First, my ‘Outsiders’.
I contacted 12 people – some I know, others I have never met – all artists of one kind or another.
Here’s the Brief that they received – Collaborators_Brief (click for pdf)
We have all been working closely since late August.
Photos courtesy of Emily Unthank, the first proper Collaborators meet-up. Yours truly in the blue top. Also, Jon Lymer, Kris White, Carol Sommer and Anna Unthank.
Additionally, I have recently contacted the Geography Departments of Newcastle and Durham Universities. A short excerpt from my original email:
“My work, at the moment, is centred around the North Yorkshire coastal village of Skinningrove. My investigations are following several strands, broadly Place, location, territory, home, and habitat. In some respects, I’m curious as to whether the term ‘terroir’ (if indeed that is the correct word) can be applied to people and the spaces they occupy.
Up until now, my reading has touched upon Yi-Fu Tuan, Heidegger and various shorter enquiries into psychogeography. My concern is that I am only just touching the surface of the matters in question, my studies feel vague or lack clarity. Basically, I am wondering if you know of anyone that I could talk to or email, or even if there is more specific reading that I could explore?”
Both Universities replied. Newcastle offered several good links for further reading. I will be meeting with one of the senior lecturers in Geography from Durham University very soon to discuss ideas and potential areas for collaboration.
Secondly, my ‘Insiders’.
Over the past several months I have begun to build a positive relationship with several members of the Skinningrove community. This hasn’t always involved the process of photography, in most cases, it’s been far more centred around talking and questioning.
Initially, I sent emails out to key people – the local councillor, the chair of the Skinningrove History Group, the village church, community centre etc. This was met with positivity and general interest. The gist of my first contact can be summarised by the following email snippet:
“…I feel more drawn to research into Geography, Anthropology, people and ‘Place’. The key questions are ‘How are places represented?’, ‘What is left unrepresented?’, ‘Who has the ‘power’ to present?’ and ‘Why are certain places are used in particular forms of representation?’. I’m keen to explore all of these.
Nonetheless, the drawback for me is the fact that I am not a local, I’m very much an outsider. I have my own ‘vision’, my own ways of looking, however, I will always be the one looking inwards. As I am sure you know, Skinningrove has a mass of photographic records documenting its past, the more famous work has all been shot through the eyes of outsiders e.g. Chris Killip, Graham Smith, Ian MacDonald etc. Although I plan to keep on with my own recording work, I have other ideas that I would like to try and fulfil.
Essentially, I would like to work with people who are based in the village (or even perhaps who used to but no longer do so). I would like to get their views (literally, their views, photographically) of how they see Skinningrove. What is Skinnigrove to someone who calls it home? Are there key aspects or characteristics of local/family/community life that connect to the core of what makes Skinningrove what it is? How does history shape such opinions? What are the future directions for the village? I feel that these questions can only be answered by someone on the inside, not by me, I am too ‘alien’.”
In turn, I met with several people and discussed possible options for getting Skinningrove residents engaged with some kind of venture. My decision was to create an open collaborative project asking for volunteers to shoot, record and document what they would call ‘My Skinningrove‘. A series of posters were designed and displayed in-and-around the village. I built a website and established a Facebook group page.
Website and details here — https://myskinningrove.wordpress.com/
This is ongoing, it’s a slow process.