Dwelling on Counter-Cultural Identity

Untitled, South east Spain. 2006/7. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled, South east Spain. 2006/7. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

I began my practice based research at the University of the Arts, London and transferred to Royal Holloway this October to situate it within the wonderful world of cultural geography. My photographic practice concerns how place indicates, affects and is designed to convey identity. I am interested in the notion that places and spaces resonate with histories and relationships to people and that our interventions, actions and doings are ephemeral. I hope to convey these preoccupations through photography. Examples of my work can be seen in my book concerning the interior spaces of the United Nations in New York ( The U.N.Building. Thames and Hudson 2005) and in the permanent collections of the V&A. My current practice and research is focussed on the construction of counter-cultural identity through dwelling space and habitat. I am really looking forward to continuing my research within this vibrant department and aim to make a positive contribution to the development of approaches to cultural geography.

RESEARCH

A PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY OF MIGRANT COUNTER CULTURAL IDENTITY THROUGH PLACE AND SPACE. A CASE STUDY FROM SOUTH EAST SPAIN.

In a remote mountainous region of south-east Spain individuals gather from other parts of the world to live outside mainstream society. Identities are reinforced through coexistence in loosely structured, transient, self-regulating, intentional communities. Their makeshift dwellings, possessions and surroundings act as deliberate architectural symbols of rejectionist ideologies.This practice based research aims to demonstrate that dwelling and habitat are implicitly linked to the expression of identity. Using large format analogue photography and its ability to draw out detail and allow for neutral observation the work explores the complexities of particular rejectionist identities and offers new understanding about migrant counter-culture. Acknowledging the work of photographers who have examined intentional communities employing an ethnographic approach and other photographers who have focussed on alternative communities’ harmony with nature, and writers who have explored subcultures this research examines different types of international rejectionist identities which have come together in a foreign land. It does this primarily through a study of their self constructed dwellings and habitat. The practice is reinforced and interpreted with theory concerned with place, space and identity. I am also interested in developing a phenomenological perception of the subject matter within the photographs to gain understanding.

KEY QUESTIONS

How is migrant counter-cultural identity defined, expressed and reinforced through type of makeshift dwelling?

How can photography work to give new understanding about migrant counter-cultural identities through studies of place and space?

What compromises, homoginisations, disfunctions, paradoxes and tensions exist if any in the construction and manifestations of these identities?

Copyright Ben Murphy, 2014

Untitled. South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy, 2014

Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled. South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled. South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled, South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled, South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Copyright Ben Murphy, 2014

Untitled. South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy, 2014

Copyright Ben Murphy. 2014

Untitled. South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy. 2014

Untitled,South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled,South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled,South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

Untitled,South East Spain. Copyright Ben Murphy 2014

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2 thoughts on “Dwelling on Counter-Cultural Identity

  1. Justine says:

    Hello Ben, I am in the process of writing an Anthropological dissertation ‘Alternative Living Spaces’ I have done some background research and spent two weeks living in a yurt with a community in Norfolk as ‘participant observer’ and acquired 6 interviews from informants. I have been defeated when trying to find comparative ethnographies. Do you have any recommendations/resources that might cover ‘alternative living spaces’ (the physical structures ie. yurts,vans, etc.) and ‘alternative living spaces’ ie. living in communities? Anything near would be appreciated and good luck with your research.

  2. Justine says:

    Not sure if this is of interest and you may already know of it

    Riches, D., 2003. Counter-Cultural Egalitarianism: a comparative analysis of New Age and other’alternative’communities. Culture and Religion, 4(1), pp.119-139.

    Interesting analogies I thought.

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