Landscape and Crisis in Northern England: The Representation of Communal Trauma in Film and Photography

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Communal trauma is a culturally constructed ascription. Social agents propose that disastrous events have had traumatic effects upon the communities affected. If this proposition is convincing, then these events become acknowledged as communal traumas, and those affected as traumatised. This thesis examines how two crises in northern England: the Foot and Mouth Disease (F.M.D.) epidemic in Cumbria in 2001, and the demise of the mining industry in County Durham from the late 1970s onwards, have been constructed as communal traumas. While the F.M.D. epidemic in Cumbria has been explicitly studied, and therefore constructed as traumatic in sociological studies, the crisis was also broadcast through landscape imagery in press and documentary photography. This thesis examines such imagery in the work of photographers Nick May, John Darwell and Ian Geering, and in the printed and television media, and assesses how it has also contributed to the idea of F.M.D. as a communal trauma. This is one of the original contributions of this thesis. Another is the examination of the disappearance of the mining industry in County Durham since the rationalisation of the late 1970s, as communal trauma. This demise also had devastating economic, social and cultural effects for the communities involved, but has seldom been construed as communally traumatic. However, the film and photography of Newcastle’s Amber art collective creates a narrative that suggests precisely this, and fundamental to that narrative is landscape imagery. Their collaboration with the communities experiencing the effects of this demise, and the exhibition of their films and photography back to that community has created a vision of traumatic social change that is both corroborated and constructed by those most affected. With a detailed examination of the imagery of these two specific crises in Northern England, this thesis examines how landscape has contributed to the cultural construction of trauma.
Original languageEnglish
  • Holt, Ysanne, Supervisor
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Jan 2011


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