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Invernaderos

The work was selected for the Format06 festival - www.formatfestival.com - which included a range of international photographers in various exhibition spaces throughout Derby. It was additionally shown at the University of Northampton in a solo exhibition. Examples of the work were also published in the exhibition catalogue Twelve Views with an essay by Anne Ramsden and were shown at both the University of Northampton and University of The Arts, Camberwell in 2006.

Through practice-led methodologies Invernaderos explored the visual impact on a unique desert landscape in southern Spain of large scale man-made geographical transformations, new corporate agribusinesses and plant monocultures contained within vast greenhouses. The desert of Almeria is bordered by Granada, Murcia and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a harsh, dry environment resisting real sustained habitation and, up until recently had remained relatively impoverished and to some extent neglected.

The filmmaker Sergio Leone brought the desert environment to public awareness in the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’. Since the 1970s well over 2,500Ha of plastic greenhouses have been constructed in the region and expansion is still accelerating. The region (known informally as the Costa Plastica) is now clearly visible from satellite as the greenhouses converge and expand further over the countryside. The research developed a case study of environmental and visual change in the context of globalization and contestation of land use. It has a rich history of occupation by different civilizations – each leaving vestiges of their time with the land, most notably the Moors who governed in the south of Spain for around 700 years.

The province is now strategically active around the profits possible in eco-holidays and mass tourism, pan-European property speculation and the second home phenomenon and therefore the authorities are awake to issues of the environment and ecology. Land, which might have been thought of as beyond ownership now becomes property and is highly contested and disputed.

Google Earth was used to target locations in which to work and a range of theoretical texts around issues of place, non place and placelessness provided a context. In order to be able to be able see signs of change in the environment and in the light and weather conditions the research was carried out over eighteen months. The imagery explored both new greenhouse constructions and the decay/renewal inherent within abandoned structures.

Unlike personal work carried out over previous years, which explored representation of the unseen impact of science and technology, this new research used the evidential potential of photographs and their capacity for retaining emotional distance or apparent objectivity in the image. The strategy moved the viewer from the top down satellite view (surveillance and monitoring) to the more normal ground-based view. The approach explored the potential and language of the deadpan photographic genre in presenting a more semi-objective account – outside the sentimental and hyperbolic. The work aimed to stimulate personal visual experiences with the landscape and nature in the context of contemporary thinking on place and wilderness.