I awaited my tutor feedback for Assignment 5 with bated breath, hoping it would come in time for me to get my submissions ready for assessment. It arrived this afternoon. I have added my comments in italics.
My tutor stated that this was my most mature and interesting assignment to date. It showed my technical and visual development over the course and showed my potential as a degree student and a professional photographer. He found the subject of Finn Slough both fascinating and strange, the proximity to the water is palpable in my photos and was the visual key to the project as a whole.
[Thank you. I had really enjoyed working on this project and found that I ‘found my groove’ with it.]
However he stated that there was one major flaw with the project and wanted to know where the community was in this series about a community. He assumed that it was the immigrant community that attracted me to Finn Slough and mentioned that presumably the descendants of the original Finns and ex-Soviet states were still living in the slough. He said it would have been a wonderful opportunity to look into a micro-world that has managed to remain aloof from our globalized society and see how their culture has survived, developed and cross-fertilized with Canadian life.
[While I get where he is coming from, in that I did not get close up portraits of any of the people living in this community, they do feature in two of my photographs. According to the research I have done very few descendants from the original families still live in the slough. I think there are two at most. While some still fish, it is now mainly an artists community now.]
The other obvious criticism is the lack of a clear narrative. This is a series, and it is a good series, but there is a difference between similar kinds of photo repeated and a developing story where something changes, grows, time passes. The narrative that is suggested to me is connected to the tide rather than the light. You have images here of very high tide and one of low tide. This dramatically transforms the landscape, turning a water-logged land into a land of muddy channels.
[There were two photos that had the same subject, namely the historical boat, Eva which show the location both at high tide and low tide. My narrative was always meant to be about the tides rather than the light, although shooting at different times, days and during different weather conditions would definitely have changed the light. I believe some of these lighting conditions served to enhance the images, rather than detract from them. Actually there are six images taken at high tide and four images taken at low tide. The images where the subjects are surrounded by grass (no 2, 4, 7) are all low tide images. This is a wetland area and vegetation grows below the water, grass, bulrushes, skunk cabbages and so on. Perhaps my captions lacked this explanation.]
My tutor went on to say that the work is promising and that I should continue with my studies. He further suggested that this project could develop into a larger body of work that would include the missing elements he has mentioned.
Feedback on images
My tutor suggested that the photo was not sharp, that it look as if it had been blown up.
[The photo was not blown up, but he may have been picking up on the blur on the flag. It was a long exposure taken just before dawn and there was a breeze blowing. However I have another photo of the same scene which was taken during a lull in the breeze which I will substitute].
This was not an interesting image according to my tutor. He said I needed to figure out how to give it more depth of meaning visually.
[I have another photo of the bridge which I will substitute].
This is an atmospheric water-scape giving the best overview of the living conditions in this place with the houses on stilts. You’ve maybe got a little too much of the empty water, but it’s still a strong shot.
[I have to agree on the empty water. I had cropped it, but found that I was losing too much detail on the left bank. I shall try a panorama crop].
The house is another wonderful photo, plenty of telling detail here in really lovely light. Where has the water gone? Should you have included it in the frame to retain the watery theme?
[Thank you. I agree the light was fantastic at that time. Where has the water gone? It is low tide, so the water has gone out to sea. During low time Finn Slough is totally emptied of water].
It’s good to see the mountains in the distance. This maybe a little too pretty and disconnected to form part of the series, where is Finn Slough here? This could be anywhere. You could try lifting the houses out of the dark more. (Note that this may be a monitor issue).
[I can see your point that it may look too pretty for the series, so I will substitute another photo that I took of the same house at a slightly different angle].
This house looks so full of character that it makes me want to meet the people who live here. It looks like something designed by a set designer, but it’s real and it’s organic. It is also interesting to see the Canadian flag flying, which could say something of the need to defend oneself from xenophobia.
I think this shot would have been improved if you had placed the inhabitants in front of it, on the road, closer to camera. This would have created a relationship: house + the people who live there.
[I agree with the point about the house. It is laden with character. Personally I think the xenophobia bit might be stretching it a bit. Canada is one of the few multicultural countries in the world where multiculture is actually working. Canadians are a patriotic people and like their American counterparts, they love to fly their flag from their houses. Many immigrants have also taken to flying their homeland’s flag outside their houses and apartments as well. I totally concur that this image would have been raised to a different level if I had been able to photograph the inhabitant. I did speak to her on several occasions and asked if I could take her photo, but she refused and I have to respect her wishes].
It’s wonderful to see the connection between these houses and the landscape, there is not an assault on the land here, but a true dwelling in it. Sisu is an interesting word here because this place would sure require a lot of it!
There is a contrast here, but it is not that clearly visualized by this shot because the Seaspan ferry is obscured by trees. Good that you noticed it though.
[What most attracted me to this image were the various layers from front to back: the foreground water, the row of houses, the row of vegetation behind them, the Fraser River with the ferry passing by and beyond that another island and of course the sky].
Another sign, which I think you can cut out of the series.
[I rather like the sign which is on the old drawbridge. I find it rather ironic that a bridge that was built in the 1940’s would have a sign on it that features a website URL. As this was one of my details shots, I will substitute it for another].
This was an opportunity to get a lot closer. This couple are evidently engrossed in their work and their heads are down. That can work if their work is illustrated by their body postures in a strong way. But here, it is unclear. A formal portrait using the wooden shack as a background would have presented more visual interest.
[Yes, it would have been nicer to be able to get closer, but it was high tide and they were across the river. I was as close as I could get].
The Mermaid is a remarkable shot with beautiful light and colour. It could well be the cover shot because it works almost as an optical illusion with oddly placed planes – like a Cubist painting. It’s bizarre. Well spotted and well framed.
[This image has grown on me. At first I didn’t like it, but after having lived with it in my office for a few weeks, I have come to appreciate the intricacies of it. If held in portrait format it looks like an abstract of a totem pole].
This is a much more satisfying shot of the Eva in front of the old house, though I think you will need to choose either one or the other because this looks like repetition. The light, tones and colours are really beautiful and it’s interesting that we see the dry river bed at low tide here for the first time.
[I agree that there is repetition. I was worried about that. I desperately wanted to depict high tide and low tide and aesthetically speaking the Eva was the best choice that was accessible. This was also the only location where I could get a “pure mud” shot as just past this the river bed is covered by vegetation].
The old “taken from the road shot”! It does appear a little lazy when the road appears as a diagonal at the bottom of the frame. Apart from that it’s a shot that could work, showing the tall thin trees and the little islands and spits.
[Actually the shot was taken from the dyke wall. As this is both the entrance and exit for the boats of Finn Slough I do think it is a good closer].
Learning Logs/Critical essays
The blog and your research are looking good. A bit more studying will give you the terms you lack in explaining photographs.
The accompanying text does show some immaturity (unlike the images) because it doesn’t really add much other than anecdotal information.
[I’m not sure I completely understand this statement. The brief stated that we should just write captions, which according to the Oxford Dictionary means “words printed with an illustration or photograph in order to describe or explain it.”]
I like the way Virginia has decorated her house with flotsam and jetsam, but Virginia is missing from the shot so the text tries to ‘stand in’ for the missing person.
[I have already explained Virginia’s absence above and in my assignment. She did not want to be photographed].
The historical information is interesting as an opening but it does tend to look somewhat incongruous when we see that it is essentially a landscape series. Such a text would then focus more on the nature of landscape.
[Point taken, but I do feel that the history is rather necessary to understand the landscape too].
Your visual skills are getting stronger and there are photos here that could turn up in National Geographic or some such magazine. You are noticing the light, the colour and the texture of things and ordering shapes in the frame really well.
[Thank you! That is very encouraging to hear].
I see you’re reading Sontag’s ‘On Photography’, which can be difficult. Try David Bate’s ‘Photography: Key Concepts’.
[I had noted in my review on Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ that I had read it through once. I purchased Photography: Key Concepts after the tutor’s same recommendation in Assignment 4 Tutor Feedback].
With the walk behind me, I am acting on the suggestion of the OCA TV group and recording each section of the walk in my learning log. I was walking with my friend Angie Lardner who kept me moving rather than letting me take too many photographs. I also found that two pairs of eyes enabled us to see what the other missed. These notes are recording my thoughts and feelings at being in the landscape that is part of my family history. The photographs I did take were mainly for reference. I will return to retake some when the conditions and viewpoints are optimal. The hardest task will be to take this account and extract from it a simple, understandable and interesting photo essay.
Wednesday 23 September 2015 – Bordon, Hampshire to South Harting, West Sussex
This section of the walk takes me from my present home where I have lived over a period of 29 years, first for 6 years and again for 13 years since 2002. During my first stay, I learned from my Aunt, (my Dad’s oldest sister) that my Grandparents lived in Bordon and my Aunt was born in Whitehill. Subsequent research into James Down’s Army record confirmed this and he served at Longmoor Camp. My Aunt was born on 5th January 1907. Although the record shows that she was born in Bordon, at that time the camps at Bordon and Longmoor were quite primitive so it is likely that as expectant parents, my grandparents may have been billeted with civilians in Whitehill. A lot has changed in the village since 1907 but one thing that was certainly there was the Bronze Age round Barrow, now surrounded by houses, the main road and the village hall.
Also at this time, 2nd Corporal James Down was re-engaged to serve 21 years with the colours, his record being annotated and signed by the Captain OC 8 Railway Co Royal Engineers at Longmoor. The Woolmer Instructional Railway which was being built by the Engineers at Longmoor was a 9 mile loop of track and marshalling yards built to train soldiers in the use of a railway for supplies and troop movements on campaigns.
The track bed survives and serves as an access road to the Longmoor Ranges and is used regularly by military vehicles and civilians for walking and cycling. Once we had walked the main road down to Whitehill we turned east on the track towards a pedestrian bridge to take us across the A3 and onto the public bridleway over Weaver’s Down. All of the landscapes in this area are heathlands, conifer and silver birch with heathers, gorse and broom. The soil is light and sandy, not supporting much more than permanent pasture where it has been claimed for agriculture. South of Weaver’s Down the OS map tells me that the line of the Roman Road from Chichester to Silchester crosses our path.
The line of this road has been extrapolated from ariel surveys carried out in 1949 and evidence of earthworks on the ground. Interestingly, the main road in the centre of Longmoor Camp follows the line of the road and in several places, my route follows the line closely. Archaeological excavations that my father carried out on Roman Villas on the West Dean Estate in the Chilgrove Valley re-enforce my close family connection to this route.
Passing the edge of the Military training area as we walked south, we joined the Sussex Border Path, crossed the main Portsmouth – Waterloo railway line and walked into Rake, crossing the old A3 route, identifying an old milepost, upon which we could only identify the the numerals 17.
Looking at the map and tracing the old A3 route south-west is the approximate distance in miles to Portsmouth. At this point, the old Roman road lies just under 2 miles (3km) away to the east. Continuing south below a wooded escarpment, still following the border path between Sussex and Hampshire, we crossed another main route, the A272 at Durleighmarsh and at Wenham Common crossed the now dismantled Petersfield to Midhurst Railway line which operated between 1864 and 1955. Turning away from the Border Path at West Harting we came to the tree clad north side of Torberry Hill. The land here is in private hands with no public access granted by the landowners, Buriton Estates so it was not possible to visit the site of the 1958 excavations at the Iron Age Hill Fort that were the start of our family association with the archaeology of West Sussex. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torberry_Hill
During the summer of 1958, my parents, sister and I camped on the hill and helped with the excavations. I can recall that this dig also extended into the autumn and I spent several Sundays with my father on the hill. My abiding memory was sitting on the steep southern slope looking over the village church at South Harting, whistling loudly to hear the echo around the valley. My love of the Downs probably started at this time. Being brought up on the coastal plain, hills were a novelty but always in the background. From my bedroom window I could see Trundle Hill with its three masts looking like cricket stumps. It seemed so remote but was in fact, only 10 miles away.
We passed to the east of the hill on the lane and then crossed fields towards Church Farm and rested in the churchyard with a cup of tea before driving home. There are several folk tales associated with Torberry Hill. It is said to be formed from the the Devil’s spoon which he cast aside in anger when he burned his lips while tasting hot punch from the Devil’s Punchbowl. Rumours of buried treasure on the hill have given rise to rhymes which state:
“Who knows what Tarberry would bear,
Would plough it with a golden share”
Perhaps this is linked with the activities of fairies who reputedly dance there on Midsummer Eve.
Thursday 24 September 2015 – South Harting to Lavant
Todays walk started with a climb to the top of Harting Down, overlooking Torberry Hill to the north. We made our way through woodland to the south, skirting the Uppark estate and on to Apple Down.
This was another significant site for my father and his team of archaeologists from 1982 – 87. Topped by a small reservoir at a height of 174 metres, it is an unremarkable hill but the remains of two Saxon Cemeteries were found on it’s northern slope and provided a valuable historical insight into the social structure of late Romano British and early Saxon society. From the top of Apple Down to the south west a view of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight opened up as we made our way to the to the small church at Up Marden dedicated to St Michael.
We took a tea break here on a bench in the churchyard where my father chose to have his ashes buried. A commemoration stone on the wall marks the spot.
From Up Marden, our path took us down the face of the chalk escarpment, through trees and across meadows through a herd of Galloway cattle to the village of East Marden. Climbing up another escarpment, East Marden Hill which quickly becomes the long crescent shaped Bow Hill and runs north/south along the Chilgrove Valley terminating at Kingley Vale. I’m not sure if the hill is named for its shape or because of its groves of Yew trees which would have provided the wood for the longbows of the English archers in times past. Past Bow Hill farm the vistas open up and the forestry plantations on Whitedown and Warren hanger can be seen to the east.
From this point, we walk into the woodland of Blackbush copse and the Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve. This is another area that we frequently visited as children with my parents. At Goose Hill Camp, another Iron Age Hill Fort on the side of Bow Hill, my father’s pre-war interest in Archaeology was revived when he joined the Excavation team of J R Boyden in 1955 as a volunteer. I tried to find the earthworks and ditches but as they are covered by low growing yews and undergrowth, I was not successful on this occasion but did find them and photograph them later.
Below Goose Hill Camp, alongside the B2141 lies the remains of a Roman Villa which my father excavated over an extended period from 1963 along with another site to the north east alongside Hylter’s Lane.
A brief stop was made for lunch at a point on the path that afforded views to the south and east over Lavant, Goodwood, Chichester and the coast at Bognor Regis. I’m sure when we were young the undergrowth and the trees at the southern end of hill were short enough for us to sit and picnic on the slope and take in the view while sitting down. We quickly reached the trig point on Bow Hill (206 m) and shortly after a round barrow and the two large burial mounds known as the Devils Humps.
Rather than take the steep slope down into Kingley Vale we skirted around Stoke Down taking the farm track which led us past the information centre for the National Nature Reserve, across the end of the Chilgrove Valley with a view of Bow Hill, to the B2141 at Welldown Farm.
Crossing over to Binderton Lane, we made our way past Binderton House, across the A286 onto the track bed of the former Chichester to Midhurst railway line now known as the Centurion Way.
This line was opened in 1881 and operated with passengers until 1935 and goods only until 1951 when a section of the embankment south of Midhurst was washed away causing a crash which closed the Cocking to Midhurst section. The line operated between Chichester and Cocking for two more years but terminated in Lavant in 1953. This was a general goods line until 1968 and served as a transport for sugar beet and then the Lavant Gravel pit until 1991. The Centurion Way was opened in 2003.
The track bed has been built over for a short section. The trail passes through a housing estate until the site of the former station next to the bridge over the A286. It then continues to Chichester Westgate. At the railway bridge, we found a footpath into the village and ended our walk in Lavant.
Friday 2 October – Lavant to Rose Green, Bognor Regis via Sidlesham Quay
Today’s walk was a solo effort. Angie had a game of golf waiting. I left the car in Lavant and walk along the Centurion way into Chichester. On the way I passed under the bridge which carries Brandy Hole Lane across the track.
This was very close to my maternal grandparent’s home in Summersdale and I can recall we often used to walk from The Broadway along this lane as a child. I can remember we always looked over the parapet of the bridge and I think I can remember seeing a train passing at least once.
Very close to the copse here is an earthwork, possibly Iron age in origin where we used ride our bikes up and down the steep banks. There are several memorable places in this area that I will return to photograph, including my grandparent’s house and the Rousillion Barracks Guardhouse.
It is at this barracks that my other grandfather James Down, transferred from the East Kent Regiment to the Royal Engineers in 1898. The walk into Chichester, mostly in a cutting with trees, ends when the Centurion Way reaches Westgate by the Bishop Luffa School playing fields. From here it is a quick walk eastwards into the city where my memories are full of the sites that my father excavated over his career lasting many decades. It is unfortunate that as a teenager, I took very little interest in them although my sister and I were very often ‘conscripted’ to help, usually on a Sunday and not willingly. My plan was always to offer to wash the volunteer’s cars, making some pocket money, and when that job was finished, I would go off and explore the city, which in the late 50’s and early 60’s was very quiet. (long before Sunday Trading)
As I walked towards the Westgate, I passed the Old Tannery, where I believe the Archaeological Unit was housed at one time. During the late seventies my father stopped being a volunteer and became the Director of Archaeology for Chichester. All of my experiences were very early on and as I made my way into the city I was recalling the places where I had worked with him. The Theological College Garden, The Bishops Palace Garden, Gough’s Art shop, Morant’s Department store, David Grieg’s; all were places that, in the process of redevelopment left exposed ground which had to be excavated before building work could continue. Again, I shall return to city later to see how I can interpret this idea. I did take a quick tour of the Bishops’ Palace Garden which is open to the public.
It affords a good view of the cathedral. From here, I followed the course of the River Lavant and the line of the Roman Walls to Southgate, stopped to photograph the Chichester Court building (father was also a JP and sat on the district bench of the Magistrates Court for many years) but my main reason for photographing here was the memory of the day that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards appeared in court on drugs charges.
I was supposed to be on day release at Chichester College but a friend and I decided to queue for a seat in the public gallery. Unfortunately, the queue was longer than the space available so I cannot claim to have been in court to see the proceedings.
My route now took me across the railway line (over the footbridge where on one of my Sunday jaunts, I used to stand and watch the trains pass, hoping to see one of the few steam trains running on the Southern Railway).
This next section of the walk was alongside the Canal Basin and on the towpath of the Chichester Ship Canal to Hunston. Another branch of my family, my mother’s Grandfather Edward Frogbrook was a seaman from nearby Bosham. During an internet search a few years ago, I found his name on a ship’s list for the port of Shoreham. In 1881, at the age of 17, he was an Ordinary Seaman on board “Forager of Portsmouth”. A subsequent search of the library aboard the Dutch Schooner “Oosterschelde” revealed a book about coastal schooners in which “Forager” was mentioned as a coal carrier which carried coal to Chichester. Alongside the canal basin, up until the late sixties, there was a gas works. It is likely that Great Granddad Ned was a frequent traveller on the canal which links Chichester Harbour with the city.
I can remember walking the towpath from Chichester to Birdham on a hike with a school friend. This was unusual because usually, we cycled everywhere. This must have been one of my first ever self planned walks.
This section of the towpath is only about 2 Km and I was soon at Hunston on the B2145 Selsey Road for a short section and turned left onto a lane leading to the church, Church Farm and the Manor House. From here the lane became a footpath, leading across flat agricultural land to South Mundham. This area is well known for growing vegetable crops on the rich clay soils of the coastal plain. I walked through the remains of a crop of courgettes on my way to Fishers Farm.
The day was cool and bright with a low sun which made very pleasant walk. At other times, this can be a very bleak and windswept place. As a family, we often cycled the 6 miles between Chichester and Rose Green. In the winter, the final section between Lagness and Sefter Farm off the B2166, was always hard work being buffeted by the SW wind. There were not many people about but I did chat to some dog walkers on my way and saw some mini buses parked in a field of sweet corn. The harvesters were invisible. I had chosen to include Sidlesham Quay on my walk because this area was home to my maternal grandfather’s family who were included in my Assignment 2 on Remembering. As a family we also visited Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve and sometime made the journey around the harbour edge to Sidlesham Quay and visited one of my Mum’s uncles (Uncle Sam I think) who lived nearby.
The path to Sidlesham Quay was straightforward enough. Past Honer Farm, the land use changed to rough pasture. This part is low lying and quite wet. Pagham Harbour is now silted up and the Quay at Sidlesham has long been out of use. The Nature Reserve preserves the unique saltmarsh habitat and is an RSPB reserve. As a sixth former I undertook an environmental project on the harbour’s shingle bank for my A Level in Biology.
When I reached the Quay, I sat for a while to eat lunch and then took the rather wet and muddy path around the edge of the saltmarsh to the Pagham Wall, a sea defence which protects the land around the Pagham Rife from the sea.
There were more people here, quite a lot of birdwatchers and photographers. At the end of the wall, I turned inland again towards Nyetimber, across the fields, through the village, past the former Windmill and though housing estates to my Mother’s home in Raleigh Road. As I took my boots off at the front door, I looked out across the road to the Rose Green Primary School, where I was a pupil from 1954 – 60. I took out my camera and photographed the view of the school and carefully included the classroom where, in 1960, a student teacher on teaching practice from the Bognor Regis College of Education, introduced us to photography and showed us how to make a pinhole camera…
With the walk now behind me and perhaps just one more day of photography down at the end of the walk to fill in the gaps, this review of the route and the photography has given me some ideas for a less complex topic for my essay. However I am conscious of the time I have taken so far, the 31 October deadline and my impending holiday from 11 November – 2 December. My topic for the essay is tending towards the ancient monuments and sites of historical significance within the landscape that my father worked on during his career.