Project 3 of Part 4 introduces the concept of Open Narratives (in preference to closed narratives, as often used in movies to make the plot ‘self contained’ within the movie itself). Like a soap opera this approach works well for photograpy wher it allows room for the viewer space to create their own conclusions and outcomes.
A second key idea is that of using text in a semi fictional way, working in partnership with the visual image to invoke a deeper, more serious message.
I’ve been drawn quite heavily in recent weeks to rediscover the landscape I walked and played as a young boy, with now lost family members and old friends. An inspiration for this has been the books of Robert Macfarlane, especially The Old Ways and the writings and poetry of Edward Thomas (The Road Less Travelled). I also have discovered an old diary from when I was a young boy. This approach gives me the freedom to make the diary excerpts semi-fictional to work in partnership with the images to raise questions about our relationship with the landscape that forms our character.
Comfortable in the environment
We live in this landscape and constantly make choices that determine how our future lives turn out. Like Thomas’ poem, we never know how our lives would have turned out should we have taken the other path. At the time the decision may have seemed trivial and of no consequence. It may have felt dramatic. We will never really know which is true.
I’m inspired to explore this question further using photographs that suggest choices and decisions from the landscape of my youth while inspiring the viewer to reflect on how this might be a factor in their own lives.
By re-walking these paths I, in a sense, have an opportunity to explore ‘the road less travelled’.
I have recently been drawn to walk the landscape of my maternal-side family. This is a landscape of quiet countryside and East Midland mining towns.
It occurred to me that this landscape has great meaning for me – where I played and was educated, where my ancestors lived and worked. It shaped me as a young man.
However it probably means something completely different to most people. Maybe they have never even heard of place names like Eastwood, Ilkeston and Cossall. If they have, there is likely to be nothing more than a vague awareness that this was the place where the controversial author D H Lawrence once lived or the location of a large Ikea store.
The inspiration to explore my childhood environment was inspired by Tom Hunter and Liz Hingley’s work at Format 17 for the Flâneur film and photographic installation.
At this stage I am exploring three possibilities for accompanying words. The first is quotes from DH Lawrence. How can his words and my images work together to inspire a viewer to create their own personal interpretation of this place? To form a view of my identity without having met me?
The second option is to use extracts from an old diary some 40 years ago. The content is often quite factual ‘went to school today’, but concise, making it ideal for titles. It provides an insight into my thoughts, motivations and priorities when I was a child. How can these words rekindle a memory within me that I can relay to a more contemporary audience using a camera? This appears to be the only year that I kept a diary so it seems a shame not to give it a new voice through the language of photography.
The third option is an inspiring book about pathways and our relationship with the landscape: The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane. The book chimes very closely with my own feelings about walking the land, and so presents an opportunity to explore his text with my landscape. Hopefully this gives enough space between my images and Macfarlane’s text to guide the viewer on meaning while still leaving room for explorations of their own.
Macfarlane, R. (2013) The Old Ways: A journey on foot. Penguin, London.