Create a series of work (aim for 7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place that you’ve looked at so far in this course. Use the written word to play a part in its creation.
You may be inspired by a poem, song or a novel or decide to write your own fictive piece. You may draw upon other people’s words via eavesdropping or another source or use extracts from journals. You might find interesting textual accounts in archives in libraries that could inform this assignment. Allow your creativity to be spurred on by spending time with these words and reflecting on them.
Be wary of illustrating your text with pictures and vice versa. Allow for the viewers’ interpretation to be opened up rather than shut down by the pairings. You may decide not to include the actual words in the final production; that’s fine, as long as they have in some way informed the research and development of the concepts and have pushed the imagery further as a result.
Write a short reflective commentary (around 500 words) describing how your chosen ‘words’ have informed your series of images and make this available to your tutor alongside your images.
Assignment 4 – The Bridge
“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality,
and eventually in one’s own” (Susan Sontag, 1977)
The ex-mining town landscape where I grew up carries a special affinity and nostalgia. As I walk these paths again in later life, I reflect on how much this place and the people around me at the time have shaped my own identity. When reminded of our past we have to come to terms with the fact that it is a lost time that will never return. We only have our memories for company when we walk those paths again in later life as once favourite play areas might now be overgrown and covered in graffiti, friends and family may have passed away, someone else might now be in our once favourite fishing spot.
Similarly, the future remains just as impossible to grasp. Clouded with our own hopes and fears – which often have no material bearing on how things will actually work out – the future is always an enigma. None of us really know what the future holds yet we constantly try to force it to be as we would wish it.
If the past and future are not really ever within our reach (however we might kid ourselves to the contrary) this just leaves the wafer-thin and elusive segment of time that we call ‘the now’. The present moment. We rarely pause to consider that this is actually where we spend all our lives. Most of us are mentally re-living the past (the meeting that went badly, the driver that just cut us up) or imagining the future, driven by our goals, to-do lists and plans.
The poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) recognised that the present moment is rather like a bridge. Either side of the bridge lies part of our life: ahead our future, behind us our past. We might argue that there is nothing of value on the bridge itself, being just a means of safely crossing from one side to the other. But Thomas saw that it is only in this brief period we are actually free to experience life fully, without any of the emotional baggage that comes from past pain, relationships, hopes and fears. From this separate place – the link between two places where we can never really be – we are free to experience life without unclouded by our own minds. We may notice things in nature that we normally walk past – shapes, colours, patterns and sounds. Arguably, to experience the very things that make life worth living.
Although most famously remembered as a war poet, much of Edward Thomas’ work explores the pathways around his home in southern England and his relationship with the land. In this sense, Thomas’ relationship with his own local landscape feels very close to my own.
This work sets out to invite the reader to step onto their own bridge, to completely in the now, while tempting us to notice the ephemeral past and future that constantly beckon to us from either side. The work is comprised of 9 images and 1 poem.
I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,
Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.
All are behind, the kind
And the unkind too, no more
To-night than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.
No traveller has rest more blest
Than this moment brief between
Two lives, when the Night’s first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.
1. 1/90th at f6.7. 70mm ISO200
2. 1/500th at f/8 50mm ISO250
3. 1/750th at f8. 24mm ISO200
4. 1/1250th at f5.0 35mm ISO500
5. 1/30th at f4.0 70mm ISO200
6. 1/320th at f10 21mm (crop sensor) at ISO320
7. 1/125th at f3.5 70mm ISO200
8. 1/45th at f6.7 31mm ISO400
9. 1/125th at f11 50mm ISO200