I met Shawn Sobers when I was doing my Photography degree at the University of the West of England, and he was one of my professors. But that’s just one of the many strings to his bow – Shawn is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and curator, and I always found his community-based practice and his range of interests to be completely inspiring.
We went for a walk along the Avon in Lacock, exploring the landscape where Henry Fox Talbot lived and created processes that gave us modern photography. While we walked, we talked about teaching photography, Shawn’s film practice, his work with National Trust sites helping communities research their links to Transatlantic slavery, and his own role in running a heritage site, curating the Tafari Gallery at Fairfield House, where Emperor Haile Selassie lived in exile in Bath.
Please do forgive the patches of audio problems in the recording. We were walking in the March snow, on a day full of weather warnings, and it proved a bit too much for my audio equipment!
Find out more about Shawn on his website, which has a selection of films we talked about, including his 1999 film on Haile Selassie, Footsteps of the Emperor, his recent art film about the sinking of the SS Mendi, a ship carrying Black South African Labour Corps troops to serve in World War I, and Under The Bridge, the 1990s film for HTV exploring Transatlantic slavery in Bristol, including the River Avon:
Continue reading “Avon Stories Podcast #21: Photography, film, heritage and more, with Dr Shawn Sobers”
On Thursday Vik and I met in town and walked round the Harbour for the Suffragette talk at the Bristol Archives. We were early, so went to the very edge of the Harbour to look at the river, one of our regular walks.
The first thing we enjoyed was this tiny glimpse of one of the silt islands, looking like a whale coming up for air, or a sea monster lurking on the bottom of the river. And an aside – if you look on the maps on Know Your Place, you can see there have been silt islands here since the 1880s, including this one, which I find fascinating.
Of course we went to look at the mud that banks up in what used to be the Brunel lock, one of my very favourite places. There are almost always bird footprints here, but I’ve never seen as many as then. I don’t know if it was a flock on in the middle of migration, or something special had been left on the mud after the spring tide, or it was just that the conditions were extra good for retaining footprints, but it was delightful.
Continue reading “Footprints on the Avon mud, and other Thursday photos”
Last Saturday the snow was still around, and I went walking in it with my friends Kate and Tim. They’d never been down the closed part of the Avon footpath, or seen the Netham Weir, which is there to try to stop the Avon being tidal, so off we went.
Map of our walk:
And photos too. If you mouse over/click on the first photo it should open the slideshow, or you can go directly to the flickr album.
Continue reading “Snowy walk along the closed Avon path”
For the past few months, my photography has felt to me like it’s been changing, and not in a good way. I get my rolls of film back, and there are very few that jump out at me as ones I love, and that’s frustrating. There are some different reasons behind that, and I’m not sure they’re all bad, but they’re interesting to me.
One of the things I realised recently is I’m not experimenting as much as I have in the past. “Experimenting” is maybe the wrong word – maybe it’s that I’m not taking as many abstracts, or just shooting for fun. One of the reasons for that is I’m definitely feeling the pinch, financially, with camera film and processing so expensive, so I’m putting pressure on myself to make every shot count. I could use digital, but I can’t have fun with it in the same way I can with film: on one hand, it’s too clean, the images are too crisp and perfect; on the other, I get caught up in looking at the photos as they happen, whereas I can use film to get into a kind of meditative place, where I’m looking, and shooting, and not thinking about how they’ll turn out. I know, technically I could not look at my digital photos until I get home, but that’s really hard for me to do, because I know I CAN see them. I could try to work on that.
But the other thing I’ve been thinking about is how my practice has been changing.
Continue reading “Thinking about my photography practice”
Back in 2007, Bristol-based artists Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting were making really interesting work together, including exploring the cities in different ways. One of these was the Avon Canoe Pilot project, which had many strands: sport, trying to get a Blue Flag for the Harbour, dredging rubbish, clearing a jetty, swimming… all of which sound wholesome, but were done in incredibly subversive ways.
I read about this project on their joint website, and I was fascinated. It made me wonder why I never see people on the Avon, only vehicles; to question my own relationships with the water; and it inspired me to start to push my own boundaries of how I relate to the water. I was really happy they agreed to come on the podcast and talk more about why they were doing, how and why.
To find more about the various projects we discussed and more work relating to the water, follow the links:
There are lots more projects that Heath and Kayle worked on as the DUO Collective, on their website.
There’s more information about Kayle, including a list of works, bio and CV here.
Heath’s information is here, and you can also check out his wikipedia page and the Tate page about his A Terrorist – a status project and Tate video interview about that, and his BorderXing project.
All images are from the Avon Canoe Pilot Project booklet, and are used with kind permission of Kayle Brandon and Heath Bunting.
Because we’re on the water, and in the south, it doesn’t often snow in Bristol, and if it does, it rarely sticks, so the huge “Beast from the East” snowmaggedon was a huge deal here, that I’m sure people in Scotland and the Frozen North are rolling their eyes at. But not having to get anywhere, with a warm house and a stocked pantry, it was a ton of fun, just for a weekend.
On Friday Vik and I walked along the Avon and up to Stokeleigh Camp, the Iron Age fort in Leigh Woods, and back. While the parks and slopes were full of children sledging, once we got to the Avon footpath, it was really empty, with much less traffic on the Portway than usual. All the interesting layers pulled into focus, outlined by snow, from the terraces of Hotwells, to the striations of the Gorge.
Up in the woods it was pretty magical, with everything so quiet we could hear the falling snow hit the evergreen and remaining dead autumn leaves. We walked around the Fort walls and talked about what it might have been like to live there, as the wind blew swirls of snowflakes off the drifts on top of the earthworks. As we walked home, a skier passing us on the Nightingale Valley path, the tracks we and others had made were already covered in snow, and it felt like we were the first people to walk on the path, and on the silt banks. It was a gorgeous day.
Photos are in the album – mouse over/click the first image to get the slideshow, or go straight to flickr.
My friend Tracy Homer puts up with a lot, walking with me, from clambering through ditches and up slopes, to battling knee-high brambles, walking after dark and in torrential rain, and more. It’s a good thing she likes me, but I don’t want to push my luck, so on Wednesday’s walk with her, we walked a gentle route with no possibility of getting into scrapes – an urban nature exploration, following the River Trym from Southmead, where it first appears in Bristol, to Sea Mills, where it joins the River Avon.
The map of the walk is here:
And the photo album is here (mouse over or click on the first image and it should take you to the slideshow, or click through to flickr)
Continue reading “Walking the River Trym, February 2018”