53°30'13.0"N 2°22'46.2"W
Image copyright: Michael McGinleyPrints available on request : Giclee, variable dimensions

In ‘Footprints, In search of future fossils’ (2020) David Farrier offers a compelling  analysis of the ‘the processes that will transform a megacity into a thin layer of concrete, steel and glass in the strata’.

At the heart of Farriers meditation is inescapable fragility of all human actions / creations. The infrastructure necessary to support our contemporary communications systems has a vernacular industrial functionality that disguises its impact on our material relations with the landscape. ‘Steel – will exhibit more clearly the intervention of industrial processes, but over shorter geological timescales (millions rather than tens of millions of years), they will still stand out as evidence of nonnatural processes’  (D.Farrier, Fossils, 2020).

There are  parallels  between the land as a material and photography as a material. In a globalised world, the material nature of land loses its relevance somewhat as our methods of communication transcend physical travel / physical borders. Photography as a medium feels particularly suited to the study of this condition.  Nicéphore Niépce's 
View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827), the earliest surviving photograph, precedes Heinrich Hertz’s proof of the existence of electromagnetic (EM) waves by sixty years. Today, its hard to imagine life without  Photography or the use of EM in  communication technology. 

Operating somewhere between ‘event’ and ‘documentary text’  (following John Grierson’s definition of the documentary as the ‘creative treatment of actuality’ the images offer a mix of reflexivity, dramatization and reportage), the project focuses mainly on those liminal spaces where the material and virtual networks meet.  The photographs are produced by a particular set of operations that are specific to large format (5x4) photography. Contra to contemporary light speed communication, this analogue method necessitates a slow and material approach to image creation and is, in part, indebted to the land artists of the 1970’s. Such artists often employed photography to record performative sculptural events. The performative events that I document are my slow, temporal visits to these infrastructural anchor points between ‘nature’ and complex digital / virtual ecosystems.

Farrier asks us to remain vigilent and awake to our true condition in this time of climate and ecological crisis. As our relationship to photography and material nature transcend the physical we are also potentially producing a crisis of ‘experience’. This project aims to contribute to the ongoing studies of the complex dependencies through which globalisation and digital technologies produce these crises.


‘Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled under the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it’

Seamus heaney







Functional Ecology 2014 ongoing
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