Published July 2019
195 x 250mm; 208pp
Hardback with laser cut jacket
More about this project
SPOOR comprises groups of colour photographs made by Roger Palmer while following rail routes between towns and settlements of South Africa. The photographs were accumulated between 2014 and 2018 as Palmer drove along mostly minor roads through the country’s nine provinces.
A ‘spoor’ is the track or scent of an animal or person. In Afrikaans it also refers to rail tracks (South Africa’s rail network, used to be called Spoornet). The title of the book suggests acts of following and shadowing determined by these mostly defunct rail routes, many of which are now used as footpaths between township and town.
Over the course of the project Palmer stopped at around 550 places to make pictures. From these 83 images are presented in ten series. Each series is introduced by a double page of station place-names arranged according to their locations on an otherwise absent national map. Isolated in darkness, these seemingly random configurations of places constitute Palmer’s selection of picture series, the sites of which may be close to each other or separated by vast distances.
Some of the place-names are those of regional centres including several that have been re-named in the post-apartheid era. Others refer only to the faded railway signage that preserves their fragile status as places. SPOOR concludes with a ‘map’ showing the distribution of all photographic locations that contributed to the project.
SPOOR is a continuation of Palmer’s work, focusing primarily on photography and other media to address concepts of place and placelessness, location and dislocation, migration and settlement.
Roger Palmer was born in Portsmouth, studied Fine Art at Portsmouth and Chelsea Schools of Art and has worked as an artist and teacher since the 1970s. His work has been the subject of numerous international solo and group exhibitions, including most recently ‘Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain, 1966-1979′ (2013) a touring exhibition organised by the Arts Council. In 1987, he was awarded the Bill Brandt Prize for ‘Precious Metals’, the first of several projects made in South Africa. His books include Precious Metals (1986), International Waters (2000), Overseas (2004), Circulation (2012), Jetty (2014) and Phosphorescence (2014). Palmer is presently Emeritus Professor at the University of Leeds where he was Chair of Fine Art from 2005-2012. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland.