151MC: Environmental Issues

Although for this assignment I will not be able to travel to other countries and photograph conservation issues and solutions, the core cause of the decline in biodiversity and loss of habitats and land remain the same whether this be on a global or local scale.

The major causes of the decline in biodiversity are changes in land use, pollution, changes in atmospheric CO² levels, the introduction of exotic species, acid rain and changes in the nitrogen cycle. All of these changes coincide with human population growth and our development. The population is predicted to reach 10 billion by the mid 21st century, which means there will be an increase pressure on food supplies meaning more forests and undeveloped land will have to be copped down and turned into agricultural land and food processing factories will have to be built.

The increased pressure on the environment will also be seen as cities grow and start to sprawl into land on the rural to urban fringe in order to accommodate the increase in population and the number of industries. By clearing land in order to build these sites habitats are being destroyed and therefore so are ecosystems. This is reducing the biodiversity of the UK dramatically so much so that some species such as the Cosnard Beetle and hedgehogs are becoming endangered due to deforestation and building developments which are being built in their habitats.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 21.16.14
Lincoln urban sprawl

Above is a screenshot I took from Google maps of how the city of Lincoln is spreading out into the surrounding country side. Living in Lincolnshire my whole life I am used to seeing field upon field for miles with little sign of human development however this birds eye view really highlighted to me how close the city really is to these areas of farm land and untouched/natural land and the concept of the ever approaching city and signs of human development interest me.

I’m interested in finding out what has been put in place across large and small conservation sites in order to protect species and land from human development and also in particular where these sites have been located in relation to the city and within Lincolnshire. Is there a specific species which is only located in one area and needs protecting?

Therefore the next step I am going to take in this assignment is to find specific areas where these projects happening whether this be a government/council funded scheme, small business or individually funded scheme.

References:

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151MC: Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change

When researching further into my theme I found it relatively easy to find articles, books, journals and books on conservation and the human impacts but I found it more challenging to find specific photographers who had carried out similar projects. I began to look through my old lecture notes to find some possible bodies of work which relate to my idea. I stumbled across Edward Burtynsky’s work and when looking further into his projects I felt that they really resonated with me.

His series “Homesteads” shows the rudimentary relationship and interaction between humans and the landscape. The geographical location of the becomes almost insignificant since the primary elements of the images are the same; the homes and buildings which dot the rural land.

Homesteads #32: View from Highway 8, British Columbia (1985)
Homesteads #33: View from Trans Canada Highway. Near Kamloops, British Columbia (1985)

To me it really shows the sheer scale of how humans have altered the landscape in order to build settlements or industry and had complete disregard for the consequences. The landscape will now never be the same and in the image Homesteads #32 it is evident that the railway line will always be a constant feature in the landscape, it has left a scar – an imprint of where humans once were. Even when people move out of the area and nature starts to take over, there will always be evidence of our alterations.

I wanted to find out more about Burtynsky’s experiences and aims while photographing these sites as I believed it would  help me when photographing my own series. Therefore I watched a Ted Talk about his bodies of work which concern environmental and sustainability issues.  This talk really highlighted to me the depth of the issue regarding humans impacting on the environment and also the ways in which countries such as China are developing rapidly and the detrimental affect this is having on the environment. Although cities in the UK cannot be compared to the scale of mega cities such as Shanghai, the fundamental action of destroying agricultural land and habitats for development still remains the same.

In the talk Bertynsky explained how he wanted his photographs to “be able to engage the audiences of my work, and to come up to it and not immediately be rejected by the image. Not to say, “Oh my God, what is it?” but to be challenged by it — to say, “Wow, this is beautiful,” on one level, but on the other level, “This is scary. I shouldn’t be enjoying it.” Like a forbidden pleasure. And it’s that forbidden pleasure that I think is what resonates out there, and it gets people to look at these things, and it gets people to enter it”.

In addition to this, one of the points he made which interested me the most was that in building the Three Gorges Dam (Sandouping, China) the surrounding towns had to be destroyed and relocated. While building the new city of Wushan they did not include any parks or green spaces. They had the opportunity to rebuild the city from scratch and undo their previous mistakes of very high density sky scrappers but they did not. To me this showed the lengths humans would go to in order to develop and how little we think of the environment.

References:

  • Burtynsky, E. (2013) Homesteads [online] available from http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/site_contents/Photographs/Homesteads.html [22nd January 2015]
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection. (2013) Edward Burtynsky: The Landscape That We Change [online] available from http://www.mcmichael.com/adams-burtynsky/edward-burtynsky.html [22nd January 2015]
  • Ted Talk. (2005) Edward Burtynsky: Manufactured Landscapes and Green Education [online] available from http://www.ted.com/talks/edward_burtynsky_on_manufactured_landscapes [23rd January 2015]

151MC: Further Reading – Nature Conservation and Agricultural Change

After deciding on my theme I wanted to read further into the changes within conservation and agriculture in the UK and some of the plans that have been put in place or are going to be put in place in the future. Therefore I read No.25: Nature conservation and agricultural change by the Nature Conservancy Council.

Nature Conservation

This journal highlighted to me the importance of conservation and because agricultural land covers almost 80% of land in Great Britain it is the most important and determining influence on the survival of wildlife habitats. However this land faces many threats such as forestry, industrialisation, urban development and even the change in farming practices which have changed greatly since the WW2. In many cases this has caused habitats to decline drastically.

In order to develop my knowledge further I am going to research further into the main problems which are causing habitat loss and fragmentation, the loss of species and what conservation projects are being implemented around the UK in order to tackle this.

References:

  • Nature Conservancy Council. (1990) Focus on nature conservation: Nature conservation and agricultural change, 9-41

151MC: Further Reading – Land Matters by Liz Wells

Before I started researching further into my topic I wanted to gain a better understand of how landscape photography represents a place and how we as photographers can evoke emotions, memories and sounds within the image although it is still and mute. Therefore I read Land Matters by Liz Wells, who is a professor in photography culture.

One of the main issues I am facing at the moment with the assignment is trying to work out how I can convey the issues I am researching into through my images. I understand that because the area I am researching into is niche therefore I will have to provide text with my images however I need to work out the correct balance for this. Too much text and it will distract from the image, whereas too little text will make the body of work less impactful and my audience may not understand the context and relevance of the image.

This book highlighted to me that our perception of nature and the natural environment is affected by our personal knowledge, experiences and understanding and this in turn affects how we view and respond to an image. Reinforcing Hans-Georg Gadamer’s point about horizons. Someone who has little knowledge of environmental and conservation will perhaps not understand my images without a brief description however I aim to open peoples eyes to what conservation projects are happening, how this is helping and what still needs to be done.

Another key point Wells made is that the British landscape has been altered vastly and what we perceive to be natural has once been altered by our ancestors and is continuing to be managed and therefore there is no ‘wilderness’. This led me to think about how many of the landscapes we see in the UK are human constructs – made to look and act in a certain way to suit our needs. This led me back to one of my ideas on how the man made landscape is altering the natural environment and how it now coexists together. Whether this be in conflict or harmony with each other.

151MC: Assignment 1 Initial Ideas (Rural Life/Agriculture)

When I was writing my ideas down for what I could explore within the rural life/agriculture topic I felt that I had a more in depth knowledge and these topics resonated more with me as I have an interest in nature conservation and coming from a rural and farming area I have been brought up visiting these type of projects and seeing first hand what is being done.

Conservation:rural

I had 4 main ideas within this topic which all interlink with each other. One of the main ideas I wanted to explore was the building of wildlife corridors and green belts. These are man made areas which are built along roads or in urban areas which prevent large developments from being built on these sites in order to protect areas of agricultural, wild and undeveloped land. The wildlife corridors are an attempt to reduce the fragmentation of habitats and reconnect wildlife populations which have been separated by human structures such as roads. A possible idea would be to explore how these man made structures are invading habitats and effecting ecosystems and bio diversity and why we are only just bothering to do this now after we have destroyed the habitats in the first place.

After living in Lincolnshire my whole life and growing up in a farming county where fresh local grown produce is sold in farm shops I have always been interested in agriculture and what the land is essentially used for and whether the farming practices are sustainable and how these practices have had to develop over time in order to supply larger retailers. I’m particularly interested in how these farms and land provide for the local community and whether it is sustainable to grow just for the local community or whether a more mass market practice is needed in order for these industries to survive. This also led me to question whether it is ethical and whether it is the financial benefits which outweigh this.

Another idea which further explores how humans have further effected habitats is to photograph and investigate further into distinctive ecologies which develop along route ways and show how nature is interacting with the man made environment and what is being done to manage this or not manage it.

However the idea which I was the most interested in exploring further is what is being done to conserve these habitats and why there is a need to do so and why these areas/species are under threat. In particular how the man made environment is still encroaching into these areas of conservation. I was also interested in the different sides of the argument. How do the farmers feel about their land being turned into protected areas, how do developers and conservationists feel about this? Also what scale are these projects on.

151MC: Assignment 1 Initial Ideas (City Regeneration)

After been given the assignment I started to make mind maps on the given topics and the 3 which I had the most ideas for and was interested in the most was city regeneration, rural life and agriculture.

City Regeneration mind map

For city regeneration I was interested in how since the 1960’s industry has moved out of the city and moved abroad due to cheaper imports and raw materials and the effects this left on the city. The closure of these industries which the city was built upon, which provided employment for thousands of people in the city meant that once the industry fell into decline this left all of these people unemployed. The consequences of this mass employment meant that areas to fall into states of disrepair and crime rates increased. In turn this also had a knock on effect on the city centre.

One of my ideas was to explore how the mass unemployment lead to many of the shops to close down and how the availability of cheap land on the outskirts of the city lead to the building of large out of town shopping centres and industrial sites. The cheaper land meant that retail space was also cheaper so many of the shops and businesses left the city centre and moved out of town. The quicker road links, reduced congestion and availability of parking spaces lead to more and more people starting to shop in these out of town centres. In turn the high street fell into a further state of decline. I think it would be interesting to see what types of shops remained and how this affected the people who own the shops as I believe that many of the larger retailers would of moved out of the city whereas smaller family businesses would of remained.

After studying this topic in geography last year I am increasingly aware of the negative effects these large developments have on the natural environment and habitats and this is also something I wanted to potentially explore further.

In conjunction with this, my main idea for this topic was to explore how industrial cities across the UK are encouraging people back into the city through regeneration programs and how this is changing peoples shopping habits. I was also particularly interested in how all these developments are effecting the environment and nature and how green belts and wildlife corridors are being incorporated into these regeneration programs.

151MC: Assignment 1 and 2 Brief

For our next module we have been given two assignments. The first assignment consists of a portfolio of digital photographic work which is to be supported by an individual workbook and the second assignment is a five minuet presentation on the body of work which we created in assignment 1. The presentation should show the research which underpinned our body of work and also include first hand research with a least one relevant and established individual in relation to my chosen topic.

The topics which he have been given are:

  • Ageing population
  • International Culture in the UK
  • Agriculture
  • Rural Life
  • City Regeneration
  • Ownership and Property

The given themes are very broad however I should research further into them to find a niche area which I become very knowledgable on. This will strengthen my body of work and allow me to answer questions which I will set myself  throughout the assignment. We have been given the freedom as to what we explore within the theme and what constitutes as a body of work. It could be a series of images, a sound and image installation or even include a video. Whatever I decide to do I need to ensure that it is conceptually resonate with the topic and is represented in my work.