This interactive synopsis uses the multiple surfaces of the internet to show the work and promotion of Andrew Fitzgibbon’s Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool. In the form of a landing page, it can scrolled for an overview. Following the links, allows areas of interest to be viewed in more detail.
This map traces the route of the canal from Leeds to Liverpool, across the Pennine Hills, through former mill towns. My words below share my experience of making the work and my intentions.
I walked the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, observing the burden of deindustrialisation, the areas of regeneration/gentrification, and the water’s tranquil flow over 127 miles. I saw the traces of humanity that mark possession, use and abuse. A ruined mill’s struggle for redevelopment, a make-shift garden house at the water’s edge, detritus dissonantly framed in shining water. Nature’s shrubby undergrowth filling the gaps of humankind’s neglect signposted by graffiti. Trees growing through the ruins of early capitalism where horse-drawn boats were once loaded. This is not a eulogy to lost industry but an experience of anxiety weighing on a place with only pockets of regeneration (Aditya Chakrabortty, 2011). After decades, ‘levelling up’ is the latest stuttering initiative aimed at fixing the UK as one of the most geographically unequal countries in the world (Bourquin et al., 2020). The canal’s route shows inequality within the regions it flows through. My work celebrates the diversity of meanings and experience found in the everyday condition, along the waterway’s journey through marginal and affluent space. A strength of photography is that despite photographs being heavily mediated, through their indexicality they offer the experience of looking intensely at the subjects represented. Something often missed when walking distracted through the landscape. The project shares a psychogeographic drift, an experience of reality that is not glossed over with images of the bucolic, white washing the landscape in readiness for leisure and tourism. There are no people in my images, only their traces. These marks are joined to the living and the long-gone through an actor-voiced narrative, sound recordings and samples from oral histories.
My motivation for making the work evolved as I explored. When I found the canal to be a back-route, mostly empty of people (even more so once the Covid-19 pandemic took hold), the work became the portrait of humanity through its traces; a cultural landscape of past activity. These remains of the everyday condition are often rendered invisible in socially shared and publicity image. I would like the photographs and film to convey a sense of poignant calm and encourage viewers to take a closer look at things that often go unnoticed. To experience the fractures as well as the beauty. To discover their own stories in the run-of-the-mill. Andrew Fitzgibbon
The 10 minute short stills-film forms the centre-piece of the website and has been used as the basis of successful publicity of the work.
As one of twenty finalists in the Association of Photographers’ student awards, the film received excellent publicity, a special mention during the ceremony, and is featured along with the winners on the Awards site.
It was also entered into a number of short-film competitions and selected as a finalist by the Jump Cuts Festival (unfortunately showing was cancelled due to Covid-19).
Exhibition & Publication Proposal
The concept of future-photography (Fred Ritchin) has been used to overcome the immediate barriers to putting on an in situ exhibition of the work. This used Photoshop to stage an exhibition around Leeds Canal Basin and comments in the guest book are testament to the quality of the exhibition, with most visitors perceiving it as real.
Audience engagement through online visitors’ book
As part of the audience engagement strategy, an online visitors’ book is in place to collect feedback and allow sharing of experiences. Example feedback is below along with a guestbook link.
Congratulations on your amazing work Fitz. I thought the film was brilliant but now you have extended the project to take it outside to the public in a new way. I can imagine a lot of hard work has gone into getting permissions, printing the photos and erecting them on the various sites. I hope many people will be drawn to your pictures and film and think more about the canal, its history and current state. Best Wishes for the future. I wonder on the longjevity of some as I see a tear and detaching of one of the posters but I guess this is inevitable with this type of outside installation.Quote from exhibition visitor.
The publication proposal for the work (A2) has been redrafted to follow the requirements of an Arts Council England grant application (including character count constraints). While funding is not available for projects that are part of academic study, I hope to use the proposal after graduation to fund a separate project phase that will realise a physical outdoor exhibition.
Read research on photobloggers (written based on ‘work experience’ interviews):
The website invites viewers to share their own experiences of the canal to help shape a future exhibition and book. This are collected as comments in a blog post to encourage visitor interaction. A sample comment:
The house I grew up in was next to a semi-industrial part of the Bridgewater canal and I spent my childhood on it. I learnt to fish on it, my friend’s brother drowned in it, and when I was about nine I walked along it all day with the Smith brothers, until it started to go dark. We emerged somewhere between Trafford Park and Manchester city centre. We had no idea where we were and no money. But we did know the 263 bus went near our houses, so we stopped people to ask them where to catch it and then sold our football cards to some kids we met, to raise the bus fare home. The Smith brothers were not allowed to play with me again.Story from a different canal shared after watching Drifting …
Artist talking through the development and building of visitor hub at www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk
The project has received significant publicity, promoted using an online media pack and through other means. Examples are below.
The project was featured on radio and in print, following a press release by email. The emails were concise and included a link to a web page with additional information and image files for convenient download: Film triggers childhood memories of being happily lost – what’s your story? Featured here are a BBC Radio Merseyside Drive Time interview and a Yorkshire Post article.
Read article here
In addition, the work was reported in the Telegraph & Argus (Bradford), The Craven Herald (Skipton area), and featured in the newsletters of The Red Eye Photographic network and Craven Arts.
A (paid) guest blog for The Red Eye Photographic Network, plus shares on social media pages and in their newsletter.
The work featured in online graduate shows (click on images to visit)
To publicise the work of twelve OCA final year and graduate students, I established and set up the OCA Fotograd Collective. This included obtaining the domain name www.ocafotograd.co.uk and the social media handles @ocafotograd. Highlights of student work were uploaded to a portfolio site and this was then used for the collect to promote activities of the individual members and give it weight through the collective.
The site was collective operated for roughly one year, closing as its members needed to increasingly focus on developing their own presence.
Engagement & Collaboration
This section shares information on collaborations and audience engagement activities in addition to those already touched upon.
Visitor numbers have been tracked with analytics on Vimeo and are summarised in this table. They can be explained using an analogy to a physical exhibition; people walked past the exhibition location 3,786 times and went inside 759 times. Some did several times, unique individuals walking past were 812 and going inside 326. As the video is 10.44 minutes long, the average person spent about 6 minutes watching it. In total 71 hours has been spent looking at the work.
|Impressions (number of loads to a page)||3,786||812|
|Loads (number of times video clicked to play)||759||326|
|Average percentage of video watched||58%|
|Total time watched||71 hours|
For the voicing of the film’s narrative, headshots of actor Paul Butterworth (Full Monty, Strike) were bartered for a reading of the narrative written by Andrew Fitzgibbon. Paul’s IMDb profile.
End title piano composition
I wanted music to accompany the end titles to the film, which were lengthened after test-screen viewers said they wanted to know more about the canal itself. I asked my thirteen year old son if he could come up with something to evoke calmness with a suggestion of the unpredictable.
Poet and script
Poet, Ian McMillan, was quoted in the film’s narrative. I shared it with him through Twitter, and was pleased he enjoyed it!
Read script here
I have yet to make full use of social media and feel some reticence because of on going concerns about social responsibility and the use of big data. However, it is almost impossible to avoid when it comes to audience engagement. I have secured the handle @thephotofitz for all social media platforms.
Bourquin, P. et al. (2020) ‘Levelling up: where and how?’ In: The IFS green budget October 2020. October 2020. At: https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/IFS%20GB2020%20Digital.pdf (Accessed 17/09/2021).
Chakrabortty A (2011) ‘Why doesn’t Britain make things any more?’ In: The Guardian 16/11/2011 At: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/nov/16/why-britain-doesnt-make-things-manufacturing (Accessed 14/03/2020).