I have been receiving email info from Ffotogallery in Cardiff for sometime now, but one of its latest exhibitors has particularly stood out.
Mike Perry is currently showing his work, Land/Sea or Tir/Mor in Welsh. It is described in the email as: Land/Sea focusses on the coastline and rugged landscapes of West Wales, where Mike Perry lives and works. Collecting and photographing man-made objects washed up on beaches, and recording in forensic detail the landscape around us, he alerts us to humanity’s negative impact on the ecosystem, but also the beauty of the flora and fauna, and nature’s amazing ability to renew itself.
I am always intrigued by other photographers who have the same or similar ideas of using their photographic practice to raise consciousness on a topic. What is it that drives them to do so?
In the Ffotogallery description of the exhibition online, it comments on Perry’s ongoing series too, Wet Deserts. This work relates to agribusiness and its impact on how we live. There is a quote from George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life about rural landscapes that says it is, “… a shadowland, a dim flattened relic of what there once was” (Monbiot 2014:89). And Land/Sea also includes images from his Môr Plastig series, which considers consumerism and the “erosive power of nature”.
His work is described as being inspired by 1960s/70s minimalism that avoids a campaign rhetoric of straight environmental documentary. It goes on to say: “Rather it poetically alludes to what we might be leaving for future generations, adding a contemporary narrative to minimalist abstraction“.
This reconnects with my thinking about how my own work will be interpreted. I have previously written about Lucia Pizzani’s work in her exhibition Broader Implications. In this she showed her photograms and cyanotypes alongside images of photo journalists responding to the same subject.
Perry also uses an audio guide and a short film of his sketchbooks to immerse people in his work.
I decided that I want my images to stand alone, without obvious additional explanation. If I can pull off having them made into large-scale glass pieces that will be eventually recycled and returned to sand, or if they simply remain as gallery works, it is the the “what’s this all about” questions to spark a conversation that I want my work to instigate.
Already at personal events, when people have asked about my work or what I’m doing for my MA, I have been able to share the story of the sand crisis – even with people who are pretty aware of environmental issues.
But that doesn’t mean there is not a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, I will need to include something more interactive. I will be giving this some consideration as the project continues but I don’t want to create something that seems gimmicky. And of course, less is more.
Ffotogallery. Available at: http://www.ffotogallery.org/mike-perry-landsea-tirmor [accessed November 18, 2017]
Mike Perry. Available at: http://www.m-perry.com/index.htm [accessed November 18, 2017]
Monbiot, George. 2014. Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life. London/Chicago. University of Chicago Press.