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The Photographic Angle and RPS Funding 2013 over 25's
The Photographic Angle and The Royal Photographic Society Environmental Project Funding 2013
Toby Smith recipient of the over 25’s TPA and RPS Environmental Awareness Bursary 2013
On January 28th 2013, the UK government unveiled the next phase of a High Speed railway project connecting London with Birmingham and onwards to Manchester and Leeds. Dubbed HS2, the controversial scheme has developed a heated and polemic response; balancing a need to improve infrastructure and address our “ North South Divide” with the destruction of large tracts of English countryside and 32 billion pounds of tax-payers money. This year’s Queen’s speech also confirmed the state’s backing of the project that hopes to be running by 2026 with construction starting in a few years.
The initial news immediately inspired a personal photographic project to address my own questions, concerns and curiosity. Using a GPS, already loaded with the exact route, I will follow and walk the entire 240km long line as it cuts across England. I will comprehensively document the landscape and inhabitants I encounter with stills, video and contextual interviews. Working for 5-10 days at a time enables me to conduct night photography by camping en-route but also stay at private homes to help penetrate the social sphere of the landscape.
Although approaching from a neutral position I wish to consider both sides of the argument and attempt to balance the clearly visible and negative perceived demolition of habitat and buildings with the less tangible positive economic benefits the project hopes to have. I will be updating the project live on Twitter as it is invaluable that people are able follow the project, contribute their opinions but most importantly also ensure those directly involved or effected by HS2 have opportunity to be represented in the project as it moves through their area.
Much of the stoutest criticism to HS2 stems from the irreparable environmental damage the scheme will incur. Camden council, CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), The Prince’s Countryside and EVERY committee or charity working on preserving the wild forestry of Britain objects. 500 hectares of Britain’s ancient woodland is under threat with over 30 different sites to be blighted by the railway. There are also 3 SSI’s (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) that will be lost and the line will also cut directly through the picturesque Chilterns and Misbourne Valley.
It is critically important I give voice and visually research this complex social, environmental, economic and landscape issue on the ground, within the communities affected. It is also vital that a large visual and social tract of Britain that will stretch for 240km and up-to 90m wide is documented before it disappears under or is changed irrevocably by infrastructure development.