Category Archives: Introduction

KW15 – A Square Mile

“In our earliest years we know a patch of ground in a detail we will never know anywhere again – site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes.”

(Professor Mike Pearson)

“Photographers and artists have always found inspiration in their immediate location. There is a concept within Welsh culture called Y Filltir Sgwar (The Square Mile), described above by Professor Mike Pearson. It is the intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings.

Make a series of 6–12 photographs in response to this concept. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you.”

IaP Coursebook (p.15)

fig.1 – Map of Kirkwall showing a square mile…

In 1983, between my first and second years at Glasgow University, I spent the summer back home in Kirkwall. Nothing much seemed to have changed; nor did it seem likely to change at any point in the foreseeable future. Glasgow, on the other hand, already seemed to be in a permanent state of flux. Almost the first thing I noticed when I returned in the autumn was that the derelict facade of the Grosvenor Cinema on Byres Road had been pulled down and rebuilt.

A simple opposition was established: Orkney- rural, eternal and unchanging, a little bit dull; the city – mercurial, fluid, exciting. My idea of a romantic landscape leant more towards a neon sign reflected in a puddle than some blasted heath or a Turner-esque storm at sea. If anyone asked me whether I missed Orkney, I would answer that it was still there, to be visited any time I wanted.
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NFTU #3 – Nikki Bird + Beneath the Surface


Scapa Court, Kirkwall (KW15 1BJ) in 1968/69 and in 2016

‘[Showing] the relationship between the past and the present […] so it’s not just “the past is over here and the present is over here” and that is it’

– Nicky Bird, interviewed on video for the Stills Centre of Photography in Edinburgh

While I was doing some reading on Nikki Bird for part 5 of C&N (around Question for Seller), I came across a later piece called Beneath the Surface, where Bird had worked with people whose part of Scotland had been “wiped away” to combine their photographs with up to date pictures of the places in the pictures. At the time when she first started thinking about this, she had been involved with an archaeological dig in Edinburgh.

Bugger! I thought. Continue reading

The Masks I Construct – Social Media Profile Pictures

reichstag ceiling – used as my cover photo on facebook

‘If you have a social media profile picture, write a paragraph describing the ‘you’ it portrays. What aspects of yourself remain hidden?”

IaP Coursebook p.13

I have several social media profile pictures, using different ones for different sites, representing a different avatar of mine.

‘I’m using “avatar” not in the Hindu sense of embodied deities, but in the modern sense of online creatures who stand for, or in front of, aspects of real life.’

Jackie Ashley, The Guardian, 17/02/17

hang on - is that what's the matter? ah! whirr-kerrr-chunkh! (inadvertant self-portrait # 352)This is the one I use (cut down slightly) on Flickr:

 I use this one on Twitter:

…and this, on Facebook:

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