Northern Exposures

Northern Exposures’ is the work resulting from a 6 week residency with Findhorn Bay Arts. It is part of Creative Work Shop, a 12 month programme of interconnected arts projects and multi-art residencies that respond to themes of place and regeneration offering space for reflection, connection and exploration through artist led conversation. Produced by Findhorn Bay Arts.

For the full residency blog please see here

The Northern Exposures Installation.
The James Milne Institute, Findhorn.
6-9th August 2021
From the visitors book:

“Beautiful and profound exhibition that had me welling up with emotion. Loved the simplicity of the idea of the pinhole camera. The images and spoken words capture an extraordinary time in all our lives.”

This exhibition was so powerful and moving yet so soft and sensitive. Thank you so much”

I loved this experience – such a moving record of the relationship between humans in crisis and big nature. I hope this goes further – a wonderful record. Thank you

“A beautiful experience. To hold light and time and reflect. Thank you all who took part”

Northern Exposures – Reflections on the Residency process

The residency started in 2020 during the year of Covid and the changing regulations and restrictions meant that ideas had to constantly be modified and reviewed. During the residency, time seemed to change from a forward moving linear experience to one that seemed to stop and start, or appear to be a series of pauses… the world seemed to be waiting and those pauses offered the artists an unusual period for reflection and rethinking.

Jo and Robbie became interested in a photographic process called solargraphy. Small pinhole cameras are attached to a fixed point and capture the place where they are situated over a period of time, usually weeks or months. The cameras are positioned to point south and the resulting evocative images show the path of the Sun. They experimented and the below image is the result .. the path of the sun captured over 2 days.

The photographic paper contained in the camera captures more than light, it also captures time and place. Due to the length of the exposure, anything that is fast moving such as cars, people or birds passing don’t leave a trace. The pathway of the sun as it crosses the sky slowly changing its angle as the Earths turns however, is captured in all its glory. A reminder that everything we see, however still or monumental is in motion, both through space and through time.

They proposed to make a number of pinhole cameras and co-create a work called Northern Exposures’, inviting people to enter into the process of ‘marking time’ with them. The solargraph cameras would be given to interested people who would attach them to a fixed point (facing south if possible) with a view – this could for example be in a garden or at a window – and leave them for four months. Jo and Robbie decided to ask people to record their feelings on a postcard on the day they put them up and on the day that they took them down. The resulting images and text would be a record of this paused Covid time and feelings during this strange, unmoored period. The project intended to create an opportunity for the community to take part in a process which would be able to happen whatever Covid restrictions were in place at the time. The resulting captured images and personal reflections would be able to be displayed at the end of the project as both collective memory and a communal sharing of time..

Above images: Starting the process of making the pin hole cameras for the project. We painted the inside black to seal them and reduce reflection. One piece of photographic paper is placed in each and then the top sealed tight. Tape is stuck over the pin hole to stop light entering until it is attached to its position.

Jo and Robbie set up in the Findhorn Bay Arts shop on Forres High Street on 16th and 17th of October 2020, where people came to find more about the project and pick up a ‘Northern Exposures’ camera pack. They felt good about meeting people (albeit socially distanced and masked) chatting about photography, Covid, families, the economy, the weather and these strange times and were pleased that there was so much interest in taking part. There will be around 70 cameras, capturing time and the winter light around the area.

Outside the Northern Exposures pick up point with two of the participants. Image by Marc Hindley
UPdate. APRIL 2021

Further developments with Covid meant that another lockdown was put in place from January until April however this was not a problem as the cameras can be left up for many months to capture light. All participants were asked to take their cameras down at the beginning of March 2021 and to fill in the second postcard. Jo and Robbie were able to travel to Forres to pick up and process the 55 cameras.

It was tense opening the cameras up as they had been up through the rain and snow of winter and water could easily have got in and ruined the photographic paper, however fortunately just about all the cameras produced an image. There were some really beautiful solargraphs as well as insightful writing. Jo and Robbie were then able to plan how to show all of the work within the constraints of any Covid restrictions in August as part of the Source to Sea series of events. See top of this page for how the installation turned out.

Thanks to all who took part in Northern Exposures.

From participants:

“The camera has mapped the days of the strangest and most surreal winter of my life. I feel connected to this little tin can because it holds the intensity of the winter and everything that happened around me while I was standing still. Dark and light and the shadows in-between”

“It is a really beautiful and profound project, capturing the passage of time like this in a little tin can. Resonates on so many levels. Thank you so much”

Categories: 2020, 2021, Collaboration, Community Engagement, Environmental, Exhibition, Installation, Interactive, Participatory, Process, Site Specific, Strategy

Jo Hodges

Jo Hodges is a multidisciplinary public artist based in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
with a background in Human Ecology, community development and social justice.

Her work investigates ecological and socio-cultural systems, processes and relationships, and explores new strategies for working in public. Her practice takes many forms; temporary and permanent works, site specific installations and socially engaged projects and processes. She is often led by context, where the outcome is determined as a result of process.

She is interested in research, experimentation and collaboration at the intersection of environment, culture and technology and exploring the role of art in social change. She is joint Director-Curator of Sanctuary Lab, a public art laboratory in the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park.