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Title: Gauging the distance : the reach for extremity and emptiness
Author: Cooper, Thomas Joshua
ISNI:       0000 0004 6347 3630
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2017
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Introduction - The submission consists of six visual artist’s book-works (1988-2009) that form the content of the landmark geographical visual art project, The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity (1987- ). The accompanying essay describes the context, method and contributions of this immense sea-picture project. Context - The Atlas photographs identify, examine and report on the seas surrounding us. The Atlas publications accentuate the visual immediacy of the individual site specific, mutually indexical experiences of singularly making sea-photographs in “the far field”, and later, viewing these thematic picture-groups as a reader. The publications provide short locatory texts for each picture and basic background information into the adjoining cartographical, historical and cultural geographies particular to these remote places. The Atlas publications probe the complacent visual vocabulary of traditional sea-pictures, challenging their customary pictorial conventions. The Atlas pictures declare the establishment of a recognisably new pictorial space within the sea-picture tradition. They develop an abstracted visual narrative to portray the abstract metaphorical human concerns around - extremity, the edge and emptiness. Method - The Atlas Project requires a process of on going, far-distanced expeditionary, site specific, remote field exploration, to enable its picture-making goals. I organise the direction, purpose and content of all of these expeditions. The methods employed are simple and strict. I only ever make one single, unique photograph from any site. I always use the same nineteenth century camera and lens. The precise placements of locational field events are layered into the photographs to ensure a convincing indexical picture space. The nuanced use of an extreme photographic grey-scale is built into the photographs at the negative exposure and darkroom printing stages. This extensive optical tonal-range physically provides The Atlas pictures with their intense pictorial surface densities and increases the sensation of their complex visual tactility. Most photographs are unable to, or incapable of, physically conveying these visual-emotional perceptions. Every stage of the project is my original concept, work and the result of my own thought processes. The results of this effort are unique images made in remote places. Three of those places were newly charted and explored as the result of my expeditions. Contributions - The interiorised pictorial approach developed for the entire Atlas restores compressed, complex indexical pictorial space to photographic depiction. The Atlas publications examine this space, and through it expand the notions of representation and expectation in outdoor photographs. The Atlas photographs speak to the improvisational opportunities available beyond the edge of representational certainly, determined in their new abilities to photographically heed the remote liminal territorial experiences close to this project. The publications propose and verify a new territorial form of terra incognita. The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity provides the only visual geographical map of the imagination for this unexplored territory. Conclusion - The Atlas of Emptiness and Extremity is one of the most inventive, geographically comprehensive, single-author analogue photographic fine art projects in the world today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available