By Reem ALKAYYEM
In modern life people are becoming more and more detached from their natural environment, and the value and meaning of nature as incubator of life and species diversity are becoming less appreciated. In addition to the social impact, this disrespect of nature has been argued to lead to the destruction of the environment (Rogers, no date).
The aim of this project is to exploit the most important asset of the Scottish border i.e. THE LANDSCAPE AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. The project is also a significant cultural and artistic approach for raising awareness of the environment through visual provocation. It will be a corner stone and an important contribution to the tourism and cultural strategy of the border and it can be considered a seed from which other artistic activities and facilities will grow.
The background and focus for this project is twofold (nature – culture).
Our findings from task 1 strongly recommended bridging the connection with nature, seasons, weather, plants, and other species in order to create a sense of purpose, health and wellbeing. The current lifestyle which is shaped by the technological advancement decreased the desire and motivation for connecting with nature.
The landscape designation report indicated that “in their rich diversity, Scotland’s landscapes are a national asset of the highest value” (Scottish Border Council 2012). However, according to informants from Galashiels, the region is not visually presented and promoted in a sufficient manner, and they often have to provide their own photo production to satisfy the needs of tourists.
In addition to its natural value, the beautiful scenery of the borders currently accommodates a wide range of outdoor activities and sports such as mountain biking, fishing, camping, salmon observation, sky observation and historic sites seeing. These activities are major attractions for locals and visitors, in addition to their role in improving the value and economy of the borders.
The economic benefits can be further improved by focusing on the cultural sector, which can yield considerable revenues. “the GVA “Gross Value Added” of the creative sector in the Scottish borders [for instance] is more than that of the forestry and fishing industries combined” (Scottish border council 2014). Therefore, there is a need for high quality cultural facilities and activities that promote and present the region as a destination to visitors and investors.
Such facilities can elevate the communities and the region as a whole, present the richness of the borders and stimulate curiosity for exploring this splendid culture, heritage and landscape.
Connected cultural and recreational facilities and activities can, also, be a catalyst for cultural tourism which is an important asset for a place rich in heritage and folklore as the Scottish border. In support to this argument, the Vision of the Cultural Strategy stated that:
“By 2019 the Scottish Borders will be recognised and celebrated for what it is – one of the richest, most distinctive and diverse cultural regions in Scotland” (Scottish border council 2014).
Tweed bank is distinct with a strategic location at the centre of the borders and the end of the rail line that connects the capital to the borders and England. It, therefore can be a significant and central part of the wider cultural forum which connects cultural activities and facilities. It also can be a departure point for landscape exploration trails for tourists and visitors departing to enjoy, observe and photograph the things that the borders present.
The existence of the university and the border college can provide an opportunity for mutual collaboration with the centre, since that the college border offers courses for Arts and visual communication, and digital and interactive media. Heriot Watt campus, also offers interior design and fashion programmes and workshops.
Our perception of the environment is highly influenced and shaped by the images we see in posters, television, and media. Landscape photography, therefore plays an important role in recording the landscape, promoting tourism, conservation and, maintaining national identity (Giblett et al. 2012). An example can be seen in the influence of Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis whose works in wilderness photography encouraged Australians to recognise and appreciate their local landscape (Thomas et al. 2014).
“I’ve often said that all of us as nature photographers are truly the eyes and years of the public…. When we get out and photograph in nature, and we make sure to share those images with others in some way, we help connect people with nature” (Sheppard 2012).
- Health and wellbeing
Research findings on the relation between nature connectedness and mental health, indicated that nature connectedness is positively related to psychological, and social well-being. Reconnecting with nature as discussed by (Buro et al. 2011) leads to higher degrees of wellbeing and mindfulness.
- Economic sustainability:
The “Local Landscape Designations” of the Scottish border council recommended a balance sustainable management for biodiversity, recreation and tourism. Photography can be an important promotion tool especially with the wide spread of social media such as facebook, flicker, and youtube .in addition to tourism, culture and creativity, also have considerable revenues. For instance, the impact of the Borders Book Festival, is estimated at £3.5 million (Scottish border council 2014).
- Environmental conservation
Photography can provoke our thinking, curiosity and engagement with nature and raise awareness about sustainability (Thomas et al. 2014, Giblett et al. 2012). It, also has the potential for driving socio-ecological change (Thomsen, 2015).
Edward Wilson discussed that the relationship humans share with nature in terms of their dependence on it or in their satisfaction with outdoor activities is an important part of the conservation ethics (Rogers,no date)
The cultural strategy for the Scottish borders stated the need for a major, central space for visual arts (Scottish border council 2014). The landscape photography centre of Tweedbank is planned to be a start point and a pillar for incorporating and encouraging more cultural activities and facilities that serve the local community and the visitors as well.
The Centre will, also be a pole of attraction and a considerable support for the tourism industry, education, and culture.
In terms of activities it will provide a wide range of workshops that takes place in the rich environment of the borders. Wild life photography, sky night, sunset, Salmon photography and other workshops will be conducted in different places and seasons. These workshops will be part of the walking trails and the “making Tracks” nature based tourism project.
Because of their strategic location Tweedbank and Galashiels are easily connected to natural and historic destinations for photographers, tourists and observers in Eildon hills, Kelso, Selkirk, Berwickshire, Denholm, jedburgh, and Liddesdale among others.
Professional courses are also important activities that the centre will provide. It will present courses for development, software enhancement, lighting, dark room photography, and digital photography among others. In addition to being a destination for photographers, the centre will target the local community, as well, by providing competitions and community projects that involve the young generations, students, and vulnerable groups. It will additionally support young photographers and entrepreneurs who seek professionalism.
Though simple and modest in its size the Centre can host many activities that will support these values. The physical programme contains facilities for the professionals such as classrooms, printing and development facilities, equipped studio, and IT lab. For the public use the centre will have a main gallery, which can be rented for various artistic works, camera shop, camera Obscura and café with an estimated total area of 450 m2.
Community programmes and projects are important in our vision for community friendly facility, therefore the design will be flexible and open to incorporate different activities and exhibitions. The concept will be also creative to express its identity and blend with the natural environment which is the cause of its existence.
Financial outcome is important to support the centre. This will be provided by the retail facility, development and printing services in addition of the outcome of the café, renting the gallery, the provided courses and the workshops.
Case study 1
Photofusion Photography Centre in London offers a variety of services, workshops and events that serves a wide layer of people interested in art and photography. Its activities include image production services, rental dark rooms, processing, digital printing, studio hire, talks and events in addition to courses for pinhole photography, historical and alternative photographic processes, lighting courses, professional development, and street photography.
The centre works in partnership with community groups, schools and individuals to design, and share works made by photographers of any age or background. Their community projects include among others, the collaboration with community organisations through workshops for young people who are affected by drugs and alcohol in gaining skills in design graphics, t-shirt making and clothing retail, photography, moving image, rap, lyricism, spoken word, music and sound recording.
The healthy relationships project: is workshops for members of the Lambeth Youth Offending Team, where they learn camera skills, and discuss and create in groups what healthy relationships are and represent their ideas visually.
T S Eliot poetry and photography project: the centre trained 15 volunteer photographers to work with 8 year students who used photography to interpret the works of T S Eliot. 6 winners were chosen and their works where displayed in an exhibition. (http://www.photofusion.org )
Case study 2
Camera Obscura Art Lab at 1450 Ocean in Santa Monica California
The centre hosts different people of all ages to involve in activities of arts, crafts, movement and culture activities such as mosaic, landscape painting, knitting, photography, and dance. The Centre is built next to the Santa Monica’s vintage Camera Obscura. (http://www.smgov.net/Departments/CCS/content.aspx?id=39798)
Case study 3
Camera Obscura in long island New York
The camera was designed and built in 2005. It is a simplistic modern round tower fitting successfully to its surrounding. It offers a bright picture for the park and waterfront. (http://brightbytes.com/cosite/greenport.html)
In our selection for the location of the centre, we sought for a place which is related to the local natural scenery. It is also chosen to be close to the rail station for further connection with the borders. And for community involvement the location is close to the town and the university.
Buro K, Dopko R.L., Howell A.J., Passmore H. A. (2011)‘Nature connectedness: Associations with well-being and mindfulness’, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 51, Issue 2, July 2011, p.p 166–171
Giblett, R. and J. Tolonen (2012). “Photography and Landscape” Intellect LTD. Bristol UK
Giblett R. (2011) “photography for earthly symbiosis”, Landscapes Vol 4 Issue 2 Summer 2010-11 Sustainabilia available < http://www.acts.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/History-of-Sustainabiliity-Photography-Competition-Giblett1.pdf> accessed 16 February 2016
Rogers K. no date, “Biophilia Hypothesis”, Encyclopaedia Britannica available<http://www.britannica.com/science/biophilia-hypothesis> accessed 20 February 2016
Scottish border council (2014) “A Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders”, Noble Openshaw Ltd available www.scotborders.gov.uk/…/cultural_strategy_for_the_scottish_borders accessed 15 February 2016
Scottish Border Council (2012) “Local Landscape Designation” Scottish Borders Council
Supplementary Planning Guidance, available <http://www.scotborders.gov.uk/downloads/file/4234/local_landscape_designations_spg> Accessed 16 February 2016
Thomas, K D and Muga H. D. (2014) “Handbook of Research on Pedagogical Innovations for Sustainable Development”, IGI Global USA
Thomsen, D. C. 2015. Seeing is questioning: prompting sustainability discourses through an evocative visual agenda. Ecology and Society 20(4):9