2021. A new year, a new location and a New World Order, or so it seems. I am picking up this blog after an extreme hiatus. In March my daughter and I picked up our lives and relocated them 18,000km from Aotearoa, back to England, the land of my birth. 2 days later the country went into the first of what has now been three national lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump’s tenure at the White House is spiralling into inevitable insurrection and disgrace. We face a climate emergency, and the possibility that many of our creative communities will not survive the fiscal realities of this Coronavirus. I miss teaching, and being part of a team. I miss my collective colleagues from Tangent, and my students. However, slowly but surely, I am piecing together a new existence here, and beginning to see threads & connections, even across hemispheres, that still hold as frameworks and wellsprings for my practice. This first post; some sort of Pilgrim’s Progress 2.0, will serve to pull together some of those visual threads.
I have written of my compulsion to photograph the landscape, and of the inherent baggage this drags along into the frame. In the process of thinking about these threads of connectivity I perceive an underlying fascination with soil. The soil of the earth is its body. It is the meeting ground for the above and the beneath. It contains, buries, stores, slides, transforms, rips open and closes upon. We press upon it, and it presses back. It conceals, and holds back. It gives up, yields and is robbed of. It germinates, regenerates, consumes and digests. The minerals of which it is composed are seeded by the stars.
We take. We are such inventive, industrious and rapacious harvesters of what the earth holds. In our brief history as a sentient species we have plundered, tooled, shaped, modified and extracted virtually every inch of soil that clothes the bones of this planet. The structures and machinery that enable this cycle of extraction and modification are in themselves compelling, particularly when reproduced through the optical glamouring of the lens. There are tunnels that extend miles under the seabed and deep into mountains. At the very outer reaches they store radioactive waste and offer researchers the opportunity to listen for the whispers of the beginning of the universe. The labourers who work at these interstices of the skin and the body of the planet risk being subsumed therein.
The primary research tools I use are my feet and my eyes. I walk and look. I wonder, and I photograph. This is the only way I know to get under the skin of a place, any place. in this new city, in this new existence, this is what I am doing. So I am becoming acquainted with rich red local soil, quarried for centuries and made into the local red bricks that make up nearly all the housing here. The quarry and brickworks are on my doorstep, and this is where I need to start knowing the land and its stories, here, in Red Hill.