Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘war

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.

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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).

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

Simon Norfolk at the Tate Modern (a Tate video)

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Bullet-scarred outdoor cinema at the Palace of Culture in the Karte Char district of Kabul - Simon Norfolk

Bullet-scarred outdoor cinema at the Palace of Culture in the Karte Char district of Kabul, 2002, Simon Norfolk

“I’m trying to photograph my disappointment. When I came [to Afghanistan] in 2001 I was angry with what the Americans had done, I thought it was a mistake…Ten sorry miserable years have gone by, half a trillion dollars have been spent on this country and it looks worse than it was…It’s a disappointment of ten years of warfare. Tens of thousands of Afghans murdered. Lots of Americans and Europeans killed as well. Billions wasted and nothing achieved: nothing, nothing, nothing achieved…” – Simon Norfolk

If you’re reading this in the UK you may have seen that the Guardian did a big feature on Simon Norfolk’s new Afghanistan photographs and their relation to John Burke’s Afghanistan photography in the Weekend magazine a couple of weeks ago. Personally I think Simon Norfolk is easily one of the most important photographers around right now (and if you don’t agree with that then you must agree regarding photojournalism at least).

Here is a 17 minute video produced by the Tate in advance of his exhibition of new work at the Tate Modern which is entitled, Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan. Working on the understanding that Afghanistan has been the location of an imperalist intrusion for many decades Norfolk has produced a collection of photographs which link the current war with those from its past and asks the powerful question (amongst others): What has changed?

Narrated by the artist himself this video explains the work, puts the current Afghanistan war in the context of the country’s war torn history, and likens  the “billion pictures per hour” photojournalism that is pouring out of the country right now to a “sewer pipe with a crack in the side of it”. He also  comments that “beauty is a useful tool.” He then says lots more.

This is rational, conscious, and incisively critical photography of the highest order. Really, really worth watching.

Enjoy Poverty – Renzo Martens

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A man goes into the Congo and makes a documentary that attacks aid organisations, photojournalists, and politicians for making money out of the suffering of the poor. What’s hard to chew is that he intentionally uses the poor to make this point. The eventually culminates in Martens getting a village to construct his ‘Enjoy Poverty’ neon light display, so he can video tape the event for his documentary. Making your skin crawl yet?

It’s uncomfortable viewing to say the least, but everytime I watch Martens’ Episode III: Enjoy Poverty feel that there is little else out there that is challenging the genre of reportage in this way.

Written by Max Colson

February 4, 2011 at 10:14 am