A photographic portfolio

We recently put together an application for an artist residency in Sweden called the Sustainable Mountain Project which, whilst we did not get, gave us an excellent excuse to compile a tiny photography portfolio.

This is just a short post to display the images we put together. Additionally, you can find our associated letter of motivation at the end of this post.

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Letter of Motivation

To whom it may concern,

This letter serves as a motivation for the joint application of Desmond Bowles and Jamie Dimitra Ashton to the Artist Residence in Villekulla 2016.

Over the last few years, in both separate and collaborative capacities, we have had the wonderful opportunities to experience various spaces, places and people through our work. This has with time led to an ever increasing love of nature, ecologies and environments and has left us with a constant hunger for new experiences and more knowledge on how the universe and world around us functions. Much of this information we pursue intellectually, studying both physical and social sciences with equal rigor, but we also actively embed ourselves in the human-free biospheres around us. As individuals, we are both avid nature enthusiasts undertake regular (often daily) excursions onto the mountains, nature reserves, oceans or other natural spaces in and around where we live in Cape Town. Part of this ethos of enjoying and participating in ecology however had led to an ever increasing awareness of the threats that our environment is currently facing. Whilst our work is not purely photographic, filmmaking and journalism endeavours always include photography as a component of the work that we conduct.

This personal interest has therefore, over time, become more interwoven with our creative work. As we spent more time exploring our natural landscapes and being confronted with a variety of issues such as restricted access into areas, pollution and exploitation of raw resources or human suffering through lack of knowledge of or access to the local ecologies around them, our projects became more explicitly focused on creating dialogues around how these issues arose and what capacity we have to solve them. Desmond progressively took his cinematographic skills and turned them to photographing and filming aspects of the nature and environmental concern and Jamie’s research and conservation efforts took a turn toward identifying the causes and possible solutions to the large scale environmental and social issues we currently face. We see the potential in using modern technologies, medias and communication systems to start being platforms upon which we can promote collective learning and find solutions to the environmental and social crises that are on the brink of collapse. This led us to having our personal interests and affinity for the natural world become a central theme in our media, using our work as a platform to grapple with issues, educate and inform larger audiences of the things we were learning and experiencing ourselves.

When we came across the application for this residence and began to read more into the project, we were inspired by how closely the Sustainable Mountain Project mirrors the central themes of the narratives and issues that we are interrogating within our South African landscape. Much of our free time is spent in the mountains, fostering hobbies such as bird watching, animal tracking and learning indigenous plant knowledges and we subsequently have a large photographic body of work from being in these environments. Our portfolio extends beyond just working with photography however and opportunities such as interviews with local conservation and rehabilitation experts, visits to educational centres and hours of personal research has also left us both well versed in articulating the environmental issues we are currently facing on a global scale as well as having intimate knowledge about the nuances of such issues in the South African context.

Please feel free to look at our entire portfolio of work, as well as more information about what we are undertaking as creatives, on our website. Of particular relevance to this application is our description of our focus and ethos which can be read in the About our Work section of our website as well as our newest video series documenting South African institutions providing conservation through education. Various portfolios of photographic work can be found on our Facebook page in both our blog and portfolio albums. Of interest might also be our Instagram or Tumblr accounts, or even Jamie’s Instagram account, which serve as wonderful mappings of the spaces we frequent and the work we do. Our most comprehensive photographic portfolio is in the process of being uploaded to our Film Photo Friday’s project on tumblr, but has only recently begun and is still limited in its contents. We have therefore attached a separate document to this application which consists of a more comprehensive insight into our photographic body of work that is not yet publically available. Furthermore, we have been actively engaged in sourcing and learning about the global environmental issues of climate change, water resources, biodiversity, food security and migration and have nuanced contextual knowledge of how these issues manifest in South Africa.
Due to this, not only would we be able to produce and share knowledge that we have but would find great personal benefit in learning and hearing the narratives of similarly minded creative conservationists from other areas in the world.

Kindest Regards,
Jamie Dimitra Ashton and Desmond Bowles