Mark Power. A System of Edges (aka 26 Different Endings)
This series was originally titled A System of Edges - Landscapes at the Limits of the London A-Z when it was first shown in an exhibition consisting of 59 photographs and an explanatory panel. It was subsequently edited down to 26 images for publication as 26 Different Endings.
It was originally exhibited at the University Gallery, Brighton in late 2005 and then presented in 2006 at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford (now National Media Museum) and in 2007 at the Galerie National de la Tapisserie, Beauvais, France.
This unique exhibition set of 59 works (including two diptychs and an explanatory panel) has been acquired by the Hyman Collection.
The book, 26 Different Endings (2007) was short-listed for the Arles Book Prize in Les Rencontres d'Arles, Photography Festival, 2007.
A dialogue between real and imagined space, A System of Edges returns to ideas explored by Power in his celebrated series and book The Shipping Forecast (1996). It interrogates how physically standing in a place is a vastly different experience from decoding a cartographer's description that produces a place conjured in the mind, an image based on what we think we know, but cannot. In the backwaters of London, Power investigated a landscape of bleak suburban myth, a 'deeply traumatised place... where the city's vanquished have retreated to', a very different place from that promised to the burgeoning population of London at the end of the war. A System of Edges explores with precision the spaces that fall just off the edge of the A-Z London Street Atlas. If this atlas can be said to define the borders of London, as many believe it does, then Power's photographs are an exploration into what the city is not, a documentary of the involuntary act of 'not belonging'. The work represents the outer zones of any British city - indeed, his choice of exactly what to photograph as he made his way around the perimeter of the map was rooted in memories of his childhood. The concept of a particular space becoming resonant of any remembered liminality was a theme taken up in an autobiographical essay by David Chandler, former Director of Photoworks.
Power has explained:
"As a little introduction, there are 56 'edge-pages' in the 2003 edition of the London A-Z (the edition I used).
The set consists of one picture made from the edge of each of those pages, looking out into the space that falls off the edge... in other words, the landscape that isn't included on the map. I tried to be as accurate as possible, which is why many of the pictures appear to be quite 'bland'. This is entirely intentional, because the landscape out there on the periphery isn't very exciting and it would have been wrong to portray it as such. It wasn't an exercise in chasing 'great' pictures, which I suspect would have been impossible. Instead, I was trying to be true to the experience of 'being there'.
The driving force behind the project was manyfold, but in essence it's quite autobiographical. I grew up on the periphery of Leicester (the 9th biggest city in England) in a very similar landscape. The edge of the A-Z felt very, very familiar to me. I was born, however, just off the northern edge and though I so wanted to tell my schooolpals in Leicester that I was born in London (which sounded very impressive in Leicester in the 60s and 70s) I knew I couldn't because my birthplace was nowhere to be found on the A-Z we had at home. Instead, I had to say I was born in Herfordshire, which doesn't sound quite as sexy.
One other thing: Our son Milligan was born in 2002, the year I began the project. I was looking for something I could do which didn't mean spending weeks away from home. So '26' was made from a series of day trips, driving up from Brighton when I thought the weather on the edge of London would be appropriate. I would make for one particular edge-page, park the car and go for a long walk along the line. Inevitably, however, the sun would come out soon after I arrived so I'd turn the car around and drive home again.
It was important for me that the work looks as if it could have been made in a single day, rather than the two years it eventually took. The work is most definitely about place, rather than weather, which is why I didn't want the latter to be very dominant. You'll see that in most pictures I managed to pull this off, but there are bits of snow here and there and one particularly foggy picture. Can't win 'em all. I did, however, manage to photograph the whole lot without a single person appearing in any of the pictures, which was much more difficult than you might think!
This was the first big project I made after 'The Shipping Forecast'. The book was a hard sell at first, but as he years passed it became more and more popular, especially with students because it's both a simple idea and a conceptually concise one."