Helen from L3 has once again provided me with a good reference to research for my A5 via one of her blog postings. The work that particularly intrigued me was Marc Wilson’s A Wounded Landscape. Wilson’s work is based around 22 Holocaust survivor stories and is made at over 160 locations throughout Europe. The sites that Wilson has photographed as sites where the Nazis murdered nearly six million Jews and many other people who they considered racially inferior, by not matching up to the Aryan standards, homosexuals, Roma and of course mentally disabled people. Wilson’s work consists of photographs, transcripts of conversations, research and sound.
There is only a smattering of this huge body of work on Wilson’s website, but what is there is extremely moving. The work draws on the collective memory of the survivors and the post-generations, but it also focuses on hope and survival. In the Togcast Photography Podcast, Marc Wilson explains that his work is based on history and memory which is set within the landscape. Its more about what has occurred there. Speaking first about his project, The Last Stand, he explained how important it is to choose a subject for long term project that has a wide scope, but that can be contained as well, otherwise the project looses focus. He finds it is very important to be subtle especially if the work is emotive. He was looking for a particular visual aesthetic when photographing The Last Stand, which is about the remnants of WWII that can be found along the coastline of the UK and Northern Europe, i.e. certain weather conditions, flat light and he wanted to avoid people. Each photograph was made organically at the site, the decision as to a particular viewpoint was made once he reached the site.
A Wounded Landscape was approached in a similar fashion, but Wilson found that he had to be able to be more free in his approach, so he used his medium format at 35 mm camera more so than in the previous project. At first he struggled to find a connection to the work, but on visiting the K12 site which house children’s barracks, he came across clumps of floral weeds and he felt compelled to document these flowers as signifiers for the children. He found when he came to a new location, he had to immediately document his response to the location, rather than plan it out first. This body of work is part landscape/documentary/still life/portraiture.
I found that the text accompanying the images serves as a stark relay in bringing the viewer’s attention back from the visual aesthetic to the stark, horrifying history that took place at those locations. The subject matter is sensitively presented, while at the same time, making a new generation of viewers realise something of the past history of the Holocaust. It would be interesting to see how Wilson incorporates sound into his project. Unfortunately he doesn’t explain this on his website.
Postscript: Fellow student, Catherine mentioned a video interview by PixelRights with Marc Wilson. Thanks for this Catherine! In the video Marc again stresses what I think are the main takeaways from his A Wounded Landscape project and that is recording his emotions as soon as he steps onto a new location. Going around and just being open and allowing the subconscious to lead one to find symbols and then stepping back and taking a more measured approach. I know that I usually just shoot organically when I come across a new location, but I don’t always take the measured approach as well. I think this is something that I will try and employ moving into Level 3.
Pixelrights INTERVIEW | Marc Wilson (2016) Directed by Pixelrights. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtfY3KZ1sg4 (Accessed 12/03/2020).
Rosemier, H. (2020) Marc Wilson – Helen Rosemier – OCA L3 Photography. At: https://helenrosemier.blog/2020/02/23/marc-wilson/ (Accessed 11/03/2020).
The Togcast Photography Podcast – #17 – with Marc Wilson | Free Listening on Podbean App (s.d.) Directed by The Togcaster Photography Podcast. 55:54. At: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9ap75-6a686f?utm_campaign=w_share_ep&utm_medium=dlink&utm_source=w_share (Accessed 11/03/2020).
Wilson, M. (2014) The Last Stand. At: https://www.marcwilson.co.uk/portfolios/thelaststand (Accessed 11/03/2020).
Wilson, M. (s.d.) A wounded landscape – work in progress. At: https://www.marcwilson.co.uk/portfolios/a-wounded-landscapeoo (Accessed 11/03/2020).
Figure 1. Wilson, M. (2015) Ronia Beecher. K12 Children’s barracks, Rivesaltes internment camp, Rivesaltes, France, 2015 A wounded landscape – work in progress — Marc Wilson. At: https://www.marcwilson.co.uk/portfolios/a-wounded-landscapeoo?itemId=zl4112d9jvc0gehmtig0golb2bia18 (Accessed on 11 March 2020)
Figure 2. Wilson, M. (2019) Fruma Selgate. Route of Death March from Stutthof. Stutthof, Poland. A wounded landscape – work in progress — Marc Wilson. At: https://www.marcwilson.co.uk/portfolios/a-wounded-landscapeoo?itemId=n8c318wqpsgt0075bne6wazw9acwdf (Accessed on 11 March 2020)
Figure 3. Wilson, M. (2015) The third pit, forest camp, Chelmno death camp. Stones cover sandy soil to hide bone fragments rising to the surface. Rzuchow forest, Poland, 2015. A wounded landscape – work in progress — Marc Wilson. At: https://www.marcwilson.co.uk/portfolios/a-wounded-landscapeoo?itemId=qadma29lqwv4qtlkf7n5lqx3ai1mxy (Accessed on 11 March 2020)