Walking to Purgatory

I’ve been spending some time in Purgatory and I am hoping that ‘it’ will become the focus of the major project. I do not yet have a strong sense of the main narrative of the project and I am attempting to keep it as open as possible as I spend time considering the connotations and implications of ‘its’ name. Purgatory as a place, as a state, a destination, a history, a condition, are all options I am considering.

Purgatory South face


Toby Jurovics concludes his introduction to John Gossage’s ‘The Pond’ with: “A photograph’s greatest gift is to remind us of the pleasure of seeing. Its highest accomplishment is to reveal the unseen within complex even difficult pictures.” At this juncture I am not sure what it is I might wish to reveal, though the thought of a peregrination along the lines of Gossage’s is very appealing. And whilst Gossage goes to a place and documents a linear journey – in my reading at least – the physical demands of Purgatory as a place requires a there-and-back journey and though it can be reached from two physical courses the meta physical journey may wander hither and thither.

Purgatory East face


Gossage employs a single narrative representational device of monochrome, his images were taken in strong, high contrast light; and, with brief rest-bites, employs a directive narrative, impelling the viewer to accompany him from a place on the edge of civilization (‘normality’ or an ‘edge’ish’ land?) – leading back to suburbia, though what we feel about the destination is left for us – the viewers – to discern.

I’m starting to find resonances in Gossage’s work on my route to Purgatory, though with Jurovics’ words regarding revelation being uppermost, I wonder whether the land can provide a metaphor for this ‘place’ that I’m seeking to unravel.

I have been looking at the images I have made and wondering what they reveal, how they might lead me to a particular place of study. Gossage’s use of monochrome isn’t one that I have made, so I will make use of colour and black and white, and I know instinctively that the work will rest on my ability to sequence, on how the final edit will illuminate, or as Jurovics states: reveal.

I have deliberately chosen, what for me, are idyllic images. Photographs that might sport a chocolate box; placid, pastoral, bucolic; images chosen for what they don’t reveal – other than by absence. Purgatory is that in-between state, neither yet one nor other, occupying a ‘twixt and ‘tween and my desire is to represent it is more to the following image, very close by, very complex (my comprehension) and without a rational or simple resolution in view.


  or perhaps more accurately to how I feel about this currently:

On a clear blue sky day Purgatory is a ‘pretty’ site, and blessed with good walking boots and thermals, the cold of these year end days isn’t a hindrance to enjoy the walk; and so I think of those that left the ‘place’ at the beginning of the previous century, how eight dwellings survived the isolation with earthen floors and open hearths. I also ponder on why this place, this state, this destination or this condition holds such an allure for me right now at this point in my studies. I am on two journeys, one of which I will describe here as I hope it will become the Body of Work for my final year. My plan now is to edit and exhibit images made over the last few days and plot a course for the next few weeks.


8 thoughts on “Walking to Purgatory

  1. I received “The Pond” for Christmas. It seemed very familiar to me – everyday, certainly not sublime but “known” – very much like my recent Assignment submission although not in colour.
    Some of my ancestors followed a route from a small country place to a large industrial metropolis and I continue to wonder how much of their lives (social and cultural) is imprinted in me by whatever means.
    It seems odd, I’m not religious, but Pilgrim’s Progress resonates with me.

    • Pilgrim’s Progress was my school hymn (I went to Pilgrim School!). I hadn’t thought of ‘those’ travels; my grandparents came down from Durham during the recession in the ’30’s, though I don’t think this has any reflection on my thoughts currently – but who knows!
      I’ll be interested in your view, I plan a review (of sorts) on the Redheaded Peckerwood shortly.

      • I agree with Keith regarding possible uses of metaphoric meanings of “Purgatory” and also “journey” or even “journeyman”.
        Redheaded Peckerwood was another of my Christmas presents. I think Christian Patterson is a master of his craft!

      • Happy New Year Catherine. Yes I like the potential of the name. Both books have opened things up for me – looking forward to your reading of them

  2. I like the idea of using Purgatory for this work….the name has so many possible metaphoric meanings beyond its use in Christian religion…

    I wonder about Jurovics idea of a photograph revealing the unseen. Is he referring to the things we miss when we walk around familiar places…a bit like Struth’s Unconscious Places…or is he referring to what particular images mean for particular individuals a la Barthes Punctum….or something else all together.

    The image of the gateway leading into the sun with the muddy path to guarding access to the sunshine and open fields beyond makes me think of a journey with its difficulties along the way (purification) and the joy of the final destination (reaching heaven)…

    I also wonder about the use of both black and white and colour….what would each stand for….colour for hope, black and white for despair??

    • I think the name has a lot of possibilities as well, perhaps it chose me! I’m undecided about the use of mono or colour or both, I want to make a lot of images and then see where that leads which I then hope will lead to what I think Jurovics was referring to which is, I think, the psychological aspect of the photographic image – perhaps all images? I’ll read it again and check my comprehension, but I don’t think it is a physical visual structure per se – though of course one wouldn’t rule that out – rather a sense that is derived from the image which because it is in a series, and with therefore a narrative flow, it reveals a subtext.
      Oh and gates and doors and their like have always held a fascination for me, so I appreciate your reading of that image. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Redheaded Peckerwood | Body of Work

  4. Pingback: Assignment Two | Body of Work

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