Unveiling climate change at Pevensey Levels: a photographic documentation of a landscape in the temperate climate of Southern England

Bream, Sally (2016) Unveiling climate change at Pevensey Levels: a photographic documentation of a landscape in the temperate climate of Southern England. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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My photographic research intends to locate and document signs of climate change within the landscape of Pevensey Levels. This is significant in that within the relatively temperate climate of South East England, the phenomenon of climate change does not initially seem to be noticeable to the human eye.
The project aims to integrate theory and practice in order to generate a reciprocal dialogue between the two endeavours. The photographic fieldwork has informed my choices of theoretical texts and I have then analysed these in order to further consider the notion of climate change visibility. In turn, the theoretical framework has informed the photographic practice by creating the focus of my visual investigations within the landscape. These concepts include the notion of the landscape as a cultural signifier, phenomenology and perception, geomorphology and the idea of a photographic archaeology of the landscape, narrative, mnemonics, and indexicality.
The photographic practice reveals how the landscape is managed and controlled to mitigate climate change. The
marshland is drained with the use of pumping stations, sluice gates and networks of waterways. Water channels are enlarged to increase their capacity in order to prevent flooding. These act as conduits to channel excess ground water to outfall pipes at the seafront. Barriers such as shingle beaches are maintained as a consequence of rising sea levels and winter storms.
There are five chapters in the thesis. Chapter One considers the landscape of Pevensey Levels: its geology,
geography, history, occupants, management agencies, and character of the land. Chapter Two explores the issues around the phenomenon of climate change and in what ways it might be perceived and represented. Chapter Three presents the context of landscape photography and some photographic representations of climate change, and I have situated my own photographic enquiries in relation to these examples. Chapter Four outlines the concepts that contextualise my photographic practice. Chapter Five considers examples of the photographic images in terms of their narrative and the ways in which climate change is indexed.
The research finds that it is possible to photographically document the presence of climate change, and concludes that its visibility is situated in three characteristics. First, in the control and management of the landscape, which results from scientific research on climate change. Then, in the intensive utilisation of the land, which consequently causes water and air pollution. This hinders recovery from the effects of climate change. Finally, plants respond to fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, which causes abnormalities in their growth patterns. The research shows that photography’s ability to index and act as a mnemonic device aids the search for phenomena of climate change. Furthermore, documenting these phenomena photographically can intensify the spectator’s perceptions of the landscape.
The culmination of the practical element of the research is a collection of 97 landscape photographs presented on CD Rom. 51 of these photographs have been selected for inclusion in a prototype photobook (Appendix 15), in a limited edition of ten. The photographs are grouped according to their attributes related to climate change in the landscape under four general headings: Mechanism, Flux, Damage and Regeneration, each of which has sub-headings. This provides the narrative structure for the body of photographic work. The photographs are annotated with their place names, OS Grid Reference and short description. This information has relevance for future observations and photographic research at Pevensey Levels. The title for the book and the portfolio of original colour photographs is Unveiling Climate Change At Pevensey Levels. A portfolio of fifteen original photographic C-Type prints, size 16 x 20 inches, has also been produced (see Appendix 14).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: T Technology > TR Photography
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2016 15:27
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/65404

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