Seeds for the Hadrian’s Wall working group were sown when Judith Thorpe and Janet Pritchard arrived at the University of Connecticut in fall 2001, a time of tremendous change in the application of digital technology to photography. Deborah Dancy and Ray DiCapua, long standing members of the department with a history of cross-media practice, were open to new ways of working. UConn Digital Atelier, a digital photography new-works workshop modeled after printmaking ateliers such as Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque N.M., brought them closer. UConn Digital Atelier, launched to foster the adoption of new technologies in the department of Art + Art History, was generously supported by Mamiya America Corp. with B.K. Hipsher as point and Barry Burstein acting behind the scenes, and then School of Fine Arts Dean David G. Woods standing with us all the way. Art + Art History hosted a weeklong workshop for faculty and graduate students; Mamiya provided medium-format digital cameras, lighting systems, and technicians. Each participant had a half-day studio time with an assistant and technician. We ran three studios full-tilt for the week. Over the summer work was edited for large format prints and then prepared for exhibition. UConn Digital Atelier took place in 2005, 2007, and 2011. Out of this the culture of the department changed, four of us “clicked,” and we continue to explore the possibilities of digital photography for making and sharing visual ideas.
Our conversation took on a new fluidity as we adopted first iPads, then iPhones. We recognized our working group more formally in fall 2013 when we exhibited Forty-Eight by Four, a six by eight grid of undifferentiated photographs selected from our ongoing conversations, at the Wm. Benton Museum of Art. Ray and Janet (with Prof. Deibler) presented at Teaching and Learning with the iPads, a 2013 conference at the Neag School of Education. The depth of our commitment to this process was growing. A School of Fine Arts (SFA) grant helped fund our first trip to northern England in May 2014. On return we filled a thirty-two foot wall with an outpouring of photographs of Hadrian’s Wall, Roman Fort Vindolanda, Roman artifacts, and glimpses of everyday life in the field at the Wm. Benton Museum of Art. The response to this exhibition confirmed outside interest in our work. Later that fall we presented in panel format at the Society for Photographic Education Northeast Regional Conference.
2015 saw everyone in the group concentrating on their individual work until later in the year. A group residency at the Millay Colony in November brought us together to begin laying plans for a limited edition portfolio scheduled for 2018 production. Partial funding from a second SFA grant secured a return visit in May/June of 2016. While in Northumberland we prioritized working in archives to extend our interest in artifacts, but walks on the wall were mixed in with a few more recent regional historical sites from the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries as well. A panel presentation at the Vindolanda Trust Headley Center gained new fans for the work and in future we hope to collaborate with the Hexham and District Photographic Society. Our work together continues as we explore the changing landscape of digital art making across disciplines.
In May 2018, we returned to Northumberland to continue field work, visit new and old sites, and network with curators to engage their collections. The artists gave a public lecture titled “Like a Whisper” at the Hedley Centre, and taught a one-day workshop sponsored by Vindolanda Trust entitled “Capturing History” during which we walked the Walltown Quarry section of Hadrian's Wall. While there we presented a copy of a special limited-edition portfolio of Like A Whisper: Time On The Land consisting of images specifically selected to focus on subjects of particular interest to the Vindolanda Trust, our UK sponsor.