When applying for the Bartlett Scholarship 2017 my idea was very vague but I knew there was a very big opportunity to explore and expand my practice in quite an early stage, considering I was only in second year at the time. For the most part of second year I was trying out new things and exploring ideas I liked but never knew how to approach them with my art. I have always been interested in photography, both my own and other peoples, and by using old photographs to create new work for myself was a great place to start and jump into this project.
As mentioned before I had some old photographs I had bought off of eBay [figure 1] and I was interesting exploring those through a narrative. At first I thought a narrative would have to include me making up a story but I wasn’t sure how I could do that but then it became very clear that that was not what I wanted to do. I played around with how the images spoke with each other and pairing them together in books but I felt that I was just hitting a certain limitation to the images and where they could go. It wasn’t until I started looking at the image itself very closely and realising they all had something in common; they all shared a nature background.
My relationship to nature is something that is interesting to me. My mum has always had a green thumb and likes her plants and I share that with her but for a while I went ‘off’ nature. I think I got so frustrated because for the most part of my life all I have known is countryside, the north of England has vast amounts of nature but seeing the same green fields over and over gets very tiring. I think it has only been over the past couple of years that my appreciation for nature has come back, which I think has to do with studying in a city and so getting back into nature is something nice and I think also quite simply I really like all the greens.
The nature in the background of the images and my relationship with nature is what came together to form the foundation for this exploration. When I had a tutorial and brought this up and said where I could go I immediately thought Scotland. Scotland has a rich and lush history of nature, of woods, waterfalls, lakes and lochs and I knew that was the place to go. It wasn’t about finding the exact location in the images but more about making new connections forming new relationships and contextualising them for me. I also have a relationship to Scotland as I have always been told I have family from there, who I don’t know, so I’ve always had this very odd connection to Scotland.
I then thought logistics. I couldn’t and still can’t drive, and this trip was about finding and seeing lots of different locations across Scotland not just staying in one place so I would need someone to drive me, that’s where my mum comes in. I thought of leaving out that detail because it seemed a bit embarrassing or unnecessary but it wasn’t until speaking with peers and tutors that this was actually an integral part to the work and it has completely opened a new part of my practice for me more recently.
My relationship with my mum is very interesting and this has made me realise this is something I want to explore further because while I don’t think anything of it, it is quite interesting. All my life it has been just me and my mum and because of that we’re very close. My family is very small and consists just of my auntie, my cousin and my gran and grandad. For the first 16 years of my life my and my mum lived in a house in the middle of a council estate and while my mum had a very good paying job we could never move up and out. We never really fit in with people in our estate, not many people were university educated, my mum being the first and only one before me to go to university, we didn’t really have much in common with our neighbours and people in our street.
At the time of applying for the scholarship my mum had recently lost her job for the second time, we were living in a rented house in a very bad estate and things were quite dull, and at the time of the trip my mum was coming up to starting a new job but we were both living at my gran and grandads. This was a key part of the project that I had not expected to become part of it but definitively enhanced it. Me and my mum were sharing a bedroom in my gran and grandad’s house and the space is very limited and to share that space is very intrusive and being so close we can irritate each other so going on this trip at this time was a very weird one because we were going to be even more on our own, no gran or grandad, and sharing the space of the car for long periods of time and I had not expected it to be that intense when I had applied for the scholarship.
I had planned on doing the trip in the Easter break but because my mum was unemployed she was going to interviews and we had to postpone the trip. I had intended on presenting my work in one of my crits and had been talking about it with my tutor. So when I knew I wasn’t going to have any work I made a ‘prequel’ of sorts. I took lots of photos around where I live, documenting the streets, the area, the house, the bedroom that me and my mum share. I took these all on disposables to get that grain effect and also because I needed to use them up so it was one less thing taking up space. I didn’t really know what to do with the images but when I started talking about them in my crit it became like a performance I was describing the images more but I was also talking about the memory of the place. It wasn’t until then that I really knew what I was going to do with my work when I came back from Scotland but then I realised I could do a performance/talk where I talk less about the images and more about the experience and bring them together. I also did some writing to accompany the images and prompt me, which is why I thought about perusing writing and text more in my practice and using it for this trip.
The actual trip began early in the morning, something both me and my mum weren’t accustomed to at the time with not having to get up early for anything. We travelled up the motorway for a long while, using siri to guide us to the first location as before we got to Scotland there was lots of roads and ways to go but once we were in Scotland I noticed there were less roads and ways to go and we didn’t have to use maps. I mention siri because it became a running joke how funny the voice was and couldn’t say things properly. Reading over my notes of the trip everything seems so small and not worth mentioning such as:
“I enjoyed having cereal”
but writing that made me laugh because at the time it was so funny. There is also me falling backwards and properly falling over to get one picture (because I had to climb a wet mossy tree trunk) – so even though the photo doesn’t seem that significant the moment was [figure 2]. I think when it comes to exhibiting the work, talking about those things with the images will really make the whole thing come together and understand the trip and my relationship with my mum.
The trip pretty much consisted of being with nature and in the landscape [figures 3 – 10], we avoided towns and cities and only visited touristy villages [figure 11] that were part of the nature spots we were visiting. I loved and miss the lochs and how vast and breathtaking they were and how we stayed in one place where it overlooked a loch and to have that would be absolutely amazing. There was a lot of funny interactions at the beginning of our trip when we were in a very touristy spot called Luss. There were lots of American tourists and they were very into it and it was so busy and probably the worst thing to experience but we then went back when it was quiet and it was completely different and a much better experience but I think that’s also reflective of me and my mum’s personalities of keeping to ourselves.
By far the best place we visited was Mull [figure 12-15] and it was just something completely different to anything I’d ever been to before. When I had presented my proposal I had said I wanted to go to the island but I ended up booking the wrong boat so instead of the island mentioned in my proposal I ended up going to Mull. The prices were about the same and next time I go to Scotland I will be going to both islands but I am grateful for going to Mull. We hadn’t realised the size of the island; we had thought it was a small island that we’d get the ferry over to, drive around then chill for the day. What ended up happening was driving around and not having enough time to go the whole of the island. But being on an island where the landscape was so vast and rolling it felt otherworldly and I hope to be able to spend more time on the island next time I visit.
On the trip me and my mum had to share a bed so it wasn’t much different to how it is at home [figure 16] and I think thats quite an odd thing because usually you would share a bed on a trip [figure 17-21] that and then come back and its back to your own spaces but because we were sharing space on this trip as well as at home it was quite full on and then on top of that we were in the car if not in a room so we were never apart. Surprisingly we didn’t get on each others nerves that much, we usually do after a while because we have such similar personalities but I really do think because it was somewhere different there was so much going on that that really helped with it.
By the time it was time to come home I did want to come back but there was such a longing for the landscape because you could tell the landscape was becoming a bit more flat and there were more houses appearing together where as in Scotland there was just so much green and land and interesting things to look at where as England felt very bleak, which is ironic because all throughout our trip it had rained and when we returned to England it was bright sun and warm. [figure 22]
To document the trip I used a few mediums; note taking, photography and sending postcards daily. On the trip I made sure to carry a notebook with me no matter where we were and writing down almost everything, even something that seemed irrelevant. I found it really helped because if not for the note taking I would most definitively forget something that seemed small at the time but looking back may have been much bigger. It also helps me because I want to start exploring text and writing more and this is just another way of doing so. As well as note taking, I wrote a diary entry every night when we were in the b’n’b or the hotel. Sometimes I was very tired and did not want to but I made sure to write what had happened and it was a contrast to the note taking as the note taking was very small sentences and short bursts of thoughts whereas the diary was more thought out and selective.
Photography was the main medium that this trip was based on with the initial proposal based around found photographs. I took both my mums dslr and 2 analog cameras. I took about 10 rolls of film with me, most being 36 exposures and the rest 24. I favour analog over digital for some instants, with analog being more soft and grainy giving that memory effect, what I was looking for in this body of work. However the cost of developing and buying film frustrates me as it does just keep rising in price as it is less common and it does have rewarding qualities. What I don’t like about some digital photography is that it is too sharp and crisp, you lose that quality of memory and becomes more sterile, to me at least. However it does have its bonuses such as more detail, something I was a bit disappointed by with my images from the trip. It also lets you compose an image better and I find I put in a bit more time to composing a shot with digital than I do analog even though you only get one chance with analog where as you have more chances with digital.
A part of this trip I had not anticipated but loved is sending postcards to my gran and grandad everyday. [figure 23-26] I wrote the postcard usually on the night, usually before or after writing my diary entry. It was really nice to write these postcards, especially seeing as me and my mum were living at my grans, being away from them it was nice to connect with them whilst being away. I liked the way they all looked and again it’s another way to explore text as well as archiving my experience in a physical form. A funny thing that happened that felt like the worst thing at the time was sending a postcard, realising that I had forgotten to put a stamp on it, on the postcard from Mull, which was my favourite day and best postcard. Luckily, the postcard came to the house and we just had to pay postage! Archiving the experience through something physical and something I have thought about making into a booklet is something I’m very happy about as bookmaking is something I have experimented with in my practice and usually as an extension of what work I am doing at the time.
When I planned and presented this trip I feel now that my practice was all over the place; I was experimenting with lots of mediums with not a lot of work that I could show/exhibit. At the time I was thinking a multi-media installation made up of audio, video, photography and archiving. The work has definitely changed from that and is much stronger and is still made up of photography and archiving but focusing less on audio and video but they will feature in the exhibition/talk. As previously mentioned I have begun exploring performance through talks and using photography and text to meet somewhere, doesn’t have to be the middle but they both have a job and meet somewhere. Photography is doing one thing, illustrating the experience, giving a sense of what it was like, text is bolding a bigger environment that the picture can’t capture such as space like the vastness of space or what it is like to share a space in that moment.
Until the ‘prequel’ [figure 27] to the trip I was very unsure about what to do with my work but now I am confident that it will be a performance but I am unsure as to where yet. I have done a performance in the lecture theatre but I think the space is too big and because it won’t be filled it isn’t a very intimate space so I think something like the seminar room might be better as theres more room for experimenting too as people could sit in rows of chairs or could sit on the floor or round tables where as the lecture theatre is a set space with little to change in how the audience can interact with it. I also see the photographs being work by themselves and could be displayed in a book or on the wall. However displaying photography I always find myself struggling with because it an often be quite sterile in frames or without a frame it could look sloppy but I think it’s just up to experimenting to find what works best. I could have a slideshow of the images left to play, which ties back into the talk experience but maybe I don’t need to display them and only have the talk and that is it but, again, something to experiment with.
In a dream scenario I would love to have a talk held on Mull. So what would happen is people would have to travel the same way I had, to then get on the ferry and then drive around until they reached where the talk is held. I think Mull because it was an experience like no other, for me it was the first time being on a ferry and it was the first day it wasn’t raining so it completely uplifted the experience but it is integral to this trip for me. Then being on Mull was so lovely it was both my mum’s and my favourite day, the scenery was lovely, the driving was great and it just felt so other worldly and sadly we only got to spend about 6 hours on the island so we couldn’t go all the way round or go to a specific place.
At the time and still do I play minecraft with my mum. We share a world together on minecraft and and we build houses and I noticed within the landscape in Scotland that I was noticing things that would be in the game such as dirt and rocks and how a mountain was formed. [figure 28-29] The game is a game that generates a world and is very big and vast, much like Scotland. I think that is something I am going to experiment with further both in regards to this trip and my practice as it is world building something I felt that I was doing when I was in Scotland especially as we were so isolated in ourselves. And it is also very juxtaposing to compare the situations; we usually play the game sat on the bed we share and in the world we have houses and farms and mountains and just large scale areas, the complete opposite to the real world.
I thought about it on the trip and if I am to apply for the Bartlett travel scholarship again I am leaning very much towards Japan. And at first that could seem quite bizarre from Scotland to Japan but I think Japan has such gorgeous landscapes and somewhere to get lost in and I think it is very comparable to Scotland. Japan seems very harmonious with itself and the landscape. Theres lots of open land once you are out of the city and mountains and I even took a picture that reminds me of Japan [figure 30]. To me I can imagine it being very serene and quiet much like Scotland. I think if I continue exploring my relationship with my mum it’s even more relevant because she is very enamoured by Japan, as am I, and to go somewhere that is so similar yet so different and on the other side of the world to Scotland, would be very exciting and very relevant.
See figures in order of being mentioned: