Assignment Two Feedback

Given the paucity of context the feedback to my last assignment was as good as it could have been. The edit I made was further cut back and the remnant made some sense; it had an aesthetic coherency that belied it’s lack of narrative structure, however I am pleased with the outcome so far. But if I am to develop this story there needs to be additional avenues to develop and explore.

The treks to Purgatory are ongoing, I have been back three more times in the last week trying to find different light and new perspectives. Skirting around the quarter of an acre that is the extant space of Purgatory – there is a place a hundred yards or less from the current site that was the original settlement site, but which now bears no signature of habitation – is Buswell’s Thicket, and it is an odd place. Whilst Purgatory is a difficult place to get to, miles from anywhere and along a muddy track, sometimes almost impassable, the thicket is slightly further on. It is clearly a managed woodland, there is plenty of evidence of timber as a commodity, planted and sawn, rotted and hewn; this woodland contains more evidences of the traffic of people than Purgatory, and without the need to look very hard.

Sharon has suggested that I ‘place’ Purgatory better, to provide a stronger critical sense of what it was, where it inhabits in non-secular literature in order to provide the viewer a stronger sense of where the work resides; her view of it is different to mine and as she rightly points out there isn’t a definitive, or perhaps in-difinitive reference to it in the bible. I shall consider this very carefully as it will directly affect how the work develops, I am considering a number of alternate strategies, mostly to do with fiction, as I take the work forward.

Buswell’s thicket may be very similar to thickets elsewhere, but I found the space quite curious, perhaps because of it’s geographic location, but the presence or trace of people is very strong. There isn’t a huge refuse dumping problem, but the jetsam of human life isn’t difficult to uncover. The natural ebb and flow of animal life, the predation of birds whose scattered remains are left to the elements, isn’t difficult to discover. A couple – at least – of badger sets, fox droppings, squirrels and other mammals compete with the birds whose numbers include many Red Kites and Buzzards amongst the flocks of starlings, rooks and other less communal species. It is a wild place, but as it is a place provided by man this wildlife presence have the feel of visitors, of tolerated uninvited guests.

I am very attracted to the idea of fiction as a means by which I can talk about, or reveal a truth. Sharon seemed very happy that I have started to reference fiction in my studies and we have discussed strategies by which the work might proceed. The edit that I made suffered from an aesthetic inconsistency, which whilst I feel might not be an issue in a wider body of work, is starkly evident when the image count is so small. It was suggested, and I think this is a very good idea, to consider the narrative as episodic to allow the fiction to twist and turn using the construction of chapters that are aesthetically linked to a development of the story. Bridging images would need to be considered as much as the construction of the flow of dialogue.

People meet in Buswell’s Thicket. They go to quite long lengths to ensure they are away from the threat of interruption. The discard of their trysts are evident across the thicket floor. Used condom’s whose purchase was influenced, it seems, as much by taste as their prophylactic potential lay alongside their open packets; their colours attracting attention, red and yellow against the verdant floor. Other bodily functions are neatly dealt with as well as visitors come prepared with toilet tissue as if expecting to deliver. Maybe it is such a distance that they expect to have to attend to their needs. Lost sunglasses, discarded lager cans – perhaps lovers have shared a post coital drink – lie strewn amongst other evidences. It is a curious place and one that provides a lot of narrative potential.

I am encouraged to continue to develop this work, I have strong sense that I will work it into a piece of fiction about a truth, and be truthful about that telling. Sharon has recommended that I develop more work from the place, develop new perspectives and be tougher about the editing process. There are a good deal of angles that I haven’t explored yet and it may be that Buswell’s Thicket comes into the story, separated as they are by such a short distance.

Advertisements

Thoughts on the cold and Conflict

Sunrise was forecasted at 7:42 this morning which meant if I was to beat it to Purgatory an even earlier rise was needed. And I suppose that the frost had one essential benefit which was to freeze the flood plain in front of Purgatory. It was chilly this morning in that in-between land.

ridge snow 2c2

I’ve been considering my reaction to the recent exhibition ‘Conflict. Time. Photography’ at the Tate Modern a lot recently. I’ve been asked for my reaction to it from a couple of places which has helped me to focus my thoughts on what I think now is an interesting show, but not necessarily from the aspect of the curatorial intent. After the second viewing I was involved in a student discussion about the show and there was a suggestion that the show might have been more about photography than about it’s combined titular aspect. Well, I thought, the clue’s in the title – it was always going to about photography in some form or another. Was it though perhaps more to do with the photographer or the ambition of the curator? I suspect both.

Puddle track Sc2

As I continue to create work for this project in Purgatory I am aware that I have about twelve months to do so, I am particularly pleased to be starting this work in winter, I can sense the level of difficulty that even a moderate change in the climate can bring to this un-managed land. It hasn’t been that wet so far and the cold hasn’t dipped for too long at a time. Three years ago this area would have been under two feet of snow. But at this time of year it isn’t a pleasant land, it is recalcitrant. The earth yields readily to the step, yet easier to water whose presence is what demanded the builders to place Purgatory on ground above the flood-plain. Today’s tractors leave deep trenches as they career from field to field, a century or more ago cartwheels might have been too difficult to manoeuvre for weeks if not months at a time.

Riverc2

The more I considered the show at the Tate, the more I wondered about both the curatorial aspect and the notion of ‘Conflict’. Both times I visited the exhibition I lost the idea of ‘Time’ – maybe it was because I wanted to engage with the work, to see what narrative I could extract from the imagery, but as I passed from room to room (lots of rooms) the notion that I was passing through fields of time passed me by. The artists in rooms were often from different eras, their approach to their work, though perhaps contemporary at the (their) ‘Time’ often clashed with each other. This conflation of epochs might have helped to foster questions in the minds of students, but it was at the expense of cohesion. I have come to reflect that the ‘Conflict’ might have been a comment on the way by which artists and photographic commentators had conflicting approaches to the events they were attempting to either to document or to register their emotional response to. The elegantly described innards of Hitler’s bunker in beautiful modernist full tone imagery alongside the artfully constructed conceptual pieces of fiction, crafted by the teamwork of model maker and photographer/fictionalist? Which one being closer to any concept of truth as document would have been an easy calculation, with one being more concerned with form over fact. ‘And so it goes’, as Clive Wight reminded us of a Vonnegut quotation. The real beneficiary of this exhibition was the student, able to wander freely in ‘Time’ with no concept of how and when they might end up. Alarums and distractions from various quarters, seemingly unconnected works of visual referencing to anything but an abstraction of time, which apart from its tutorly contribution left me with a sense of conflict, a conflict of what I should feel about the subject matter, and not about the tenuous linkage between rooms. As Keith Greenough suggested, maybe the images were moulded to provide rigourous referencing for the concept. A clash of styles and genres that for me added to less than the sum of its parts.

horizon snow Sc2

And so back to Purgatory where I hope to conflate Time and Conflict with Photography. I was able to return home after and hour or so in the field and if I had dampened the inner soles of my boots they would be dry before the day was out. No confliction there about how long to stay in this unsettled land, when the sun came up and over the ridge to the south east of Purgatory it started to feel like time to go home to central heating and a hot mug of tea. Home is where the hearth is and it is a cold hearth in this sodden land.

sun up Sc2

Assignment Two

 

Introduction

Purgatory is that place of transience, a place that is neither one thing nor another, a place that is ‘twixt and between’ a holding zone for those not pure enough to enter directly the Kingdom of Heaven but not bad enough to go to eternal damnation. It is in Purgatory that one might be cleansed of sin and one of the key means by which these mortal turpitudes are exorcised is through continuous and predictable application of pain. This temporal inevitable subjugation of the body is key I think to the concept of purgatory. There is no short sharp lesson in that place, the expectation of exquisite pain has echoes today in the ritualized flogging of dissidents in Saudi Arabia, where the victim’s wounds need to heal before the flogging can be continued. Once the punishments have been completed, their soul having been purified and saved, the victim may then proceed to Heaven for everlasting life. The punishments in Purgatory were for the penitents, the unrepentant and the non-believers who would bypass the temporary correction zone and go straight to hell for an eternity of punishment.

Assignment

This assignment, and perhaps this edit in particular, sets out to express in visual terms depictions of how I came to describe this transitory state, whilst visiting the physical place of Purgatory. I have spent a considerable amount of time and plan to spend more so in Purgatory; I want to become accustomed to the ‘place’, experience the terrain and the difficulties of reaching it. There was a settlement in this vicinity for a few hundred years, until the very early part of the twentieth century – I am working with a local historian to find out how long it was inhabited and perhaps by how many – I have found out that at it’s height there were eight dwellings situated there. I am somewhat fascinated by the notion that it is now ‘unsettled’ and as much as Purgatory has many connotations so has the term ‘unsettled’.

After I had decided that I would work on this place as a subject for assignment two I have read three books which have influenced my thinking on the topic. The first was John Gossage’s ‘The Pond’, the second was Christian Patterson’s ‘Redheaded Peckerwood’ and the third, a novel, being ‘The Offering’ by Grace McCleen. All of these books deal with memory – as McCleen denotes – “All these years, there have been things I cannot remember, blanks where the colours had faded or the lines had been wiped out, and there have been others that darkened even as I watched, like photographic paper left too long in developing fluid.” 1

I looked first at dictionary and thesaurus definitions to help me find a way in to the work, I listed the various meanings and terms and then set about to describe what I felt about the word purgatory. After writing them down I looked at the images I had made to see if I could find connections, I tried not to force connections but to allow a free association. Most of the imagery deals with the psychological aspects of the term, only one deals with physical pain, and I realize that those emotional responses to the non-physical may be critically influence the reader if I accompany the image with the response that I gave it, so I have decided to redact those from the assignment, though of course I can provide them if required.

Another phrase from McCleen “…suggestive of things ravaged yet fecund with time.”2 also caught my imagination. That a place, though unsettled, might still echo with a past, with a history, echoed with me recently at the recent “Time, Conflict and Photography” exhibition at the Tate Modern where Indre Serpytyte’s piece (1944 – 1991) Former NKVD – MVD – MGB – KGB Buildings was/is being shown. These buildings, which are presented as isolated edifices – either as models or as highly worked graphic presentations – are very stylized representations, with a sense of ‘otherness’ about them – due to their ulterior as opposed to their anterior aspect. This contextual facet is very significant and finds an echo in what I feel some of this work in Purgatory is about – isolation.

The images are grey monotonic and bland, belying their history and their place in the history of their culture. Our – the viewers – contextualized knowledge about these buildings imbue these two dimensional constructs, that are clearly not mimetic, not depicted in a photo-journalistic attempt at verisimilitude, as a fiction; representing a greater sense of a narrative of what might have occurred, what might have been.

I too have been thinking of using black and white to delineate truth from fiction. I wonder now whether anyone still believes the age-old trope that black and white was a determiner of fact, of an attempt to mine for truth. My suspicion is that colour is the contemporary and ubiquitous disseminator of whatever might be considered as the ‘real’ and so by rendering in monochrome it will be seen as a manifestation of a fiction. And because I believe that truth is mediated, a monochromatic rendition of the narrative will alert the reader to any claim of veracity.

Patterson’s “Redheaded Peckerwood” is a story; no more a truth than my relating of my personal history, but the narrative potential of Patterson’s flow allows the reader to question the notion of a single truth and what I have discerned from this book is that I shouldn’t be overly concerned about telling a fiction about a truth, but perhaps more about being truthful about the fiction. Another influence on this work thus far has been Martina Lindqvist whose work ‘Neighbours’ are stark depictions of isolation, of crumbling edifices reminiscent of the disintegration of relationships and the unsettling of a place. The fact that Lindqvist is comfortable with extensive editing and ‘de-factualising’ the arena surrounding the place – including the re-situating of the sky to a uniformity across the series – has given me some inspiration regarding how I might eventually develop the narrative components in the Body of Work.

1 – Loc 150 Kindle edition.

2 – loc 176 Kindle edition

_________________________

And so to the images:

Image 1:

This image suggests to me of the difficulty of trying to move on, to find a way. There is no route forward other than this difficult terrain and no particular sense of anything better beyond what is in the frame.

Image 2:

A perspective of isolation.

Image 3:

I saw this image as one of hostility, one of demonstration of power, one over another, combative but futile for one.

Image 4:

This seems to me to be an image of neglect, not perhaps of the structural foundations but perhaps more of emotional neglect. I think the broken stairs are particularly important, there is no point in attempting to develop as there will be nothing here to support any ambition.

Image 5:

The first of two ‘horizon’ images which for me are subtly different. This one, because of the obvious, but indistinct references above the horizon line, presents an ominous looming

Image 6:

This is the sole image that speaks to me of pain, more especially of physical pain. I am distinctly aware that the image lacks definition in the white area, but it is a purposeful allowance on my part.

Image 7:

A small thicket at the edge of the space that is Purgatory has this plantation. The fog renders the distance impenetrable and the near distance equally so. Hopelessness and very clearly a man-made construction.

Image 8:

The leaf held in stasis by the ice on the footpath suggested to me down-trodden, unable to move. Stuck.

Image 9:

The indeterminacy of the future, the fog holds back any purposeful sense of a direction of travel, limiting the field of view, restricting outcome.

Image 10:

In looking for a way out, the blankness of the view ‘over-the-horizon’ offers no respite in the search for escape.

The fecundity of Purgatory

At the recent Thames Valley meeting I was left reeling somewhat. Presenting my work in the way I did didn’t provide me with any answers I was looking for, but did provide some very positive feedback on the work, which I hadn’t sought nor expected.

In my journal entry for the day there are three mentions of the word ‘statement’ and two of ‘position’ (..ing of the work); that is from only twenty that I wrote, a clear indication that this might be a good idea and also that for whatever reason my contextualizing of the work at the event didn’t do a very good job, in fact probably quite a poor job. I was of course pleased that the general feedback was positive on the quality of the prints; this despite how poor the paper was on a high number of the prints. However the exercise I had hoped for, despite the generous time allowance that I was provided, didn’t elicit the kind of reaction that I had hoped for. The images were just too ‘nice’. What I ‘knew’ them to be about wasn’t transferred at all to the audience, nor indeed a sense of what they were about and this despite my provision of texts freely distributed, and, how I talked about ‘purgatory’ as both a place and state. As fellow student Keith Greenough commented (and I paraphrase) “..the images depict something optimistic whereas the terminology (oral, written and printed) is the opposite..”.

Another edit is required, refining what I feel about the state of purgatory.

This divergence of outcome and expectancy has happened before and quite clearly I know now, if not before, that if I don’t provide a contextualizing statement then the work will not, is not strong enough, to stand on it’s own. Where I am going with the work cannot be expected to find any resonance with anyone else if I don’t provide a framework. However I am not ready to provide such a statement at the moment, firstly because I am not ready to because I am not entirely sure what that might be and secondly because of the nature of the work being personal.

Of the ‘space’ that is Purgatory I am tempted to invoke that notion of an ‘unsettled’ place, I am expecting some historical data that I could use as a fictional method of representation and a phrase from ‘The Offering’ by Grace McCleen comes to mind “…its most evocative aspect: fusty, acrid, furtive; suggestive of things ravaged yet fecund with time.” yet the element I am dealing with is better expressed as the bounty of memories. But it isn’t the place that I want to explore, but the space fecund as it is with memories.

Shooting into the sun

There is often something very revelatory about shooting into the sun, it allows a privileged view to areas not normally available – visual spectrums are distorted, illuminating perhaps normally darker places. I was drawn to the translucency of the protective casing that surrounds the sapling for two reasons: firstly it provides an ‘insight’ what is being protected and nurtured and secondly as a very visual metaphor for what this project is becoming about, more of that much later in the course I think.

I am considering colour versus monochrome and there have been a few reasons for me to consider what that choice means, or might mean for the significance of this work. Colour, we have been told, largely from it’s availability as a commercial option to photographers, tended to be used for commercial photography. Still we see references to monochrome work as a testament to veracity, stemming from the work of documentary photographers, photo’ journalists, those crusaders for truth and justice. Whether one believes/accepts those received notions is of course another matter. But I am curious to understand my perceptions on the use, or non-use, of colour.

I am acutely aware that the post processing of an image, specifically that of a digital image, is one of mutation. Ignoring the incontrovertible system of translating analogue light into a digital dimension, the subsequent conscious transliteration from a provided arbitrated text to a surreal text is one that interests me. Reading the Fundacion Mapfre 2014 exhibit catalogue of Vanessa Winship’s retrospective I became interested not only in the beauty and narrative(s) that have been assembled – I have been a fan of her work for some years now – but her continued determination to work in monochrome. It may be that she works only in film and that monochrome working, perhaps especially ‘in the field’ might be easier that attempting to work in colour, but she has spoken many times of her practice of working with large format cameras and how that alters the way by which she works, so I am unsure about the medium.

It may be that these books have used the same printer/base paper combination, but when I examine similar images from say ‘she dances on Jackson’ and from the exhibition catalogue the tones are remarkably consistent albeit the catalogue paper has a sheen that isn’t present on the monograph. I am interested because of the fictions that are constructed. That ‘conversion’ into monochrome is now accepted, I would suggest, to be a artifice (perhaps even when it is black and white film as the recording means?), a very obvious and purposeful fiction from one – normally seen as ‘normal’ – perspective to one that is a clear fabrication. In other words if I want to be clear to my viewer that I am not purposefully attempting to write a document, not wanting that reader to be confused about discerning a truth, that clearly any sense of verisimilitude will have been washed away with any trace of colour? The reader should not be confused about what I am presenting, it is a fiction and one of the clearest indications of that is to demystify it by the purposeful use of monochrome.

Winship’s narratives aren’t linear, the route isn’t from page one to the end, there are no chapters, no segueing of the narrative line, one can enter anywhere and work the imagery from whichever direction seems fit, as Carlos Martin Garcia writes in the introductory essay for the exhibition catalogue “…It is here that we find the foundations of a optic gaze that avoids the presentation of specific contexts or any direct involvement of her work in debates of immediate political significance.” p11. And in that same essay Garcia quotes Winship as saying (about her use of monochrome) “.. My images of course are made from life and the people in them are not actors or models as such. Black and white is a wonderful tool of abstraction. It enables us to move between time and memory.” p12. My project is about memory,  certainly re-situated, fictionalised and mediated via time.

I am in the process of creating an edit of the images I have made so far. All the ones that I present will be in colour, although I am making monochrome alternatives as well as altogether different images in monochrome. I am very conscious that my fictions are fabrications, non indexical and perhaps impenetrable thus far, my task is to try and find a way that will communicate with an audience – even if that intercourse bares little, if any , resemblance to my story!

Redheaded Peckerwood

In her essay that accompanies the book Karen Irvine, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago says of Christian Patterson’s ‘Redheaded Peckerwood’ that “…the most important implications of the (fictional or otherwise) crime are located not in the social, not in the collective, but more truly in the interior realm of our individual selves, where we harbor our own truths.” I wonder how many people, even those that come to this book, were aware of the events, or even the outcome in those few short weeks in 1957/8? The events that have led to popular culture to immortalize the ‘killing spree’ this book being another evidence – indeed a direct result of that perpetuation. Patterson’s fictional account though contests the notion of the single truth, making it manifold and this ‘openness’ is, for me, the strongest element of the book/work. It, the contextual arrangement of ‘evidence’, allows the reader to develop/enhance the narrative(s), to conject, to connect pieces together. Each image becomes imbued with potential because of its place within the sequence, the loose narrative becoming tighter or slacker as much because of what or how the viewer’s experience colours the mise-en-scene. Like “The Pond” the narrative flows from a beginning to an end, a serial narrative that defies, because it is in book form, ‘unstructuring’. The linear flow from front to back sequences the history of the events no matter what the evidence being presented is, its place in the chronicle and its narrative content continuing to develop, adding to the contextual framework, providing evermore substantiation. Truths I suspect are like secrets, once uttered are forever sullied via mediation, becoming something other than what they once were. Irvine previously also proposes that “… the meaning of memory is carried in the body..”, I wonder if what Patterson is doing here is to suggest that the evidences brought forward into the ‘real’ are also accented by the temporal sequencing as much as the evidence they provide? They appear in a chronological form and therefore their importance in the narration is amplified? That these are evidences of the memory of the protagonists, prefaced by the jointly signed scripted ‘Confession letter’? Either way it appears to ‘place’ the piece in the words of Starkweather and Fugate, a first person narrative account suggesting a privileged psychological perspective, allowing us to ‘walk in their shoes’. This would seem to me to be a prurient view but it suggests an altogether different aspect to both the case, which I have no great interest in, but, more importantly for me, how an alternative fiction can be developed to depict both the mundane and the other. The sensational slaying of eleven people by a young man and his even younger female accomplice, the consequential folkloric retelling in film and words, now also picture book would possibly inevitably tap into a sub-cultural national, perhaps international psyche, but the construction of a fiction – however rooted in fact or otherwise – via a sequence of images with residual textual anchorage is an accomplishment. The structure that enables the viewer/reader to develop imagery, sympathy and judgment through single purposeful sequence of photographs is inspirational, and particularly so in this stage of my studies. I have taken a lot from this book.

Fog and Frost in Purgatory

The fog and frost of yesterday morning yielded yet more photographs that I have printed, perhaps another 50 or so to add to the nearly 100 from my previous two trips to Purgatory. It may well be an aesthetic gimmick, but the work from yesterday seems to express a lot of what I now feel is likely to be my narrative subtext, perhaps surtext for the project. I’ll rest on that declaration for a while, perhaps until I have spoken to Sharon.

As I have suggested previously it isn’t the place of Purgatory that I feel I will narrate, rather the space. I currently don’t feel equipped to negotiate the terms of the project, that conversation with my tutor will perhaps help navigate to that point – or at least chart a course – but the collection of  narrative elements, and maybe especially these from yesterday are helping to confirm how things may shape up.

I am purposefully mixing colour and monochrome (black and white) and the reason for doing so is to keep options open. I have also printed some images that I have found aesthetically pleasing on A3+ paper to what they look like as photographs/as prints – I am also increasingly concerned about the screen providing an other perspective. The only criteria for the larger scale prints is that I ‘like’ the look of them; however I am finding that looking at these larger prints help to reinforce some of my thoughts about what this project is all about.

Something that Sharon suggested in her assignment report was for me to discuss more of what the images meant to me and “…the danger of not doing so is that they become an illustration of your thought / essay ponderings …….. we should delve beyond the theoretical and technical considerations..”.  I think this is an entirely fair summation of where I am, and whilst I appear to be reluctant to discuss what these images contain, I am not yet in a place where I can freely discuss what they mean to me. To be clear, these images are all pregnant, to a greater or lesser extent, with personal narrative, but of course the context is still within me and I need to find a way to release that. Some of these these images have become stronger with the post processing and printing, some though have just become prettier.

I am seeking help to find a way forward…

Dwellings in isloation

Martina Lindqvist is being exhibited at TPG currently. I found the ‘Neighbours’ series quite inspirational as I’m currently considering the ‘Purgatory’ project. Lindqvist re-imagines the single settlements in a landscape that emphasises their sense of isolation, using digital editing she freely develops the image to remove and enhance these dwellings from any sense of neighbourliness. The skies are all entirely blank grey and similar to other images, a single tone developing a sense of a foreboding oppression despite the almost ‘twee’ prettiness of the ramshackle and derelict buildings in a landscape that is still and empty. The prints are available in a range of sizes which is perhaps why there were differences in the hung prints which I did ind a little confusing but overall I was glad I made the trip on a visit ‘up-West’.

Purgatory lies in a land that is also wrought by nature, several references to it suggest that it’s physical challenges were uppermost when the choice was made to vacate the buildings. It is difficult to get to in fine weather, but at times of inclement weather it must be an act of determination. Lindqvist’s work dwells on the solitary stance of the edifice’s emphasising by the use of the titular expression, the ‘un’-neighbourliness of sub-arctic life. I am aware that ‘Purgatory’ also has a set of possible meanings and comprehensions that I hope will assist me in this project. I was also interested in the fictive nature of Lindqvist’s work, how she freely adapted what she found into her own contextual frame of reference, to support her narrative flow, and from this distance calmly offering that fiction as an evidence, as a story, as a truth.

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.

  and

  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.

And so to Purgatory

Amongst the four or five local places that I have regularly turned to for photographs the track to Purgatory is one that I enjoy quite a lot for many reasons. Firstly it is the solitude, occasional dog walkers might be at the early part of the walk (it is a there and back again walk, not circular) but after the canine toilet aspects are dealt with they are usually re-packaged in the 4X4 conveniently parked in the lay-by opposite the church, and driven home. Secondly the quiet induces a sense of the historical aspect of the place. Purgatory was, at it’s peak in the early part of the twentieth century, a site with eight dwellings, though it is documented that a settlement was recorded there in the late fourteenth century. The track leads to the Bartons – Steeple, Middle and Westcote which apart from Middle are mentioned in the Doomesday book and Roman artefacts are still regularly found in the area. Thirdly the name ‘Purgatory’ engenders a sense of foreboding which provides a sense of context to the walk which relatively quickly turns from a ‘proper’ track i.e. with asphalt into a ‘rutted lane’ which for many months in the year is a bit of a quagmire.

And whilst all these images weren’t at the final destination of ‘Purgatory’ they all line the walk. This area with it’s history might provide the easiest source for me as I flounder still to pull together a narrative for my BoW. I hope something happens soon as I becoming disconcerted as to the development of a project. Purgatory isn’t somewhere I want to go, I would rather describe in some way, or try at least to use it’s metaphoric strength in some way.