As you get older every now and then you become aware that perhaps there are less days ahead of you than are behind you. Usually such thoughts can be brushed aside without too much concern. Last week was one of those occasions only this time it is just a little more difficult than usual not to face my own mortality. This sound very dramatic and at one levels it is, perhaps even self indulgent. Nonetheless I have embarked on a project that I might never see the end of. I have decided to document the impact of the proposed construction of the HS2 line from Birmingham to Leeds as it effects the village where I grew up in – Measham
As I reread this it really does sound over dramatic, after all it is far from certain that the HS2 project will be completed and if it isn’t this is going to be just so much hot air. However, if it does go ahead then it is planned to be completed by 2033 which means this documentary project won’t be finished until I am starting to enter my latter years. Again we seem to be living longer and longer so perhaps by 2033 I’ll only be considered to be in my middle age. Perhaps. The other alternative is something that few of us want to dwell on.
So the first plan of action is to decide exactly how to document the development? The plan at the moment is to pick certain points along the proposed line (the circles shown on the map of the route) and visit them from time to time to see how they are changing. Initially I am thinking I will visit once a month or so but this is very much dependent on other circumstances.
The next question is what type of images am I going to make? I have decided to try and make the images as close to the type of images I made of the same spots when I first took up photography in the days that Kodachrome 64 ruled the roost and I would walk the fields and lanes with my brother’s Zenit E. (This was replaced by a Practica – oh the joys of communist powered cameras using the archetypal capitalist film stock. I did use Agfa film stock as well but that is another story) This may be a bit nostalgic but that is how I am going to approach things to start off with at least. Of course there is a second set of images that are not being displayed publicly at the moment: the raw images I have captured from which I make the images I use as part of the project. Over time these images may become more important than the images I make for the project but until then I think the best thing I can do is catalogue them and leave it at that.
So should the HS2 line be constructed then none of these view will exist anymore: Farthing Hill and Four Lane’s End will be destroyed by a cutting almost 10 metres deep; The Gate on Bosworth Road is situated on top of another cutting and probably marks the centre of the of the cutting; The temporary seat will be near to where the viaduct will start to take the railway line across the River Mease; The line of that viaduct is roughly the line of the poplar trees in the first Red Bank image; The second Red Bank image would be directly underneath the viaduct which at this point will probably be the height of the buildings and finally the view from Ibstock cottages gives an idea of the wider impact of the line as those house will be blighted as they will be in the shadow of the Mease Valley viaduct and the wind turbine in the distance will have to be demolished to make way for another deep cutting.
These images are different from my usual production in one further way, they have a narrative value. Most of my images usually are random collections of instances I have come across whilst going about my life. These, however, tell a story and will be part of a permanent record of the destruction and renewal of a village that most people bypass but which was where I spent the first 20 or so years of my life.