Monday, 7 December 2009

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Migrating people

Human migration is movement (physical or psychological) by humans from one district to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. (

Why do people migrate - there are a number of different reasons why people migrate from one place to another. The need to escape from persecution through war and ethnic cleansing, extreme poverty and hunger, slavery and displacement or financial gain.

Migrant Mother 1936, Dorothea Lange

"Nipomo, Calif. March 1936.
Migrant agricultural worker's family.
Seven hungry children and their
mother,aged 32. T
he father
is a native Californian."

Click on link below to read the article by Dorothea Lange about her encounter with the migrant mother.

Net migration rates for 2008: positive (blue), negative (orange), stable (green), and no data (gray)

BBC News Article -

As part of our series on global migration, BBC News Online looks at the numbers of people migrating, where they are going and some of the implications of migration.
Over the past 15 years, the number of people crossing borders in search of a better life has been rising steadily. At the start of the 21st Century, one in every 35 people is an international migrant. If they all lived in the same place, it would be the world's fifth-largest country.

'Is it possible to find a dwelling, a place within the world, while moving across it?
We are fixated with property claims and the possibility of embedding ourselves and of finding our identity in our surroundings. But if identity itself is fluid, the identity of place as much as that of ourselves, is it not natural to be in a constant state of movement rather than standing still? In a world of global exchange, perhaps we are all of us moving'.
Dean/ Millar 2005:149)

Society draws a circle. Those inside conform, and those at the edge either change or step outside to join those who don’t fit in. From the inside it can be difficult to see those on the outside, often hidden away. Invisible, yet co-existing in the same space.

In this chapter I shall attempt to uncover this distinction. To identify those who choose to live outside the constraints of society, to uncover the spaces they identify as their own, and to break down the cultural myths associated with gypsies, travellers and nomadic/alternative lifestyles. Is the dominant ideology of our society shared by such people and to what extent do they consider themselves outside of the circle?

The history of various groups hitherto known to wander from space to space. The folklore and traditions of days gone by, long forgotten to many but continued by some.

Sense of Place

Sense of Place/

" A sense of place results gradually and unconsciously from inhabiting a landscape over time, becoming familiar with its physical properties, accruing history within its confines."
--Kent Rydon

“The land was ours before we were the land’s”
-- Robert Frost

"It is place, permanent position in both the social and topographical sense, that gives us our identity."
--J.B. Jackson

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Dean, T & Millar, J. 2005. Place.  NEED TO ADD PUBLISHER

Acton, T & Mundy, G. 1997. Romani Culture and Gypsy Identity.  University of Hertfordshire Press.

Liegeois, Jean-Pierre. 2005. Gypsies - An Illustrated History. Saqi.

Khazanov, Anatoly, M.  1994.  Nomads and the Outside World. 2nd Ed.  University of Wisconsin Press.


The following link will take you to an online forum which shows images of a variety of different camper vans with all of the owners having common denominators - the desire to travel in their own van in (relative) comfort and in some cases style and to experience life on the road away from normality of life. The desire to escape to the great outdoors to 'rough it' is an inherent need in some people whilst others will not find it desirable at all. For them sleeping in small cramped spaces, being cold and not having the comforts of home is not an option. However if you are rich enough to won one of the vans in the images below I would hardly say 'it was roughing it'.

This image was taken by Rirkrit Tiravanija
source: Dean, T. & Millar.J., 2005, Place, Thames and Hudson:London

'When I was nineteen years old I left Thailand and went to Canada. At that point, I left high school thinking that I would go into photojournalism because I enjoyed the idea of being mobile and travelling a lot. I wanted to see everything, and this was a situation that could be put me there. I wasn't ever interested in making a lot of money; I just wanted to get by. But I wanted to see everything.' (Dean/Millar 2005:155)

romany gypsies

Link to photos of gypsies in Romania

link to home made video of gypsy camps
These lines were written by Queen Victoria in 1836: -
I know too well its truth, from experience, that whenever any poor Gipsies are encamped anywhere and crimes and robberies, etc, occur, it is invariably laid to their account, which is shocking; and if they are always looked upon as vagabonds, how can they become good people? I trust in Heaven that the day may come when I may do something for these poor people.

Irish travellers

Irish Travellers

There are about 25,000 Irish Travellers in Ireland and 1,300 in Northern Ireland.
Following link will take you to an article about Irish Travellers.
I went along to the encampment at laira bridge to ask the travellers if i could interview them and take some photographs. These travellers had cut through a fence and are illegally camped on a site just outside of Plymouth city centre. My interpretor and I walked into the camp and approached a couple of men who immediately demanded my reason for being there, upon explaining my project and asking whether they would mind if I took a few photographs more people arrived. Although not overtly threatening there was an aggressive edge to their behaviour and they became rather hostile and persuasive once they understood my request. They decided we would have to pay £100 in order to take photographs of the site, which we could only haggle down to £50. What became clear was their drive for money, as soon as the prospect of getting some cash became viable we were surrounded and told to go to the cash point immediately and asked to confirm what time we would be coming back in an attempt to secure a deal... Even the children were asking us for our cameras and wallets. It was as if some ideology of gleaning money off every person who stumbles across you is engrained at an early age.

illegal camp of Irish travellers - photographed secretly - Harry Hilliar

The interesting thing for me about this type of travellers is that they live in contradiction to the romantic notion of romani gypsies living off the land and travelling from place to place offering aggricultural labour in return for a piece of land to settle for a while. These travellers all owned brand new expensive cars and caravans, preferred concrete settlements to grass ones and had sought out an inner city dwelling as opposed to a rural one. Instead of opposing the capitalist society and seeking an alternative existance their ideals and behaviour would suggest that they are infact wholesale subscribers to the capitalist machine, driven by the lust for cash. I do not know whether these cars and caravans are the majority of their possessions or whether or not they pay taxes. I continue to try and maintain a objective opinion of each traveller I come across however the danger of calling these type of travellers untrustworthy and dishonest is ever present and exemlified in this short clip below.

Snatch - film clip showing Irish travellers - (very similar to my own experience of their behaviour)

The following links will take you to This is Plymouth website pages with regrd to other illegal gypsy encampments in Plymouth.

Image below and article in Sun Newspaper about illegal traveller settlements.

Spreading misery ... huge camp of 1,000 Irish travellers at Crays Hill, Essex

THE Sun today launches a campaign to STOP John Prescott giving the green light to illegal gipsy camps across Britain.The Deputy Prime Minister has ordered local councils to go soft on travellers camps and turn a blind eye to the shocking problems they create.But The Sun, on behalf of our ten million readers, is determined to fight him all the way.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Folklore & Tradition - Relation Between People & Place

Another element concerning place and the relation between a physical space and its inhabitants is the culture and tradition that develop within an area. This can be based on the geographical and topographical nature of its place and the relation between this nature and those existing within it. Tradition is the amalgamation of routines, much of which consist of a relation between the land and the survival of the people upon it. England's rich history of farming and religion combined with the dependency on the land and the superstition of folklore has produced a wide array of traditions inherently linking the space and the people.

Sir John Benjamin Stone (1836-1914) photographed such folklore and traditions in an attempt to preserve what he considered to be an aspect of our culture that was gradually being forgot ton. These pictures depict age old traditions linked to harvest and superstition that are largely extinct today.

The 'Horn Dance' at Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire - visit to the vicarage, September 1899

Farm Workers at Perry Barr, circa 1990

The 'Kern Bride'

Historically gypsies and travellers would move from place to place in accordance with such traditions of harvest in order to work on the land. This benefited both the farms and the travelling communities. Today however many farms have suffered from international trade and large chain supermarkets and the demand for labour is much lower. Travellers therefore are forced to adopt other methods of work in order to survive and maintain their way of life.

Tar Barrel Rolling

In my attempt to uncover age old traditions as part of our culture I attended the annual tar barrel rolling in Ottery St Mary. This tradition dates back to the 17th Century and occurs every bonfire night to commemorate Guy Fawkes and burn the spirits of evil. It consists of setting alight wooden barrels containing tar, wood scrapings and paraffin. Once alight the barrels are carried through the streets of the town on the backs of the local men, who pass the barrel between them until it burns out. The event attracts thousands of people each year who fill the streets and square of the town creating a thick crowd that then have to avoid the burning barrels as they dart through the streets. This adrenaline filled event is reminiscent of Spanish bull running due to the collective fear and excitement of the crowd. When partaking in this event the herd like behaviour of the crowd seemed of another time, one that belonged far back in the zeitgeist of history resurrected each year

The final barrel upon being dropped and becoming mass of embers and smoke is surrounded by the local barrel men who lock arms and sing songs. The smog covered faces and clothing of each man lit only by the red glow of the embers and surrounded by the noise of the crowd connoted some old age ceremony. The men look almost satanic in this moment, separate from the outside world. The hoards of cameras and tourists surrounding them become indifferent to the event. It is in this space that the tradition really lives on.

Nomadic People

'The politics of place are made manifest trhough different groups' territorail claims. Often people fight to amintain divided or to dissolve them completely. Others tyry simply to slip through them undetected.. These are the marks of ideology upon the earth. Some artists reflect and reflect upon these territorial battles; others explore the absurdities that can occur in the demarcation of such places. But what of those who choose to live on the land nomadically, without making a claim on it? ' (Dean/.Millar 2005:133)

"Nomadism is more than just traveling from A to B. It is everything about Travellers. I live in a house and have done so for a long time but that doesn't make me a settled person. Many country people, who call themselves "settled", may in fact travel more than some Travellers, but this does not make them nomadic. Nomadism is your whole outlook on life… Just as settled people remain settled when they travel, Travellers remain Travellers even when they are not traveling. Travellers who are not moving can, and do, retain the mindset of a nomad." -- Michael McDonagh

Nomads - what is a nomad
'....a member of a people who have no permanent home but move about according to the seasons'....
Nomadic people, also known as nomads, are communities of people that move from one place to another, rather than settling down in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world.

Many cultures have been traditionally nomadic, but traditional nomadic behavior is increasingly rare in industrialized countries.

Floating Houses
Central Viet Nam(Mid-1800s - today)

These houses are built on rafts so that the nomadic people who live in the Annam Mountains of central Viet Nam can move about freely from one side of the lake to the other. The houses are built from hardwood trees that grow slowly in the mountains. This hard wood takes a long time to rot, so it's perfect for building a house that sits in the water.

Tuareg People

The Tuareg people are predominently nomadic people of the sahara deseret. Because of their blue robes they are often referred to as the 'Blue men of the desert'. They live in small tribes of between 30 and 100 family members and have animals like goats, cattle, chickens and camels.They are a proud race of people and live mostly in the northern reaches of Mali near Timbuktu and Kidal where they tend to do most of their trading.

Each of the family members plays an important role with the women making milk, butter and clothing etc from the animals and collecting firewood. The men dirve the animals and take responsibility for trading. They sell camels and buy millet for bread making.

Drought and government policy has impacted on their way of life and increasingly many are living a more sedentary lifestyle.
Mongolian Nomads

'The nomad moves, but he is always at the centre of the desert, at the centre of the steppe.' Gaston Bacheland (Dean/Millar 2005:147)

These images were taken of Mongolian Gers and Mongloian people by Mette Tronvoll in 2003. He undertook a documentary expedition over a period of six weeks where he travelled across Mongolia from the Gobi Desert in the soputh to Khenti region in the north photographing the landscape, the nomads in and outside of their Gers (Yurts) and images of the Gers themselves. The name Ger comes from the turkish word jurte and is a round white tent and is the home of the nomades living on the steppes in Mongolia. The shape and function of this tent has stayed the same.
(Dean/millar 2005:146)

Click on the link below to go to Tronvolls archive page showing his 2005 exhibition of the Nomads of Mongoplia in Stockholm.

mongolian yurts

The yurt (mongolian: Ger) is the traditional dwelling of the nomads in Mongolia, as well as in the neighbouring countries, over to as far as in Turkey. It is a tent-like structure made from a wooden frame and covered by wool felt. A traditional yurt is very easy to collapse and assemble again, and it can be transported on no more than three animals (horses, camels, yaks). Today it will fit nicely on a small all-terrain vehicle.

Alternative Lifestyle/escapism

Yurt Village, Sharpham Devon - Photographs by Harry Hilliar

The following images are ones that I took whilst reseaching for this project.
This small community hidden away in the South West consists of five yurts, a wooden shed kitchen and an outside toilet and shower block. The first impressions of this space was the beauty of the location, surrounded by gardens and a large river this space seemed to epitomise the romanticism of outdoor living.

There is one permanent dweller, the other five volunteer for three months before moving on. Free living is provided in exchange for labour which mainly consists of working on the large vegetable garden within the land. This being my first exploration into such living I was anxious about whether they would be accepting of my intrusion into their space. I received a warm welcome and was surprised by the friendly positive atmosphere. The space itself was immaculate and well kept. Through conversing with the inhabitants it became evident that they were not as self sufficient than would have liked to be and were still very much involved with the commodities of modern living.
Most used mobile phones, computers and drove to neighbouring towns to buy food and toiletries. They all seemed to adopt the view of organic self sufficient living as an ideal to strive toward. The main constrain in achieving this I was informed being financial, although able to cultivate their own vegetables and keep chickens, the need for energy, namely solar power, was regarded as a vital step towards self sustainability which they held as vitally important yet were unable to afford the equipment.The irony to this settlement however was that their encampment resided within the grounds of an old manor house, which now serving as a charity and small business granted them the space in return for the vegetables gain from their labour to be cooked in the public restaurant nearby. Although they lived in relative isolation, the means to such lifestyle were enabled by the aristocrats of the past and the arrangement with the modern business today.

Communal living stay and work for keep - then move on - there are hundreds of sites in the UK and thousands wordwide.

For those people seeking to escape from the mundane way of life and who like the romantic notion of staying in a yurt there are holiday sites they can go to. They can go and stay in Mongolian Yurts and get away from it all without actually having to work for their keep.

Click on the following link to see the authentic Mongolian Yurts and other images of this 'holiday' destination.

Get back to nature and stay in one of our six Mongolian Yurts

Image from website

Photography of Yurt at Poundsgate, Dartmoor - Harry Hilliar

Images from website

'It sounds cliched but we felt that we really did get away from it all"


This tree house is virtually invisible from any public path or space and exists unknown to most. The owner lives here all year round after building the construction himself. It consists of two levels, a kitchen, and a living/sleeping space. Access is via the ladder and requires some agility and branch negotiation. There is a wood burning fire with chimney and oil lamps for light. Like the nearby yurts this dwelling is only accessible via a long walk with no access for cars. Similarly the structure can be considered temporary as there are no permanent changes to the land made by its construction.

Have your own treehouse built in your own backyard...

A tall, tall, treehouse........
With the top of the roof reaching 10 metres high, and being situated in a secret location in Hampstead, we believe this is without doubt the highest (and probably the most spectacular) treehouse in London. From the top of the treehouse you can look over West London (and even look down on the arch at Wembley stadium).
The tree house itself boasts gothic doors and windows, is fully insulated and lined, has fold up desks on the lower floor and oak bunks on the top floor. There is even a toilet and basin for over-night stays!
The roof and the exterior walls are clad with cedar, but the turret at the front of the tree house is clad in copper.

Luxury treehouse.

If you want to have a luxury treehouse built follow the following link

Thursday, 9 April 2009

War and the Landscape - Afghanistan - Paul Seawright

War and the landscape

Looking at the effect that war has on places and spaces. How natural beauty is destroyed by man made devices. Natural erosion to valleys and the landscape takes hundreds of years but a bomb can change the landscape in a matter of seconds. The desecration to the earth and the scars that are left behind will take hundreds of years to heal over. In the meantime we are left to wonder why.

Paul Seawright - Afghanistan

Paul Seawright was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to visit Afghanistan during 2002 after much of the devastation had been unleashed on the country. Avoiding the trappings of an exorcising vision, best typified by the photojournalist's portrait of Afghanistan as a spectacle of ruins, his series of pictures are spare, subdued, understated and quiet.

Seawright's responses to the terrain of the destroyed and heavily mined desert landscapes of Afghanistan, both draws upon, extends and reworks the distinctive aesthetic the artist had established through earlier photographic work, made first within his home city, Belfast. In war-torn Afghanistan, Seawright is less concerned with the visible scars of war, but instead the hidden malevolence of its landscapes (

Seawright photographed these shell cases in Afghanistan to show the viewer the aftermath of war and to make the viewer think about what took place in this valley. Much like that of Fenton (below) the valley is littered with empy shell casings but whilst Seawright chose to show only the aftermath this was a choice that Fenton himself had not control over- he was censored by the government and therefore his images could not show actual death.

Roger Fenton, The Valley of the Shadow of Death. Crimean War
Fenton took this image during the Crimean war in 1855

The similarites in the images is obvious.. but the overall effect is the same ..the thought of what took place,the hundreds of littered bomb cases - reminiscent of skulls - this eerie silent space like that of the image above taken some hundreds of years apart serves to show us that humankind will still continue to cause desturction not only to themselves but also to the places and spaces where they live.

Room, Afghanistan,

Derelict, empty, silent space

Another image by Seawright but this time showing the inside of a room that has been struck by a bomb – a place and space that was once a home – a build environment which should have been a safe haven, but now empty derelict and almost certainly hiding terrible secrets.

Columns, Afghanistan

What sort of building once stood here…again we are left with the
question what was the purpose of the construction. Large columns left as
crumbling wrecks similar to that of deteriorating and eroding ant hills, which succumb to the natural elements..except what caused this destruction was man made.