PHO702 Critical Research Journal

De Ferrier. Rice silos, Katy.

“There was still a lot of bitterness. It took six seconds for that huge, blue gasometer and those … massive elegant cooling towers to come down … After the … site was decommissioned, its buildings flattened and shovelled away, its earth decontaminated, there was just a big hole, in the town, in the shire, in so many people’s lives.” 

Deborah Orr on Motherwell and Ravenscraig steelworks.

The Ravenscraig steelworks of Deborah Orr’s youth can be linked to the rice silos in Katy as features of the landscape that are under the threat of decommissioning.

Reflection on 701 practice

In this module I made many human choices regarding my photographic practice. My choice to photograph the silos, historical and current new buildings in Katy was an important one. The sun is very strong here in Houston, since it is an unforgiving light and I made a conscious decision to either avoid it or use to my advantage. I find that this sunlight works very well for the retro buildings that are popping up everywhere however, for the silos, historical buildings and the new construction I prefer an overcast day with moody skies.  

“To see something spectacular and recognize it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap. But to see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.”

Stephen Shore in O’Hagan, 2015

Stephen Shore’s interest in photographing the mundane is fascinating to me, my focus on recognizing a photographic possibility is really what has driven me up until now. Those great slabs of concrete forming the new buildings in Katy are captivating to me.

New construction is almost exclusively erected by migrant workers. These migrants work rapidly so from week to week these areas change dramatically. The visuals that interest me most are during the initial installation when the raw forms of buildings, the skeletons are visible. This stage only lasts for a few weeks before the visual interest for me is lost. This skeletal stage quickly evolves, and the buildings then appear to conform to their surroundings, erasing the migrants handmade concrete artwork. 

My choices to avoid including migrant workers in my shots were both ethical and aesthetic. The migrant workers that are from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala almost exclusively make up the work force for construction in Houston, but since they are mainly illegal, I was very conscious of risk of exposing anyone to the authorities. Visually, I enjoy these vast spaces when they are empty, as these distribution centers are massive, with the latest one being built on an 84 acre site. The images that I took on the first shoot in Katy were very successful however, on reflection this work just really falls short on impact as they did not convey the massive scale of these spaces well enough. This is where interdisciplinary work could come into play, so I aim to explore this going forward.

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