Shooting Long Term Projects with Marc Wilson

My work is based around a memory of history set in the landscape
— Marc Wilson: The Togcast Ep.17

Sainte-Marguerite-sur-mer, Upper Normandy, France. 2012 Studland Bay I, Dorset, England. 2011(The Last Stand Project - Marc Wilson)

As many of you know I host The Togcast - Photography Podcast with my friend Paul Sanders. We've completed 16 episodes since Sept 2016 and have primarily concentrated on Landscape photographers as this is both our fields of 'expertise' and we move in those circles of peers. However, our appreciation and study of photography is across a broad range of genres, some of which crossover with landscape photography in some way. So it was a great pleasure to catch up recently with Marc Wilson (www.marcwilson.co.uk) who is best described as a documentary landscape photographer and to delve into some of his project work on Episode 17 of the show...

Marc deals with long term projects anchored in the history of the chosen landscapes. Between 2011-2015 'The Last Stand' project focused on old military posts and stations around the coasts of Northern Europe. There was a strong visual aesthetic that ran through the work and in the show we discuss some of his shooting methods and preferences to create that consistency and visual narrative.

Studland Bay I, Dorset, England. 2011 (The Last Stand - Marc Wilson)

Studland Bay I, Dorset, England. 2011 (The Last Stand - Marc Wilson)

It’s a combination of sticking to a visual aesthetic but treating each image individually as well
— Marc Wilson: The Togcast Ep.17

The project involved trips to various parts of coastline in the UK and Northern Europe and the completed work was met with critical acclaim. The work was one of the award winners at The Terry O’Neill awards in 2013 and was published as a book in late 2014. It has sold out of its 1st edition by early 2015 and a 2nd edition has now been published.

We also spent some time in the show chatting about his current work based on the locations, stories and impact of the holocaust called 'A wounded landscape'. This project has raised the bar even further with more locations, more exploration of the back stories and obviously a hugely sensitive subject matter.

After I’d created ‘The Last Stand’ I felt that I’d found a visual language that was subtle or sensitive enough...so as a photographer I now felt ready to approach the subject that I’d been hoping to do for 20 years or so
— Marc Wilson: The Togcast Ep.17

In the episode we discuss Marc's dedication to getting the project completed, whilst balancing the commitments of his professional commercial shooting life and having a young family. It's clear that he's very passionate about the subject matter and what's interesting is how his approach to shooting the images in this project have changed based on his emotions to the landscapes as he finds them.

After having worked with large format film equipment on 'The Last Stand' Marc actually has changed his shooting approach with 'A wounded landscape'. This came from his experiences in a test shoot trip he made to France where he realised that to really connect with the work he had to shoot with more freedom to capture his emotional reaction to the location. This meant sometimes using medium format and smaller 35mm cameras whilst coming off the tripod which allowed more spontaneity and no doubt a different set of options for compositions and style of image.

We also discuss how the feedback he's received through showing the work to survivors, specialist historians and groups of modern youngsters has kept his motivation and also re-assured him that the ongoing visual aesthetic is suitable for the subject matter.

Taking on such long form projects is a huge commitment, Marc has budgeted £40,000 to complete 'A wounded landscape' so we chat about how that figure is raised, and how he has to work in stages to keep momentum and maintain his focus.

What makes a strong visual image is that dedication and caring to get the image exactly as you want it
— Marc Wilson: The Tocgast Ep.17

As part of the funding process and to engage those who are connected to the project Marc has released a 'Working Archive' of the images so far in 'A wounded landscape'. This is a box set of 55 7"x5" inch matt C-type prints (49 photographs and 6 texts). This set gives a glimpse into the sprawling nature of the subject, encompassing location images and the beginnings of some of the stories that are an integral part of ‘A wounded landscape’.

It's a clever creation to keep followers engaged in the process, carry on the funding cycle and also to begin the visual narrative for the project as whole.

A wounded landscape - Working Archive Collection 1 - Available at marcwilson.co.uk

In summary, I have great admiration for Marc's work ethic and commitment to his projects. It takes a huge amount of organisation and self discipline to plan for a 3-4 year project, and it can only be achieved when the subject matter really connects with you. If you're looking at starting a longer term project it doesn't mean it has to just be based around a historically stirring topic, it may be something more local to you or something to do with your passions and interests. Whatever it is you'll need plenty of determination and persistence but with the hard work and planning will come really meaningful sets of work to be proud of.

You can listen to the Togcast via the TheTogcast.com, or via iTunes or Podbean. The show is released twice monthly and features interviews with photographers across the UK and further afield.