Topographia

(2019-)

Landscape footage library
Short film extracts,
1 min, 16:9
There are landscapes that hold a romantic place in our collective consciousness.
   Gently rolling hills evoke the pastoral idyll, the idealised society; while rugged upland peaks and chalk white cliffs are often symbols of freedom and courage, through stories of protest and war. It was only recently that imagery of the white cliffs of Dover was appropriated by Brexiteers to invoke wartime associations among the nation’s older voters to press for ‘freedom’ from the EU.
   After completing my MA film Land Ground Earth Soil I started to generate a library of new landscape footage1 for future projects. It has become an immersive inquiry into what it feels like to be in these landscapes: to observe their surfaces, form and scale; and how visitors interact with them. 
   Wherever possible I use a drone for sweeping aerial views, along with ground-based stabilised tracking shots. Though sometimes it will simply be on my iPhone.
   These are a few extracts from the library, in the form of 1 minute films.   
Kinder Scout (636m/2,087ft elevation).
Mam Tor (517m/1,696ft elevation).
These first two films are set in the Peak District.
   The first retraces the Mass Trespass2 route up onto the Kinder Scout plateau. The landscape’s surface of summer grass and heather gives it a warm softness that belies its austerity. This and its relative inaccessibilty make it perhaps less inviting to casual visitors, but all the more interesting when the aerial views catch sight of people across its vast landform. 
   Meanwhile, the accessibilty and dramatic views offered by nearby Mam Tor attract visitors of all ages to make the short and steep ascent to its peak. They sit with picnics dotted across this natural ampitheatre and gaze out across the valleys and watch the paragliders.

Seven Sisters.

Camber Sands.
These next two films look at two very different landscapes where the land meets the sea on the East Sussex coast.
   The chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters are often used in film to represent the white cliffs of Dover because they are more pristine with no nearby development. During my visit the sea was still and the air warm but overcast, which gives the aerial view an eery quality as it observes the rolling hills that form these dramatic cliffs and catches tiny people scrambling along them.
   At Camber Sands the beach is vast and flat. The sea is at low tide and seems far away, almost out of the picture. The beach’s accessibilty, space and hard flat sand encourage visitors to set up whole communities of brightly-coloured tents, windbreaks and outdoor furniture.

1 Drone pilot G Hartley; stabilised camera operator D Hartley. 
The Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932 was a protest by ordinary walkers against the private enclosure of this important landscape. It was one of the most successful acts of British civil disobedience and paved the way for National Parks legislation and, eventually, the Right to Roam.