Posts tagged “Westerns

Western Research

My practice has me in an interesting position, a white guy under the age of 30 who lives in the UK and loves Westerns. I’ve come to a point where I need to take a step back from making work in response to the genre and actually look at where I sit. The genre is essentially an American import to our country which had an impact with people of a certain age, who watched them in the cinema at the time of release. I want to know how I relate to them, how the films have informed them, the characters and the role models that have helped inform their gender. It’s a project, I say project as I don’t know the finished form apart from being a video piece at this stage that I will probably come back to over a long period of time.

One of the first steps is to collect information from those who actually saw the films at the cinemas up and down the UK and see where the research leads me. I’ve written a short survey which I’d like to share with those who grew up and watched Westerns in the 1950’s and 60’s. If that’s yourself or someone you know, please share the survey with them?

I can’t wait to see the results.




Cue the Lights (2014)

Aims to correct the light levels found within the classic western genre. A convention of classic Hollywood that would increase studio light levels whilst actors turned on a light on set, that would lose the natural illuminations. Using the cliché of the saloon bar, a video montage attempts to correct these light levels, switching off the studio lights, relying on the illumination of the oil-lamps on-set.

Previously shown at

  • Handmade Festival (2014), Leicester
  • Canned Film Festival (2014), Northwich
  • 1 Night Only Film Festival, Durham,

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Foreign Correspondent (1940)After the success of Hitchcock’s first film in the U.S. Rebecca (1940) there is a loosening up in tone when it comes to his second film in the states Foreign Correspondent (1940). Casting the successful Joel McCrea before he becomes a man of the Westerns in the 1940s and 50s in this pre-war film that fictionalised the events that lead up to WWII.

The tone of the film begins far lighter than most of Hitchcock’s work set in a New York Paper who want to know what is going on in unstable Europe, knowing that war is imminent. Not wanting to send a war correspondent, instead believing a massive crime is being committed, they send a crime reporter who is unaware  if the world outside of America. This could be seen as Hitchcock‘s perception of his American friends in their isolationist position over Europe.

With a new identity John Jones/Huntley Haverstock (McCrea) he heads to London to interview the Dutch Diplomat Van Meer (Albert Basserman) an elderly man who is growing wreary of the changing world around him, still is striving for peace. Before Jones can interview Van Meer he begins to fall for Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) who her and her father Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) are apart of a peace organisation that are doing their best to represent the people in averting the upcoming war. Jones is soaking this all up and falling for the Carol Fisher with every word she utters.

Things start to heat up for our fish out of water reporter in a foreign land when he witnesses first hand the assassination of Van Meer a story that is too good to pass up, joining up with another reporter Ffolliott (George Sanders) and Carol Fisher are hot on the trail of the dirty rat who shot the diplomat. Heading out into the country in a field of windmills the trail runs cold until our reporter picks up on a few things that only Hitchcock would point out to our average man and audience. Something is going on in the windmill that the stop at, leading to a more dangerous investigation. When the police are informed of Jones’s findings he is proved wrong when nothing is to be found.

For the rest of the film he has to prove to those around him there is more going surrounding the diplomats assassination, when in fact he is alive in London, being coerced to reveal important treaty details. Something that he wont do easily. Whilst Jones’s life is at stake as he travels around in London. Only his fellow reporter Ffolliott really believes him, setting up a trap to land Stephen Fisher who is behind this morally corrupt plot that he believe will save his country from going to war. 

All is revealed in a dramatic climax as war is declared whilst everyone is mid-air aboard a plane to America, landing everyone into dangerous waters (literally) before the truth can finally out to the world. Foreign Correspondent can be seen as Hitchcock’s way of shouting at America to pay attention to the conflict back home that he was lucky to escape. America was more than happy to accept the likes of German directors such as Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang before the war began. Yet took no interest beyond secret surveillance as we later found out. McCrea is average America opening it’s eyes to the bigger problems, and how countries will do anything to avoid war. Not the strongest of his body of work, but has some of the elements that make his films stand out.

Red River (1948)

Red River (1948)I’ve been eager to watch/revisit Red River (1948) for a few weeks now, last night I finally took the time to sit down and watch this epic western. I remember the first time being drawn to Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) after killing a man, buried him and read the bible over them. A guilt ridden man who at first wants to do right after leaving the love of his life in an ill-fated wagon train up north to settle on open ground north of the Rio Grande river, taking with him a cow, a bull and Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan). And not soon after a massacre survivor Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift in his debut role).

We catch up with these men and young boy 14 years later, after seeing a dream of a successful cattle ranch had taken root in the land, strewn with graves of Dunson’s enemies. We learn he has been affected by the civil war that left the south almost penniless. Meaning a massive drive up north to Missouri of 10,000 cattle was the only answer.

Joined by an impressive supporting cast who all become victims of Dunson’s drive and anger to finish the drive north. A hard task-master to say the least. A complex man riddled with guilt anger and determination to make good to survive. Along the way he begins to really unhinged and break down in front of the men who can see he’s going “plum crazy”. Moral breaks down as the men are treated almost like the cattle they are moving on the dangerous trip over the Red River, over open land filled with danger in the form of Native American, to themselves scaring the cattle into a stampede at night. Red River is jam-packed with it all.

Dunson, the natural leader and respectable man begins to lose his grip, everyone can see this, especially those close to him. His actions become irrational, as he stops sleeping becoming consumed with making the drive, pushing the men to extremes and break point. They begin to turn on him. Going back to the shoot and bury action which runs through the film, it becomes away to right a massive wrong, to ensure some justice and righteousness is maintained. Which loses all meaning, how can you kill a man out of anger, then bury him?

Throughout the film there is time to pause and reflect as the character digest the days events over the long journey, as they set up camp, allowing for strong character development. we also see a cast of actors who become synonymous with the genre, such as Harry Carey. Jr, John Ireland, and Hank Worden to name but a few. Director Howard Hawks leaves his mark on the genre, showing that the scale of drama can and does apply to the Western. Complex characters can exist in a simplistic world, developed more in the following decade by the likes of Anthony Mann and John Ford.

Red River is more than just a cattle drive is the growth of the men as well, namely Dunson and Garth, both polar opposites of what a man can be in the west, but can still survive and earn the respect of each other.

New Mills Gold Mine – Archival (2012) Part 1

The responses from the New Mills Art Trail (2012) residency. Archival is the first of three series of photographic works produced in response, shot during the last few days of the trail/residency.

New Mills Gold Mine (2012) part 2

Finally I feel I can reveal the photos of the completed gold mine and surrounding area that created the landscape in the empty shop that I worked in for the two week duration of the festival. More will follow in the next few weeks.

New Mills Gold Mine (2012) part 1

Finally I feel I can reveal the photos of the completed gold mine and surrounding area that created the landscape in the empty shop that I worked in for the two week duration of the festival. More will follow in the next few weeks.

Wagon Trail (2012)

Prints can be purchased at Society6

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Minimal Scenes 18

Photographic Sketches 1