Project: The Road. (Exercise 2.2)

Opening this project, the course notes talk about various concepts about roads andthe significance within literature, film, art and photography…


Chris Coekin – The Hitcher. Last accessed 15/03/2016

Having done some hitchhiking in my dim and distant past, I did enjoy these three sets of work. I can identify completely albeit my travels were in Italy and France. The most interesting set was portraiture of the people who picked him up. Who are they? What compelled them to take the risk of scooping up a hitcher?

Lee Frielander – America By Car (2010)

Looking at the paradox of the car in the landscape. Photographs are taken from the perspective of the driver. The car takes you for miles but still inhibits where you can go. The work notes the driver’s captive audience to commercialism that presents itself at the side of the road. Images contain interesting juxtapositions A car can only take you so far. Last accessed 15/03/2016

Paul Graham – A1 Last accessed 15/03/2016
Love this photographer’s work. Perhaps, it is partly because I can identify with the culture better than USA. Perhaps it is nostalgia – I am at ‘that’ age.
A1 posseses a very English reserved feel to it; respectful of personal space and English disposition to wandering and pondering.

Alec Soth – Mississippi. Last accessed 15/03/2016

This is a very interesting article of a few levels and I will need to read it a few times and ponder it to fully pull out all the strands. First of all the body of work could just as easily be presented as documentary photography and the Mississippi river hardly features. Soth feels that he works more poetically than other documentary practitioners though. Does it actually matter what genre it falls under? The landscape chosen is indoors and outdoors; with people and without people.

I don’t know much about the Mississippi but based on Soth’s observations, it wouldn’t be top of the list for a family holiday. The work is bleak but aesthetically and compositionally pleasing. The images are sequenced carefully but it took me a few attempts to identify the links in the sequencing and I wonder if I would have ever realised the links had I not been prompted to find them.

Soth also talks about his frustration about his work only really being valid in academic circles and this reinforces some of my concerns about how to make photography accessible without compromising the integrity of the work. I do wonder if much of it is down to marketing.

This discourse falls straight into the old debates of photography being compared to aesthetically pleasing pictorial art that one might enjoy having hung above the fireplace. I would have enjoyed this work without my evolving understanding through the degree pathway though. I am interested in people and places and many people are. It matters not that every nuance in the work isn’t completely realised. Be it art, poetry or literature, the full understanding of every work will depend on education, cultural understanding and level of interest of a viewer.

He also feels frustrated that his photographs don’t tell the entire story. I am not entirely sure why as part of the enjoyment isn’t being spoon-fed but placing our own imagination on to images.

Nada Kander Yangtze – The Long River (2010) Last accessed 15/03/2016

Fascinating body of work where Nandav doesn’t aim to document or produce ‘National Geographic’ body of work. He set out to pose questions and leave ambiguity to his work for us to confront with our own emotions. He talks about the catastrophic changes, belonging, existing (rather than living). Nothing has remained untouched. There is much uneasiness about his work that is achieved by his voyeuristic perspective and ‘bleakness’ in the aesthetics. Kander is very clear about a camera’s place not playing its part in conveying truth. His approach is unashamedly postmodern and a clear direction is achieved as a result. Last accessed 15/03/2016 Last accessed 15/03/2016 Last accessed 15/03/2016 Last accessed 15/03/2016 Last accessed 15/03/2016

Exercise 2.2

Part A.

I have walked these lanes daily for 9 years with my dogs. I have walked them often with some form of camera in my hand capturing many different elements of the lanes such as the structures of plants, views, macro images, daily living, live stock etc. So going out to try and find yet a different perspective was challenging. I hadn’t taken too much noticed of roadside furniture in the past and started with this. Within a couple of photographs it came to my mind how there is an annual battle between man and nature. Mankind wishes the road and roadside furniture to remainexposed and nature wishes to reclaim it all. Several times a year every lane up and down the land has to be cut back. Thinking of an apocalyptic scenario, it would only be two years at most before the arterial system of A and B roads would be impenetrable.

I began to look more closely through the hedges to see what Mother Nature had successfully started to conceal or what was fresh for the taking.

I’m not sure that any of these photographs are much of interest in themselves but certainly there is a narrative that I hadn’t thought about before, in how nature and man continually battle each other – this is more evident in rural locations. There is so much importance of roads being kept safe due to their winding and concealed nature.
Part B
I did my best to watch Cormac McCarthy’s 2009 film entitled ‘The Road’. I got through the first 30 minutes until the basement scene before I had to stop watching due to the nature f the film content. The film is based on a Father and sons effort to survive Post Apocalyptic America. I think that I have watched enough to draw from it enough to comment on the signification of the road.
The physical road is largely depicted as a paradox of hell and hope. The original primary use of roads for various modes of transportation is now redundant. The roads are now just a graveyard of burnt out cars, bodies and dilapidated buildings – with the odd marauding gang passing through who are hungry for human flesh. Nature is also as dead as the burnt out vehicles on the road. The age-old battle of mankind trying to keep nature back from consuming the humans scarring of the landscape is over.
Everybody travelling along the road in a vehicle today is only ever a few seconds away from death or life changing accidents. But we don’t think of the risks that we take when we allow the road to facilitate our whims to travel, explore and reach shopping centres. This is such a recent phenomenon really. There is an 87 year old lady in this village who had to board at her school that is situated a mere 6 miles away because nobody had transport to get her there daily.
In this film, every step along the road, the reality of impending death and survival is polarised. The rulebook of the road is now redundant and then intentions of the worst of human behaviour are now the threat to survival. Somehow, this feels so much worse that hurtling at 70mph along with thousands of others in a system of survival that is dependent on everybody adhering to a book of rules.
The road still signifies hope in this film though. Hope for the cannibalistic gangs that they might find food and also hope for the ‘good guys’ to reach safety somewhere due South. The road can still be considered a navigable system for getting from A – B albeit it that A no longer exists and B might exist but nobody really knows if it does or not. Life is really about the journey along the road and the hope of the destination.
The composition, aesthetics and direction of the filming are genius. The camera often holds at, or slowly rises to a composition that can be likened to a photographic still. The sense of danger is encapsulated in a ‘Crewsdonesque’ way that leaves us enough time to consciously ponder for a second about what it might be like to find ourselves here among the dangers that the signifiers allude to.

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