Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘history

Landmarks on look and feel

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Here are some examples of the kind of work that I’ve been looking at recently as part of the research into my project. I think the work of Roman Sakovic and Tamas Dezso are worth putting together as they depict landscape in similar ways. There is a sense of detachment both in the pulled back position of the camera, the rigidly formal approach, and the use of desaturation that isolates the subjects from us. We look, clinically. The two are withdrawn surveys of landscape, its character, and its development; as beautiful as they are cold and alien.

Whilst Roman Sakovic’s work is as strong as Dezso’s, I find the variety of subject in the latter more compelling and I feel that my inquiry should not only be restricted to landscape but could also include interiors and portraits. There are telling details in everything but they just need to be united within a particular look and feel, as Deszo has so evocatively demonstrated.

Images from Tamas Dezso’s Here, Anywhere

Images from Roman Sakovich’s Transformation

The stories of Tyneham and Lulworth: initial thoughts on my Major Project

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The Village that Died for England - Patrick Wright

 

From the 1980s to the 1990s the historian Patrick Wright made many trips to Dorset. His targets were Lulworth and the valley of Tyneham, as part of the extensive research he was undertaking for his book The Village that Died for England: the Strange Story of Tyneham. His book concerned the fate of the small village of Tyneham and the surrounding area, a village that had been evicted during the 1940s to enable the MOD to train their tanks as part of the Second World War war effort. It was subsequently never returned to the villagers. Now still largely controlled by the Ministery of Defence for the training of tanks, the majority of the Lulworth area is a patch of British countryside that remains untouched by modern developments such as agriculture and heavy tourism (save for quite a few tank shells obviously). According to his book ‘it has lurked in the national imagination ever since as the symbol of a vanished England’.

 

With a keen grip on the history of the area and its ability to relate to wider themes within Britain’s development, Wright’s research trips allowed him to identify significant locations, people, and events that would help him put the pieces of his story together. In his hands Tyneham and the surrounding area was not only a story about a specific area in England, it was an area which allowed him to investigate the hopes and fears of Britain as it came to terms with the advance of the 20th century: his book “investigates the strengths and weaknesses of ‘organic’ visions of the English countryside. It is concerned with opposed expressions of patriotism, the fear and appreciation of technology and military power, the tension between traditional ideas of English life and the transformations brought about by the modernising State.”

 

I am interested in Wright’s work because it is not just a study of surface appearances but is concerned with tracing a story of Britain, by unravelling and joining together the layers of history hidden at symbolic locations. It is these ‘historical’ points that I want to try to identify and photograph. I’m interested in loosely re-tracing the footsteps of the historian around the area with the same inquisitive eye, trying to ascertain elements which could be used to piece a story together about what this part of rural England was and what it is today. I’m hoping that the kind of images I make will make something that will not just be about a specific location but will allow me to explore what aspects of this area have symbolic potential and why this is. What is it that makes us see something as symbolic? What is it about a site or a way of photographing a place that allows it to comment to the way we think about our country? Which sites are more relevant to our sense of Britain than others and why? Will these images demonstrate a wider significance to the everyone else or will they just say more about my personal point of view of Britain? And most importantly, will anyone actually buy the vision of England that I’m presenting?

 

I have a few ideas about how this project could look like but I will add these in the coming weeks in more posts. I will also be visiting the area for the first time tomorrow on a five day camping trip. The weather forecast is pretty grim but this is all what being a fearless adventurer is all about, right? Let’s hope I can get to grips with the tent and the good old camp stove. Grrrr.

Napoleon Dynamite – the movie

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I recently finished this trailer for an upcoming short multimedia piece on my historical re-enactment project. The final film will be around 5 mins I expect so this 100-ish second piece is a bit of a taster of what’s to come. A big thankyou to Stephen Seymour of the 94th Regiment of Foot and Keri Tolhurst of the 50th Regiment of Foot, who both allowed me into their homes to film and interview them on their fascinating hobby.

Producing this trailer has been a pretty good learning experience. It’s amazing learning not only how powerful audio is but also how still and video have rather different qualities which do actually compliment each other. I’d definitely like to work more with them in the future.

The actual film hasn’t been finished yet but the trailer has been on time (I favour doing things the wrong way round obviously).

Historical re-enactment at home

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One of the main bits of feedback about my last photo essay (on Napoleonic historical re-enactment) was that although there were some nice single images they didn’t come together as a story that well. They didn’t really have a point besides showing that a particular hobby takes place. If you want to see what this piece of work looked like you when I submitted it you can see the website here.

My strategy with the first iteration of my re-enactment project was slightly misguided. After going through all of the images I had shot I saw that I had three categories of images (portraits, action shots, and anachronistic scenes) and so I decided to make sense of them by presenting them in their 3 simple categories. Obviously this was slightly silly; in effect my submitted piece of work was less an exercise in telling a story and more one in which I simply categorised some images of historical re-enactment. Nice if you want to look at a catalogue  of images, not so nice if you want an actual story about the hobby.

I guess what I’m interested in is giving the viewer a sense of the background on which re-enactment takes place, which is on the lives of women and men with historical interests in the UK. I will be doing this not only through some multimedia videos that I am currently producing but also through a series of portraits that I am doing in and around where re-enactors live. I will be using all of this to add another dimension to the images of the re-enactments taking place. Here are a few that I shot recently with the great Keri Tolhurst.

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

The Battle of Waterloo, its re-enactment, and some images of it

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As mentioned in my previous post I went to a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo on the weekend. Here are some of the other images. Rather bizarrely (and annoyingly) the aesthetic and the idea that I had for some of the project run closely parallel to the work of another photographer who has only just been unearthed to me. Not ideal at all. I need to go back to the drawing board and re-arrange my thoughts perhaps…

(yep I realise that there is some dust on my sensor too – haven’t had a chance to cleanse the images yet!)

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' '94th regiment of the foote' 'old scotch brigade' waterloo deserters

Some deserters

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo 'calvary charge' calvary

Napoleon's cavalry charge the English

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo 'old scotch brigade' '94th regiment of the foote'

Skirmish in the forest

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo napoleonic general

Senior officer from Napoleon's army

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo napoleonic general

Peering into the dark

Role-playing

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I just got back from a trip to Belgium where I was part of the re-enactment of the the Battle of Waterloo.

Although I was out on the battlefield with the men I was also living in an 1815 style military camp with the rest of the Allied forces trying to learn the ways of the 1815 military, light fires, follow orders, and hold muskets. Serious thanks to the brilliant 94th Old Scotch Brigade for allowing me to be embedded whilst they were part of the 1000 man re-enactment. Unfortunately I didn’t get to fire any weapons but we’ll have to save that for next time.

More to come but I thought I’d give you my self portrait of me being the action hero first. I have my mean face on and everything:

max colson photographer re-enactment

Self-portrait with musket and 1815 English military 'red coat' uniform

Messing around with perspective: historical and otherwise.

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Firstly my congratulations to Irina Werning for winning Burn’s emerging photographer award 2011. She is so cool. Here are some of her wonderful photographs from her series Back to the Future:

20_lali-web irina werning

LALI IN 1978 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno irina werning

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno [photograph by Irina Werning]

IAN IN 1984 & 2010 Irina Werning

IAN IN 1984 & 2010, London [photograph by Irina Werning]

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010 Irina Werning

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

She is obviously very wicked.

There is another talented artist who also produces work which playfully deals with how the photograph can be used to visualise a sense of ‘history-ness’ and create nostalgia. His name is Michael Paul Smith*. Michael Paul Smith is a model maker whose mind is full of mid-20th century Americana. Using his considerable model making skills he has been creating small scale sets of an imaginary American town called Elgin Park that he cannot get out of his mind (it is reportedly located somewhere near Pittsburgh where he was born). After making the sets he then sources locations in the real-world which provide the background to photograph them against. These late naughties photographs of the 1960s look bloody REAL. Here are some examples of his work. Fantastic stuff:

MIchael Paul Smith - Elgin Park

 My Childhood Home [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Newspaper photo - Corliss Dink's '37 Studebaker - Michael Paul Smith

Newspaper photo: Corliss Dink’s ’37 Studebaker [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Edge of Town - Michael Paul Smith

 Edge of Town [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Michael Paul Smith

Michael Paul Smith with one of his sets and a background behind him

The NY Times wrote an article about him and there’s a paragraph that I think summarises the attempt of his work very nicely:

Driving Mr. Smith’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh. He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart. “Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

*My very talented illustrator friend Phoebe Dickerson told me about Michael Paul Smith. If you want some visual inspiration check out her very cool, and very funny, Tumblr blog.