, as visitors started taking photos of the glasses and the teenagers in turn retweeted these photos on their Twitter page but what this prank goes to prove is that within this practical jokes, a hidden metaphor comes to light , is there such a high bar that it is all in actual fact, a joke? Is Big Brother watching, laughing at everyone’s fight and desperation to see hidden meanings?  Yet no matter how high the bar is raised it feels like we are on a rollercoaster, clamped in, unable to get off this ride,  Why must everything be so deep, why cannot it exist for the pure purpose of being beautiful?

Such experiments challenge perceptions of art and make a mockery of the art world degrading other works in the gallery showing it was all due to elite subjective POV and perhaps due to the mounting pressure of wanting to see something they didn’t, yet pretending to anyway.

This may seem a rather grim and morbid look at the future of art, yet, just as a pair of glasses on a museum floor or a urinal in an exhibition, can be perceived in one way, like two ends of a magnet there is always another different perception. On one hand it can be presented as mocking the system but on the other, it can, at the same time, be used to enlighten and to overall, inspire others to realise that anything given the chance can be art.

At the end of the day, when it comes to art, it’s not about what’s popular, what’s just sold for £150,000 dollars or what the art world is raving over, it comes down to that one subjective viewpoint, yours, it’s what you feel, what you enjoy, what you are drawn to. So this goes to prove that art is simply a two or three-dimensional object, the story comes from the viewer.

Posted in Research and Reflection

Conservational Photographers – Part One

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Throughout this module one thing I am constantly drawn to is environmental and conservational photography, the way it is used to generate change, to empower others to make a difference and to raise awareness of subtle and dynamic changes in the environment.

For this review I have focused on the work of the following whose work both inspires and motivates me.

Dr Patrica and Professor Angus MacDonald

Andy Hughes

John Vidal


Dr Patrica and Professor Angus MacDonald –

Patricia + Angus Macdonald / Aerographica

Patricia and Angus capture stunning and powerful images of the world from above, both commissioned and for self-generated environmental work. Their aerial photography documents and records the swiftly changing landscape, raising awareness of the change brought about by environmental and man-made destruction whilst highlighting the beauty of our planet and the need to protect it.  They provide a hauntingly beautiful look at the world, the way it is used, the way nature intended it to be and the way man has altered its course. Essentially, I feel, their photography acts as a time capsule, capturing a series of photos over a period of time to be looked at retrospectively and to use as a blue-print of how to move forward.

Patrica + Angus MacDonald / Aerographica 

Their work does not focus on purely individual photographs but among the photos are large composite works and diptychs and triptychs. In my opinion, the use of diptychs and triptychs reinforces the message as can be seen in their triptych “After the Storm.” Shot over a period of thirty years, ‘After the Storm’ was created for an exhibition on the theme of ‘regeneration, recovery and resilience,’ one thing that human and nature both share. It depicts a braided river (that runs through the Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms) and the positive effect the arrival of Cyclone Andrea had on it. One may think that such extreme weather phenomenon’s would serve only as a negative force but this triptych works along others to explore the positive effects such a storm has had on its environment.

Patricia + Angus MacDonald / Aerographica 

Recently they have been returning to locations they have already photographed and re-shooting to document how the landscapes have changed. Whilst based mostly on their own work they have been recreating other environmental photographs. It’s very humbling to see the effects of such people fighting to raise awareness, the role photography plays and even more so when we see that the change over the years is not completely negative. Through their re-shooting of the Cairngorms and in the image above of the Braided River, they could see the transmogrification of the landscape and the comeback of the Caledonian Pinewood which had been threatened by overgrazing of the local deer population.


I read this article by Patrica MacDonald to gain more knowledge of the Ancient Pine trees, the fight to secure a new generation and how it was constantly disrupted by the deer who would sever any saplings preventing such generations from taking root.



Patrica + Angus MacDonald / Aerographica

Perhaps this is my emotional way of seeing things but in this image I feel a sense of pain, a handful of trees stand holding branches back as though warning the other trees, while in the foregound, there is a severed stump, almost like they are mourning the dead. This has a sense of equilibrium in the next image where over a period of time the distant trees are standing and around the trunk bloom new pine trees, flowers at a graveside, showing the resilience of nature, fighting back. Whilst these images are documenting the comeback of pines due to the overgrazing of deer, I feel we are looking at a much darker story of mans need to take, leaving behind this scarred landscape littered with the broken corpses of trees.

Thought – This inspires me even more to focus on de-forrestation in the upcoming assignment.

However with new measures in place to soften the effect of overgrazing such as setting up fences and creating enclosures for the deer, these images delightfully illustrate this comeback. The photos are filled with such energy, from the resurgence of the trees exploding into the photo in a wave of green, blocking out the mountains there is such an echo of hope reiterated throughout. Indeed the comeback of these ancient forests are not only benefitting the Pines themselves but other species such as the Black Grouse and the salmon are making a comeback. Just as an ecosystem can rapidly fall apart when it is disrupted the same is true for how securing the future of one species can make such an ecosystem stronger and set it back on the path nature had intended.


The way a landscape changes can be subtle such as the gentle formation of an Ox Bow lake or it can have devastating shocking effects such as a house plunging off a cliff due to coastal erosion. With this in mind, it’s similar to the way a child grows. If you see the child every day it isn’t until you look at an old photo that you are struck by the change. However if an Aunt doesn’t see their nephew for several months their change in features and height is immediate and there is a certain amount of shock and sadness at the time they have missed as well as regret just as a future generation will look back and may be filled with regret at the state of the planet or more hope and pride at the way environmental photographers and campaigners worked hard to generate change. The same can be said for the landscape, we are part of the earth and rarely notice these changes until we are shown first hand the intense transition, we can see that this is why photography is so essential in leading the fight for the environment.

My course mate, Claire Borlase, was fortunate enough to attend a talk in Oxford where there were several talks by influential and environmental photographers including Dr Patricia and Professor Angus McDonald. Claire wrote on her learning log.

They (Patricia and Angus) take aerial shots of degraded landscapes to bring them to the attention of the general public. She (Patricia) came to this when someone pointed out to her that a particularly beautiful image of hers, of heather covered mountains in Scotland, was actually a degraded landscape. It used to be forested, but a combination of tree felling, climate change and overgrazing by deer has removed all the other vegetation, leaving something which is beautiful in its own way, but not as nature intended.”

Thank you very much to Patricia and Angus for allowing me to use their images here on my learning log.

Andy Hughes – 

A fellow student recommended OCA tutor Andy Hughes who has a great interest in conservational photography. Immediately I bought his book ‘Dominant Wave Theory‘  depicting the ‘Politics of waste‘ which accompanied by essays by world leading scientists feature photographs of litter that Andy Hughes has photographed. I’ve seen on his thought provoking website the pieces of trash and litter looking strangely evocative and I’d go as far as to say, beautiful.  At the same time raising awareness in a poignant and artistic manner.  It is also made you feel as though it was portraying a dark look at our uncertain future.

Hughes depiction of the landscape through artificial creations and litter fascinates me. One specific image caught my eye, albeit at first I thought it was a plastic bottle before realising it was a condom (which embarrassingly my Mum pointed out as I was excitedly showing her how this plastic bottle represented a fish)  The latex was photographed on a patch of sand and was evocative in the sense that it portrayed an essence of a dead fish,  highlighting the effects of pollution and littering. The bottle depicts the fish and therefore we can see the two in an imagined transparent link showing how pollution will cause death.

It also ties in well with the issues raised in Steve Backshall’s book Shark Seas, especially the devastating effects of fishing and the irreplaceable cargo it plucks from the seas such as whales and dolphins thus wrecking and causing the delicate environment to be unstable.

John Vidal,

A fellow student attended a study visit where John Vidal, The Environmental Editor of The Guardian, was speaking but from her analysis of the speech I can see the talk was very enlighting, I was especially fascinated to hear of the many ages throughout the Twenty and Twenty-First century as we discovered the devastating effects of global warming and environmental issues through the age of Information leading to the Age of Protest and as we find ourself in now, the Age of Blame where everyone forces the blame onto others instead of looking at themselves.

Throughout all of this, photography was the main element paving the way for these new ages, highlighting and documenting the metamorphosis of the planet, enabling people to see first hand the plight our planet is fighting, inspiring and leading to change.

I watched a very interesting documentary on the air pollution of China, the programme began with a rhetorical question, to summarise, why should we work on saving the planet when everything we do is cancelled out by the terrible factories belching out pollution in Asia. As the article went on, however, we learned that many factories are being shut down and even more people are protesting in this movement.


It is, of course, easy to look at the large scale of environmental issues and put the blame on others but as Lemony Snicket wrote in his book ‘The Penultimate Peril’

Certain people have said that the world is like a calm pond, and that anytime a person does even the smallest thing, it is as if a stone has dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples further and further out until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action

I feel that in the great pond of life the stone dropped in was photography or more the way photography can be used to create change, and it’s ripples reached across the whole world touching each and every single person, some stood like rocks refusing to take heed and the effect went around them, some, like the great environmental photographers listed in this article, were caught up in the wave and found a new journey ahead of them, some were touched briefly but enough to inspire the younger generation to bring about change and normal civilians found themselves brushed by the water, spurning a new ripple, a ripple in their mind of what to do next. And one young photography student attended an environmental show by Steve Backshall which acted like the pebble dropped in the lake of her mind leading her to be writing this sentence right now.