Stanley Chick

"The Oysters of Extractivism"

Section MS7, Sam Nightingale

Keywords: photography, extraction

This project sets out to critically engage with the medium of photography whilst exploring themes of extraction and the materiality of the image. Is it possible to make work both ‘of’ and ‘from’ a place?

Oysters have been fished commercially in the Carrick Roads for hundreds of years - always by hand and under sail power to preserve the sea beds. Upstream of the protected Carrick Roads is the Wheal Jane mine. The minerals extracted at this site are intrinsically intertwined with photography - required to produce developers, fixers, film, and the electronic components present in digital cameras.

The deactivation of the mine’s pumps in 1992 led to rising groundwater levels and flooding of the former shafts. This water washed over the exposed rock face, carrying the sediment and waste of over two hundred years of industrial activity before escaping into the surface water systems. Approximately 50 million litres of acidic metal-laden water (a toxic cocktail of iron, tin, and cadmium) flowed into the Carrick Roads and through these oyster beds before reaching Falmouth Bay.

Oysters absorb and extract the pollutants found in their habitat, encasing these minerals in their shells. In this way, oysters record the quality of the water and any environmental events that have occurred. I have developed a series of unique cyanotype prints exposing oysters from the Carrick Roads onto sheets of handmade paper. I produced the prints by suspending the ground-down oyster shells in the pulp; in this way, the minerals extracted from the polluted waters are reintroduced before being brushed with the extracted iron solution required to make the cyanotype solution.

The intention is for these prints to be read as a translation of the ecological events, both natural (tidal surges, storms) and industrial (toxic pollutants from industrial extraction) present in this environment.