Emley Moor transmitting station
… in West Yorkshire, is 1,084-feet (330.4 m) tall. It is the tallest freestanding structure in the UK. (The Shard is second). It is the 24th tallest tower in the world. (Wikipedia)
I have been interested in, and photographing, Emley Moor Transmitter for some time now. After my initial reading of the course material, I had thought that I would like to capture the ‘mast’ as part of my consideration for assignment 5, and so I began early in order to take advantage of the different seasons. However, following my research for part 4 of the course, I couldn’t help but see similarities in my attention to a significant landmark, to that of John Davies in his juxtaposition of Mount Fuji with the industrial landscape, and Perkins’ juxtaposition of it with ‘ordinary’ life. I therefore decided to re-visit Emley Moor as a possibility for exercise 4.5. I wanted to show this, the tallest building in the UK, and a significant attraction, as part of the everyday world for those who live under its shadow.
A Google search screen-grab showed me predictable images of the mast. Below, is a representative sample. I noticed first that all these images are taken in portrait orientation to enable the whole of the mast to be captured within the image. The majority of the images have a blue sky background, and the only context is provided by the countryside setting shown in some of the pictures. The viewer could be forgiven for believing that the mast was in the middle of no-where, remote and inaccessible. Some images are taken at night when the mast’s lights are on, but they remain, in every other way, just like all the others. The sheep in one image give something of a sense of scale, but otherwise, the images say very little about this magnificent building or the community in which it stands.
Inspired by John Davies and Chris Steel Perkins, I wanted to set the mast in context and, through my images, tell its story in terms of its position in Emley village. I wanted also to celebrate its ‘everydayness’ acknowledging it as more than just an attraction for non-locals and their cameras (acknowledging the obvious).
Before I come to the images taken for this exercise, I want to show an image that I took prior to starting this course:
Image taken prior to starting EYV course
It seems that my fascination with this building is not new. What is new, however, is my response to this image. At the time, I really liked this picture. I still do, but I am amused by my ‘cherry blossom’ approach. This image reminds me of the conventional images of Mount Fuji, surrounded by cherry blossom (course notes p 92). It seems that we are so conditioned to expect a particular visual language that we reproduce the convention automatically.
For this exercise, I have deliberately avoided using a portrait orientation for my images. I did not want to replicate a focus on the mast’s height to the exclusion of all other aspects of the building. I wanted to show it in context with the community, as a ‘given’, rather than a tourist attraction, and part of the everyday landscape.
In terms of creativity, I intended the mast to appear as an integral part of the setting, as incidental, and fragmented. I chose not to try to capture the whole mast in my images. Instead I show parts of it. My intention was to show it as ordinary: there, but not defining the village. My pre-course image shows that, for me, this is a significantly different approach. I would previously have, for example, avoided getting the bus-stop in my image, but here, I wanted to show that the tower does not interfere with the ordinary activities of the people of Emley. Life for the locals is just the same as anywhere else. I think that I have successfully imagined an alternative view of the transmitter, challenging the conventional representation. I have ‘invented’ a different perspective, which I hope would be complimentary and pleasing to the villagers in its portrayal of their home as more than just the site of the mast – as a place for leisure, and work, a place to live and enjoy. This exercise, as with all the others, pushed me in terms of my comfort zone. I tried to include people in some of my images and this involved asking for consent – the scooter riders were happy to oblige. The security man declined, which is a shame since I think image 4 would have been better had he been visible in his office, perhaps leaning out of the window. However, he too was very obliging and accompanied me so that I could get up close to the tower to take my photographs. It is seriously dizzying at a close distance.
This exercise is a personal response to a fairly long term interest in Emley Moor Transmitter, perhaps timely also since there are plans to begin massive renewal works, including the building of a new structure.
Image 1 – final selected image – ‘What mast?’
What I liked about this image was the way in which the mast appears almost totally incidental. It is possible that these riders chose this location for their pit-stop, because of the mast, but then again, maybe they didn’t. I chose a landscape orientation and a wide focal length so as not to deliberately emphasise the height of the tower, which is consequently only shown in part. Interestingly, the fact that the top of the tower is out of the frame may actually add to the sense of height. Unlike the scene-grab images, my tower is not the only interest point. There is a sense of context and perspective, and a challenge to the conventional image that suggests that the tower is remote and inaccessible.
Below are other images I took in preparation for my selection. I drove several miles to view the mast from all directions and to get a feel about how it is seen by the people who live in the area.
Image 2 ‘Tea and tower’
Image 3 ‘Street furniture’
Image 4 ‘Not the only building’
Image 5 ‘More than just a photo opportunity’
Image 6 ‘We still catch the bus’
Image 7 ‘Life like everyone else’s’
It would be interesting to talk to residents about their views of the mast. I have, over the past few months, spoken to one local man who was at the mast at the same time as me on a previous shoot, and to the security officer who was so helpful while I was taking my images for this exercise. These people seemed to know everything there is to know about Arqiva Tower, and to enjoy telling me about it. Perhaps it is both incidental and hugely significant at the same time.
Emley Moor transmitting station (2017) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emley_Moor_transmitting_station (Accessed: 25 February 2017).
MicrosoftPrivacy (2017a) Emley moor transmitter – Bing images. Available at: https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=emley+moor+transmitter&qpvt=emley+moor+transmitter&qpvt=emley+moor+transmitter&qpvt=emley+moor+transmitter&FORM=IGRE (Accessed: 25 February 2017).