In a previous posting I mentioned using W.J.T Mitchell’s essay ‘Imperial Power’ as a starting point for commenting on the ‘Town v. Gown’ divide here in Oxford. While working through possible ideas for A2 – A Journey – I looked at a journey I often take when getting about in oxford, which is to use the river as a road. Cycling is one of the most convenient means of transport in Oxford and a journey from one side of the city to the other along the towpath is very straightforward.
This area – river and towpath – is an area where the Town/Gown divide doesn’t matter. The focus may be on different interests but it is common ground. It isn’t actually common ground in the legal sense but is generally seen that way.
I wanted to try and explore this neutrality, the idea of a place where two sides will accept the other. I spent two to three hours walking along the towpath with my camera to see what I could get from this idea. The results are a bit mixed – as I expected – but there is enough to suggest I could do some more here.
I did have in mind Nadav Kander’s project “Yangtze, The Long River” but only really in the sense that a river does provide a unifying theme as well as a fairly flexible metaphor. There is much less equality about Kander’s set; none at all in fact. The resulting impressions are of individual wants and needs being completely overridden by a much bigger force. I was much more interested in the idea of place where everyone has the same rights and privileges.
Perhaps a much closer model to the idea I am trying is provided by Alec Soth’s “Sleeping By The Mississippi”. There is little physically in common between the Mississippi river and the Thames but Alec Soth does get across the idea of a place where everyone can be who they want; there is no specific cultural prohibitions (apart from general legal rules). I want to get across this idea of equality, where everyone can comfortably share the same space.
Not all of these have worked as well as I would like. I took all on a wide-angle lens using (mostly) aperture priority. For those shots taken across to the other side the results are a bit too scattered and need cropping. Using aperture priority has also produced a wide variety of tone. If I continue with this idea I will reshoot with more consistent settings.