Storying Sheffield

Of Other Space

By ET. 

My idea of photographic narrative fragments consisting of personally written poems and presented against the space of their subject matter was influenced by a book I read a few years back titled The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. In the novel, the narrator Lennie comes to terms with her sister’s death and the confusing stages of grief through writing inscriptions on a bunch of objects ­ coffee cups, napkins, trees, pieces of paper. These jottings include conversation recordings, poems, short stories, quotes, et cetera. This kind of journaling enables Lennie to keep her sister Bailey alive in her mind and helps to soften her profound sorrow. In this way it can be likened to the cathartic exercise of writing in a diary. The idea which really struck me was the notion that Lennie’s journalling was in essence a set of heterotopias, an internal world inside the real world. They are simultaneously physical, being fragments scattered around her environment, and mental in that it is fragments of her imagination and memory.

Sheffield is a city built on the concept of ‘emplacement’, a term Michel Foucault describes as the relation spaces have to each other in their contradictory nature, for example in the juxtapositions of urban/rural, public/private, sacred/profane, protected/open. This amalgamation of contrary themes is immediately tangible within Sheffield in the contrast of the natural greenery of the Peak District which encompasses the city’s landscape and the urban threshold of the centre, which is in comparison very concrete and signals the city’s industrial heritage. However, my poems focus on the internal space of my mind, contrasted with the physical environment they focus on. The poems separate the readers or viewers from the concept of time. To elaborate, each poetic fragment represents an accumulation of time from my first being in Sheffield to now. The pieces are also equally transient, as the objects the poetic texts are written on are no longer at the location they were captured at after the completion of this project. Alongside this, the poems reflect on a fleeting moment, thought or emotion in time.

What was interesting about these sites was not only the space they have in my heart but the shared experience Sheffielders have. They also serve as actualised utopias, so much so they reflect the city in a perfected form which you may not find elsewhere. Take the Cathedral for example, which is a prayerful place surrounded by the commercialism and frivolity of Fargate. Therefore it can be seen as a representation of a utopia, reflecting Sheffield in a perfected light. The Weston Park band stand embodies a heterotopia because it is a ritualistic space ­ music must be played to enter and it defies time because it still stands despite fulfilling no clear function.

Of Other Space

Floating Bandstand

Diamond Honeycomb

Little Nightmares

Sonder in the Station