Research and progress during the Winter break

During the Winter break between modules, I have been busy with my research project and gathering images while I have some free time. The weather has been reasonable and further exploring the local area has been possible, although the farm tracks are a quagmire in places. I have identified multiple new locations for regular monitoring, including sites which are candidates for a new series of images.

Progress is being made with the reading list I prepared earlier, although Farmageddon was a longer read than expected. However, it is a solid grounding in the negative aspects of factory farming and how it affects the environment, global food supply and population health. Next is Upton Sinclair and “The Jungle” to learn about the early days of the meatpacking industry in the United States at the turn of the 20th Century.

In the Foreword to the book ‘Photography Research’ Peter Kennard states ‘There are as many ways to research as there are artists.’ (Kennard, cited in Read, 2017, p.8)

I found the pre-reading essay “Between inner and outer worlds” by Patricia Townsend very insightful, I have been struggling with ‘research’ and what exactly it means and comprises as it applies to photographic practice. Is there some formula to follow, standard methodology or best practice. How do artists develop their ideas, what process do they follow, what can I learn from others to apply to my practice?

Patricia introduces the concept of the “Hunch” where you have this intimation there is something waiting to be created, but you cannot put your finger on it or clearly articulate what it is. The idea is yet to crystallize. Cycles of experimenting and re-photographing, differing aesthetics, building knowledge of the subject until the ultimate form takes shape. I have been conscious that my personal method is somewhat haphazard in many respects, parts are quite structured, I read into my subject in detail, I have always liked to know what I am dealing with. When it comes to photographing that is very different, I revisit the same thing repeatedly, different cameras, viewpoints, weather, light, day of the week etc. until I have found the idea I had in mind.

It took around 5 months to create the basic idea and initial photo set for the ‘Bring out the dead‘ series of images. I took most images with a small compact camera which was not ideal but sufficient for quickly getting a feel for what was possible. It took a longer time to come to the idea to juxtapose religious iconography on the containers and buildings. Like the hunch, this was a cycle of ideas, reformulations, dead ends, redirections and eventual set of formative images.

One of the spin off ideas from the current project is a study (for want of a better word) of the production facilities, as mentioned in a previous post and my research brief this a thought that is kicking around that I cannot quite pin down, I know there is something around these places I need to create. For now its repeatedly visiting different locations, taking images, working on the results while reading into what goes on inside, the functions of the different parts, what happens when.

Sometimes a louvre claps open and a great big fan winds up and expels some stinking air before slamming shut again. One of those did I actually see that moments. At others, if you hang around for a while you can hear the pigs squealing and screeching, there are no windows, no natural light, we’ve created some sort of hell on earth for animals. The pieces of the hunch are coming together, research will in time put things in their place.

The above is some toying with ideas and iconography from Hieronymous Bosch, this time from Paradise and Hell. I found this a fitting allegory; the angels showing the way into the light, while the reality of the pig factory is into the darkness. Born, raised, fattened under strip lights and briefly trucked to the slaughterhouse, there is no paradise waiting.

Images shot over the Christmas period, I have not spent any time on selecting or adding iconography for the bring out the dead project, still work needs to be done on the selection and composition of the images I want to use for the module.

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