NAME Gina Glover
JOB Photographer & co-founder of Photofusion Photography Centre
WEBSITE Gina Glover
PROJECT Playgrounds of War
We’re delighted to share this project and Q&A from Gina Glover. As a co-founder of London based gallery and education center Photofusion, Gina has had an enormous influence on British photography.
Her own photographic work has been equally important, spanning campaigning work in the 80s and photojournalism before moving on to a series of more than 20 residencies in hospitals. During these her work looked at reproduction, genetics and mental health.
Her latest work The Metabolic Landscape takes a look at human impact on the planet and is a collaboration with her partner Geof Rayner and daughter Jessica Rayner. It’s a fascinating combination of photography, essay and engravings.
Gina has chosen to share a personal project that she’s been working on for almost 40 years, and encompasses techniques that range from large format, to pinhole and most lately digital and chemigrams.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
A week before lockdown this March my exhibition, Art in ART: Symbolic Reproduction, Mirror Art and Reflecting Life, opened at Christchurch College, Cambridge. In this exhibition I drew upon the photographic archive of the Nobel prize winner in biology, Sir Robert Edwards, achieved for his trailblazing work in invitro fertilisation.
A week later it was closed to the public! It has recently reopened and I will take part in a conference called Ways of Working based on exploring Robert Edwards’ archive which is also held at this college.
I am also in the process of producing a book called The Hydrocarbon Forest, an environmental landscape project with my partner Dr Geof Rayner, a snippet of which was recently featured On Landscape magazine. We explore the implications of oil and gas industry methane emissions from over 14,000 active oil and gas wells and many more orphan or abandoned wells in the Allegheny Forest in Pennsylvania.
WHY IS PERSONAL WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Personal work has always been incredibly important to me, being a way of testing out ideas through experimentation and exploring and uncovering personal issues. I like to delve into any immediate concerns and allow the creative process to unfold without the constraints of time or delivery. It has also allowed me to experiment and test different cameras and techniques without the results having to be successful.
With commercial assignments there is the pressure of delivery within a given time frame alongside the production of work that will please the client and fulfill the demands of their brief. This means one has to be willing to compromise and at times to be limited by where the work will be shown.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL PROJECT – HOW DID IT COME ABOUT AND WHY DID YOU SHOOT IT?
My personal project Playgrounds of War is an investigation of discovered secrets, time and memory. It examines how a landscape has been shaped by war and aggression and how it has succumbed to the rejuvenating corrosion of time, weather and natural growth.
YOU’VE BEEN WORKING ON ‘PLAYGROUNDS OF WAR’ FOR SEVERAL DECADES, HOW HAS THE PROJECT EVOLVED DURING THAT TIME?
As a child in the English Midlands in the 1950’s I travelled by pony and trap to a deserted former secret WWII aerodrome, which later became a 1960’s Thor nuclear missile base, under the control of the US military. At the time I only appreciated the joys of family picnics and picking blue bells.
Three decades later this is where I live and Playgrounds of War has now become a four-decades project, where I continue to create, uncover and decipher this special place. The differing artwork it invokes reflects my concerns at any particular time.
In the 1980’s, I felt a responsibility for having children and bringing them into our world of war, famine.. and Thatcherism. At this time I was a founder of a photographic collective called the Photo Co-op, now Photofusion Photography Centre, in Brixton.
My focus then was the photographing of local Wandsworth activist campaigns. I also set up a picture library, receiving a grant from the GLC (Greater London Council- which was closed down in Thatcher’s time.) Playgrounds of War was something apart from my campaigning mode of photography where I could experiment with medium format cameras, produce fine art prints and depict my surrounding landscape, whose enormous historic impact I felt had been kept secret from me.
Jessica and Theodolite Target, Thor Missile Site. 1985
Fuel Storage vessel, Theodolite Target, 1985
The necessary lengths of exposure mean that different qualities of light and the continuum of movement over time are captured on film. In the mid 1990’s I was fascinated by how the brain processes and interprets visual information.
In part this was due to my own situation. In the late 1980’s, I had suffered a severe reaction to anti-malarial drugs while on photographic assignment with Oxfam in Africa. As a consequence, I intermittently experienced various visual shifts, viewing the world either through an intensity of colour or else in shades of grey.
Using long exposures with a pinhole produces what might be experienced as the layering of light, creating an out-of-this-world feel. In using my Zero 2000 and Zero 618 multi format pinhole cameras the images I created could evoke a feeling of being in a civilization’s no-man’s land, despite being only half a mile from home!
Here I was in a potential nuclear waste land where nature was actively reclaiming concrete blast shields and missile launch pads and where the local farmers believed that the Cuban Missile Crisis might be Armageddon.
In making work it is always important for me to feel I am away from normal daily life and to be alone in a place where I can be completely absorbed by the environment. In this deserted place, I can be slightly fearful and therefore experience a slight adrenalin charge, this stimulates and helps me see things in more intense way.
Detritus,Thor Nuclear Site, UK. 2008
Thor Nuclear Launch Pad. 2008
WW2, Secret Airfield, Harrington, scanogram. 2005
WW2, secret airfield Harrington, Scanogram. 2005.
Emergence, Lumen/Chemigram, WW2 Bullet. 2002
Emergence, Lumen/Chemigrams, WW2 Bottle. 2002
While making these prints I bundled up of leftover flowers and other artefacts to display in my new studio. A friend saw these and mentioned I should join Fiona Campbell’s online sculpture course.
What I realize I’m now doing is connecting the hidden world of my garden to its former life as a military site. I’m thus attempting to bring these different worlds together – my joy in nature and my fear of brutal conflict – but applied to our current time of paranoia, anxiety and risk. With no pressure on time and not working on commissions lockdown has allowed me a ‘real rediscovery of self’, and for personal re-invention.
Sculpture, Site of Memory. 2020
Sculpture, Wheet stubble, Thor Nuclear Detruis. 2020