Cyanotype, roid lifts, and so much more

SeaScapes CoLab

The SeaScapes project is a very wide ranging experimental public participation project. It’s far too complex for me to be able to give you a fair overview so please do read further via this link:

What I can do here, is to show you my own personal involvement as a photographic artist. Let the academics do academia! In the previous blog, I gave a very brief look at the start of the project. Then summer hit, and I got too busy to find a moment to write.

Using Island exhibition as a starting point to inspire community art about coastal identity. The group from Horden, Creative Youth Opportunities, were absolutely fantastic. They came to Roker to explore our coast and the exhibition, and in turn the artists went to Horden to see their beach.

Although very similar, and in fact geographically fairly close to each other, these two areas of coastline had similarities, but also striking differences. Roker had a much more touristy edge, and Horden felt like we had landed in the past. No amenities at Horden. Lots of remnants of coal mining in the stratified edges of the cliffs.

Example of the stratified land at Horden

We encouraged the group to look for objects that they might want to work with. Stones, shells, sea glass, rubbish etc

And, they took photographs, made videos, played, and collected sounds. Fully immersed in the experience of being at the coast. It feels natural to connect back with our coastal heritage. Our landscape in the North East has traces of industry all over. Nature is reclaiming what she can, and we are considering our past impact upon her, and our future reconciliation. How can we help to remember the past, whilst we build a better future?

Instant film photographs of the Island exhibition and Roker
Found objects instant film photography
Workshop at Jo Howell Photography studio, Roker

We worked with the group for several weeks building up the different ways that we could use photography and image making to explore the theme of our own coastal identity. I worked in cross over analogue and digital photography creations, Tracy Thomas worked with them on portraiture and we brought some of those images into the cyanotype elements, and Dawn Felicia Knox worked with the group using the found objects to animate and masterfully blending that with filmed elements the group had made.

It was a fantastic organic process. The group was able to try out lots of different skills. The final outcome was to create things that could go into the Island exhibition to become part of it.

Polaroid emulsion lift in water

I used my Polaroid lab to print off the photographs the group had taken to create Polaroid emulsion lifts that we could apply directly onto things we had collected from the coast. This was a really great way to bring the coast directly into the exhibit.

Back of Polaroid with beach tile fragment
Polaroid emulsion lift object from Horden beach

Between the group and the artists there was an immense amount of brilliant work for us to choose from! Together with the group, and the Sunderland University Research project that had organised the whole affair, we put on a tremendous show for the end of the exhibition. Several groups that I had the pleasure to work with created art that was included, and a brilliant LGBT group plus the Grindon Painters all had a fantastic night at the NGCA opening at the National Glass Centre.

Polaroid Emulsion lift on curved ceramic found at Horden beach
Hag stone Polaroid emulsion lift object from Horden beach
Ruby’s stone, Polaroid emulsion lift on pebble from Horden beach

The project had a lot of different approaches of which we were only one facet of what was being explored. University of Sunderland researcher, Suzy O Hare, was a visionary for putting together such a diverse and experimental investigation. I’m a firm believer in practical learning. I think a hands on experience will teach you so much more than copying out of a textbook. Giving people opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to is so important for nurturing young people’s aspirations. I think back to my youth, and my formative experiences, I can’t remember anything that was dictated to me or that I had to copy down. My resourcefulness, critical thinking, and confidence, all come from my hands on approach. Young people deserve to have these opportunities. They can aspire to be so much more than young un’s from that ex-mining town.

Thank you for reading! Do follow the in-text links to find out more.

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How to do a Polaroid emulsion lift

How to make a Polaroid emulsion lift

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