Skype tutorial feedback:
My tutor liked the photographs and the approach. To push me, she had observations that would strengthen the work further.
My tutors comments about not articulating my idea of the postcard presentation is correct. It was just a case of being up against the clock. Also, some of the feedback from my last assignment was that I wrote well over the 500 words. I just haven’t got the balance right yet.
As a result of this, while the concepts and the photographs worked, the postcards looked like a bit of an after thought.
The other issue is that I felt that it was too depressing. I lost my nerve and attempted to lighten the mood. The text for the postcards was an attempt to provide some humour among the observations of my exploration of the yard.
My tutor spoke about the shifts in light and shadow. This, to my mind adds authenticity to a genuine exploration of the farmyard.
In the coursework, I looked at the history of photography and how the commercialisation evolved. The evolution came about with the advent of travel becoming achievable for the middle classes. There was a demand for souvenir
photographs of destinations to take home to show others where they had visited and what it looked like.
In my research I discovered that Frith had visited my village as part of his major topographical project around the UK. These photographs are still used in the village as postcard and illustrative documents.
So, the concept of my project being in the form of postcards was to subvert the idea of idealised Devonshire depictions and provide a commentary about the difficulties that some major farming families are going through when there isn’t anybody in the next generation to hand the business to; then the finances evaporate. The photographs as postcards provide an ironic twist on the usual postcard depictions. My tutor enjoyed the irony.
The time element was against me. It took me much longer than assignment 1 to work out how to approach the assignment. A new approach to landscape, a new genre of Psychogeography to consider and a few weeks of being a bit poorly ate into the time that I had to think about the presentation.
Until I receive the written feedback, I will take a break from this assignment and come back to it with fresh eyes in a few weeks. I am hoping to achieve something a more poetic within the text. At the moment I am inclined to think that an artists statement (incorporating some history of the yard and how I moved around it) with a shorter postcard text might be the way forward.
The aspect of the course that stood out for me was psychogeography, new topography and mapping. I wanted to consider elements of this in my ‘journey’.
In the book ‘Edgelands’, ‘edge land furniture’ and memory are described (1). My further research into ‘The London Perambulator’ (2) stimulated questions about rural and urban similarities – albeit that I can’t address them all within this assignment.
Will Self spoke about pushing outside of our ‘micro-environments’ to reengage with our wider environment (3) and Rebecca Solnit reinforced this in ‘Field Guide to Getting Lost’ (4). Merlin Coverley spoke about the Flaneur of Bresson and Derive approaches and the concept of memories, banality, psychology and geography being interwoven in urban architecture(5).
With this and the wider research in mind, I decided that I would subvert the notion of psychogeography being an urban only venture (Coverley (6)) and attempt to overlay the concepts onto a ‘rural edgeland’. Southam and Mellor go some way to reinforce that psychogeography and topography could work in rural areas (7).
Decisions about how much of the village edge land to include was tricky but once I’d taken many photographs of the edge of my village into edit, I came to the conclusion that the strongest narrative was emerging in one particular historic farm that is beyond the reach of most peoples route through. The farm is literally crumbling away after many generations of successful farming. (See the blog about assignment planning). I have listened over several years to one of the family recalling memories of the farm still in its glory during her childhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A recent book on the history of this village provides a starting point for understanding the psyche of the farm in the wider context of the village. (8)
I decided that the photographs should be taken every twenty feet. As Wells states, this disciplined approach assisted in Mellor’s coastline topography (9).
Making a decision on aesthetics was difficult. Having examined all of the photographers in part 2, I was inspired by the Sullivan’s frontier project, the urban topography of Baltz (10), the vernacular approach of Coekin (11) and the work of Evans (12). It was a risk to try to overlay urban approaches on to the rural but the set is cohesive and does communicate a ‘sense of place’ that subverts the traditional rural photography of Ravillious et al.
This assignment is not so much about the conclusion but more about the beginning of exploring this ever-evolving genre. This project could evolve into a broader body of work and I might well continue it as part of a personal local study about transition – I am aware that creativity might be deemed as somewhat lacking this time but it is an approach to landscape that I haven’t ever considered.
Before I refine the presentation for assessment, I want to ensure that I am heading in the right direction. I would envisage this being a gallery format as shown on page 7 or presented as postcards.
This is the link for the curating process:
Aerial View of wider village:
The farm yard is on the bottom, far left.
Aerial view of the farm yard (2009). An aerial view today would show the change of use:
A Postcard To Grandma
Day 1. Just to let you know that we arrived safely. We were greeted with the delightful sight of rotten-rats-that-the-farmyard-cat-dragged-in! I suspect that it’s not quite how Auntie Phyllis remembers her stay here 30 years ago! The owners are very friendly but I suspect this ‘rustic charm’ has a story behind it. Our room is full of…character!!!!
Day 2. I caught site of this lady today -she must be about your age. Later on she told us that she had lived here for 70 years since marrying her husband. The farm has been in the same family for many generations. I wonder what it was like in the war years…(or even when the Vikings yomped through!) In the 1980’s, none of the children wanted to take on the farm – hence the decline from its heyday. I can’t wait to explore tomorrow!
Day 4. I met the grandson today (23), while I was stood trying to work out where these steps once led! I felt a twit when he smirked and told me that he didn’t know, but they were handy for leaning pallets against…and getting on horses!! He was telling me that the hunt used to ride out from the yard until only a few years back. He has built up his own flock of sheep and he lambed 180 of them single handedly. I’m not sure of the outlook of his venture in the near future.
Day 3. Sorry! No pretty pictures of orchards for the postcard – the farm has a ‘spirit’ about it though – I adore it. It’s as if the creaking window and door is trying to tell me anecdotes of times gone by. There is an inevitableness about each an every barn door, stone, slate tile and cob wall. It would take a multi millionaire to put this farm back on track but apparently all but three fields have been sold off.
Day 5. Forgot to say that the weather is good – as is the food. I thought that you might like this little chap! He did look miserable! I think that he belongs to somebody who rents one of the more modern barns (jars against the rest of the farm somewhat). I shall investigate today. I noticed today that most of the yard was being held together by bits of chord and pallets – apart from this building. It is probably the only building that would pass health and safety – double-glazing too!
Good morning Grandma.
Day 6. The mystery of the sad dog in the window is over – he belongs here. This used to be where all the ‘modern day tractors’ were serviced. There is only one tractor now, so the garage is rented out to a young car spray painter. It was certainly an indicator of changing times – when he pulled back the doors this morning. The little dog is called Eric and we played for a while. Not the sort of dog I had associated with a farm!
Day 7. I forgot to put the storage heater on in the bedroom yesterday – so froze overnight! I think that I might move my bed into the workshop. What a luxury. The air is fresh and crisp but the sun is making an appearance. The sky larks are here – must be spring. Owls and bats frequent the yard of an evening and it is ever so spooky. I discovered today that John Reynolds (King James bible – hung, drawn and quartered by Henry V111) was born here and his relatives worked on this farm. Such stories these walls have to tell.
Day 8. I think that this must be where the bats live – with a random mannequin! I hope that they do – they should do, if not! Apparently the sense of community in this ‘working’ village is second to none. I do wonder how that will change when generational heritage dwindles away. The village population was 1600 before the industrial revolution. It now stands at 800. This farm has seen enormous changes already I guess.
Day 1o. I know that you will love this! Didn’t you used to have the same car with Grandpa? Heaven knows why this has been left to rot. It seems to me that everything lying around is symbolic of a sad poetic tragedy playing out. Still, the family in residence continues to smile and there isn’t any mention of selling up parts of the land off for development into much needed housing for locals.
Day 9. Are you wondering who else would come to Devon and take photographs of rotting doors and tyres? By all accounts, this yard was immaculate until very recently. It is like Mother Nature is trying to conceal the mess. Remember the documentary ‘The London Perambulator’? I think that I might be turning into him now!!! Frogs seem to approve of the tyres though!
Day 11. I discovered a whole new wing of the farm today. I realised that this cluttered yard was once the dressage arena. I could just see a tennis court through a locked gate and even a swimming pool that is long drained. Oh, and a boat too! My word, they must have been doing well at one point. I don’t like to ask the family for too much information. Perhaps the barbed wire will be used to keep nosey guests like me out!!
On our way home shortly. I will see you soon. I’d like to come back next year…. I do wonder what will come of the farm in the next year though. Clearly the need for palettes is greater than the need for the luxuries of days gone by – albeit I haven’t discovered what all the pallets are needed for!