Remnants | Wes Foster
a project by Wes Foster
My work uses an abstract documentation of environment and space to explore the way that we live, I am especially interested in the vernacular or facade that is created by and reflected in architecture, as well as the tribalism of social groups and class. Generally, this takes form by either removing the aesthetic from the sublime or aestheticising the ordinary to look at where aesthetic value comes from, utopia and contentedness.
I try to ensure that my work is always as accessible as possible - a large part of it is informed by relational aesthetics and the idea of creating art which means something to all. Because of this all of my books are available on Issuu.com (https://issuu.com/wes-foster), and though they’ve recently got rid of the ability for others to download work if you email me I’ll happily send out PDF copies of all my work. It’s important to me that anyone can get hold of the work, and can hopefully find value in it.
About the Project
An ongoing look at what is left after industrial decline. Set in Hull, a city which was built upon a fishing industry that then disappeared, the project looks at industrial areas which are almost forgotten, left to rust and decay over time without investment or activity, a lost part of contemporary culture as society moved from blue collar jobs to white collar professions.
Words from Wes
When and how did your journey as a photographer begin?
I never had a particular interest in photography - I was going to study English in university and picked up photography as an extra subject so I could do another year at college. My dad gave me his old 35mm camera - and though I did get a digital soon after that I could never replicate the same feeling or results of using film. In part I chose to study photography at university because I felt fairly quickly that I could say more with it than I could in writing, as well as writing being something I wasn’t sure I could progress, in part it was because I wanted to be at Art School, and felt like in an academia-heavy course I couldn’t really say much.
We’ve seen a little bit of your project, Remnants, on your website. Could you describe a bit about this project?
So Remnants is the first full project that I undertook - before that, it was learning to use a camera and creating work. Remnants is the first thing which had a concept, and an endpoint. The project began in 2014 and was approached from two different sides. Firstly it was a documentation of the architecture and the ruins alongside the river Humber, and Hull. Kingston Upon Hull is a port town, which had a heavy (and thriving) fishing industry until we saw a mass decline of UK industry in the eighties, and pretty much everything died out. Since then most of the area is abandoned and rotting. The other side of this project is that it is meant to be an exploration of using colour photography and black and white photography - the finished books are set out in two different volumes in each format, which is meant to look at the way in which we process a photograph and how the very idea of a documentation is initially flawed as it relies on a neutral standpoint from the documenter. I’m not sure if that quite comes across though.
Where did you find inspiration to pursue this project?
This was a very natural process of creating a project for me - I simply photographed what I was attracted to. A lot of my work now has its foundations in this project, as it was days on end of walking and cycling, photographing and exploring in a psycho-geographic manner. I have always been (and always will be) attracted to areas that are in-between and lost, the edge lands of cities: canals, industrial areas, and inner city landscapes have always interested me because they have a stark beauty that is often overlooked and ignored as we pass through it every day.
What general process did you undergo to produce this content?
My process for creating work has never really changed - it has always involved the exploration of areas, especially those which are overlooked and unseen, despite being ever present within cities. What I’m reading at the time will have a heavy influence on the ways in which the project develops - especially if its art writing or philosophy. Whereas this doesn’t particularly respond to anything in that way, much of my shorter pieces of work are responses to or play with, an idea or concept through visual manifestation. Writing is one of the key ways in which I develop work - a lot of my projects use text and image together when creating books or pieces of work, and I find that type - especially prose - can really push the work to be much more advanced and complete than images on their own.
Are there any other projects you are currently pursuing?
Most of my projects are ongoing works: Remnants is a project that I add to every now and again with more images, though my main focus now is on A Barry Parker Utopia and The Fear. A Barry Parker Utopia is an architectural documentation of Wythenshawe in South Manchester, an area of high unemployment and crime rates which was designed as working class utopia as part of the 1930’s reformist movement. It’s interesting to see how much the area has changed but also proposes to ask whether it is possible to create a class based utopia, and Barry Parker had a lot of interesting ideas about the use of space but also socially integrated communities (which it isn’t now). The Fear is an ongoing series of landscapes shot on infrared film, which is intended to explore our ideas about idealism, and also about how we are content. The utopian landscape is always one step away, though never attainable: it asks what it takes to be contented with 21st-century life.
How would you describe your style and general aesthetic?
I’ve never really liked the term documentary because I don’t think anything can be a true, neutral documentation, but I think that my work is possibly closest to being an abstract documentation of space, placing itself somewhere between documentary photography and conceptual photography. I think that my aesthetic as such is probably most heavily influenced by the New Topographics, but especially Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore and Peter Mitchell, and the idea of finding beauty in the banal and anti-aesthetic. I don't try to make my work in a specific style: for me, the aesthetic is something that is generated by function rather than by style, but as such, I don’t find much interest in single images - for me the value in photography comes from collections and projects.