Contextual Research – Informing Contexts – Week Five

Going back to my roots

The driver behind my MA project work is my desire to promote awareness of the impact humans have had, are having and will have on the planet. It stems from a time when I felt I was very aware of the many environmental issues the world faced.

As life changed direction in my thirties, so did the time I had to keep abreast of such a wide-ranging topic. My interest has never waned but perhaps I became more of a skim reader, someone who had a surface knowledge.

Through my MA not only do I want to gently educate others, I want to continue to educate myself and rekindle my knowledge. As we enter (in principle) the Anthropocene epoch I feel there is no better time to promote this subject. There are times I may need to change direction – most recently I have been considering how vast the subject of human impact is from population growth to climate change and plastics to food production and this has led to ideas that focus on more specific issues.

Ideas are formulating and I have been inspired by two photographers of late; Mandy Barker and Henri Blommers.

Mandy Barker - Ophelia medustica. Specimen collected from Glounthaune shoreline, Cove or Cork, Ireland (Pram wheel)
Ophelia ©Mandy Barker
Photographic waste ©Henri Blommers

Both of these photographers reflect my own views. Blommers in his Lens Culture interview describes how his project Plastic Utopia (of which the image above is from) aims to show “the impact of our consumption on the environment” and that it is also “a reflection on my own behaviour — my photographic waste”. Both of these statements ring true with my own. Part of my project proposal aims to try and calculate my own impact, or at least the means in which I try to minimise it through my passion for photography, and in particular, historic/traditional processes.

Barker is intermingling the past and present, using expired film and a microscope to invoke the sense of marine organisms that are in fact created from found plastic items. Beyond Drifting is reminiscent of science books of the 1800s and the pioneering work of John Vaughan Thompson and Barker has found an unusual way to illustrate this topic through the beauty and tragedy of her images.

It is work such as this that I want my work to sit along side. It needs to be noticed by a wider audience and help spark conversations. I have already dug out my husband’s old microscope, with a view to perhaps monitoring a square mile of my local area to witness how human impacts on it. This in turn could lead to collaborations further afield to compare how differing locations are effected by us.

I am fascinated by the potential we have to remedy negative impacts but feel we need to have brave conversations that, with what seems like a backward mindset of certain politicians, may be hard(er) to achieve.