Edgelands

I’ve been given a short assignment to take some photographs on the theme of ‘Edgelands.’ It is a theme that is appearing in many contemporary landscape photographers work. Edgelands being forgotten or abandoned places and particularly those that are along the edge between urban and rural spaces.

Paul Farely and Michael Symmonds Roberts on their book Edgelands, describe these areas like this:

“The wilderness is much closer than you think. Passed through, negotiated, unnamed, unacknowledged: the edgelands – those familiar yet ignored spaces which are neither city nor countryside – have become the great wild places on our doorsteps.

In the same way the Romantic writers taught us to look at hills, lakes and rivers, poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts write about mobile masts and gravel pits, business parks and landfill sites, taking the reader on a journey to marvel at these richly mysterious, forgotten regions in our midst.

Edgelands forms a critique of what we value as ‘wild’, and allows our allotments, railways, motorways, wasteland and water a presence in the world, and a strange beauty all of their own.”

Paul Harrison and Nick Dunmer, for their project describe Edgelands as, “a photographic exploration of neglected and largely forgotten landscapes where nature and people have left indelible marks on each other. Unusable, marginalised and unattractive, these wastelands are however embedded with personal and historic resonance.”

Artist George Shaw is well-known for his paintings of the Tile Hill Estate in coventry which identify with this theme. These are two of my favourites from his series ‘Scenes from the Passion’.

Contemporary Australian photographer, Mark Kimber has taken a series of photographs on the theme of Edgelands. They are all taken during the evening or at night and I like the deep blue and orange colours in them.

South African photographer Dewald Botha has taken photographs of Suzhou, in China in a collection called Edge of the city. I think these are the most beautiful pictures that I’ve found on the theme of Edgelands. The foreground is less wilderness and more parkland and the tower blocks give the illusion of a forest in the background.

For my own Edgelands landscapes I took a stroll along the edge of town to places that are signposted as being left to wilderness before development at a later date. On my way I also took a couple of photographs of places that have been neglected.

Although this photograph doesn’t fit with the series above. I’ve included it here because I think it does fit with the theme. It was taken last winter of some stairs going from a public footpath through some woods to the housing estate lower down the hill.

Stairs
Stairs

While I had a nice walk, I’m not sure that these are the type of landscapes that I would normally enjoy taking. Politically I’m sure the council has a plan for most of these areas and they will be converted to housing or industrial land. The land where the cinema used to be is for sale but it has been for several years now and there is no public strategy for the plot that I am aware of.

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Coastal Walk

I took another walk along one of my favourite coastal routes. It was a misty morning but cleared to a beautiful day, just right for taking some more photographs.

Blakemore 2

This week I thought I would have another go at creating a Blakemore type photograph for part of the Vanitas assignment. I wasn’t happy with my previous attempt that felt a bit rushed and I hadn’t filled the frame as well as I could have done. Blakemore used natural light to take his images and I wanted to do the same.

photoI set my workstation up in front of a large bay window, my camera was placed on a tripod in front and I used a reflector to reflect light back onto my subject. Although Blakemore would have used a larger format camera, I used my Sony A7 with an 18-200mm lens.

I wanted to use ISO 100 and an aperture of f8 and set the shutter speed around that depending on how bright the sun was. It began as quite a bright morning but clouded over as I was working.

I started by taking couple if shots of the soil that I had put in a tray and then started playing about and laying out the items that I had found in my own garden. I included holly, ivy, piece of rotton wood, a piece of coal and even part of a fossil but because my husband also repairs our cars from time to time he also leaves behind bits of metal, washers and nuts and bolts and I wanted to include them in my image too.

At first I filled the frame too much. I included almost everything that I had brought to use but it was far too cluttered. For my next attempt I took most of the greenery out and left a scene mostly of man-made items. Finally though I took out everything that was shiny and looked new’ish and replaced it with some rotten sunflower heads that I had been saving. This was the image I liked best. The rotten flowers and wood echo the worn and rusty metal items – all are well past their best and destined only for the rubbish heap.

In photoshop I opened my chosen image, created a fill layer and pasted the soil image into it. I changed the opacity to 50% and used the eraser tool to rub through the soil layer and highlight some of the items below. I changed the colour to black and white but preferred the muted tones of this desaturated version.

These are the two images that I merged together.

 

 

Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is a renowned Canadian fine art / documentary photographer whose work documents man’s devastating effect on our world. His very large photographs of sweeping landscapes are stunningly beautiful but also somewhat uncomfortable to look at.

In his photos I can see a clear influence from people like Ansel Adams whose landscapes, particularly of Yosemite National Park are breathtaking.

His latest work, simply entitled Water, launched in 2013 explores our relationship with water, our attempts to harness its power and the scale of our effect on the landscape. Most of Burtynsky’s photographs are taken from high vantage points, giving a ‘not usually seen view of the landscape.

I found several aspects particularly striking. This image of houses that have been built into a lake disturbs me somewhat. The sky reflecting in the water looks like oil and says something to me about the way humans are rapidly multiplying but water is a finite resource that we take for granted and don’t respect and pour so much of our waste into it.

There is a market for waterfront properties that we are exploiting in this building project. I don’t doubt that there is tremendous skill that goes into a building project like this but to what effect. Burtynsky could be criticised for being overly political with his photography or lecturing viewers about things they already know, after all who hasn’t heard of global warming? But I think it is the scale of damage that we fail to comprehend and that Burtynsky highlights so well in these images.

VeronaWalkNaples, Florida, USA, 2012

Other pictures in this series include photographs of the Gulf of Mexico taken while BP’s Deepwater Horizon well was pouring oil into the sea, the affects of drought on the landscape and how agriculture and water are so closely linked.

In Burtynsky’s Quarries collection, this image of a stone quarry in Rajasthan, India, not only highlights how we are changing our physical landscape but is more worrying when you find out the lack of safety precautions at the site and the number of people who die in places like this on a monthly basis.

Makrana Marble Quarries #13Rajasthan, India, 2000

Other projects look at the effect of our need for oil, mining, ship breaking and mass consumerism and manufacturing. More of his work can be seen at www.edwardburtynsky.com

I’m really interested to see how Burtynsky views his work and whether his images actually make a difference and change the way we use our environment. In these films Burtynsky talks about his work, his methods and his thoughts behind his projects.