“Build-Your-Own” West Midlands Montage – A Critical Rationale

Stephen Hird – “Build-Your-Own” West Midlands Montage – Critical Rationale

My project began as an exploration into my own photographic interests, as I prepared to find something that would inspire me to create work. I’ve always been interested in the abstract, solid lines, and geometry, as well as creating something new and interesting. I chose to explore the use and creation of planned towns around the country, but as I visited these places and avoided working in Coventry, I found that I wasn’t passionate about the work I was creating. Instead, I was passionate about avoiding them. I realised my dislike for the West Midlands and my home town was the perfect creative force from which to create work.

I began looking at similar projects, and ideas of an ironic and satirical nature. Banksy’s Dismaland (Banksy 2015) was a big inspiration, as well as the work of Martin Parr (Parr 2004) and Maciej Dakowicz (Dakowicz 2012). While experimenting and researching image layering (Bush 2015), I found that I can create some really abstract images by printing on acetate and layering them. This formed the basis of my project, as I began creating a “Do It Yourself” photo book, in which the viewer can create images themselves by layering acetate, that represented my personal opinion on the region, particularly the architecture and re-development. The images are boring and dull, and the physical elements of the work are intentionally difficult to work with, which means there are only a few possible combinations available to create a typically aesthetically pleasing photomontage. I found it important to hand control of the image making over to the user, as I felt this way they could feel my own frustration and disappointment in how the development of this region has progressed. The images are mostly of an architectural nature, as I wanted the user to feel like they were a Town Planner within the region, being stuck with poor resources and options. I intend the work to not have a specific target audience, however a prior knowledge of the area would make the work more relatable.

I created a light-box within an old book, and made the project into a portable guide, that would be too cumbersome to carry around, again playing on irony and satire. The book I have chosen is oversized and chunky, which is perfect to represent this idea. It’s also a play on the idea of ‘book burning’, and the fact that I’ve used a book from 1930’s Germany is a great way to demonstrate this, with the rustic nature of the book really reflecting the image I have of the West Midlands. After some deliberation, I expanded the project to include a permanent fixture, and have the book as an extension of this. I created a glossy guide-book to instruct the viewer on how to create their images, which is contained within the old book along with a portable light-box. This created a ‘kit’ that could be carried with the user, and the text within the guide-book helps to demonstrate the ironic nature of the project. In an installation setting, a professional lightbox is available on which to create the images, and an instant camera and tracing paper so that the user can create a souvenir to take away with them. The use of these outdated methods of image creation really compliment the feeling of the piece as a whole.

Banksy. (2015) Dismaland. Self Published
Parr, M. (2004) Think of England, 2nd. Edition. London: Phaidon Press Limited
Dakowicz, M. (2012) Cardiff After Dark. London: Thames & Hudson
Bush, L. (2015) Metropole. Self Published



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