Behind the scenes Collections Long read Series

Imaging takes an Isolated View (Part 6): Taking a walk all round the landscape

I love being in the wide open space, and knew that I wouldn't be out there again for quite some time.

This is the final post in our series of Imaging taking an ‘Isolated View’. I hope that you have enjoyed all of the different responses to the collections from the team. I have certainly enjoyed seeing everyone share their creative responses, and its been fun to see some work for the sake of creativity, rather than always being focused on directed ‘purpose’. I remember when I was studying, someone told us to ‘take a line for a walk’, see where it will get you. One of the wonderful things about creative practice is that when you set off, you don’t always know where you are going to end up.

If this has inspired you to create a response to the collections we’d love to see it, so please do share it with us via a comment or email to uml.imaging@manchester.ac.uk.

In the final part of the post I will share with you something that I have been working on. When we first started working at home, I took a walk around the Photography Collection online. I searched ‘landscape’ to see what came up and was struck by my response to viewing these images. I love being in the wide open space, and knew that I wouldn’t be out there again for quite some time. Perhaps its silly for me to write this, given the number of years I have spent studying images, but I had never realised quite how much looking at an image can make you feel like you are in the scene. Try it, spend some time looking at these images and see if it helps you relax a little, even just a tiny bit? Maybe it doesn’t and you can skip down to the other bit below, but if it does, remember it and use it.

These images by Roger Fenton, Francis Bedford, and George Washington Wilson, are selected from an album titled ‘English architecture and landscapes‘ which can be viewed in full here, or in our Reading Room once our building reopens.

I noticed a few images that contained a solitary figure, and a couple of scenes of busy streets in seaside towns, Blackpool and Llandudno (in case you’ve not seen it, also take a look at some more contemporary footage of the goats enjoying lockdown in Llandudno).

I was considering how to visualise isolation and it made me think about a technique I had employed a few years ago, which was inspired by Mishka Henner’s ‘Less Américains’.

I started to cut out figures from busy streets; making scenes suddenly void of their inhabitants.

I looked closely at solitary figures and removed them from the place that they looked to be contemplating comfortably.

I considered the landscape without these figures.

A surprise to me whilst in isolation is how much I crave empty spaces, as my daily 1 hour walk is increasingly spent dodging busier and busier paths, pavements and parks.

I’m lucky I can find relaxation in other ways, and creating work like this provides me with an escape. There is something about losing yourself in the thing you are concentrating on. Some people call it flow. Maybe you find it listening to music, gardening, cooking, drawing or reading. I find it cutting figures out of old photographs in Photoshop. However you find it, make sure you dedicate some time to it.

Who knows what the Prime Minister will announce on Monday regarding reducing lockdown restrictions. This much we know, life won’t be back to ‘normal’ for some time yet. On the other hand, here we have an unprecedented opportunity to create some new ‘normals’ and find some new flows.

Imaging Manager for Special Collections, University of Manchester Library

3 comments on “Imaging takes an Isolated View (Part 6): Taking a walk all round the landscape

  1. stellahalkyardoutlookcom

    Thank you for breathing new life into these magical and much loved landscapes – in conversation with Roger Fenton and George Washington Wilson. The restorative tang of sea air is a tonic in locked down, landlocked Manchester.

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