Train journeys can be liminal.

I’m shifted; removed from the environment of home, travelling towards another kind of space. Somewhere between leaving and arriving I transmute into another version of myself; one with different roles and responsibilities. Structure isn’t absent on a train – rules of conduct remain – but within this it offers time-out from normal life to spend as one sees fit.

I’m placed, temporarily, in the cracks between the different aspects of my life, transported through countryside and town, lulled into a semi-meditative state by sound, motion and flickering light. I use the time as I wish – sleep, read, people-watch, day-dream, imagine, create. I can adopt any guise – any personality – I wish. Other forms of travel (such as car journeys) don’t have this effect as they’re too distracting and require too much concentration to allow a liminal state to emerge.

To use a train journey to create art, I suspect I must reach a liminal state if the work is to be as open, exploratory, inventive and effective as possible.

Given this, train journeys are crucial to this project.


I want to investigate my new photographic work in more detail to understand what’s driving it. I’ll do this by asking myself a series of questions.

Question 1: what is liminal space?


The ‘threshold of a physiological or psychological response.’(1)
‘Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.’(2)
‘Situated at a sensory threshold, hence barely perceptible.’(3)

Victor Turner’s notion of liminal space suggests ambiguity and ambivalence, an in-between place that allows the ‘active exchanges of ideologies, concepts and methods of working.’ It indicates ‘transition from one state or space to another, an on-going search for answers’ even if the end point remains unclear. Liminal space can be ‘read as a metaphorical realm where ideas and concepts: artistic, political, cultural, social or otherwise, are in constant states of contestation and negotiation.’(4)

For Victor Turner, liminality:

‘Is one of the most visible expressions of anti-structure in society. Yet even as it is the antithesis of structure, dissolving structure and being perceived as dangerous by those in charge of maintaining structure, it is also the source of structure. Just as chaos is the source of order, liminality represents the unlimited possibilities from which social structure emerges. While in the liminal state, human beings are stripped of anything that might differentiate them from their fellow human beings—they are in between the social structure, temporarily fallen through the cracks, so to speak, and it is in these cracks, in the interstices of social structure, that they are most aware of themselves. Yet liminality is a midpoint between a starting point and an ending point, and as such it is a temporary state that ends when the initiate is reincorporated into the social structure.’(5)

Liminality delivers freedom of movement but its cost is a lack of stability. The routes out of liminality are to either be absorbed back into the social structure or to shun it all together. Most people only exist in a liminal state for short periods. It creates a situation where you don’t belong anywhere, which as social animals we’re poorly equipped to survive.(6)

1 Wikipedia,, accessed 18th March 2015

2 Oxford Dictionaries,, accessed 18th March 2015

3 Wikipedia,, accessed 18th March 2015

4 Credited to Ann Lauterbach & Lim Le Ann,, accessed 18th March 2015

5 C. La Shure,, accessed 18th March 2015


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This work investigates marginal spaces; overlooked places encountered on a journey to somewhere else. It consists of a series of photographs taken using a mobile phone camera whilst travelling at speed in a train or car, so framing a shot is a more matter of chance than control. They capture energy, motion, light and colour, producing theatrical shots where much of what’s depicted is mysterious and ambiguous.

I think they need to be shown as multiples – one alone won’t work – a flickering view glimpsed as a journey unfolds. They might work as an online exhibition, a series of film stills or a set of postcards. In a gallery, they could be offered strung out in a simple line.

The work involves lots of editing – taking masses of pictures and discarding most of them until I’m left with just a few that I can’t bear to lose. Currently, I’ve whittled things down to this last nine but maybe more should go?

I’m unsure about scale. The postcard sized test was too small to show fine details. I’ve printed another one at 33 x 45 cm – a definite improvement, but could possibly go still larger, although the resolution of the shots might preclude this. It’s on cotton rag so has a matt watercolour feel about it.

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