THE CITY IS CAPTURED IN FLUX IN FELICITY HAMMOND’S COLLAGED PHOTOGRAPHS THAT SHOW THE FAILURES AND FUTURES OF THE DIGITAL AGE.“I ALLOW THE PHOTOGRAPH TO CONSTANTLY EVOLVE AND TRANSFORM, AND FIND THAT COLLAGE ALLOWS THIS TO HAPPEN”“I WANTED TO HIGHLIGHT THE MOMENTS WHERE THE RENDERED ARCHITECTURAL IMAGE BREAKS DOWN”
The British urban landscape is a place of temporality and loss in Felicity Hammond’s sweeping photographic works. Incorporating installation, sculpture and collage, she moves beyond the boundaries of photography to render a boundless picture of the built environment. Specifically, these works capture London today in a constant state of regeneration, where luxury office blocks claim the spaces of lost industry and cranes and construction fill its ever-growing skyline.
“My photographic education has been situated within Fine Art, where the boundaries of what photography can be have always been pushed,” Hammond tells me when we catch up over email. “I never felt satisfied with the photographic image and so, much like the transforming urban landscape that I work with, I allow the photograph to constantly evolve and transform. I find that collage allows this to happen.” There is a tangible, sculptural quality to Hammond’s work, which highlights the very physical effects of industrial and technological change, allowing “digital spaces to manifest in the physical world.”
Embodying such tensions is Hammond’s blue tinted C-type print Restore To Factory Settings (2014), which was recently awarded the British Journal of Photography’s ‘Single Image Award’. The image captures a sprawling industrial scene, seeming to be in a moment of destruction and regeneration. Construction sites and the debris of torn buildings litter rolling hills made of sand and rubble. Cranes, tyres and discarded architectural fragments frame the picture, bringing with them both a sense of action and dereliction. For the composition, Hammond compiled her photographs taken of Stratford before the 2012 Olympics and of areas in North London, where factories and manufacturing districts were in the process of becoming designer flats. “The impact of construction on the city means that I have a constant source of new material to work with,” she says.
Digitally collaged, these photographs are brought together in a blue hued vision that is at once imaginary and recognisable. It is a faceless landscape, non-existent and yet representative of a wider shift, from de-industrialisation to inner city gentrification. The blue wash is a reference to our digital context and British manufacturing heritage, that is the blue of the error screen and the blue print. As Hammond explains, “I wanted to use the blue of the architectural blue print, that of future planning but also of failure. It is paradoxically archaic and futuristic, standing both for error and progression.”
Hammond’s focus on the relationship between the rise of digital technologies and the decline in manufacturing began when she first went to photograph the factory and surrounding buildings in North East London. It was here that her family used to live and work, but she could find little trace of their former workplaces as she walked amidst the newly built housing blocks. “I couldn’t help but think that as my father struggled to grasp new technologies, his skills were rendered obsolete,” she tells me. “The industrial site where he once made furniture is now suffocated by computer-generated images of ‘urban living’. The very place of the construction of furniture had been replaced by rendered images of luxury interiors.”
This transformation from a space of production to that of consumption is something that Hammond deals with explicitly in her 2015 works Capital Growth and You Will Enter an Oasis. In Capital Growth she uses her photo collage technique to bind the interiors of luxury apartments with images of industrial landscapes similar to Restore To Factory Settings. With this coupling she is also referencing their shared language: “How industrial material and terminology is appropriated to advertise luxury developments, and how the images that represent luxury living intersect with the post-industrial landscape.”
In You Will Enter an Oasis, digitally warped images are ink jet printed onto vinyl and ceramic, the surfaces of old industry. Brought into the physical world they become twisted and indecipherable interiors, with the printed sheets appearing as if they were contorted houseplants contained in neat, tiled boxes. Spaced within a room, they have the look of a carefully thought-out designer home that has gone awry. “I wanted to highlight the moments where the rendered architectural image breaks down,” Hammond explains. “By the nature of their incompleteness, unconstrained proportions and warped pixels, these images reference buildings that are not meant to last. This is affirmed in the production method of the images that imagine them.” Throughout her work, it is by stretching what a photographic image can capture that Hammond is able to contain construction and destruction in one vision, highlighting both the potential and the ruin of the digital image in epic proportions.
by Helen Longstreth via Postmatter