Tom McGahan

I Am Always Here

I’ve walked the banks of this river for as long as I can remember, looking for something, looking for nothing, looking for her. This landscape is forever changing with every tide, never knowing what it may bring: muddy salty paths never really going anywhere, no destination, no arriving, walk some and maybe more turn back towards home, refreshed, windswept, sunkissed, sore feet, dry mouth, made an image or two, sometimes none.

The Romans came here. Saint Cedd came converting the locals to Christianity from their Pagan ways, and Vikings in their long ships battled here — spilling blood of the local Saxon inhabitants. The local Earl Brythnoth lost his head and like many tales of defeat it became a battle cry of the underdog.

My parents came here in 1971. They both came from Ireland: Mother from County Wexford and my Father from Tyrone in the North. Like many before them looking for a different life, Mum was a nurse and Dad a ground worker, Not long after my sister Theresa was born. I came along in ‘73 and my younger sister Mary Louise in ’79. You could say we were the typical Irish family: Convent educated, Mass on Sundays and to the Pub after, we played here, cried here and made our stories. We too were underdogs.

On my walks along the banks of the Blackwater Estuary I would often meet other solitary walkers. This Landscape with its “big Essex sky” has a very meditative quality, almost featureless. It encourages you to look within. I’m sure as with me much soul searching has been done while trudging along the sea wall, down past Northey Island to Southey Creek, or on the North bank around from Heybridge Basin to Goldhanger or Old Hall Marsh and up to Salcott Cum Virley, and the Blackwater Estuary Reserve. It’s a place where you can get away from it all and walk for hours without seeing a soul, left to your own devices and the sounds of oyster catchers and the rush from a lapwing murmuration.

In 2001 my mother was diagnosed with type 3 breast cancer. It was a deep shock to us all. I was living at home after returning from a stint of working on cruise ships. Sadly mum lost her battle with cancer, like Earl Brythnoth on the banks of the Blackwater. She fought hard but eventually succumbed to her deadly foe. It took a toll on the whole family, which I don’t think we have ever really recovered from.

Mum held things together, she was a kind and gentle woman, great at listening and great at talking. She had a deep faith and was a devoted Catholic although she didn’t like people saying she was religious. I would have said she was a spiritual woman. One of my friends described her as a “ Real Mum.”

During the time of Mum’s treatments and eventual death I frequently walked those salty paths — usually accompanied by her wee Jack Russell, Snoop Doggy Dog — trying to come to terms with the great loss. It was my “go to” place, my retreat. I found something there, something that I had never really lost: a deep connection to everything, my consciousness spilling out from all of my senses touching everything it pervades. It came from nowhere. I wasn’t looking or searching for answers. I was just walking and looking, nothing special, no sitting for hours in the lotus position no navel gazing, although I had done quite a lot of both of those activities.  Christians call it seeing God in everything. Buddhist call it realizing your true nature. I personally don’t think you can put a label on it. It just is.

This Landscape imprints itself onto your soul, and likewise we imprint ourselves onto it.

These images are based around the ideas of solitude, introspection and transcendence.

— Tom McGahan, Tollesbury, Essex, United Kingdom

Tom Parish

© Tom Parish

Arched-roof, man-made caves dot the landscape of the Flint Hills region of Kansas, the area I have called home for most my life. These native stone constructions are often all that remain of early homesteads and may represent the last traces of the people who built and relied on them. The shelters exude a spirit or soul, possibly due to their resemblance to ancient crypts or religious holy places. The chisel marks on the native stone, which was harvested from local quarries or gathered from surrounding pastures, are like the lines on your hand, unique to each individual structure. I have come to admire these structures for their hidden beauty and importance to the lives of early homesteaders.

I have spent a great deal of time researching and looking for these often elusive structures, wandering the landscape in hopes of stumbling upon them, and talking to locals for leads. I have now found nearly 300 arched subterranean shelters, documenting each and attempting to discover as much historical information about them as I can. Through my photographs I hope to preserve and present these structures in a new and visually stimulating way, using technologically advanced photographic techniques to create 360-degree impressions of their interiors. I photograph each structure in a standardized way, exposing its subtle, unique characteristics, documenting what has been left behind, and showing the fingerprint-like quality left by the people who built it. Through my treatment, these hidden cavities become more like split-open geodes, revealing the beauty hidden inside.

These arched-roof structures were not large scale projects. Rather, they were built by individuals or families to sustain lives and provide security in times of crisis. Sometimes all that is left of the people who relied on these structures is a crypt-like cavity in the ground. I hope viewers will take the opportunity to reflect on their own role in the world, what they themselves have created or helped to create, and what legacies they will leave behind. Life is fragile and tenuous. We have lessons to learn by examining these humble structures.

— Tom Parish, Emporia, Kansas, USA

© Tom Parish

© Tom Parish3

Tom Ridout

© Tom Ridout

The development of the Blandscape series started as a reaction to the rapid loss of farmland as a result of commercial development. The existing rural landscape was obliterated and in its place large formless buildings were constructed. A token of nature was offered in the small buffer strips at the bases of the buildings. Plants appear here in many cases as icons that signal the conceptual importance of nature while at the same time relegating nature to an insignificant gesture, verifying our need to dominate it. Ironically it is the disregard for scope and scale in the built landscape that creates such striking and banal images. Single plants take on strong figurative meaning through their isolation of form and color. The complete lack of human architectural scale combined with strict formal landscape principles elevates the visual impact of the scene.

— Tom Ridout, Acton, Ontario, Canada

© Tom Ridout

Tom Janssen

In 2007 I attended for half a year the Dublin University of Technology in Dublin, Ireland. Back then, the economic growth was not as huge as it had been in the second half of the nineties, but from 2001 to 2007 the Irish economy was still booming.

I will never forget paying 500 Euros rent for a shared room, whereas in Holland I paid 300 Euros for a private one. This was largely due to the growth in housing investments — which more than doubled between 1996 and 2006. Taken into perspective with today’s knowledge, this was one of the reasons why Ireland was hit so hard during the 2008 economic crisis.

With investments this big, you can imagine how many construction sites were popping up in Dublin. This change of landscape reflected “The Irish Boom” more than anything for me. The main focus of the series is the areas where the largest part of the expansion took place: the fringe of the city, where vast amounts of empty land were made ready for construction. This is also where the series derived its title: Dublin Border.

— Tom Janssen, Utrecht, The Netherlands