Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Blog Goes to Sleep. Have a Lovely Summer!



Best Drawing

It's coming to the end of the blogging year and my summer break beckons. So it's time to do another best of.

I started drawing photographs this year. Eleanor Macnair, the brilliant Queen of Playdoh, keeps on telling me how great they are.  But I'm not so sure.

I think the one above (based on an original by Kohei Yoshiyuki) is best however. There is real quality in that one.

Anyway, you can see more here if you scroll down a bit.




Best Scarecrow 

This is from my Instagram series on my allotment. This scarecrow appeared near the beginning of the election in the allotment next to ours. Over the period of the election, it disintegrated. And then...




Best Face Fallen off a scarecrow.

...by the end of the election the face had fallen off the scarecrow. That's when I knew it wouldn't end well for May.



Most views 

The most views on the blog this year were received by this post which is really about the evolution of taste in  photography and the way functionality of photography coincides with genre. And of course it touches on the World Press Photo and the buying of newspapers - which is something completely different to photobooks, art photography, conceptual photography or other niche areas.




Best Show

Richard Mosse's Incoming by a mile. Some love it, some hate it, some pretend to hate it. I love it and so did thousands of others. It also had one of the most diverse audiences I've seen at a gallery for a long time. It blew me away.

You want affective distance. Try VR.




Documentary Photography student with most views

I did a series of posts on Documentary Photography Students work, and Zsofi Bohm had the most views with her brilliant Uranium City.





Best Book and Saddest Loss

I haven't reviewed as many books as I would have liked to because I am focussing on my own work and book. I haven't seen as many books as I would have liked to. Seems to be the year of the reprint though.

So I don't know if Lorenzo Tricoli's Pinnochio is necessarily the best book. But it's one of the best and Lorenzo is sorely, sorely missed.




Best talk 

Ah go on. Let's have two talks, both organised by ICVL. The first was Gemma-Rose Turnbull and Pete Brook in Photography as a Social Practice at the Arnolfini. Simply wonderful with the social, the ethical and the enervating in equal measure. It was so great to hear how story telling and the politics of representation could combine in the most engaging and personable manner.

The second was Juno Calypso (there's one of my drawings of one of her photographs above. That's how narcissism works!). I don't know if I'm completely convinced by what she says but she says it brilliantly and the pictures are 1950s fabulous. And it was fun and entertaining. I took a bunch of complete beginner media students (as in don't know what an aperture is or who Robert Frank is) to one of her talks at UWE and they were blown over by her. That's the sign of a great speaker!


Best TV documentary

OJ: Made in America. No gimmicks, no tricks, no bad soundtracks or reconstructions. The story tells its own story, or that's how it's made to seem.




Best stupid post

Don't be a moron in other words. But it gave me an excuse to make a stupid collage. And I do like a stupid collage.





Best broken camera picture

My budget has meant I have always bought slightly misused not-quite-right second hand cameras. And sometimes they make misused, not-quite-right pictures which I would curse and bellow at. This year I realised there's something completely right about my not-quite-right pictures.

You can see more if you scroll down a bit here.


Best Editor



Thank you Alejandro Acin who I have been working with to produce my book on fatherhood, family and nature - All Quiet on the Home Front. I will be back in September with details of the pre-sales of the book, which we are working on right now and hope, in an ideal world, to launch at Paris Photo. It's all looking very exciting.

Have a lovely summer!

Picture Below from All Quiet on the Home Front















Monday, 26 June 2017

School Uniform: A 12-year sentence of stupidity and polyester


    Last day in uniform

My daughter finished her GCSEs (the exams 16-year-olds take in the UK) this month and finished school for the year. And as she finished school so she also came to the end of a 12-year sentence of wearing a school uniform.

It is a sentence in my opinion (Germany, which understands the linking of enforced youth dress to fascism, is also right in this regard). The school uniform is a tool that is used to consolidate class privilege, colonialism and social difference. People have been bullied, beaten and killed because of school uniform. Uniforms are used to profiteer and divide.

In Britain uniforms are used for social cleansing; There are schools in cities around the country  where not having the correct shoes/blazer/shirt serves as an excuse for a kind of economic apartheid as in this example from Kensington in London - but also for a quite deliberate social exculsion that amounts to social cleansing. I know in Kensington in Liverpool, children have been excluded quite deliberately because of uniform and of course the people being excluded are those with the most complex needs; asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors. And by excluding them, you immediately improve attendance records, exam results and so can get a better Ofsted mark and league table grading. That's how education works in Britain. You destroy the lives of real people to improve your imaginary numbers.

Possibly the worst thing about school uniform though are the absurd rules that come with it. These rules are arbitrary and enforced with varying degrees of stupidity around the country. They cover skirt length, badges, wearing of ties and colour of shoes. Make-up and hair can be tagged in for good measure. Here's a picture of my brother-in-law a few weeks before he was expelled from his school for having long hair. He's the one half-concealed by the foot.


The only consolation of school uniforms is the existence of small rebellions against them; stripping ties of the coloured threads, making ties short and fat, making ties long and skinny, rolling skirts up to make them shorter, sneaking in some jewellery or make up, and wearing of badges (the only badges officially allowed when I was at school were the kids who wore Jesus Saves badges. That's the kind of school I went to. Jesus Saves! Jesus Wept!).

During the recent hot period in the UK (temperatures reached over 30 degrees - that's enough to kill a pure bred English person, but pure-bred English people don't exist and never did so nobody died, they just complained and sweated alot), both the stupid rules and the small rebellions were on offer all round.

An example of the pettiness of control comes from an email sent out by my daughter's school (the only place in the UK where David Cameron was egged (it missed) during the 2015 election I'm proud to say) two weeks ago.

'Due to the current hot temperatures, we do not expect students to wear their blazers to and from school. We are happy for our students to carry them to and from school. In school, staff will give permission for the girls to remove their blazers if appropriate.'

If you have ever wondered why it is stressful being a high school teacher in the UK, think of having to work in a regime that comes up with this kind of stuff. Think of the professional development courses you must need to do to be able to write this kind of message with out being overcome by complete despair.

The consolation is in the small retaliations against gross stupidity. The best example was this one from a school in Devon where the boys were forbidden from wearing shorts, but not skirts. So they wore skirts. Brilliant.



Some had borrowed from girlfriends, others from sisters. A few had gone the extra mile and shaved their legs. When the Isca academy in Devon opened on Thursday morning, an estimated 30 boys arrived for lessons, heads held high, in fetching tartan-patterned skirts. The hottest June days since 1976 had led to a bare-legged revolution at the secondary school in Exeter.
As the temperature soared past 30C earlier this week, the teenage boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts. They were told no – shorts weren’t permitted under the school’s uniform policy.



When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school – no doubt joking – said the boys were free to wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday, a handful braved the giggles and did so. The scale of the rebellion increased on Thurday, when at least 30 boys opted for the attire.

Read the whole story here. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Technology, Photography, Football and Authenticity!


Stills from Blow UP

People, including me, often ask where the money is in photography? As if to say there is no money in photography simply because magazines don't commission photographers to go and make a story for months at a time in the way that a few might have done in that regionally specific 30-year-window when they did that kind of thing.

It's the mythology of the glory days of the past, the idea of the concerned photography making great stories for great magazines, without any of the economic or political burdens of the present. But if you read how people made money back in the 1950s or 1960s, before they became successful, it was a huge, huge struggle, where contacts and communication were huge factors in determining whether you could break out of the financial mess that has always accompanied a certain kind of photography. With a few exceptions, photographers have always been skint, are always skint, will always be skint. They might give the impression they're not skint, but if they're doing anything remotely non-commercial as the core of their work, they're fibbing.



It's interesting to compare that past with the present. Think of education. I always find it ironic when I start going on about the lack of money in photography and then  I go off to teach students paying £9,000 a year for the privilege to study the subject at university. And they do this with cameras and lenses that cost £4,000 at least, on laptops that cost another thousand, and so on all the way through to fabrication, publication, promotion and consolidation of a career. The outgoings are enormous.

So there's money in photography, the problem is the photographers aren't making it in the old sense of the word. Wasn't that always the way?

Now the question is how to make new money (and that's what this and this and this is about). Music and TV are creating new streams of income using the internet, using streaming services. We happily pay a few pounds to stream a film or buy some music, we pay monthly subscriptions to companies like Netflix just for a few key series - and they end up absolutely minted.

News isn't there yet however, and nor is photography or the arts as a whole. The question is how  can these industries (if I must) tap into the new technology and find a model that suits news/photography. You get the feeling it's coming,  that it might involve Google and a payment (this is what some people involved in licensing images are looking into) method that involves small but incrementally large payments, a model that doesn't quite exist yet, but is on the cusp of existing. And that when it does come into being it will very quickly become taken for granted and won't be that different than what came before.



What that model is I don't know. If I did, I'd be writing code... and shit. No, actually I wouldn't.  But then who can predict what the future will hold. Everything is so weird, unpredictable and contrary it defies prediction. I was reading about the future of football the other week and the new ways football is being used digitally tugs in two supposedly opposing directions.

The problem for football is it's too expensive for most young people to attend. In the UK for example, (and it's not the same in other countries I know) Premier League ticket prices have gone up 300% in real terms in the last 20 years. The average age of people going to premier league games in the UK is 42 I think. Go back to the 70s, and the average age was in the 20s.



Picture from the Dart Period of English football violence 

Allied to that, there has been a loss of atmosphere, an increase in football matches as a tourist or corporate destination and this results in a loss of atmosphere and a perceived lack of authenticity. Sitting in a newly constructed plastic seat with a roof over your head, with clean toilets, with a big screen to catch replays on, with a mass of food and drink concessions at your fingertips simply does not compare to the old days of standing on a windswept terrace open to the elements with a half time menu restricted to bovril and a tepid chicken and mushroom pie lacking in both chicken and mushrooms, a boggy rat-infested urinal your toilet and feral, Stanley-knife carrying kids stunted by malnutrition your compatriots in football-going stupidity. It was far better in the old days.




And so you have these dual streams of new football industries. You have eSports and the Fifa gaming industry which is so wrapped up in technology it isn't true. It's a simulacrum of the game, but one that has captured the people who can't afford to attend games and eschew the great outdoors in all its forms including the football stadium. You want to be a professional gamer, you'd best be dull-skinned and pale because you'll never leave the house. You'll be an addict.

So there's a technological stream.

There's also the authenticity stream. The idea that the Premier League is too elitist, the players too overpaid and distant. So you get things like Hashtag United (as well as Wimbledon FC, Dulwich Hamlet FC, FC United of Manchester ), a team made up of ordinary men who play ordinary football. Each game gets a million views on a dedicated Youtube Channel so they make some money.

There's the authenticity. The format they play in follows the Fifa model, and some of the players in real life are also successful Fifa players - they're part of the gaming industry. They're great at social media and they know their audience.

It's a very strange mix where the football is filted through this strange mix of gaming, social media, and old-fashioned story telling. It's a bit shit actually, but it does a job.

Professional teams are tapping into this by starting their own eSports/Fifa teams. The idea is that eventually these can be used to buy merchandise and draw people to the 'real game'. But there is a feeling that eSports will become the 'real game'.

How does that work in terms of photography. I haven't got a clue really but I think  the need for a perceived authenticity, for a strong story, and for the interplay between personality, image and narrative (and not just in the photographic sense) will become more apparent in coming years, and will also tap into the new forms of income generation that we don't yet have.

You can see some of that in the ways that stories are reported already, in the supporting materials provided that provide a backdrop for stories.

You can also see the technological aspect developing, the way in which virtual reality is being used (rather lamely at present. Once the novelty factor is gone, there's not much there though I'm looking forward to seeing Thresholds), and there's an interplay with installation in the ways sound and touch are being used.

Again, it's all about story telling and using different narrative forms to generate emotional and physical responses that go beyond the simply visual. And again the question is how can this make money. And does it need to make money? My suspicion is that all these developments will eventually result in huge amounts of money being made, but only for those who are both hard-nosed, adaptable, and understand the need for a strong, easily digestible and accessible story. That will lock a lot of people out and concentrate the money in a few hands as always.

But perhaps that is nothing new. Most financially viable photography is a bit crap, it will continue to be a bit crap, but with VR or music or a film with a voiceover thrown in. Most really interesting photography is made by slightly dysfunctional people who are not easy to work with and are not attuned to the world of social media and overarching narratives. They won't make money. But then they never made money. They made great work! Or interesting work. Or simply work that matters in some way. And they'll continue to do that.  The creative process has its own reward. Money isn't everything.

Fuck the Market. That is also something worth considering.

Amen.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Louis Herron and the Resurrection of the Victims of Columbine




The final post on this year's Documentary Photographers is Louis Herron's Columbine. For this project Louis scanned the internet for images of victims of the Columbine shootings, then recreated them using 3D imaging softwared - the intention being to print them out using a 3d printer. It's a strange form of digital resurrection of the murdered people gaining some kind of new half-life through the technology that was, in part at least, linked directly to their killers.


Coorey de Pooter


This is what Louis says about the project

Columbine

On April 20th 1999, two high school seniors carried out one of the most infamous shootings in contemporary America. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold spent the majority of their adolescence attending Columbine High School together. Both had unextraordinary childhoods, took part in extra curriculum activities and were employed by a local pizza shop. Despite this seemingly blissful suburban life, they jointly harbored a sinister hatred of society that came to fruition on this day. Together they plotted to murder hundreds of their peers in a symbolic act of defiance and revenge. Assembling an arsenal of almost one hundred IED’s and enough ammunition to kill every student in attendance, the pair sought a way to write themselves into history.



Dan Rohrbug


Over the preceding days, weeks and months the pair’s actions continued to not only affect the lives of the small community of Columbine, but America as a whole. During the fallout, legislation was passed requiring all guns to have a safety lock and the implementation of metal detectors and armed guards in schools across the country, with increased scrutiny of both journalism and video games for their perceived roles.

Harris and Klebold continuously positioned themselves within the digital, hosting sites dedicated to the game DOOM whilst also acting as a platform to air their ideologies. In recreating the events of the shooting within a digital realm, it removes the immediate ramifications formed by our collective trauma, allowing an objective insight.



Dave Sanders

Contact Louis at: louis.t.herron@googlemail.com

Follow Documentary Photography's 3rd Years at Two Eyes Serve a Movement on Instagram here

You can see  other documentary work in London opening 16th June at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Peckham. We'd love to see you there so come and say hello! There's free cocktails and everything.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Luke Withers: An Archive to Die for



The penultimate Documentary Photography student I'll be showing is Luke Withers. Sometimes you get somebody who knows right from the start what they want to do and most of the time when somebody knows what they want to do in the first year, it's a bad thing for a multitude of reasons (starting with it's probably a bad idea to begin with), but with Luke it's a good thing, because it is a fantastic idea that needs room to breathe and time to grow into its own skin.

That's the way it is with Luke. Right from the first semester he talked about the Black Mountain of Belfast, its history, the way it was used for surveillance, for protest, for war and for peace. 

The project didn't get finished, indeed it has only just got started during his time at university but everything else he has done leads into it, including the project he'll be showing in the final year show. 

This project is called Territorial Volumes. It is a hydrological take on Gibraltar, how the place is dependent on water and is defined by water, both fresh and salty. It's a project that connects to Luke's fascination with mapping, the grid, and the ways the topological and the historical overlap. 

This is what he says about the Gibraltar project.



Territorial Volumes 

Gibraltar is a 426m limestone rock which rises from the Mediterranean at the gates of the Atlantic. Due to it’s lack of natural resources, the disputed territory relies on desalination for its drinking water; a process wherein saltwater, drawn from contested seas, is separated through a membrane into freshwater and brine. This water is stored in elevated, subterranean reservoirs cut into the rock. The elemental bodies that constitute the territory; rock and water, become entwined in the geopolitics of the place through their disruption, distribution and depiction.In foregrounding the elemental, the visuals of sovereignty are reduced to the constituent components of territory, rock and water. The subterranean infrastructure both demarcates the territory and supports the life of the population, which is itself in flux; experiencing the bodily reality of borders on a physical and molecular level, through movement, habitation and hydration






The project that is still in the making has similar preoccupations as the Gibraltar work. Hills are involved, verticality, surveillance, borders and hidden forms of communication. Put it like that and it's like a trail of bloody footprints from one project to the next (which starts below). 



But the most fascinating thing about Uncertain Entanglement is the archive that is involved - an archive that goes way beyond photography in its historical value. While Luke was a student at Lagan College (Northern Ireland's first integrated college), he met Brian Rowan, a journalist. 



Rowan had worked during the peace process as a carrier of messages between paramilitary groups and the British government. During this time, he received messages and notes that he passed on to lead negotiators. It is a jaw-dropping selection of scrawled texts tying in to key points in the peace process, linking to moments that would define both British and Irish history for years to come. 



Most astonishing is the materiality of these notes; they come on betting slips, on old fish and chip wrappings, on napkins, on scraps of newspapers. It's an astonishing thing to behold, and sadly I haven't beholden them!

It also indicates the contingency of history. There's a little bit of Tess (of the d'Urbevilles) in all these little messages. The flimsiest fragments carrying the weightiest of messages, written in cafes, bars and the backs of cabs, there were a multitude of ways in which the whole message-carrying affair could have gone completely wrong. 



This informal mediation is referenced in the project, but so are the military communications that emanated from Belfast's Black Mountain, so is the surveillance that pervaded the city. So in a way the project becomes a hierarchy of communication, but it's an upside down pyramid where the most fragmentary scraps are the most vital, where the human element of historical message-bearing outweighs the complexity of modern communications. 




Contact Luke at: luke.withers23@gmail.com



Follow Documentary Photography's 3rd Years at Two Eyes Serve a Movement on Instagram here

You can see this and other documentary work in London opening 16th June at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Peckham. We'd love to see you there so come and say hello!

And if you do have any spare cash and want to be a patron of some truly great photographers, go to the Kickstarter Page here. And thank you so much everybody who has contributed and made sure we hit the target. It is so appreciated!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Chloe Jones and the Strange World of Neuron Mapping





The penultimate Documentary Photography contribution comes from Chloe Jones. Her project, C.A.R.E.N. looks at how virtual reality is used in rehabilitating people with spinal injuries by a remapping of neural networks through mirror neurons. 




Chloe's strory reminded me of this story on facial recognition by monkeys, and the ways in which basic algorithms are used in the brain to map faces. The images above show pictures shown to monkeys (on left) and the pictures recreated from their brainwaves (on right). The similarity is quite astonishing - and the way in which it is done is using a kind of mental algorithm which corresponds to those used in facial recognition. A case where the synthetic simplicity and directness of visual analysis created on computer models almost exactly matches the organic simplicity and directness of visual analysis in the brain. Simple, direct and obvious is best in other words, even in a complex example like this (where there are 25 mapping points).

The potential consequences of this are both potentially life changing in both amazing and terrifying ways.

Read more about this here

A similar kind of mapping is evident in the processes that CAREN uses in its rehabilitation process. What I find so fascinating is that you have an intuitive sense of what is going on in the story, and the images correspond to this idea of mirror neurons, yet at the same time it is such an abstract project. But as the monkey facial recognition experiment shows, the abstractions of algorithms and data so often have a very direct and indexical relationship with reality. That is what this project is about!



C.A.R.E.N


Motek Medical’s ‘Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment’ known as CAREN, evidences the positive impact of advanced virtual reality exposure therapy. The UK’s only accessible CAREN system is situated in Salford’s, Brain and Spinal Injury Centre. The immersive multi-sensory system allows sufferers of traumatic brain injuries, psychological and neurological disorders to experience an accelerated and powerful improvement in their rehabilitation, through the physical and cognitive interaction with virtual environments.




Part of this treatment relies upon how the CAREN manipulates a subset of motor neurons known as ‘mirror neurons’; nerve cells that fire automatically when you perform a task, but also when you observe the same task being performed by another individual. The underlying research and study into mirror neurons is used here to contextualize the mechanism of virtual reality exposure therapy and in this case, the success of the CAREN.




This series of work visually compares the sensory components of the system to that of the human body, with emphasis on how the software can be customized to each client’s requirement, repeatedly evoking the situation of trauma and with time, rewiring the lost neural paths in the brain. The process is therefore a journey from the virtual to the corporeal.






Contact Chloe here: chloedjonesphotography@gmail.com

See more work here

Follow Documentary Photography's 3rd Years at Two Eyes Serve a Movement on Instagram here

You can see this and other documentary work in London opening 16th June at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Peckham. We'd love to see you there so come and say hello!

And if you do have any spare cash and want to be a patron of some truly great photographers, go to the Kickstarter Page here. And thank you so much everybody who has contributed and made sure we hit the target. It is so appreciated!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Lost face!






Following on from the previous post, I found this floating around the allotment last night.

I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I was going to vote Conservative and then this happened...




Last month the British prime-minister and leader of the Conservative Party decided, for the good of the country to have a general election.

I was flummoxed. Who should I vote for? I'd never voted Conservative before. I've voted Liberal, Labour and Green, but Conservative? Never. But Theresa May stood for strength and stability, that's what she said, that's what the newspapers and the television said. And I believed her. I believed them. And No Deal is better than a Bad Deal. That's never really worked for me when I'm refixing my mortgage or trying to get a better pay rate, but what do I know. She's the prime-minister after all.

But what really swung it for me was the appearance of a Theresa May scarecrow in the allotment next to ours. It was a sign. The first time I saw her she had the sun behind her and she was laughing. That's how strong and stable and happy she is. This scarecrow was a sign that everything is going to be OK. Better than OK. Britain is going to be just great. Theresa May's joyful face was a mirror to the Conservatism that was going to transform our nation forever. We were going it alone and Chairman May was at the helm. What could be better!




I took it to be a sign and I made my pledge. I would vote for the Conservatives. Here in Bath we have a great candidate in Ben Howlett. I saw signs supporting him and let me say how much they helped me decide to vote for Ben. He's a local champion. He wants to shut the library, build a park and ride over one of the most beautiful landscapes in the West and he's always toed the party line on every vote. That shows he's loyal. And strong and stable. And can make tough decisions on things like selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

My impressions of the prime-minister only got better. Theresa May did something that I thought was very strong by refusing to appear in a debate with Jeremy Corbyn. Actually she refused to appear in a debate anywhere. That's good I thought. That's more than prime-ministerial. That's presidential, Mobutu-Level presidential! I was very happy with my choice.

Not that everyone agreed with me. I was villified on Facebook for choosing Theresa May. I heard that people were saying she was weak and unstable because she didn't dare face the people. I even heard people say that No Deal was worse than a Bad Deal, that No Deal was the worst possible deal, that only a complete fool would think No Deal was any kind of deal! Nonsense I thought. Theresa May is strong and stable and Theresa Scarecrow, her garden manifestation in the allotment next door is proof of that.




So off I went for reassurance to gaze upon Theresa Scarecrow and bask in her strength and stability. But something had changed. She had started to wilt a little. Her face rippled, her skin peeled, her colours had started to run.

So what, I thought. It's just a scarecrow. But deep down I knew that wasn't true. This was a scarecrow with a presence, and somehow that presence had been distorted by some mysterious force. Then I remembered the story of Dorian Gray, the man whose picture aged and showed sign of corruption while the real Dorian Gray stayed young and flawless no matter what degradations he imposed on himself and others.

What if this wasn't an ordinary scarecrow but a scarecrow of Dorian Gray: a scarecrow of Theresa May! May and Gray, they even rhyme, so it must be true.

I watched the television and looked at the face of Theresa May. She still blinked and gulped when somebody asked her a difficult question, she still laughed awkwardly when they called her cruel or a coward. And he skin and hair remained absolutely the same. Yet here was this scarecrow showing all the signs of what was happening beneath the surfaces. What if the ripples and the peels of the scarecrow's skin were signs of Theresa May's lies and deceit, of her cruel and venal beliefs.

It couldn't be. Poppycock I thought. Stuff and nonsense. But then this morning, the scales fell off my eyes. I walked into the allotments for my morning walk and what did I see. Scarecrow Theresa was faceless! It was like a nightmare.The scales fell off my eyes, it was Dorothy pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. There was quite literally nothing there. Her face was empty and her face was a mirror of Conservatism. All those words, those policies, those soundbites were as empty as Theresa May's face.



This was not an election about strength or stability, or deals and no deals. It is an election about truth and honesty and social justice.

I realised that my beliefs about Ben Howlett had been founded on a lie. Libraries are a good thing, Green meadows are a good thing. Affordable housing, health care for all, equality in all things including education, a belief in caring for the least fortunate in our society, a belief in a civil society that is justified by itself and not by the profits it reaps for its shareholders. That's what matters.

I know now, thanks to that scarecrow, that Theresa May doesn't believe in any of those things. That the Conservative Party doesn't believe in any of those things. It has turned this nation into a cruel country of food banks where the poor are blamed for the policies of the rich. Through cuts to education, housing and community support has stripped whole communities of opportunities to come together and be as one. It is only interested in division and the money it can reap from the asset-stripping that accompanies this division.



In my constituency, Labour can't win. If they or the Greens were up against the Conservatives, I would vote for them. In Bath, it's the Liberal Democrats. I'll be voting for them, as will my one time Ben Howlett voting friends. This is the poster they have on their gate now. Perhaps I wasn't the only one who saw that scarecrow.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Jon Windsor: The Geological, Economic and Personal Mapping of a Valley



Jon Windsor is next on the blog with a personal take on the Ebbw Valley of South Wales, and the way that geological, industrial and personal history are woven into the fabric of an area that has been devestated on environmental, community and economic levels over the years. It's a touching story where this devastation is marked onto the skin of the valley, and is remembered with a mix of nostalgia, anger and despair, but with a little bit of contemporary joyfulness thrown into the mix. I love the fact that the places where the contour lines get close, there are perpendicular lines made by walkers, bmx-ers and bikers, a different kind of mapping. 

Below is what Jon has to say about the project.



I was born in Risca at the bottom of the Ebbw Valley. It’s an area of former industry, an area that my family worked in during the glories of the mining era. My father worked in the Celynen South Mine until Margaret Thatcher took away his job following the miner’s strike in 1985.


After that he worked in construction, he drove a taxi, and now he works in retail. In a way, his life mirrors the changes that have happened in the valley. From being a site associated with coal and industry, it is now a site associated with deprivation, EU-funded infrastructure projects, and the zero hours economy.


Although my family is steeped in the history of the Valleys, I didn’t know much about it. My life was based more in Risca, Newport and Cardiff. This project is my attempt to reconnect with the nostalgia and longing for the past, as expressed by my family history, and the way the area has become a reflection of the new valleys; a shadow economy that is a mix of new industries, commuter housing and economic initiatives that never quite happened.


For this project, I followed the the old Ebbw Valley Railway line from its start in Ebbw vale to its end in Newport docks. The line was at one point used to carry freight from Ebbw Vale steelworks to Newport docks between 1962 and 2002, stopping at each town throughout the valley along the way. Using this track as a guide, EBBW uses present day photographs from each of these towns, coupled with Ordinance Survey maps from the time such industries were operating as a means of examining in detail how the landscape has changed over the last 50 years.





Follow Documentary Photography's 3rd Years at Two Eyes Serve a Movement on Instagram here

You can see this and other documentary work in London opening 16th June at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Peckham. We'd love to see you there so come and say hello!

And if you do have any spare cash and want to be a patron of some truly great photographers, go to the Kickstarter Page here. We need a little money!



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