“Landscape is both imagination and livelihood, the setting for human stories that are made as well as inherited”.
Ken Worpole from: “Landscape and Identity”
The overriding concern of my work is topophilia – the affective bond between people and place – and, by extension, things defined by topophilic association. My work is informed by a wealth of sources; to list the currently most significant: in philosophy, Heidegger’s discussions of “home” and it’s relationship to his notion of “authentic” experience; in the area of human & political geography, the ideas of, among others, Yi- Fu Tuan, Edward Relph & Tim Cresswell and in cultural anthropology, those of Edmund Carpenter and Marc Augé. Over the past few years, storytelling and the “memory map” work of novelist, cultural historian and mythologist, Marina Warner have become especially influential.
Photography is an extraordinarily complex medium. I both love and distrust it. At the simplest level, I am as easily seduced now as ever by the clarity, detail and delicacy of a fine print and find it’s relationship to time and capacity for suggesting memory both stimulating and deeply mysterious. I also love its unique, indexical relationship to reality yet, it is this quality too that produces my greatest unease. From my earliest years photographing on the Canadian prairie, the world has always seemed so much larger, more profound and interesting than any picture I could make of it. No matter how accurate its re-presentation, a photograph of the world can never be more than a shadow. Yet, such is photography’s iconic power, the present surfeit of its production, be it still image, film or video, contributes hugely I believe, to the degradation of our perception and ultimately, valuation of the world. Sometimes, a picture can seem to be worth more than the pictured.
Therefore, in all my work, I seek to incorporate a critique of the role of the photographic image as a mediator and, increasingly it seems, constructor of experience. Over the many years of my career I have employed any number of means to achieve this but, for the past twenty-five the most prevalent has been the 360° panorama.
In 1978 I obtained a camera that on a single roll of film makes just four images, each encompassing a quarter of the perceptual circumference. Rotating 90° horizontally between exposures thus records everything around it, from its centre to the encircling horizon; one roll of film, one image and the possibility of exhibiting in any of four, different coherencies. While what results is, of course, no more capable of addressing the dichotomy between actuality and image than is a Mercator Projection of the globe, the inherent perceptual oddness does seem to draw attention to it in a unique way.
For all my distrust though, I have come to recognize that photographs remain and will always be remarkable containers of stories, even if we have to make them up. As with so much else, Shakespeare had it right here too; the world is a stage or, more accurately perhaps, an infinite number of intersecting and overlapping stages upon which each of us lives out our own stories and creates our own lives. Used well and with integrity, photography can contribute to our understanding of the play.