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Practitioner Researcher and Development - Yan Preston

As previously stated, Yan Preston’s ‘Mother River’ Project is something I found to be quite informative when developing my concept in its later stages. Once I had settled on the concept of Irish pilgrimage routes, I’ve realised that I can naturally draw from Yan’s work, as there is that connecting narrative thread of following a set path towards a final destination. From my talk with her as well, there is the discussion that someone goes on a journey like that as one person, and by the time it’s over, you emerge from the process as a completely different person. Whilst Yan Preston’s work was probably much more profound considering the length of the journey is 6,300k

m whereas the Tochar Phaidrag is a 30km walk that takes roughly about 10 hours, and the rest of the pilgrim paths being even less, often taking 4-7 hours. I still think I am going to emerge from this path different to how I was, even if it might be slightly, change is still change.

During my group presentation with Richard Mulhearn, I displayed Yan Preston’s work within my powerpoint and when asked to summarise what I thought the work was aiming to display to the viewer, I said that “It seems to be trying to find yourself within a rapidly changing environment.” Which seems to summarise my project as well. It seems to be a case of projecting my projects issues and themes into the ‘Mother River’ project unknowingly, and then proceeding to pick them out of the images. ‘Mother River’ documents Yan’s visit to a China that is rapidly modernising much faster than the rest of the world, but often at the expense of its citizens. You can take places like Three Gorges Dam, which through the use of hydropower, generates 22,500 Megawatts a year for China, but it seems to do that at the expense of the people who live around the river, as well as the actual wildlife.

I think there seems to be the overlapping idea of modernisation and how cultural identities seem to fit into that. The perceptions of these countries seem to be from other times, so it’s a confrontation of these new worlds that we are confronted with as we photograph. That is why I want to photograph cultural and religious sites on the way through these routes. It is a case of emotionally feeling like nothing in these countries sit still, whilst still photographing these physical spaces that seem set in stone, finding almost some sense of cultural footing in these locations.

When I first discussed this with Yan, we discussed whether I wanted to support or attack the idea of this mystic idea of Ireland, I originally thought that I would attack at, as I always feel like I try to break down these preconceived concepts, but looking at the way I am discussing it now, I feel like I am trying to defend it in some way. Obviously nothing is set in stone until I actually shoot these locations, but I am starting to get the idea that I might be trying to preserve this idea for my own sake.

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