Site Specific Project- Rivers- Photographers

After doing some initial research on my three different topics, I have decided to look at different photographers’ work, to influence my own ideas and photographs. I plan to look at different types of photography based around my theme in order to get a good overview of different avenues I could take my project. I started off by looking at the Natural Collection, from the Photobook Book Club, for my theme of rivers as for my photographs I am planning to take a natural approach to my images.

Paul Gaffney- We Make the Path by Walking

  • During 2012 I walked over 3,500 kilometres with the aim of creating a body of work which would explores the idea of walking as a form of meditation and personal transformation. My intention was to create a series of quiet, meditative images, which would evoke the experience of being immersed in nature and capture the essence of the journey. The images seek to engage the viewer in this walk, and to communicate a sense of the subtle internal and psychological changes which one may undergo while negotiating the landscape. – Paul Gaffney
  • Comparisons with The Pond are perhaps inevitable with the subject matter and considered image making

  • The landscapes in his images, which are devoid of activity, command attention through their minimal appearance.
  • Photographs taken in rural Spain, Portugal and France.
  • The 40 images in the book deftly record the smallest details yet simultaneously offer an overview of each scene
  • The edit is slick and each image effortlessly flows into the next; linking all the images is a beautiful muted colour palette. This flow links to the idea of journey
  • We Make the Path by Walking, which has been nominated for this year’s Kassel Photobook Award and was shortlisted for the European Publishers Award for Photography

Here is a video of the book:

From looking through Gaffney’s book it is clear to see his journey and personal progression through the landscape, there are clues and hints of this ‘path’ created by trodden down shrubs, dirt tracks and roads. Throughout Gaffney’s journey the hints of human presence on nature can be seen and form the ‘path’. With the human presence in most images, I feel this work links to the work of John Gossage and his Photobook ‘The Pond’ in which he travels on a personal journey through the landscape, yet in these landscapes human presence can be seen, showing the effects humans are having on the natural environment. In my own work I want to highlight the effect humans have had on the River Sherbourne’s journey, showing the change from the natural environment to the industrial city as I travel down the river. All of Gaffney’s images are of the natural world, yet there can be seen the intrusion of man and his presence, echoing this idea of how man affects and changes the natural environment over time.

We Make the Path by Walking

The colours of the photographs are natural, yet have a slightly ‘muted’ quality to them, this makes me question when the images were taken as I feel at midday the lighting would be a lot brighter and harsher, whereas these photographs have a more subtle feel to them yet they still have contrasting colours. I feel the images could’ve been taken at dawn, with a light haze muting the colours. It is recommended to photographers shooting landscapes to either shoot in the early morning or late afternoon as the sun is lower, not as harsh, yet there is still light to capture detail images. Furthermore by shooting either in the early morning or late afternoon the position of the sun would be more directional and create more interesting shadows and contrasting images.

We Make the Path by Walking

The book itself takes the viewer on a journey through the landscape, allowing them to see different areas; the book itself becomes a personal journey of the viewer as each person travels at their own speed through the different landscapes. The layout of the book is continually changing, with different image sizes and layouts on the page; to me I feel this uneven layout echoes the idea of the changing landscape of Gaffney’s journey, with a wide range of different landscapes visually, they are all linked together by the landscape orientation enhances the ‘landscape’ idea. In my own work I want to show a wide range of different landscapes along the river, to show the changing areas and the journey of the river through the natural environment to the industrial city.

The Photobook is contained in a sleeve that has a full image of shrubs covering it; the viewer has to remove this sleeve to begin the journey through the book and the landscapes. I feel that by having the ‘full’ image on the sleeve, that it contrasts with the idea of the ‘path’ and journey, the viewer has to create a path by removing this sleeve, once again showing the effect man has on the environment.


Unlike my project which is site specific, the location of the setting of the book is unknown, Gaffney will not say; the path could be anywhere and could become anyone’s journey as anyone can read the book; I feel this shows the idea that everyone has their own personal journeys through life.

Philip J Brittan- Autumn River

  • Autumn River is a series of images created along the length of the River Frome in the south west of England during the autumn of 2012. The images were made by moving into the flowing water either on foot or by boat. Leaves in the water are reflected and distorted – a mass of intoxicating colours intensified and blurred with movement, trees on the riverbank viewed through a pink and orange haze.- Philip J Brittan

  • It has been interesting to look back at my original notes, from late 2012, that accompanied the research for the project. It is clear that, in part, I was motivated by the challenge of attempting to say something fresh, visually, about such a well-photographed topic as autumn. But it is also clear that I was interested in creating work that engaged with the cycles of life and also with memory – so many people seem to have intense memories of the autumn season.
  • Julian’s essay Falling Away is a beautifully written account of autumn that, without referencing the images directly, manages to say and enlarge upon everything I hoped the photographs would deal with visually.

  • With so many images of autumn produced each year it is perhaps inevitable that a strong element of cliché cloaks the whole area. Is it possible to make work which lifts autumn into mystery and strangeness, enabling us to look again at the season with fresh eyes?
  • A series of images with some of the millions of decaying leaves that fall into the River Frome, in the southwest of England, and are carried, like brightly coloured jewels, along its length every year.
  • The River Frome is a small and unremarkable river that runs through the urbanised outskirts of Bristol.
  • The colourful chaos that is autumn producing a canopy of glorious colours smeared by water and wind — a sensational natural firework display of the red, yellow and orange pigments of the autumn leaves.
  • While it is essential for photographers to document the often shocking scale of environmental damage from economic exploitation, pollution, marine debris and climate change, I believe it is also important that photographers help to awaken viewers to the spectacular beauty and variety of wildness that still exists, and often lies just beyond their house or car windscreen, if they can only be encouraged to look. The less the natural world is known visually and imaginatively, the easier it is to dispose of morally and politically.

  • The River Frome runs through South Gloucestershire and the outskirts of Bristol in the South West of England before joining the River Avon.
  • The river is tree-lined for much of its twenty mile journey and in ‘Autumn River’ Philip Brittan creates images with some of the millions of decaying leaves that fall into the river and are carried along its length every year.
  • The book features an essay by Julian Hoffman that adds enormously to the pleasure of the publication. Julian’s substantial essay ‘Falling Away’, rich in poetic observation and stimulating ideas about the autumn season, effortlessly weaves together culture, memoir, ecology and topography. We are very excited to be able to include Julian’s writing in ‘Autumn River’.

Here is a video of the book:

When it comes to photographing my own images of the River Sherbourne, like Brittan, I will enter the river by foot and follow the river down its path, capturing its journey and beauty. The images in Autumn River are vibrant and lively, not what you’d expect from a river, they look like they could’ve been taken in a tropical land. The shapes and textures are very abstract and surreal, without slight context I feel it would be hard to say what they are of, however in some of the images the water can be seen whereas others its just a blur of colours. Due to this blur, the images have movement to them and flow, echoing the idea of the river. Even though they are still shots you still get a sense of the movement of the river; in my own work I want to try to capture the movement of the river showing its flow and journey though the land.


When looking though the book, on the double pages the two images compliment each other with their colours and patterns, each are individual but they all echo the ‘movement’ of the river and the journey down the river. At the end of the book there is information about the images and book, this gives the viewer context, I feel this context is key and gives a greater understanding of the book. However, by having the information at the end, the viewer can make their own opinions on the images first, and then after reading the information they can go back and take a new reading of the book, the context possibly changing how they saw the book and images.


To me the book is not too long, the photographs have been edited down into a small collection, this can be seen by the titles under the images, they are numbered by the original numbering and so when flicking through the book the numbers seem a mismatch and out of order. This shows that Brittan has spent time looking through, editing down and arranging his images into that certain order. I questioned to myself that if the images are out of order, does that mean these images aren’t in the original order of Brittan’s journey down the river, are they showing the real journey through the river or has Brittan created a new journey, a personal journey to take the reader on? This whole idea of journey is imporntant to me as I want to show my jounrey down the River Sherbourne, however I want it to be true and the actual journey I took.

Eugenijus Barzdžius- River’s Bisectors

  • One of the curious stories that comes along with whole project, that I have done it while studying at University of Wales, Newport (Last year it was rebranded to South Wales). It took me for several weeks actively think about that peace of a map that I received as geographical boundaries for my project. The rest was up to me: to come up with any idea or proposal. When I crystallised my idea of taking river straights and drawing them into an average straight, and when two straights were meeting, they are creating geometrically measurable angle, from which a bisector can be extended to the nearest road and by this way creating a vantage point. So I was trying to explain this idea for 1,5 hour for my tutor – Paul Reas in front of our course group, who said that I am keeping the longest debate record for one’s idea in University of Wales. And I must not only be thankful for his attentive listening and that showed will to understand, even though it was quite a challenge for him at the beginning. But he continued to question my idea like a coach for an athlete trying to find weak muscles with a wish of better results. So he actually let me work on my idea with no further assistance. But when he saw the book he was pleasantly surprised and it was very well evaluated among other academic staff. And also rumours about that long discussion went on for more than a year among younger colleagues.- Eugenijus Barzdžius

Here is a video of the book:

From the start you can see that time has been spent on this book by the intricate stab-binding design; this time echoes the idea of how much time he spent working out and calculating his images before capturing them. Upon opening the book, we are confronted with four definitions regarding mathematic terms and terms that relate to rivers, these terms give a slight clue as to what the book is about, leaving the viewer intrigued. Both on the front cover and the third page in we are given a diagram of the river that has been broken down into different points and converted mathematically into a diagram, these diagrams also give the viewer a slight clue as to what the book is about, however with these diagrams and the definitions combined it is still not completely clear what the book is about.


When flicking through the book, the viewer is provided with an image on the right side with an overlay of the point being photographed with the mathematical diagram printed onto a translucent paper, underneath is the photograph of that area. To me this book looks at the river’s journey in a more scientific and mathematical sense, with a different approach to photography and capturing a subject; even though I am not going to do this kind of method, it has informed me and made me look at a different way of capturing the subject by incorporating mathematics.


When looking at the images I can appreciate their beauty on their own, but without the diagram maps I feel that would not make much sense to the viewer, they would just be landscapes with no relevant meaning. The diagram maps give more context to the book along with the text at the beginning. I do not feel that this is the easiest book to interpret, but maybe this is what the artist wants, for us to spend time with the book observing and ‘working out’ what he is trying to say, echoing the hard work and time he put into working out and making this project.

These images show a journey along the river however in a different less obvious way, by capturing the surroundings, facing away from the river, he shows the journey along the river and the environment either side. With high quality images showing good detail, the photographs are realistic and true to the surrounding area. Due to the layout of having only one section per a double page, it allows the viewer to spend time with each section studying the mathematics and the area.

Finally, the end image shows a diagram of a bisector on the translucent paper and then the photograph underneath echoes the shape of that by looking down the river, giving the first shot of the actual river. This final bit of context gives the viewer greater understanding on the book and also links to the title ‘River’s Bisector’. Even though for my own project I will not be using mathematics to show the journey of the River Sherbourne, I do feel that I will need to consider context when it comes to how I present my work especially if I decide to make a photobook.

John Gossage- The Pond

  • Consisting of photographs taken around a pond in an unkempt wooded area at the edge of a city
  • The photographs do not aspire to the “beauty” of classical landscapes in the tradition of Ansel Adams. Instead, they reveal a subtle vision of reality on the border between humankind and nature.
  • Gossage depicts nature in full splendor, yet at odds with both itself and humankind.

  • His first book, published in 1985, was aptly titled The Pond, and explored marginal spaces in the modern landscape.
  • One of the things I wanted to reference is Thoreau’s vision in Walden Pond of nature being a respite from the city, being this sort of philosophical escape from the 19th century. And it wasn’t quite true anymore. It’s a wonderful book. But what, in the late 20th century, could you say about going to the edge of town and looking at a pond? What does the pond look like now?

  • To read “The Pond” (or to go through the exhibition) is to follow Gossage on his walkabout
  • “Here,” Gossage said, pointing to a photograph of a sandy path at the beginning of the book, “you’re standing on the pavement looking at what stands for nature; it invites you to take a walk.” So you turn the page. The next picture shows a tiny, spiky, black bush on the sandy path. Then comes a picture of a single muddy footprint mushed into the path, followed by a picture of an old board on the path. “It is unromantically and specifically a board.”

Here is a video of the book:

The landscapes are the primary subject of Gossage’s images, however he has managed to create a narrative around these landscapes, focusing on how man has affected the landscape. Gossage is focusing on the natural pond yet in most photographs human presence can be seen, either by a piece of litter on the ‘path’ or buildings in the distance. Even though my work is not exactly the same as Gossage’s, like Gossage I want to show a journey, however my work will show the journey of the River Sherbourne and how it changes from natural to industrial of the city; this change echoes the idea of man’s effect on the natural landscape and the journey of the river.

The lay out of the book is very interesting and echoes the idea of Gossage’s journey to ‘the Pond’; as you turn each page to see a new landscape this movement echoes the movement of each step Gossage took on his journey. Even though for my project I do not plan to make a Photobook at this stage, I do feel that having a book to echo my journey could be an interesting way to further develop this project. By having one image per page on most pages, I feel that this also helps with the idea of representing the steps Gossage took through his journey. Furthermore by having one photograph per two pages, it allows the viewer to become involved in one location, then continuing the journey by turning the page, the viewer becomes involved it is their choice as to whether they continue on the journey.


The photographs in this Photobook are in black and white; I feel this allows greater focus on the journey, the surrounds are the focus yet it doesn’t matter what the colours are, the season isn’t clear, showing the idea that the ‘path’ will always be there. In my own work I want to experiment with both colour and black and white photography to see which looks stronger, but I do like the idea of black and white photography and the fact it could show the idea that the river is always there. All the photographs show beautiful detail of the landscape, yet when needed closer detail can also be seen; in my work I want to capture clear and detailed photographs to show the journey of the River Sherbourne. The book contains a range of photographs with different angles and viewpoints, this allows greater understanding of the natural environment and of Gossage’s journey; I want to combine a range of different photographs in my work to show the journey of the river.

2007.40.28 002


At the end of the book there is a ripped page from another book, all the words have been crossed out except ‘The Pond’, to me this gives final context to the book, telling the viewer the main focus and linking to the books title. the whole book is beautiful and has given me a lot to think about in my own work and possible future work.



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