Week Eight: Surface and Strategies – Workshop

I have well and truly gone from pillar to post this week. Having run numerous photo-related workshops I felt I needed to create something very different to my comfort zone. But I already have four commissioned cyanotype workshops set up for August so rather than reinvent the wheel, I have decided to combine the work I do with participants with my upcoming exhibition.

Fortunately, Hayle Heritage Centre, where I am holding my workshops, are supporting with exhibition space. This has provided me with an unusual opportunity for participants at the four workshops.

Example workshop poster

To create the cyanotypes at these events, I will be taking delegates out to the local beach and harbour, working within nature to create the images, while also incorporating historic photographs from the Centre’s archive. If the weather isn’t great we will work within the centre and make use of pre-collected flora and resources.

These workshops and their venue correlate with my Harena Now project, which is seeking to address a lesser known environmental concern – that sand is running out. And the people of Hayle know only too well about the problems created by sand dredging and the impact it has had on their local coastal environs. A local problem reflects a global one and, from an historical viewpoint, Hayle was a “forerunner in the global engineering market and the world’s most important mining port” in the early nineteenth century. It’s harbour was essential to the iron and tin industry. This reflects the current development of urban areas that, overall, are mainly responsible for gobbling up the sand supplies.

Save Our Sand Hayle, St Ives Bay, is run by volunteers and was created to oppose the “permanent removal of sand as a method of maintaining a safe channel to the Harbour”. Instead they promoted the reintroduction of the historical sluicing of the harbour, and they won. In 2010 the commercial dredging was suspended. But there is always the possibility the private firm may wish to seek a new licence.

From these local connections, historical influences and current environmental questions relating to the sand extraction industry, I aim to work with participants at my workshops to create a personal, visual response. I will invite them to put forward their artwork for inclusion in the mini exhibition and to share their images on social media using the #harenanow hashtag.

I plan to film the workshops and collect feedback from attendees to gauge how involved, how much was learnt and how much fun was had. Although the underlying topic I am looking at is serious, these are public workshops and need to be run in an upbeat and inspirational way. I hope the idea of being part of the Landings international exhibition will garner support.

Feedback from peers has been positive – there was even a suggestion of trying to make cyanotypes with moonlight. Although my methods of running workshops may be changed to suit the audience or which camera-less and, ideally, minimum toxicity photo processes I experiment with, my core methodology of my MA practice remains focussed. It is the study of how, when humans can achieve great heights across myriad disciplines, we can be blinded by greed and power to the extent that the short sightedness of some in the here and now can have huge effects on the environment of our future.

It has been important for me to return to working alone during my MA. I have felt the need for solitude, and still do. That being said, my long term plans will undoubtedly involve collaboration and interaction as when we talk about problems we can often find solutions.