Trinity

“I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for resolution and clarity … but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.”

In Trinity, Oliver Raymond-Barker‘s camera obscura images combine with commissioned texts, offering complex, interconnected narratives of land and histories of spirituality, protest, control.


Martin Barnes: ‘Raymond-Barker’s photographs function as the opposite of photographic journalism for he knows that conventional visual description does not allow for the evocative and lingering impact he seeks. His subject is the atmosphere of the place, its spiritual history across time, and an uneasy combination of awe in nature with the nascent threat of an unfathomable destructive force’. 

Nick Hunt: ‘He wanders enraptured, ruptured. The sunlight breaks upon him. On the shore he falls to his knees with the immensity and stares upon the awesome light that floods the shadows of the world. The god of love is everywhere. It is all a marvel. He closes his dazzled eyes and the world appears in negative, the black sky and the white trees, the incandescent veins of leaves, the bleached water opening to some great revelation’.

Oliver Raymond-Barker is an artist using photography in its broadest sense – analogue and digital process, natural materials and camera-less methods of image-making – to explore our relationship to nature.

 

Trinity is a journey into landscape. It explores the complex layers of narrative embedded in the fabric of the land and engages with histories of spirituality, protest and control.

I made the work during residencies at Cove Park Arts on the Rosneath Peninsula in Scotland. The images originate from 20 x 24-inch paper negatives, exposed in a custom-built ‘backpack’ camera obscura — a tent-like structure designed to allow creation of large format images in remote locations. I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for the resolution and clarity of traditional photo-mechanical devices but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.

From early Christian pilgrims who voyaged to remote corners of the British Isles such as Rosneath during Roman times, to its current occupation as home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident, this remote peninsula has been the site of diverse histories.

Amongst these is the story of St. Modan, the son of an Irish chieftain who in the 6th century renounced his position as an abbot to live as a hermit. He journeyed to this remote peninsula in search of sanctuary and sought to use the elemental power of nature as a means of gaining spiritual enlightenment.

Today, however, the peninsula is dominated by the presence of military bases HMNB Faslane and RNAD Coulport, the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident. Existing alongside these sprawling sites are the small, temporary constructions of itinerant activists protesting against the military presence — locations such as the Peace Wood bear traces of their occupation.

The project weaves together these disparate yet interconnected threads, to form an immersive body of work, made on the boundaries of the photographic medium.

From Trident by Oliver Raymond Barker

I walk through the darkness. The heavy straps of the pack bite into my shoulders, fine rain enveloping me as my head torch illuminates a tunnel through the gloom. Miles pass this way.

In the half light I weave an uneven path down to the shoreline. The slow process of unpacking and setting up is akin to a conversation with an old friend. As my body goes through the motions of pitching the camera the light is rising and the tide approaching.

I crawl into the dark void of the structure, leaving my damp boots and previous self behind. My senses become attuned to the new darkness. I reach up and pull back the crude shutter: the structure is flooded with light and the image begins to resolve itself.

All energy expended, my whole process, pivots around these precious seconds when light fuses time onto the latent canvas before me.

I stretch up and close the shutter, stowing the paper away in the now resounding darkness. Unnoticed in my reverie, the water has begun to lap at the edges of the tent. I swiftly pack up, my body and mind already occupying a new space, treading a path towards the next moment…’


Trinity (Loose Joints Publishing, 2021) is available for pre-order now, and will be published in December 2021 in a handmade edition of 200 copies: 68pp, 250 × 350 mm, with 35 photos and texts by Martin Barnes and Nick Hunt. Printed hardcover with black boards, comprising two stitched booklets with images and texts on six different papers.

You can read Beneath What Is Visible, A Vast Shadow, Oliver’s ClimateCultures post about the creation of Trinity, with extracts from the texts and some of his images.

Fifty Words for Snow

“The snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas…”

Nancy Campbell‘s new book, Fifty Words for Snow, reflects on snow’s role in cultures around the world and the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity in a rapidly changing world.


Yuki-onna – snow woman (Japanese: 雪女)

Taoist philosophy suggests that when there’s an abundance of any natural matter, a life will come forth from it: the river will create its own fish when the water is deep enough and the forest will produce birds when the trees are dense enough. And so it follows that that a woman may be generated in the heart of a snowdrift.

Nancy Campbell is a writer and book artist interested in polar regions and water conservation, winning the Royal Geographical Society’s 2020 Ness Award for her research with Arctic and Scandinavian museums.

A few winters ago I rented a former Salvation Army meeting house in the north of Iceland for a few months. Since the snows of Siglufjörður don’t usually melt until April, I soon learned how the inhabitants of this small fishing town distinguish themselves from their neighbours in Ólafsfjörður, another small fishing town beyond the mountains. Folk in Ólafsfjörður do not clear the snow from the paths leading to their homes. In Siglufjörður the sweeping of snow is a social duty. I lived alone, and it was some distance from my front door to the road; the snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas — it wanted me to do some physical labour. In his poem ‘Digging’, Seamus Heaney describes how his trade differs from that of his ancestors: ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them,’ he writes, using instead a ‘squat pen’. Now I had to put down my pen and borrow a shovel from my elderly neighbour Kristján. Then, of course, I cleared his path too.

Fifty Words for Snow is a journey to discover snow in cultures around the world through different languages. The climate is a prism through which to view the human world — just as language can be. Inevitably, a book about climate also looks forward, considering what we miss, as every winter many countries see fewer snowflakes, and some years now, none at all. Just as the ecosystem is changing, so are the languages that describe it and the way they are understood. When I began to learn Greenlandic in 2010 I discovered the fallacy of the many ‘Eskimo words for snow’, a popular concept that was dismissed by linguists in the 1980s. More pertinently, that same year Greenlandic was added to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. While many of the languages in this book, such as Spanish and Urdu, can be heard spoken around the globe, others, such as the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, are remembered mainly by elders in relatively small communities.

I started to write this book in September 2019 amid debates about Brexit and the climate crisis, while attending Fridays for Future marches in Germany. I finished it six months later, a week before gathering with other masked and silent Black Lives Matter protestors in the UK. The process of tracing a single theme across many languages new to me seemed a powerful way to overcome the borders that were going up around the world. Ironically, one of the first entries I researched concerned the photograph of boys in a snowball fight taken by Robert Capa in war-torn Hankou (modern-day Wuhan) in 1938. Within weeks, the location had become infamous for the outbreak of COVID-19. Even under lockdown in a pandemic, it was still possible to voyage around the world through dictionaries.

A snow crystal is part of the endless cycle of the water molecule: from its six-cornered solid state it becomes liquid and then gas, and thus a snowflake that falls on the glaciers of the Rwenzori peaks in Africa might melt and evaporate and later freeze again and fall in the apple orchards of Kashmir, and melt again and fall fifty times and more. Just so, a single unit of meaning — one word for snow — offers an approach to new places, a clear path of understanding to travel forwards along.


Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell is published by Elliott & Thompson (November 2020), richly illustrated with William Bentley’s early photographs of snow crystals. It is available from Hive or from your favourite independent bookshop

Follow @nancycampbelle on Twitter or Instagram.

Imminent: a Zine on Emergency and Connectedness

“I wanted to start the zine because I needed the outlet for myself, to try to connect with other people through my own rage and hope. I found that many others needed this too.”

Jo Dacombe‘s IMMINENT explores the experience we’re on the edge of: climate emergency, nature connectedness, working together, grief, loss, determination, optimism.

“You hold in your hand the texture of a tree. This is real. Hold it carefully.

Trees and writing are bound together through their etymology. The beech gave us the word for book. Some say this is because the beechwood was originally used as tablets for the inscription of runes by the Nordic peoples, that early form of writing which seemed to carry magic in its lines. To people that had never encountered writing, lines marked in bark that hold meaning must have seemed a strange power.”

Jo Dacombe is a multimedia artist creating work, installations and interventions, interested in mapping, walking, public space, sense of place, layers of history and the power of objects.

My opening lines to IMMINENT Issue 1 expressed why I did not want to make this thing online. There is something about holding the publication in one’s hand which I felt was important, because the tangible and material world is what the work is all about.

For many years my work has been about how we, as humans, relate to the natural world and the landscapes within which we find ourselves. My concerns over climate change and the effects that our society have on the environment have grown with my understanding of it. I had used my art to open discussions about some of these issues, I had spoken about it at conferences, run workshops and written numerous letters to politicians as well as supermarkets. I supported environmental charities, I planted my garden with pollinator plants and I tried to live well with less impact. But still I felt the huge task ahead and felt a deep tension, a frustration that bubbled inside me as it does in so many people, to express something somehow, to make some contribution. As an artist, writer and creator, what should I be doing?

I should write, create and make art, of course. And so I began creating IMMINENT. I wrote to artists and writers that I knew. I asked them if, like me, they felt moved to want to speak to people through words and images about the state of the world we find ourselves in, to please consider contributing. I was amazed by the response and generosity of the work that flooded in.

I wanted to start the zine because I needed the outlet for myself, to try to connect with other people through my own rage and hope. I found that many others needed this too. Both issues so far, by chance, have been produced under lockdown conditions: the first was ready for publication in March, but had to be delayed until June; the second was published in November. The sense of connection, at times when we all had to stay in our homes, was even more important and the exchange of ideas that has come about in making IMMINENT has been a lifeline for me.

In putting together both issues, I have found that loose themes emerge from the collection of contributions. This inspired my own writing, and I try to draw together the threads throughout each issue through my own words and images. The first issue introduced the reason for the publication to be a physical thing, to reconnect us with the material world at a time when much of our connection is increasingly virtual. The second issue is blue, and the poetry and images had blueness running through them; ideas of water, snow and ice, that most important element reacting to world temperatures, both essential for life but also deadly as it transforms our landscapes.

IMMINENT is about the experience that we are on the edge of. IMMINENT themes are about the climate emergency, nature connectedness, how we work together in collaborative, un-capitalist ways, how we can re-use things, what our future holds, about grief and loss, and about determination and optimism. It will both celebrate our world and rage against environmental injustice. Sometimes it will just breathe and sing.


Imminent is a 12 page, A5 zine
 costing just £2 + p&p and is available direct from Jo Dacombe online.

Issue 1 (June 2020) includes contributions from Linzi Bright, Jim Caruth, Jo Dacombe, Mark Goodwin, Mary Hayes and Andy Postlethwaite. 

Issue 2 (November 2020) includes contributions from Jim Caruth, Jo Dacombe, Peter Dent, Helen Goodwin, Mary Hayes, Rupert M Loydell, Penelope Shuttle, Mita Solanky, Deborah Tyler-Bennett.