The Orphaned Spaces: Still Lives

The Orphaned Spaces, still life booklet (c) Dunlin Press
The Orphaned Spaces, Still Lives booklet

Our latest book, The Orphaned Spaces, collates a number of different styles of photography and illustration, in different sections detailing the flora and fauna discovered on real areas of edgeland, brownfield sites and waste ground. Still Lives is one such section.

Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.
Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.

Yarrow, ragwort, plantain, mallow… these are the plants we often overlook, but do much to define the ecology of our wilder spaces. In The Orphaned Spaces, we greet them with photography, fine art, illustration and prose.

Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.
Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.

Taking the form of an A5, 148-page book and/or made-to-order box setThe Orphaned Spaces is an illustrated exploration of overlooked areas of natural beauty – edgelands, ex-industrial, derelict and brownfield sites, and the sometimes rare flora and fauna that is found there.

More than a nature book, it is a rumination on life, loss and time, through the prism of liminal spaces captured in moments between dilapidation and regeneration.

Hand-stitched still lives booklet
Hand-stitched Still Lives booklet, The Orphaned Spaces.
The Orphaned Spaces, still lives section.
The Orphaned Spaces, still lives section.

Originally the botanical still life photography was intended for our own personal research purposes. As part of our artistic process, we often make visual records when putting together our publications. We find visual research very effective in distilling a mood, capturing sometimes overlooked idiosyncrasies of a place or object; it’s generally a good resource to draw from when writing or illustrating.

As we’ve mentioned previously, The Orphaned Spaces started off small and has grown into a larger continuing project, as well as the book and limited edition box set.

Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.
Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.

The botanical photographs were created with plants and flowers gathered in the spring and summer from various edgelands and brownfield sites we visited over the course of our research. Inspired by Japanese ikebana, the plants were arranged starkly (sometimes with the help of wire and tape) on a plain, neutral background, to look like they are growing in isolation, and shot quickly.

Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.
Botanical still life, The Orphaned Spaces.

The book and box set feature an edited selection of these photographs, however we are also amassing a growing library of images, now with various pioneer plants and botanicals gathered in autumn and winter. Perhaps these will lend themselves to an exhibition at some point in the future.

You can buy The Orphaned Spaces book and box set at our Dunlin Press shop.

Indie publishing and the joy of small things

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Why? That’s the question. Why would anyone in their right minds set up an independent publishing house and run it from a little office in a little old fishing town in little old Essex, and then decide to publish a book that combines beautiful illustrations of migratory wading birds with descriptions of the geography and habitat of the places where they make their temporary homes – from the Arctic circle to Africa – and then add in some meditations about conservation and human migration, touching on the big issues of refugees and the war-torn parts of this world? Why? Why? Why?

Well, because we can. As a small indie publisher we’re not fighting with the big guys who are looking after their margins, set against huge outlays and large potential audiences. We’re not shouting for virtual shelf space on Amazon or setting out our stall to lure in the readers of blockbuster genre fiction. We know we are niche. It’s nice being niche. It’s the reason we’re called Dunlin Press – we’re the little guys feeding in the margins. We’re not looking to be mainstream.

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Our first book, Est: Collected Reports From East Anglia (£9.99) is an evocation of a region – as its title hopefully suggests. But it’s not a local history book, or a travelogue, or a collection of local poets or other writers – although it includes all of these things. Est is more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t set out to define East Anglia, in fact a better description, perhaps, is that it ‘dedefines’ the region. East Anglia, by the end of the book, dissolves – crumbles into the sea.

And so our second book, The Migrant Waders (£12.99), was never going to be simply a nature book or an ornithological guide. Alongside contributions from the RSPB and BTO there is poetry; alongside micro-histories of human migrations there is psychogeography and words from the Refugee Council. And those lovely drawings.

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The migrations of humans and wading birds aren’t always entwined, of course. But the reasons that humans and birds take flight are remarkably similar. It’s about finding a safe place to make a home. And, by the way, those beautiful birds really do follow a flight path to locations where human history has often been one of turmoil and war. It really can be quite sobering.

We made The Migrant Waders because we can. There really is no other book quite like it.