Week 6 – oral presentation prep

I have spent sometime putting together the script for my oral presentation assignment this week.

My project, Harena Now, is responding to the global sand crisis which is an in-depth topic. I want to ensure that the 10-minute short film I create not only reflects the importance of this environmental issue but also meets the grading requirements of this module. These include evidence of technical expertise; presentation; communication; awareness of diversity of contemporary photographic practice; the ability to inform and contextualize practice from historical, philosophical, ethical, and economic perspectives; how to identify opportunities for dissemination and consumption of work; and the ability to form critical opinions on visual and written resources.

My first draft reads as below:

ORAL PRESENTATION – SUSTAINABLE PROSPECTS

Opening slide:

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth”. Rachel Carson.

And the story of sand is changing, dramatically.

My work , Harena Now, is made in response to the sand crisis and it reflects both environmental and social contexts.

It is still not as widely known as the plastic pollution of our ocean has become thanks to efforts of groups such as Greenpeace or Surfers Against Sewage.

Yet under the oceans, and along the rivers that feed them, another environmental disaster is unfolding.

And this is mainly due to the current demand for sand in the construction industry.

Over time as populations expand, the need to create housing and jobs fuels greed and corrupt practices within the sand mining industry. Underhand practices and the simple economics of scale in sand mining is effecting people caught up as innocent bystanders.

I aim to add my visual voice to the work of academics, journalists, activists, designers and film-makers who are currently trying to raise the profile of this environmental issue.

To do this I am concentrating on methodologies for making my work either at my own local beaches (of which some have been/still are affected by sand mining) using sand and seawater, or through simulation techniques at home. I am focussing on the cyanotype process due to its minimal environmental impact, and unfixed lumen printing of black and white photographic paper.

My work is not documentary in style; it is not an ‘in-your-face’ depiction of the violence and devastation the human-made sand crisis can involve. It is made in such a way that by sparking curiosity those viewing it will discover more about its purpose.

I have been concerned that by not showing images of destruction the message behind Harena Now may be diluted. My images have often be described by others as “ethereal”.

Without having an explicit ‘context’ that viewers can derive from the content, it will be vital to consider the contexts in which they are shared.

The work of Lucia Pizzani provides me with a good example. Her recent show Broader Implications in London shared two bodies of work about issues affecting her home country, Venezuela.

In both “Inventario Personal” (Personal Inventory), made with the cyanotype process to create a mural of non-existent or hard to find health and hygiene items, and “Cesta Basica” (Basic Food Basket), that uses photograms to highlight the scarcity of food in Venezuela at present, Pizzani is making a political statement.

But it is the words of art historian and curator Rodrigo Orrantia in describing the exhibition that strike a chord with me. He comments: “For “Cesta Basica”, Pizzani takes the findings of the many experiments in Inventario Personal and distils them to create a series of images that are delicate and ethereal but also precise and solemn. It is perhaps these qualities that make the underlying political message of this work that much stronger.”

It is the use of the word “ethereal” and that final sentence that bolsters my conviction that my Harena Now methodology has substance.

Pizzani did however invite photo-journalists from Venezuela to exhibit their more documentary response to the problems alongside her interpretation. Perhaps she had also been concerned that it needed a more traditional aspect.

However, on the basis of her work alone, I have learnt about Venezuela and its current political situation, Pizzani’s work has led me to discover more. And I want the same for my work.

Her exhibition was also a part of a wider programme of workshops and talks, which will be another means for me to consider when promoting Harena Now.

The creation of my work is very insular in nature. I make it alone, in often isolated locations.

The purpose of making this work is not only to quell my own creative urge but to use it to highlight an environmental issue that is important to me, and enable wider conversations about topics that are sometimes considered taboo such as human population figures.

In this instance, as in many modern environmental problems, it seems to stem from an anthropocentric viewpoint of the natural world and a belief that nature will just keep providing. But will it?

The professional contexts for this work therefore span from educational to fine art. My ultimate aim is to create glass installations from my images that can eventually be recycled. This technique could be used to educate others about recycling in general, and promote new glass recycling concepts that return it back to sand.

It can also be used to address social and economic issues particular to the topic, while it could stand alone as artwork or be part of a collaborative exhibition to raise awareness around wider environmental concerns.

Opportunities to display my work in appropriate spaces, and gain coverage in relevant online or print-based mediums is an important consideration as it develops.

Already this year, my work has featured in a lifestyle magazine and on local radio. This is in part due to my own local media connections from my former life as a newspaper journalist, but also to the commissions from Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Environmental Science Institute.

As my work is connected to my coastal location, and I want to work predominantly from my home-base, I will be developing connections with local organisations such as CAST, which aims to promote participation, appreciation and learning in the visual arts and to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration across the arts and sciences and the CoAST network, which supports tourism to provide benefits to the community, economy and the environment, as potential means of promoting Harena Now, and future work.

Having already created social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for my participatory photography business, ShutterPod, I have decided to use these established channels to promote my practice as a whole.

This enables me to reach out to old and new followers to engage with them about all of my social/environmental projects.

By disseminating work on social media, it has led to new connections with individuals and organisations that may become collaborators. On a local level, my work has led to a meeting with a fellow artist to discuss running joint workshops, while it has also been recognised by Vimpt, a Self Publish Photo Story Platform, and is shared within alternative photography groups for comment and feedback.

I have also sold a number of pieces of work after it had been seen on my social media platforms and I will be developing this part of my practice as part of long-term plans.

And with a new website, I can also promote my work as a photo-artist, while directing visitors to ShutterPod too.

But having a good business plan and marketing plan is only part of the process. It is also vital that I build networks relating to this particular topic.

For example, I have begun conversations with journalist Vince Beiser, who is finalising a book about the sand crisis due for release early 2018. He said: “So glad you have been turned on to this issue. Your project is very interesting—lovely images – keep in touch.”

I have also contacted a design duo based in the Netherlands whose seven-year long sand project To See a World in a Grain of Sand, has been promoted during Dutch Design Week at the symposium The Abundance and Scarcity of Sand as a means to raise awareness of the sand crisis. Their interactive art project collected sand samples sent from around the world. They describe its objective as creating: “stronger ties between the earth’s materials and living communities. As people learn about their surroundings, they begin to identify more deeply with place. Sand is a universal and testimonial material that touches all people from all walks of life. By understanding the journey of sand, we shall develop a deeper understanding of the world around us: the world in a grain of sand”.

While I am conducting conversations with others interested in this specific topic, I also want to find out more about the people directly affected by the sand crisis. I am applying for funding to help me conduct participatory photography workshops with them whereby they can add their voice through artwork created as part of the project. I feel it is important to first-hand understand how their lives are being changed.

This will provide a balance in my work, and potentially a sustainable livelihood for more than just me.

What story of the earth will sand tell in the future?

This script does need a bit of tweaking, particularly as I am hoping to engage with a glassmaker about potential collaboration or ways to create the images in glass. I am currently working on a storyboard of visuals for the voice over. I’m even considering speaking to the camera as the example of Ron Corbin below as it is a powerful way to engage a wide audience.

I sought feedback on this initial script from my tutor, who said that it “looks great and I can see what you mean when you say that you are trying to channel your former journalist and trying to keep it concise” – as a journalist you are trained to cut the fluff, something I find so easy when writing about others but struggle more when writing about my own work. What do I include, what do I leave out?

He also asked if I was thinking of including work by others to give it more context as Lucia Pizzani had done but added “I don’t think you need to, as you describe the context of your work eloquently”.

This is reassuring to hear as it bolsters my conviction that this assignment is heading in the right direction.

I hope to have a dummy film ready in the next couple of weeks so that I don’t have to take too much time rejigging for the final edit. It will be interesting to compare this first draft to the end product.