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Sense of Place
Evocation of Place
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The interesting thing about the relationship between film and the landscape is the conjunction of mechanistic process with the natural. Evolved from painting, the framing of landscape in longshot serves up a view of nature as a still life. Film as a mechanistic process regulates how that sense of place is given in a more disruptive, self conscious way than painting.

In film, the movement of light, the multiplicity of framings means that time and space conjoin in the expression of place. Place is no longer fixed; instead is fluid. This fluidity can be exploited in many different ways. But at basis a decision has to be made about whether the film is intended to express the landscape as a given fixed norm or whether the land takes on other meanings: whether it forms, for instance, an emotional or psychological landscape within the film.

To portray landscape as distinct from manmade experience is a complex proposition. In our increasingly urban-defined times, it is easy to forget the great chroniclers of the British landscape. From Margaret Tait to Tacita Dean, British artists have recorded and examined the diverse relationship between the camera and the landscape. It is perhaps explored most definitively and groundbreakingly by William Raban and Chris Welsby.

Take for instance, their 1972 collaboration River Yar, a beautiful timelapse portrait of the river on the Isle of Wight. Two separate cameras record the changes in landscape from the relative shelter of an old water mill. The fixed camera position, the passage of time and the journey of light bring to the fore, in meditative form, the shape of the English landscape.

Even more evocative of the general experience of the English landscape is Raban's View, filmed over one whole day in continuous heavy rain so that the front of the camera lens is obscured by the rain that hits it. The final image reveals the landscape suddenly in clear focus as the raindrops are wiped away. By making self-conscious the mechanical film process he frees the image and offers the viewer the chance to consider his or her relationship with the landscape in a particular filmic way. By making apparent how the film is framed and focussed, he shows the landscape's own essential intransigence, very different to the mysteriously evolving manmade world he portrays in his recent film MM.

Still from River Yar

River Yar

A two screen study of seasonal changes at the River Yar estuary on the Isle of Wight.

Still from Land Makar


A study of land: a study of work through the seasons.

Still from Seven Days

Seven Days

One frame was taken every ten seconds throughout the hours of daylight.

Still from Stream Line

Stream Line

It is a continuous, "real time" tracking shot of a stream bed.

Still from Lanscpae for Fire

Landscape for Fire

One of McCall's sculptural performances based on a precisely calibrated grid of small fires.

Still from Verical


This film is not a documentary, although the material is of documented events, situations and structures.

Still from Verical

This Filthy Earth

A downright mucky, low-budget film, with desperation and prejudice festering in an isolated rural community.

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