Abandonment; A Fortitude Project Photo Essay
Recap of the Project Aim
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, realised 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 soft box. 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 every day 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 undertook 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 with in 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 ahead due to the timing of transport but was successful on the 5th. The Edinburgh and Glasgow shoots were scheduled earlier than planned to tie in with family plans and responsibilities. An extra shoot to Moodiesburn was included due to the opportunity to explore both the Abandonment Series and another on going series called Cognizance, both part of the Fortitude Project. It was an opportunity to expand on the Graded Unit as allot of the memories tied to abandonment were tied to this area which was also a Glen which like many surrounding residential areas has become a tip for discarded things. The photo exploration of Cumbernauld was rescheduled to earlier and explored more as self-portraiture because I had become aware that I was procrastinating pointing the camera at myself, which was part of the “people” aspect of the project.
Despite the rescheduling and alterations within the plan the bones of the plan remained intact and was paced out well. At my first mandatory one to one I had completed 9 of my shoots, touching on self-portraiture which during my feedback and peer group discussions was encouraged to peruse further. I took this on board with a new lease of enthusiasm and encourage and made the last abandoned place about self-portraiture with in the environment and connecting the environment. This drive made me definitively decide to do the “milk bath” self-portraiture I had been mulling over for weeks, an idea that had sparked from the visit to Arpita’s Exhibition in street works. Until that moment I had been feeling a little lost about how I would incorporate the self-portraiture into the series and what methods to use.
Shoot & Development
1st shoot – 16th March 2019
Location – St peters Seminary in Cardross
Aims- To explore and document the abandoned structure, visually capturing what I am consciously and sub-consciously drawn to whilst exploring any ideas relating to the concept that may develop. But doing so in a safe manor ensuring minimum risk of harm in a hazardous environment.
Shoot Duration – (from first to last image) 1 hour 40 minutes
Description – When I arrived it was mid-day, the weather was overcast, it had been snowing, then raining, creating a cold sludgy muddy dirt road path to the abandoned seminary. Access to the property was easier than expected as it is frequently visited, worn out paths made through the foliage and gaps in the fence, meant there was no real danger to acquiring access nor any serious laws broken. The floors that I gained access to were solid concrete, I avoided areas that showed instability, most areas were stable, there was scaffolding at the edges so for an abandoned structure it was fairly safe.
The architecture of the building is extraordinary and such a loss that it’s been left to ruin. Research showed that there was a time recently that there were talks of restoring the building, even articles detailing lottery funding but as you walk into the site the scaffolding showing signs of these attempts have long since been abandoned.
First thoughts as I started photographing was the eerie sense of otherness, a foreboding structure with strong textures and angles. As I continued to explore and photograph the confusion and disconcerting sense of strangeness occurred as I struggled to reconcile the images of the building as I was viewing it with its original purpose when it was in use. A seminary, a place of religious study, how could a building with such a strange eeriness ever have been bustling with life of religious students? Despite these feelings I felt an intense fascination and curiosity towards the building and its history. By the end of the shoot I developed the idea to express my own sense of displacement in an abandoned structure that I felt had a strong sense of displacement from time, society and purpose.
This was the first shoot and honestly the overwhelming feeling and worry of whether this was going to be a successful series of images was at the forefront of my mind, I questioned whether this would just end up being a series of Abandoned Places with no connection to the process. I had no idea that throughout the process a clear story, a narrative would form so concisely. I had to take a deep breath pushed down these worries and focus on exploring this abandoned building that I had looked forward to doing for such a long time and do what I always do, document the way I see the world around me. I successfully connected with the environment in a strange otherness that left me buzzing with questions which on the drive home I tried to answer, what was it like? Why was such a monumental architectural achievement left to Ruin? How could this strange structure possibly have served the purpose it did? It was in the questions and the curiosity of its state of abandonment that I connected to rather than the buildings original purpose. Perhaps mirroring many of my own questions and need for purpose. I embraced this negative emotion of displacement and felt the urge to express it with in the environment. This was the first experience of self-portraiture connecting with an abandoned environment. From this shoot a process started, at this point in time I was still unsure of how to explain the process but it had started and it produced an environmental self-portraiture for my final 20 images, overall a successful shoot, despite the time being cut short due to the weather conditions.
2nd Shoot – 17th March 2019
Location – Gartloch Asylum
Aims- To explore and document the abandoned structure, visually capturing what I am consciously and sub-consciously drawn to whilst exploring any ideas relating to the concept that may develop. But doing so in a safe manor ensuring minimum risk of harm in a hazardous environment.
Description – When I arrived it was just before mid-day, the weather was sunny with the occasional cloud. Access to the property at first sight looked difficult, but we walked the perimeter several times before realising there was no way in, any old gaps in the fences had been closed over, it was extremely well fenced, some serious climbing would be needed to gain access. Which would prove impossible as we had already spotted the security guards offices on site. So I resorted to my back-up plan, using the 70-300mm lens to get images through the perimeter fence, not as promising as I had hoped but I did get a few interesting images. I was drawn to some of the few signs of its life and history, like what is left of the tattered yellow curtains flowing in the broken windows.
At the time I was admittedly quite disappointed at not being able to get closer to the building or indeed inside, I had seen some fascinating images and had wanted to connect to the building, the fact that it was well known as an Asylum felt to me as important, especially that it is now abandoned, the idea of connecting with this building and attempting to express the dual emotions of fighting against my mothers claims that I was so mentally unstable I would need “sectioned” and feeling completely crazy towards the last years before I cut contact, her words affecting me so badly that I had in fact feared my own sanity and reality were not as I thought they were. It felt like a rebellious and ironic act to produce self-portraiture in this environment. I had dubbed this shoot rather unsuccessful until I seen the body of work I had produced with the rest. The idea of the “outsider looking in” finally became very relevant, extremely expressive in ways that I had not imagined, the exploration of this “taboo” subject, mental health creating barriers and isolation, making people feel abandoned from their loved ones and society in general, the exploration of this allure, the allure to not only an abandoned building but representing the darkness of the allure to give up and fall into the depths of depression, whilst exploring the “beauty in the broken”. A shoot that I had originally dubbed almost a failure, lucky that I got a few images from a distance, took on a whole new meaning within the bigger project becoming more successful than I realised. The connection to not just abandoned places but also abandoned people. The therapeutic process allowed me to address all these conflict and emotions, to accept the truth of my reality, to finally cement my reality as real, not a figment of my imagination as I’d been encouraged to believe. This shoot truly bought home what we have been taught, that no image is wrong, no shoot or experience is a failure, it is all a process and a journey, each with something to take out of it!
3rd Shoot – 17th March 2019
Location – Abandoned farmhouse in Glenboig
Aims- To explore and document the abandoned structure, visually capturing what I am consciously and sub-consciously drawn to whilst exploring any ideas relating to the concept that may develop. But doing so in a safe manor ensuring minimum risk of harm in a hazardous environment.
Description – When I arrived it was late lunch time, the weather was sunny with the occasional cloud. Access to the property was easy, we abandoned the car at a drive in area and walked the trodden path following the railway line. Due to the extensive scouting of the area whilst traveling on train, locating it then researching the map of the area we found the site easily. It is the essence of an abandoned building, no fencing to restrict, no warning signs, no official persons had restricted the area in any way. Forgotten to almost all of society, accept the rare roaming dog owner or the youthful rebels looking for a quiet place to binge drink the night away. I had been drawn to the place the moment I had spotted it from the train window, but the hidden story the remains started to tell peaked my curiosity immensely. As I documented what I saw, it wasn’t enough, I tried to find out more while documenting, the group I was with researching online shouting out information as I continued exploring with the camera. Milk bottles with names and dates gave an insight into its history, a thriving family home in the 80’s. Children’s and woman’s shoes discarded in a hurry, evidence of a fire at some time. One of the outhouses with remains of small built in brick furnaces, metal barriers and storage heaters. A combination that left more questions than answers. I found myself completely immersing in the story the remains told, the beautiful garden that once had children playing, loved and moulded into a beautiful escape, with trees, bushes, pond, wall and gate, children’s play area and fenced of where the large natural pond met the garden. I remember the sadness that such a lovely home full of history dating back to when Glenboig was a thriving famous fireclay industry, had been abandoned and forgotten. I had a strong urge to tell its story.
Immediately this shoot made up for the disappointment at the time of the last shoot. There was an abundance of abandonment in this once beautiful farm house. As I mentioned in the shoots, description I had a strong urge to tell the story and to investigate to find answers for the burning questions buzzing around in my mind. I connected strongly with this family home, a child or children spent their childhood here, a home now lost to time. A home now broken, this was a strong connection the metaphor meaning more to me than perhaps the story of the ruins. This was the second shoot of the day, so I didn’t have the full day to explore, but the few hours I spent there I discovered so many little pieces to the puzzle, documenting what I saw. The shoot produced two final image, one that became part of a tryptic representing a childhood rooted in the sense of abandonment and the other a wide angle landscape, which when seen in the peer group discussions, I was encouraged to explore a few more wide-angle shots. This recommendation helped produce a further two images for the final 20. The only thing I would have done different is spent more time there, taking more photos, in fact it is someone I intend to revisit.
4th Shoot – 3rd-4th April 2019
Location – Amsterdam
Aims- This was an already planned trip before, this project. I incorporated this and other outings into the project, to explore how I’m drawn to imagery of abandonment on a daily basis regardless of whether it’s a photography project or not.
Description – When I arrived I immediately fell in love with the city, its quirky structures streets and canals, the bustling of life and the friendly atmosphere. It was a complete overload of visual experiences and I captured moments I was drawn to. Almost immediately I noticed the lack of anything that expressed abandonment. This was quite a revelation, I enjoyed this new experience, looking around everything and everyone had a sense of purpose, something I had not experienced in my travels throughout Britain. It was promising, reassuring that things are different elsewhere. In the 24 hour I spent in Amsterdam exploring the streets, I found only two images of abandonment.
Amsterdam was a fascinating experience, it was in fact a planned trip before the project, an over due honeymoon and our first time abroad together. As a photographer I naturally photograph my experiences, so adding this as a photo walk / exploration was not an imposition to our holiday experience. I connected immediately to this quirky city full of energy, bikes and canals, in another life I could see myself living there, a place we intend to visit again. In the two day I was there, exploring the central part of Amsterdam, I did not come across much that was abandoned, this in itself was fascinating. There were allot of old quirky buildings and things but they were all still in use, not abandoned. I also found it curious that the two abandoned images I did stumble on were bikes, one a rusty old bike on top of a pile of rubbish the other a motorised scooter attached by a chain to a fence partially hidden by plant pots. Though none of these images made it to my final 20, the trip was a positive experience, not just as a holiday, but also as a positive discovery that there are places very different to Britain and its cities, that treasure life if you will more, that find purpose in things that are old, they patch up old buildings keeping them alive and useful, I could walk streets and turn corners without being filled with the sadness of seeing “abandoned people” homeless on the streets being ignored or avoided by society. It was a much needed positive experience within the process, balancing out the exploration of such a fundamentally negative subject.
5th Shoot – 5th April 2019
Location – Newcastle
Aims- This was an already planned trip before this project. I incorporated this and other outings into the project, to explore how I’m drawn to imagery of abandonment on a daily basis regardless of whether it’s a photography project or not.
Description – When we arrived back in Newcastle after our Cruise to Amsterdam, I had several hours of exploring time to spare before getting the train home. With time to take in my surroundings, the stark contrast of visual, atmosphere and feelings were huge. I laughed to my husband as one of the first images walking to the metro station from the ferry was a burnt out abandoned shell of a car in a residential area. Then when we explored the city particularly along the river, it was rife with abandonment, paths, stairs boarded up, buildings half demolished and of course homeless along the busiest streets. This was a mixture of two series within the fortitude project, Abandonment and Cognizance, a series of images revisiting childhood memories.
Returning to Britain after Amsterdam and exploring the small amount of Newcastle that I had time to was a stark difference, it was impacting just how rife with abandonment the city is, how easy it was to turn a corner and find abandonment. The River side was even more rife with abandonment, such a melancholy feeling, I had fond memories as a child of a majestic city with old buildings and bridges merging through the city, which were still there, leaving a conflicting sense of fondness and sorrow which mirrors the childhood memories, the visits into the city are connected to the fond moments of my grandparents visiting, the rest shadowed by my home environment. It starts to become very apparent that my connection to these places directly relate to my past and those feelings, the process is as expected to fully understand and explore that. I would have liked to spend much more time in Newcastle exploring the extent of the abandonment within such a bustling city, I had opportunity to explore the people aspect of this series but I let my nerves and thoughts get the best of me so these were not well composed or presented, looking through these images aware of my thought processes did help spur me on in later shoots to think about my approach and spend time on it, so it did become a learning process. The shoot did produce three images in my final 20, one that became part of the childhood tryptic, a discarded baby walker. Two that became powerful emotional images connected to the confusion of abandonment, an abandoned book and an abandoned burnt out vehicle, both items useful healing coping mechanisms within my own home. As a shoot it was successful in producing part of the story for two series I’m working on, this one and Cognizance another Fortitude Project series.
6th Shoot – 8th April 2019
Location – Moodiesburn
Aims- This was a shoot I had intended to do as part of the Cognizance Series, a series of images revisiting childhood memories. I decided to do the shoot during this period because I knew the area I intended to visit would have an abundance of abandoned things.
Description – This shoot was a mixture of two series within the fortitude project, Abandonment and Cognizance, a series of images revisiting childhood memories.
The whole shoot had the sense and feeling of abandonment, from the multitude of imagery to the feelings and memories connected with the area. The weather was mostly overcast when we arrived late morning, then towards lunchtime sunny with clouds. This shoot really explored the roots to my own sense of abandonment, taking me back to memories once treasured and longing to reconnect to, to the indifference and realization that those connections were a hinderance and fuelled false hope. It confirmed my beliefs of where the connection to abandonment comes from and has brought forward that this feeling was there long before I realised the full truth of my childhood.
Another shoot with a dual purpose, an impromptu shoot, one I had been planning for the other series but had realised would be very relevant within the Abandonment series and could be incorporated as one of the extra walk about explorations I had mentioned in my plan. In this shoot I started to once again explore self-portraiture and my connection to the environment, it was this exploration that led to the idea of a self-portraiture shoot in the local glen I now frequent with my own children and friends whilst walking our family dog. I remember worrying about how it would connect to abandonment and then having to assure myself that it does in fact connect to the people and self-portraiture aspect of the series.
So not only was this shoot productive in producing a final image part of the childhood tryptic, the abandoned Walkman which connects directly to my love of music and the bitter sweet memories of being gifted a Walkman in the child hood home that was my last childhood moments with my mother, a period of time I held onto as fond moments despite the knowledge I now have of that period, which later created the longing that led the toxic relationship to last so long and not walk away sooner. The image of the abandoned Walkman successfully embodies that moment for me whilst holding onto another positive coping mechanism in my life, music.
7th Shoot – 13th April 2019
Location – Edinburgh
Aims- This was a combination of a family outing and photo walk. I incorporated this and other outings into the project, to explore how I’m drawn to imagery of abandonment on a daily basis regardless of whether it’s a photography project or not.
Description – I attempted to multi task a family trip to The Real Mary Kings Close and the planned Edinburgh Photo walk. I managed to get some images but not as extensively as I had hoped. I would like to revisit this shoot again.
This shoot was one of those impromptu shoots I had discussed in my plan, a family day trip that I used to incorporate my observations during the day out. It was not as extensive as I had planned the Edinburgh walk about to be, in fact I had intended to add to this with another shoot. But by the end of April after spreading out nine shoots and editing down, I knew I was running out of time and there was a chance I would not be able to revisit this shoot. But it did successfully produce two final images, the square imaged showing the homeless person abandoned by society, this became the courage to pursue abandoned people in the next shoot becoming a vital part of the process, I was forced to face my emotions connected to seeing people in such dire circumstances, how the connection to feeling abandoned and my own experience just one night spent on the streets as a teen. spurs the intense need to help, yet the helplessness of knowing I’m not in a position to help. I am brutally aware my circumstances is different to them, I was lucky, lucky to have friends that wouldn’t see me on the street, lucky in the series of life circumstances that led me to where I am now, but exploring these images I acknowledge how easily that could have been me or any one of us. The shame of not being able to help, of walking by just like everyone else, but I do notice, I wanted to express that, I wanted to show the world that this is what I see, these are the connections and they do matter. Fuelled with this new founded understanding, I was finally spurred on to approach this part of the project.
8th Shoot – 19th April 2019
Location – Glasgow & Ayr
Aims- This was a family day trip to the beach. I incorporated this and other outings into the project, to explore how I’m drawn to imagery of abandonment on a daily basis regardless of whether it’s a photography project or not.
Description – As planned when I went on outings I documented imagery of abandonment on our way to our destination. Passing through Glasgow the city was rife with abandonment. This was a particularly difficult shoot for me to do. Ever since I started studying Photography, I’ve had the intense desire to do a documentary project on the homeless. They have feelings and they have a story to tell. But I didn’t just want to capture their portraits, I wanted to sit with them, hear the story, get them a cuppa or meal as we talked, or helping in some small way. I didn’t just want to “steal” a photograph. Nor did I want to ask permission without having something to offer, so I had avoided the project, I was not in a position to help or peruse the project the way I felt was right. When I added this into my plan, I quietly dreaded the moment I would have to face it. I was still not in a position to help, so I resorted to Street photography style images, the only positive thing I felt about this technique was that it was candid truly capturing their abandonment. I battled with the sense of wrongness. My approach was shooting from the hip, something I had briefly explored in street photography in the past. Despite my feelings and personal difficulties with this type of shoot I was pleasantly surprised with the results. A technique I definitely will be incorporating more in my street photography. The lighting conditions were consistently sunny throughout the day.
This shoot was another one of those impromptu shoots I had discussed in my plan, a family day trip that I used to incorporate my observations during the day out. As mentioned the “people” section of the project was terrifying, I will admit to procrastinating allot in this area, but the shoot in Edinburgh helped me understand the connections I felt, the emotions and thoughts behind why I noticed and why I held back. So another opportune moment occurred traveling to the beach with my family. Each time I pass through Glasgow I see the drastic increase of abandoned people homeless on every street and corner, it is harrowing. On that thought I have repeatedly said that just because a topic or image is harrowing for others to acknowledge discuss or view does not mean that it should be avoided or tiptoed around. So I embraced that. An opportunity occurred whilst I was walking to the train station shooting from the hip. My husband wanted to pop in the shop a gentle man had took up home on the corner of, so I sat down on the ledge of the opposite pillar, camera resting on my lap and took a series of images as people passed by. If circumstances were different, if my financial position was better I would have sat down chatted and talked, explained the project and asked permission, but I had nothing to offer. So I allowed every feeling of guilt, shame and desperation to help envelope me whilst I took the images, it should never be an easy thing to do, it shouldn’t be a simple click of the button, I want to be a conscientious photographer, it was one of my hardest photographic moments but it successfully showed what I see. A direct approach would not have, I have to acknowledge and accept that with a silent vow that if the image ever resulted in profit in the future I would attempt to revisit this style of shoot with the full intention to help!
As a shoot it was successful in producing a powerful image for the final 20 and allowed me to go through an important process.
9th Shoot – 21st April 2019
Location – Self-Portraiture Cumbernauld
Aims- To explore self-portraiture and self-expression, as a person that feels and connects to the concept of abandonment.
Description – I had three locations in mind at the wildlife reservation I frequently visited, which happens to be the closest place that I feel at peace at. I struggled with producing the imagery, they were as I imagined they would be, but looking at them I felt the concept was lost, that they didn’t look “abandoned”. Then I started to question my judgement, is there really a “one size fits all” when it comes to someone who feels abandoned? I was allowing my own social judgement to constrict my thoughts. Perhaps my self-portraits should challenge myself and societies perceptions. Sometimes the happiest most successful people have had struggles. I’m acutely aware of this, so why am I struggling to accept this in my own portraits and process?
The lighting conditions were sunny, during lunch time. I incorporated a variety of techniques. Landscape environmental portraits, slow shutter speed motion blur, slow shutter speed star burst effect using the zoom and speed lights mixed with ambient lighting.
I had not included in my plan that I would produce a shoot that was exclusively self-portraiture, though I had mentioned self-portraiture would be produced. This shoot idea was the product and accumulation of the processes in the previous 8 shoots as has been mentioned. After the last shoot it seemed out right hypocritical not to properly and purposely point the camera on myself, to bare my soul so to speak in its complete and expressive abandoned state. With this shoot, as the images were being created I focused on myself in the environment, as explained the local reserve is some where I frequent with my family, it’s the closest place to nature and water from my home, a coping mechanism to escape and refuel from the negativity of life. It felt like a healthy safe place to embrace this expression. The idea of hiding, retreating into nature was imagery I had explored once before but not as self-portraiture. So the first images were produced focusing on slow shutter speeds, I used my body movements to express the feelings associated with abandonment, focusing on the feelings, allowing the thoughts to be entertained rather than brushed aside. It was a very cathartic shoot which produced 3 images for my final 20. Two of the images sat together as a diptych, the other a stand alone close up of my hands exploring the texture and feeling of a rusty old penny lost in thoughts. It was not enough to “act out” these images, it was about connecting with the environment whilst connecting with my own thoughts and emotions. After this point in the process I had edited down the best of each shoot and printed them on 6x4, I wanted to physically see the images together, bringing them into college had the added bonus of some peer group discussions. This process was recorded in photos on my phone and is in a contact sheet of these “photo notes” compiled over the course of the project. I edited down myself then talked through the process with fellow photographers. I had started to worry that the images I would choose for my final wouldn’t sit together, that they may not work together, at this point I did not have a coherent method in which I would put them together. I focused on picking the best from each of the 9 shoots which resorted in about 25-30 images, I intended to add the best from the next shoots to them and do a final edit once I had seen all the images together. Hearing feedback from fellow photographers gave me the encouragement I needed to accept that despite not knowing what my final images would look like or be, I certainly had a body of work that contained it. My fears of the work be drastically different and not understood were quickly abated. In my first one to one, I was completely surprised and taken back by the complete unconditional support of the work I was producing and the process, this encouragement and the enthusiasm to see more self-portraitures connecting to the environment spurred on the next two shoot, I felt bold in the knowledge that the process was working regardless of the unknown.
10th Shoot – 27th April 2019
Location – Ardeer Power Plant & Glasgow Docks
Aims- To explore and document the abandoned structure, visually capturing what I am consciously and sub-consciously drawn to whilst exploring any ideas relating to the concept that may develop. But doing so in a safe manor ensuring minimum risk of harm in a hazardous environment. To explore self-portraiture and self-expression, as a person that feels and connects to the concept of abandonment with in this abandoned environment.
Description – After my positive feedback and encouragement to put myself more into these abandoned spaces and being shown Francesca Woodman’s work, I took on board this and decided to make the last abandoned place visit about myself in the image. I became more bold with self-portraiture and movement, fully exploring this. The shoot had intended to include the Power Plant and Loudon castle abandoned theme park, but due to a flat we had to cut the day short, but we did managed to do an impromptu drop by the abandoned Docks at Glasgow’s River Clyde on the way home. The weather was sunny with clouds allowing for some dramatic images, taking late morning through to late lunch time. I took on board a fellow photographers advice of adding a few more landscapes images with in the shoot which the weather was just right for. I was a little worried about the trip needing to be cut short but the focus of self-portraiture with in the abandoned areas made this a very successful shoot.
The original plan was to go to Loudon Castle abandoned theme park, but I was told about an abandoned power plant not too far away in Stevenson so the plan was added to, power plant then Loudon. Before we left I used google maps, satellite imagery and photos from others who had visited the power plant to locate a postcode for the sat nav. Once we arrived we encountered problems, the entry road was labelled private property but there was regular traffic in and out so we took a closer look, the power plant was surrounded by derelict buildings and a war games centre, the access gate was securely locked and all gaps fixed, the access roads road the large piece of discarded land was blocked. I took a few images with a long lens, about to disheartenedly give up and go to Loudon, I took one last look at the map, I noticed an industrial state near by bordering the land further away from the war games centre, we took a look and was fortunate to find a section of land with an extremely large damaged section of fence near several out house type buildings connected to the power plant, an area which looked regularly explored. I decided not to venture towards the main building it seemed too high a risk of repercussions. But the “out houses” for want of a better word, were part of the old plant and had similar machinery. I set up my equipment and began to expressively explore the surroundings remembering the discussions and advice. I put myself in the images more, connecting to the environment. Then I explored the abandoned land once again exploring expressing my connection to what was now a beautifully over grown wasteland that nature was reclaiming in the form of a vibrant heath, paths and stair wells to underground type bunkers now flooded and creating aquatic pond life. The heath intermingled in the metal skeleton of another building in the far of distance, at this point I explored some more wide angle landscapes as suggested, but also putting myself into the environment walking exploring the beauty of this abandoned landscape. The mood was changing my progress was changing, I had worked through the negative and was finding positive connections. I spent allot of time there, by late lunch time we decided to head to Loudon, when we discovered a nail in our tyre which cancelled our plans. We had to get the car sorted, once more air was put into the tyre on the way home we stopped to repair the tyre. Once it was fixed it was too late to urn back but we were heading past Glasgow so my friend suggested visiting the old abandoned docks at the Clyde. Usually easily accessible and able to walk along part of the water front we detoured there. When we arrived there were security guards on sight due to the area being acquired for a ten week filming period, so I couldn’t gain access but I managed to spend a further 20 mins exploring the grounds from the fence. Despite all the changes the shoots were very successful producing 6 of my final 20 images and the therapeutic process began to take shape and direction, once again in a positive turn.
11th Shoot – 29th April 2019
Location – Self-Portraiture
Aims- To explore self-portraiture and self-expression, as a person that feels and connects to the concept of abandonment.
Description – I had been toying with the idea of a surrealist milk-bath self-portrait series as the project progressed, but I was hesitant, afraid to adventure into such an unknown area completely out of my comfort zone. After my positive feedback and encouragement to put myself more into these abandoned spaces I made a quick decision to stop toying with the idea and actually plan it. The fragmented surrealism appealed to me as a form of expression with in the Abandonment series. Originally I thought that I would use a single soft box as lighting, but after research it was recommended if possible to use natural light, I was lucky enough to have a window directly above my bath and knew morning to lunchtime was the time of day for best light. I chose a slower shutter speed than normal portrait to give a softer feel but still keep a reasonably sharp image. It was a confined space, I had an assistant who pushed the button and took snap shots with my phone camera of the back of the camera so I could continuously view what the images looked like, how to compose myself with in the image and what was working. The milk-bath was created with powdered milk to quite an opaque mixture giving the surreal fragmented ness I had wanted to express. As the idea developed I decided that I wanted to express the weight of my childhood and my toxic relationship with my mother, which I did by appropriating a photo of myself as a toddler and using the oldest gift I owned from my mother. This series of images became the most therapeutic and fundamental in a healing journey I had yet to realise the extent of.
This final shoot was another unplanned exploration of expressing abandonment through self-portraiture as part of the “people” section of the project. I used two large tubs of powdered milk to create the milk bath, I wanted it to be opaque to create the other-worldly sense of surrealness connected to the loss created by abandonment. The fluid representing the drowning then later the floating relaxation. The fact that the fluid was milk was a perfect representation of the “milk of life” and a more conflicting metaphor of “mothers milk” something very prominently connected to my own life. When I developed the idea of milk bath portraits to explore the abandonment, I immediately know that I wanted to include the appropriation of the photograph with my younger self, I started to ask how I could represent the weight of the toxic relationship with my mother, before I even finished asking myself the question I had the answer. The oldest ornament I have also the oldest gift I own from my mother given when I was 18 upon her return from the canary islands. The potency of these now meaningless gifts was strong, I decided then that, it did not matter if this particular set of visuals was understood by anyone else, I had found my voice, I had finally found a way to express something that I had been avoiding expressing for over two years. The shoot was carefully thought out including avoiding jumping in and out of the water, my eldest daughter who is studying higher photography assisted, pressing the wired button when I instructed her to and taking snap shots of the back of the camera with my phone and showing me them so I knew how to compose my images. Research had changed my plan of using lighting to utilizing natural light at the brightest time of day for the bathroom I was using. This had been recommended in several articles by photographers who had previously, as was a lower angle, not directly onto the water. Armed with these tips I spent an hour on the shoot creating a vast number of images, composition ideas flowed as I began the process, it wasn’t about stopping and learning, it was a process of taking and image observing and expressing, using emotion and thoughts connected to abandonment to present and compose the image, one idea merging with the next in a constant flow of expression. By the end of the shoot I felt like I had finalized the project. In the final visual edit down and discussion with other photographers, the final self-portraits received a lot of positive feed back, the placement of the triptych and diptych was encouraged, as we were discussing the final diptych an idea formed as I had confirmed that they were about heeling, earlier a photographer had suggested blending into one image, and an idea formed with in the discussion to physically stitch the images together, I can not take credit for the idea, it was an invaluable suggested from a fellow photographer as part of the discussion about the work, colours of red or black were mentioned but I later remembered that blue is in important colour in photography. Cooler tones tend to emit feelings of tranquillity and calmness, blue apparently causes the body to produce chemicals that are calming. It is seen as a trustworthy colour, the psychological connection is that a blue sky is calm and peaceful.
I printed the edited down images from the last two shoots and added them to the previous images, once again I took them into college spreading them out together. I started to see the series, as documented with the camera phone. I was aware that the last shoot was a stark contrast to the rest of the images, I started to worry about that until I remembered that difference and contrast is good, these images were important to the series. I was reminded of juxtaposition with in photography, which made me stop worrying and start seeing the story.
I quickly saw in the images that this shoot finalised the process, adding the introduction to the series, the beginning triptych and the ending to the series, finalizing “the healing process” with a diptych. Once I had these the rest of the story fell into place. The last piece of advice that I took on board was to really think about how I was presenting these images. It became clear that these images were a series with an order to which I wanted them viewed. So I decided to set up my a3 prints in the conformity of a landscape book. I had previously done my story book conforming the images to square with a very similar layout, I had never printed full bleed images yet seen how affective it was to have them within a series. I decided to fully utilized contrasting layouts and formats to communicate the images the way I wanted to, using full bleed for dramatic impact, putting images together that sat perfectly together enhancing the story. Each image was chosen and presented purposely rather than for ease of printing of quickly. As part of the process I found an image of a single cross stitch and used it to create my own paint brush in photoshop, placing the two final images together and presenting the stitches in the colour and manor to represent what I would produce as a final mixed media image, the act of stitching the images together became an important part of the process. Paper tests were done and the best paper chosen.
Presentation & Finish
I had decided that the black and white conversion for my images would be punchy and high contrast to enhance and focus on the textures and atmosphere of the abandonment in each image. Each image had a basic edit in camera raw which included the conversion before tweaking them to the individual image.
01; Unseen Struggles
Editing process; I did the basic editing in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. Once this was done the whites were increased, the clarity slightly decreased. The image was cropped to square and taken into photoshop to remove the specular highlights, the patch tool was not successful with this, so I resorted to selecting each specular highlight then using content aware fill the highlight was removed flawlessly in most occasions, a couple times I had to go over it again. In the third image this process didn’t remove the highlight completely but succeeded in making it less distracting. This process was repeated with each of the images on the canvas. In final print there is a tiny change in tone where I worked on a highlight that I did not notice on the screen. The images were then placed on a canvas together.
When I seen these images laid out it was almost immediately seen that they sit together as a triptych. The left image being composed upside down was a deliberate act to add to the narrative of the images. There was allot of specular highlight which I had to work on using the select and content aware fill. I had worried about the massive difference between these images and the rest of the series, but once I put them in the order I wanted it created an interesting juxtaposition to the series which worked very well with the narrative. If I was to do these images again I would explore ways of improving the lighting and reducing the specular highlights. Technical inadequacies aside this triptych successfully captivates and expresses the emotions and thoughts of being abandoned, from the obvious confusion and the world upside down, the surreal sense of loss and emptiness to the physical representation of the toxic relationship the burden on my childhood and the struggle to stay afloat. To the fragmented sense of broken hidden shame. As an emotionally evocative set of images I am profoundly happy with the outcome. It is an important introduction image answering the “whys” to creating this series, which from the feedback I’ve received seems to be universally understood even with out the detailed information, though still open to interpretation.
02; Broken Home
Editing process; Again I did the basic editing in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. The exposure was reduced very slightly. I pulled the highlights down allot, increased the contrast, adjusted the blacks so the decrease caused by the conversion wasn’t as dark and increased the clarity.
This image is an important part of the narrative that underpins this story, I think the composition and leading lines work well in drawing the eyes, with the cloud layout it brings a clear focus to the “broken home” in the image and particularly the print the shadows are a bit heavy, the blurred branches to the left top were something I considered for some time and decided to keep the detail in. For the viewer this image needs little explanation.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to each image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. Once this was done the contrast were increased, the blacks were again adjusted a little from the conversion to match the images individually and the clarity was increased. In the first two images the highlights were brought down a bit. The images were then placed on a canvas together.
The concept and narrative of these three images were important to the series and work well as a triptych. The right image is a little heavier than I wanted which makes it stand out more than I had hoped. Also the stick in the right image on the right is distracting, if I were to re-do the image I would remove it and compare the images to confirm this. Therapeutically these images allowed me to express questions, why abandoned such precious things that hold such sentimental value, questions that may not be as obvious to the viewer but were fundamental in my process, the expression of abandonment within childhood. Individually these images would not have expressed the same as what they do together. There is an expansive timeline of childhood expressed within these images, the two end images of learning to walk, of childhood development with the teenage exploration of the world and self with in it centred but out balanced. It holds deeper meanings and exploration into my sense of abandonment and where the foundations truly are.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion.
Exposure for this image required a larger increase, the highlights were decreased the blacks readjusted closer to the middle than the standard of the b&w conversion and the clarity was increased.
The heavy contrast of the background and foreground works very well with the light surrealness of the hand in this image. The white border for this images adds to the stark contrast homing the eyes on the narrative of the image. On first viewing of this image it jumped out above others, my first thought to explain this image was the concept being the old Patrick Swayze film Ghost, the character desperately trying to reach reality, connect with the world, find a connection. When I had shot these images the idea of trying to connect were in mind but I had not realised on how many levels this image would work until I seen it.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to each of the two images in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I reduced the highlights drastically and increased the clarity. I opened them both in photoshop, layered them and used a mask and brush to allow the ghosted effect on the under layer to come through the image. Then I did an overall exposure decrease.
As Part of the series I feel the image tells the thoughts and feelings perfectly, the two layered images have blended well leaving the traces and idea of a person’s place in each moment and movement not quite there. Technically the image works well full bleed on the German etch paper, the highlights were worked on quite a bit and are still a bit distracting, it is the only thing in this image that I would have worked on more in camera to change. I know to the viewer it may leave question, st peters is such an iconic abandoned building in the photography world, I was asked “why st peters seminary” my answer is as simple as I’m drawn to abandonment its an abandoned building that I had heard of and was on my “Photography bucket list” to explore, this project was about exploring this further. Some of these places did not hold a personal connection to me other than their state until I visited them and proceeded with the photoshoot. But the eerie sense of confusion and disconnection I felt whilst exploring this building became an important metaphor for my own internal emotions so intense that towards the end of the shoot I had the instinctive desire to express myself visually with in the environment, this was the first moment of this process with in the project, which became fundamental to the rest of the project.
06; Run and Hide
Editing process; I did the basic editing to each image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion.
I then adjusted the blacks from the conversion to only slightly darker. Decreased the highlights and increased the clarity and contrast.
The concept of these two images worked perfectly together. On the right image there is a slight amount of camera shake which has created a slight soft blur in the for ground. I should have brought the heavier video tripod with me. The high contrast works well though the shadows are a bit heavy, particularly in the left image. Conceptually and therapeutically this image fully expresses the constant battle against the intense urge to run and hide, the constant struggle with those thoughts and the effect on my mental health, which plays a huge part in my social anxiety, the internal struggle and the images also portray just how dangerous and chaotic this can be, only enhancing the sense of abandonment. Once again these images speak more together than they do separately.
07; Taboo Allure
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I then reduced the highlights and increased the clarity.
This is another image with strong narrative within the series. The lighting and composition enhance the atmosphere of the image. I had wondered if the out of focus branches and high grass was taking away from the image, but I felt it added a level of seclusion and isolation to the image. Conceptually and therapeutically this image was part of a process of disappointment, acceptance then self-discovery. The viewer may not be aware of the full concepts behind it because part of the allure was that it is an asylum which has a connection, to my life and the sense of abandonment I am exploring. (though not quite as extreme as the past patients of this building) This image also represents the “people” aspect of the project because mental health and mental illness often creates abandonment. The more obvious concepts of allure, taboo, keep out, broken beauty and dual concepts are more universally seen by the viewer despite their own perspective and interpretation.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I then adjusted the blacks as the b&w conversion caused the blacks to be too dark for the image and then increased the clarity.
This imaged worked best as a square crop, it kept the focus on the subject yet allowed the story of the foreground unfolding create impact. The subject is framed well by the out of focus sign and people walking . The three passers-by make the image a little bit busier than I wanted but the lighting balances out the image keeping the attention on the subject. There is allot that underpins this images, from the obvious state of abandonment of the homeless person out side this busy train station to all the emotions and thoughts it provoked and forced me to face. There is allot of controversy and questions of ethic behind taking these images, which plays a huge part in the conflict and emotions I felt internally. The “people” aspect of this project was vital, to show how I connect to those around me, the way I’m drawn to those in a similar state of being. I could have played it safe and used things and places to represent “people” but that would not have fully expressed or explored my connection to the state of abandonment. The experience from this shoot became vital to my process and directly affected the next shoot which the next image is from.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the exposure just slightly and then adjusted the blacks as the b&w conversion caused the blacks to be too dark for this image, I then increased the clarity.
This image works well, the subject in the foreground and background interaction adds to the message and story, the lighting adds to the image, the crop was conscious, paying attention to reducing distraction of the background person to the far left of the image, whilst keeping the person in the image to add to the stark contrasting stories. The only thing I would change is perhaps the water bottle, I didn’t want to change the crop but perhaps I could have removed it in photo shop and compared the two images. The texture of the German etch paper and printing full bleed utilising the whole image really enhances the impact of the image. Like the last image this image has allot of underpinning context and emotion similar to the last image. This image is about showing the viewer what I see and how I feel about what I see. I previously mulled over the idea that perhaps the water bottle should have been removed. But on second thought it provides a perspective, it changes perceptions, questions the stereotypical presumptions society has. In all my desire to help others, especially those struggling, these feelings are not fuelled by pity, in fact I respect the resilience and fortitude of those struggling yet finding their own way to survive. The story of this image is obvious, the instinctive emotions because of that story is predictable, but I hope the perspective in which I’ve framed the image allows for some much deeper contemplation.
10; Worth Contemplation
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the exposure just slightly and then adjusted the blacks as the b&w conversion caused the blacks to be too dark for this image, I then increased the clarity and shadows.
Of all the images on the contact sheet this one was the one that stood out as needing the shadows adjusted, which I did. The shadows were lightened enough to ensure the texture and detail would not be lost. the composition and lighting enhance the mood and atmosphere. This was one of the images that I successfully used mixed lighting in. The light created on the arms was by a speedlight on a stand bouncing light of a white photography umbrella, this made “the hero of the image” stand out from the background. This is another image with allot of underpinning emotion and context. From the posture, the shape of the hands, the symbolism of the penny and the environment and the atmosphere and mood of the image as a whole. A moment of contemplation.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to each image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I decreased the exposure and then adjusted the blacks and contrast as the b&w conversion caused the blacks to be too dark for this image, I then increased the clarity. In photoshop the images were put together on a canvas.
The atmosphere, mood composition and positioning of these two images as a diptych work together very well enhancing the narrative. The contrast works extremely well in these images, the foreground and background of each image blend together so well it’s as if they are one. The space between the subject on each image adds to the narrative. The only thing I may have done extra with the image is explored joining the images in photo shop to create on image merging the edges and then comparing to see which one works best. Contextually and therapeutically these images were more successful than I expected them to be. The capture of motion and the postures express a mix of seclusion, acceptance, grounding, will power and the determination to learn self-respect and healthy barriers. The duality of the two images the fact that the images look like they are one, the suggestion of hiding from yourself and standing firm against yourself add to the sense of self-respect and healthy barriers.
12; Tragic Decay
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the exposure just slightly, decreased the highlights and increased the shadows. I then increased the clarity and contrast.
The full bleed image creates the desired impact for this image. Though the shadows are heavy in the image, I feel it works well. The only thing I may have explored if I had the time and opportunity is to take more images with the stick running through the centre removed, to compare the images and see which one would work best. There’s allot that underpins this image, I was drawn to its state of abandonment with confusion, what’s left of a book discarded and abandoned, the idea that a hobby an object that I treasure dearly that has become coping mechanism of survival could be discarded flippantly by someone else induced the sense of confusion and displacement that was connected to the sense of abandonment that was consistent throughout the project. The decay severe enough that the content is no longer legible a metaphor to the sense of abandonment that had triggered the purpose of the project.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the exposure just slightly, decreased the highlights and increased the shadows. I then increased the clarity.
Like the last image I feel the heavy shadows works quite well. I was always drawn to this image because of the composition and the path curving out of the corners, which is why this one had been chosen out of the similar images taken. Like the last image there is an underpinning connection. Tinkering with vehicles is a huge part of the coping mechanisms used by my partner to cope with his mental health. Visually vehicles is something I’ve been drawn from my childhood, not to use or the mechanics of it, but the visual, particularly the classic vehicles. So again to see something discarded and abandoned induced the same melancholy emotions as the last image. The knowledge that there was use in this “pile of rubble” that was once a vehicle yet it had been over looked. This once again caused a series of catalysts to examine the parallels in the emotions triggered by this visual image and those internally.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the clarity.
I had decided to present these images as if they are viewed as a book, because they are connected with a narrative with a specific order in which I wish them viewed. So though this is a portrait format image, I presented and framed it in landscape. The lighting works really well in the image enhancing the narrative of the image. The only thing that is slightly distracting is the background top right corner, but I didn’t want to change the crop of the image as it would have shifted the mood of the image.
Contextually this image is more universal, the concepts of light and shadow, the door almost closed but still open, can be understood by the viewer. An important change in the narrative.
15; Seclusion Emerging
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the contrast and clarity, decreasing the highlights.
The framing of this image really enhances the narrative, I would have liked to have a little more height on the image to adjust the angle slightly to bring the abandoned building on the docks into a better position with in the foliage framing but I was on my tiptoes and it had been an impromptu visit. The bleed of the out of focus fence on the right is mildly distracting. The concept of the image showing seclusion but also the emerging from seclusion, the framing and clarity of a moment. The understanding and acceptance that there is a positive to every negative.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the contrast and clarity, adjusting the whites and blacks slightly from the b&w conversion.
This image became an important part of the narrative, turning the series positive. The border was deliberate, originally I had hoped to make this image full bleed but the subtle blur of the fence on either side would have been lost and I feel it frames the image drawing the eyes adding depth. The strong contrast I’ve used in the series works very well in this image. Conceptually this continues with the idea that there are positives to every negative, the abandoned foreground representing the foundations, the leading lines lead to the “thriving bustling” city full of life, a metaphor for the potential future that can be built upon the foundations of abandonment, the idea that those roots and foundations don’t always determine your future negatively.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the contrast a bit and the clarity, but decreased the exposure and highlights.
This image brings allot of emotion and atmosphere to the series, the motion works perfectly adding allot o meaning, the focus on the horizon was deliberate. The shadows are a little heavy but it works well in this image.
The concept and therapeutic process are important, the image represents understanding, accepting and seeing the potential the focus on the horizon a deliberate part of the image making process, the idea of facing the future, walking towards the future.
18; Seeking Connection
Editing process; I did the basic editing to each image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the contrast slightly and the clarity. Then in photoshop I layered the three images on top of each other using the blending mode to allow each stage of myself walking to, fro and resting to come through. After exploring which would work best I put the first layer on screen blending mode at 75% opacity and the second on overlay blending mode at 74% opacity. I then of set one of the images a tiny amount to create a motion shake affect.
The composition and layering of this image has worked well both as an individual image and as part of the narrative, once again the shadows are a bit heavy but the detail has not been lost. The concept of the image was to represent the idea of walking towards the future, back to the past and resting in the present. The idea that I’ve often referred to that I have always had one foot in the past and one foot in the future, centring me firmly in the present. Something I often say to explain to those that have either accused me of having my head in the clouds or living in the past. The landscape is an abandoned landscape, which represents in general that the world is in a state of abandonment. The shaking motion portraying that there will always be a constant battle to overcome between the sense instability and the fight to create stability.
Editing process; I did the basic editing to the image in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. I increased the contrast slightly and the clarity.
This image is strangely affective as a landscape, presenting it with a border brings a solid focus to the underpinning concept. The composition works really well, the focus is up, reaching higher towards the sky, the hand blurred but a strong presence in the image. The shadows are again a little heave but I don’t feel it hinders the image at all.
Another more universal concept of reaching for the sky, reaching for your dreams, pulling yourself up, the sky is the limit, yet an important part of the process and narrative.
Editing process; I did the basic editing in camera raw, profile corrections, removal of aberrations and then a basic high contrast punchy black and white conversion. Once this was done the whites were increased, the clarity slightly decreased. The images were then taken into photoshop to remove the specular highlights, the patch tool as mentioned was not successful with this, so I resorted to selecting each specular highlight then using content aware fill the highlight was removed flawlessly in most occasions, a couple times I had to go over it again. One of the highlights remained but became less distracting. This process was repeated with each of the images.
This image is a digital representation of the mixed media print that is the final image, the paint brush for the stitching in photoshop was not perfect but represented the final image digitally. Each image was printed separately on German etch paper, then stitched together in a cross stitch style, finally mounted on an a3 sheet of German Etch Paper to tie it in with the series. Conceptually and therapeutically these images finishing the series is of great significance. The hands and photo directly relating to the first in the image series, accept that the weight of the toxic relationship has been removed. The posture of the hands represent a healthy amount of protection and barriers, while the other image shows a relaxed state, an acceptance that there will always be a sense of detachment due to the absence of healthy parental figures, but it doesn’t define me nor should I hide from it. The hair physically represents the parts of me kept hidden. The stitching of the two images representing healing. There is beauty in the broken!
Conclusion; Success & Room for improvement
As a series of images I feel the Abandonment Project has come together as if it was meant to, I took on board advice throughout the process and made each decision and indecision purposely. The plan was not as extensively written because the purpose of the project required the flexibility to explore and expand on concepts and ideas as the process transpired. Which had advantages and disadvantages that I had to tackle as elaborated in each shoots evaluation. It was difficult to see or understand the process and how each decision and shoot directly influenced and shaped the next creating the process. This as always caused elements of worry and anxiety, but because I had worked in a very similar process last year I was able to put aside those worries and trust in my own photographic process. The difference from last year was that the project was focused on myself rather than other survivor collaborators. The benefits were that there was far less reliance on others or concern over the mental health wellbeing of others, though there was an aspect of reliance on others for assistance, and on the remoteness of some locations I needed help with transport. The disadvantages were of course that it was a difficult subject to tackle, it was personal and I was laying bare my vulnerabilities. Though I had never been concerned about the effect on my mental health because I knew the Therapeutic process was in fact the self-care needed, I knew that I would be sharing my own therapeutic process more extensively than I had on a subject more recent and raw that I had not fully opened up about or processed. Yet as part of my Fortitude Project I knew that sharing this process for those in similar situations would help others as well as myself.
This Project grew wings and ventured further than expected. Not only did the therapeutic process go beyond my expectations, but the process made my finally realise what my style is, I had it in my head that a style would be a set visual style, I kept looking at my images trying to see a visual similarity, exasperated that I couldn’t see it. Fellow photographers would tell me that they recognised my images because of my style but could not elaborate. This year and during this project I realised that my images don’t have a set visually look, but my style is about what underpins the image, the narrative and emotion. This project has allowed me to fully accept and understand that amongst my peers and other photographers my images never stand out as technically or visually the strongest. But I’ve found my strength in narrative, storytelling, producing evocative images that make the viewer ask questions and re-evaluate perceptions. I’ve discovered that allot of my personal work I’ve worked towards being a visual activist. The research I did for this project broadened my knowledge of photographers, images and expanded my knowledge of others perusing photography therapeutically. In doing so I found an online community on social media that I joined, shared my work on and received feedback from others more experienced in this field, I gained reputable contacts promising to stay in touch and even meet up and discuss all things related to Therapeutic Photography. One of those contacts amongst this group was a well known name within Therapeutic Photography, Judy Weiser who offered invaluable resources and contacts including a lecturer and photographer in the north of Scotland who has recently published a book on Therapeutic Photography, runs courses to teach the methods who has offered help and contact whilst I explore and read his book.
From a technical perspective I discovered that I definitely lean towards natural lighting and my process rarely involves trying to control lighting. It was something that I stipulated that I wanted to explore more, though I did use mixed lighting in one of the shoots, I failed to introduce continuous lighting or painting with light into the work were some of the work might have benefited from the process. My process tends to orientate towards working in the moment with a basic flexible plan using minimal equipment to take the images I want to achieve. I acknowledge that I should not allow myself to be rigid in this process and have to continue to explore out of my comfort zone. It is not that I’m not comfortable with lighting equipment because in a studio environment I am capable of working with and exploring lighting from the basics to the most complex and experimental. Mixed lighting is definitely something I would like to continue exploring and pushing the comfort zones of, I need to work through the frustrations of when a speedlight fails to improve an image adequately and become as familiar with its abilities as I have in studio, something that I had hoped to achieve in this project but didn’t due to my focus being so strongly on the process. Becoming more aware of my process, how it aids and hinders me will help me in the future, rein it in when I need to, stop and plan and research more the techniques and locations. Become more flexible in the types of techniques I use particularly on location. This project has also clearly shown me where my strength’s lye and to play to my strengths with in my work. I have achieved allot in this therapeutic process, self-expression, self-exploration, a heightened self-respect, an acceptance of my limitations and my abilities, where I should push myself out my comfort zone as well as a huge amount of closure and heeling through the process I had expected yet not understood the full extent.
From last years grade unit I’ve successfully improved my understanding of my process and style, I really took on board the advice of presentation, rather than just quickly uploading images to Loxley for print on the safest options, I switched to a more interactive personal approach than with Loxley, checking out paper types, deciding on a few I wanted to test, printing contact sheets to do test prints not only allowing me to see how each paper affects my work but also enabling me to see if I needed to do any major additional optimization before final print. I allowed myself more time for this process which gave me the opportunity to explore mix media images for the first time which I was particularly proud of and has been approved for exhibition this year. I explored presentation on the paper, had my images printed physically as part of the edit down process which drastically improved how I worked and viewed my images as a body of work, allowing me to make connections and understand my work in a way a computer screen can not achieve. Though I kept the continuity of paper type and landscape presentation throughout the images, it was a conscious choice on how I wanted my images viewed rather than it simply being the safest or easiest option. Printing in a variety of presentations from full bleed bordered triptych and diptychs I had to physically go to the printer with a usb stick and talk through my order to oversea it was printed how I intended, as a result I was much more involved in the printing process.
Future notes to myself based on my experiences would be to print sample prints as I go, rather than in two lots almost at the end of the project, have more interaction with peers and advisers earlier in the process, avoid procrastinating the more difficult aspects of the project taking an opposite approach of dealing with the challenging aspects first as these often impact the process in a more rewarding and positive way. Continue to plan and research but plan for flexibility the unknown and always expect changes, going with the flow, it works for me. Trust my process and ideas more! Continue to allow focus on printing and presentation this is a very rewarding process. Read Therapeutic Photography by Neil Gibson, take him up on the offer of meeting and discussing therapeutic photography and do not let the activity and interaction in this new circle of contacts connected to Therapeutic Photography on Judy Weiser’s group dwindle, an amazing opportunity to connected with people who are expertise in the area in which I’m perusing as one of my specialization.
Looking back over my aims of the Project “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 have achieved this and much more! My images with in Therapeutic Photography, my personal Fortitude Project and this series of images added to it, may not be the strongest in the photographic world but in the community of “Therapeutic Photography” people are taking an interest and expressing the therapeutic benefits of sharing them to help others. This has been a monumental milestone in encouraging me to continue pursuing this and trusting in it.
Evaluation of Personal Therapeutic Process
The sense of being drawn to anything abandoned, is something I began to realise was a reoccurring theme in my photography. As far back as when my passion for photography first became serious thirteen years ago, before I had even accepted the full extent of my reality. The idea of capturing things that are abandoned is an instinctive intense pull, that must come from my sub-conscious.
I slowly realised there was an underlying emotional response based on my experiences that was drawing me to create these images!
I decided it was something I should explore in the Personal aspect of my “Photographic Therapy” project, the Fortitude Project.
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, realised or accepted that.
As part of my research, I delved into my archives and pulled together a body of work that is connected to abandonment. This process itself was both cathartic and therapeutic. As the therapeutic process developed throughout the project, a jigsaw puzzle started to piece together. I noticed an increase in this style of photography which later confirmed the discovery of where the sense of abandonment was connected to in my past and when I started to acknowledge it.
Each image showed me the connection between my photography and the metaphors and parallels in my own thoughts and emotions, I truly started to understand the concepts with in my work, studied them, admitted them and delved into them. I started to fully grasp the concept and idea of how every photograph a photographer takes can be a “self-portrait”.
By the final shoot I realised just how huge a therapeutic impact the process had on me, for the first I was physically voicing the root of my feelings of Abandonment. As I survivor I've healed and come to terms with the Abuse I suffered as a teenager, the process of going through court and returning to a family I thought was real, then finding my voice on social media sharing my story interacting with other survivors setting up online peer support fundamentally changed my path to a healing one. The feelings of abandonment only came after discovering so many truth about a toxic family dynamics. I had held desperately to the “family” they had portrayed, the image of “love and loyalty” that I had been sold to the detriment of my mental health, my sanity but worst of all the detriment of my children’s well-being and safety! The weight and knowledge that my mother abandoned me, perhaps long before I ever realised she had, was crushing me more than I knew, I started fighting to free myself from the weight of it the moment that truth came out about her secrets almost three years ago when we removed them from our lives until the latest revelations six month ago, but I never realised how much I had struggled with it.
I've spoken online in written words but it was not until I finalized this series and explained the purpose of each image in the story I was telling, the opening and closing image of my hands and the baby photo of me were the most powerful. When I spoke the words out loud "the ornament is the oldest gift I have from my mother, it represents the weight of our toxic relationship" I had never let the words toxic relationship slip my mouth until that moment. I knew it was toxic but the moments over the last three years that led to this discovery I had kept quiet about. In that moment of vocalization the weight of the sense of Abandonment lifted and I felt Acceptance. My foundations may be rooted in abandonment, but it does not mean and never did mean that I could not build a new on top of it and thrive.