Abandonment; A Fortitude Project Photo Essay
Whilst on a trip to Rothesay with my family I discovered some abandoned places, I was drawn to them, Photographed what I saw and created a mini-series of images. This series I had titled “unloved structures”.
The sense of being drawn to anything abandoned is something I began to realize was a reoccurring theme. As far back as when my passion for photography first became serious ten years ago, the idea of capturing things that are abandoned is an instinctive pull, that must come from my sub-conscious.
Even in more recent images, without realizing it, my subconscious is drawn to the abandoned imagery. In almost every photo walk there are images of “abandoned” things places or people. The more I expanded my Personal Fortitude project the more I realized that this sense of ‘abandoned’ can be seen in a lot of my images.
At the beginning of the year, my idea was to explore Abandoned structures for my HND graded unit realizing it was something that intrigued me, I thought this was a break away from my Personal Fortitude Project.
But as time passed this year, as I explored self-expression in a variety of self-portraits I discovered there was an underlying emotional response based on the experiences that was drawing me to create these images representing “abandoned”
When I realized this, I decided it was something I should explore in the Personal aspect of my “Photographic Therapy” project, the Fortitude Project.
In this project, I would like to explore the concept of Abandoned visually, through Abandoned Places, Things, People, and Self-Portraiture. In doing so I aim to explore and express my own connection and affinity to that which is abandoned, working through these deeply rooted feelings that have influenced my work. Not to change its impact on my work, but to understand it and work through these feelings in the therapeutic platform that I have been engaging in and encouraging others to engage in. To explore the knowledge that this concept has been influencing my photography work long before I understood, realized, or accepted that.
The Project will potentially consist of Portraiture, Still Life, Landscape, and fine art. I will use and explore a variety of techniques within this project to express and represent the concept. I intend to use natural lighting and increase my experience of using speed lights separate from the camera, with and without a softbox. I will use slow shutter speeds and painting with light, with structures to enhance the larger spaces if its needed. I will try slow shutter speed self-portraiture in appropriate areas that will aid the representation of this concept. I will use longer focal lengths in areas that I may find difficult to access directly and to capture the natural state of abandoned people if interaction proves difficult. My street photography skills will be used to capture abandoned things and people. I will use my still life skills on locations, using a variety of lighting techniques from natural, to controlled with reflectors, Speedlight, and continuous light. I will also use slow shutter speed, shallow depth of field and close-up photography to create and explore fine art conceptual images.
As well as the planned Shoots and explorations, I intend to carry at the very least my Canon 5d mark iii with the 50mm f1.8 lens on everyday outings, from going to college to outings with the family, to capture images of abandoned places things and people I may come across day to day, allowing me to fully explore the connection I feel to the abandoned.
The self-portraiture undertook throughout the exploration of this concept will be undertaken in both a documentary manner and a fine art conceptual manner to explore the feelings associated with “abandoned”.
To ensure the intensity of this concept remains the focus of the images, I’ve decided that this body of work will be in Black & White. I do not wish the colours in a scene to distract from the exploration of the concept.
By the end of the project, I will have a body of work that fully explores the concept of “Abandoned” within my own perception, expressing what I see of it in the world around me, my affinity to the concept and allow the therapeutic benefits of Photography help Process, acknowledge and accept what this concept means to myself and my work.
I will present this body of work that best represents the concept after completing research on paper types best suited to the final images, display, style, and layout best suited to the final images produced.
Exploring and finding connections and patterns within this body of work will be a part of the Therapeutic Process.
Action Plan & Preparation
As soon as I had decided the topic of my graded unit, I started putting together a list of potential places to visit, using a basic search on google and talking to other Photographers I came up with the list I produced in my plan. Some of the places like St Peters Seminary, Loudon Castle Theme Park and Gartloch Asylum, I resigned to the fact that due to the remoteness of these locations, my personal circumstances i.e. not being able to drive myself and on a low budget, time scale and relying on others for transport, that doing a reccie in these locations was out of the question. This did worry me, I had to rely solely on my research and the accounts of others who had been to these areas. To allow for the unknown I ensured that I had enough shoots planned in case a few fell through, part of the back up was to include unexpected shoots, like on non-photographic outings, ensuring I carried at least basic equipment to take advantage of any opportunity that arises. However the Botanic Gardens Railway station was a place I could reccie whilst in Glasgow. On days I was at college I made arrangements with two other photography students to accompany me on a reccie, a safety precaution I had stipulated, I would not tackle any of these areas alone due to the multiple hazards.
By the beginning of March we had done two extensive reccies, along with extensive internet searches and discovered that the access tunnels that led to the abandoned station had been securely locked. Breaking an entering was not on my list of things to do to achieve this project. I had searched the laws, as long as I could access the properties or land without causing damage, I adhered to any request by authorities to leave the properties should that happen, I would stay on the right side of the law. After exploring several other possible entrances, climbing a six foot spike fence or dropping down a 20 foot wall were not feasible options, certainly not safe. This was the first adjustment to my original plan.
I extensively researched photographs similar to what I intended to do, photographs of the areas I intended to visit including accounts and blogs of those who have visited these areas. and photographer’s that had done similar Abandonment Project or used Photography Therapeutically or both. I checked the trespassing laws for Scotland to ensure I didn’t step over the boundaries of “cautions and asked to leave” to an illegal offence. I didn’t do any reccies to these areas which would have enabled me to plan my shoots better and adjust quicker to unexpected changes like not being able to access a site that had previously been accessed, nor did I seek permissions from authorities because I have had experience and known experience of other photographers who had tried and failed to get permission due to “risk and liability”, but I was aware that many photographers have accessed these places without getting on the wrong side of the law by following basic guidelines which I did research thoroughly. I couldn’t reccie each location due to finance and lack of transport which is why I ensured a variety of camera lenses were took with me in case access was difficult. Doing the shoots on first visit were highly beneficial to the therapeutic process, I had not seen these places before so I was exploring and connecting to the surrounding environment for the first time, the emotions and thoughts connected to being in the environment for the first time became part of the process. When I wrote my plan, I knew the basic outline of what I intended to do, I knew the basics of what I would achieve based on Last years Graded Unit and how the therapeutic process happened with each collaborator, but I knew that with each individual the process was always positive but vastly different, as was the effect. Once again I started a project with no idea what the out come would be but understanding that at its core it was a Therapeutic photography process and a fortunate product of that would be extremely expressive and emotionally charged photographs. As always the fear of the unknown started making me second guess myself and the process that I believed in, it took a lot of will power and resilience not to completely rethink the process and trust that I would come out the other end with something.
The first shoot located at St peters seminary went as scheduled on 16th of March, despite the snowfall the day before, though due to the cold weather conditions and slipping hazard of slush on the ground I did not spend as much time there as hoped nor did I explore as much of the grounds as I had hoped, I will further evaluate this in the individual shoots. The second adjustment of the plan was the opportunity to do the Gartloch Asylum shoot the following day on the 17th of March due to the friend who was my designated transport having a free weekend. When we arrived at the Gartloch asylum it was heavily fenced of, part of the grounds had been turned into residential homes and there was on sight security, fortunately the security guard was fine with me taking photos from the perimeter and I had the correct lens to do so, the back-up plan in this instance was extremely useful. Since we couldn’t get full access we made a spontaneous decision to visit an abandoned farm house I had spotted from my train journeys into Glasgow which I had spent each journey watching and locating, it had no restrictions and was easily accessible via a country trail. So with in the weekend I had completed three photoshoots but had done no editing until beginning of the following week. Loudon castle theme park shoot got rescheduled from the 23rd of March to 27th of April due to my friends availability. The first part of the Newcastle shoot on the 2nd couldn’t go