Woods & Ancient Woods
I am photographing local places and through routes for shoppers, places for dog walkers and teenage night drinking. They are the closest bit of nature for many but with no walking boots or Gore-Tex in sight. Signs of modern life are present in discarded detritus along well-used pathways but patches of thick undergrowth deter further invasion. There is tension between the encroaching forces of nature and man into each other’s territories. The sounds of the school and the motorway clamor for attention as well as warbling birds. A council recycling area, a cricket green, a golf course, and an area used for fly tipping.
Trees have roots that connect us to those who have walked by them and to those who planted them. The forest is the primal birthplace of nations, trees the material for the beginning of habitation. Our identity is created and shaped by our connection to the natural world around us, something that gets missed, forgotten in today's digital, disposable culture.
Enchanted forests play a role in many ancient myths and folktales and in modern fantasies from wild and dangerous parts of Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, to forests representing enchantment and the ancientness of the world in the books of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Our woodlands have been evolving since the end of the last glaciation around 10,000 years ago, and represent one of our most important habitats for wildlife. Woodlands in Great Britain amount to about 5,000,000 acres, about 1.25% of the British Isles. A small amount of land percentage wise comprises a very high proportion of our richest wildlife habitats.
Each one of these woods and ancient woods has its own particular significance, and collectively they enable us to understand the complex relationships of nature between soil, climate and vegetation. They also demonstrate the pervasive influence of man upon nature over centuries.
It started with a question mark, a second look at the landscape followed by a personal dialogue with it. It is a landscape that I am familiar with and the conversation concerns how we perceive the world around us. The landscape around us is as much a fantasy and a fiction as it is actually experienced. This is the suburban green belt dream.
The romantic style of landscape still aspired to, harking back to a time before, taught us how to design magnificent outdoor spaces as well as the smallest family garden. It taught us how to achieve beauty with the simplest and commonest of means: the landforms and vegetation everywhere surrounding us. But has it brought us closer to nature?
Common Places is an exploration of everyday spaces, car parks, roads, recreation grounds, gardens; some areas we inhabit. Here are the lamp standards, park benches, dog waste bins, fences, radio masts, bollards, signs and other street furniture. A tour unfolds of modern monuments to our present culture that amount to a pattern of tokens and traces.
Into The Woods
An area of fantasy and warfare, a paintball site. Into the woods adults go and play, enacting an exhilarating fantasy of violence, tactics and strategies. Deep in the woods, an area associated in childhood fairy tales as a site of change, outside of normal rules and everyday life, men and women play at war. I am documenting the theatrical arenas, where teams battle in a survival of the fittest.
The paintball company manages the land, creates the combat zones and leads the games; For one day, with a real natural environment, not a video game, the players have a first hand experience of their own basic instincts for hunting, warfare and survival instincts, usually suppressed or reshaped in their daily life within a rigid societal structure.