Climate, Retrofitting and Photography: McCoy Wynne to Exhibit at COP26 Universities’ Innovation Showcase
Stephanie Wynne and Stephen McCoy explore the power of photography to tackle one of the UK’s biggest climate challenges: in a world increasingly impacted by a changing climate, how can our Victorian terrace housing stock be retrofitted to become energy efficient?
In 2021, Open Eye Gallery and University of Salford Art Collection awarded photography partnership McCoy Wynne a residency in collaboration with Salford Energy House to explore positive solutions to the climate crisis. A selection of images from the resulting photography project, titled Are You Living Comfortably?, will be included in the COP26 UK Universities’ Climate Innovation Showcase.
‘We are very pleased that Are You Living Comfortably? has been chosen to be exhibited as part of this crucial conference for all our futures,’ say McCoy Wynne. ‘Collaborating with scientists at the Energy House gave us the opportunity to consider the small, household, energy saving, modifications we can all make to help address the detrimental issues of climate change.’
The images were developed in collaboration with the engineers and scientists at Salford Energy House, the world’s first full sized, two bedroom, brick built terraced house constructed inside an environmentally controllable chamber. ‘Are You Living Comfortably? is all about storytelling,’ says Lindsay Taylor of the University of Salford Art Collection. ‘These images tell the story of how the innovative work of our scientists relates to our everyday lives. Sometimes that research can come across as quite dry, however McCoy Wynne visually represent the experiments in a way we can all relate to.’
Mccoy Wynne observed how engineers and scientists at Energy House tested insulation and heat transferal technologies to provide clarity on what works and how well it works – essential know-how for professional in the housing sector, but also for anyone able to invest in retrofitting their own property to reduce spiraling energy bills. Lindsay Taylor explains, ‘As we address the climate emergency it is so important to understand that there are small things that each of us can do that will make a difference. We’re excited that Are You Living Comfortably? is selected for this exhibition at COP26!’
Their images are coloured with reference to heat mapping as a data visualisation technique, adjusting the colour in each image to emphasise cold spots. They have created multi-layered lab images to tell a story, ghosting domestic scenes such as furniture and fireplaces over these technologies and lab equipment, with green landscapes visible through windows to hint at the direct correlation between energy use and carbon capture. ‘The Energy House is a traditionally built house, that is – observed, analysed and measured,’ the photography partnership say. ‘We recreated it as a home giving it a new imagined life, introducing furniture and gardens etc. The details of this imagined world are semi-opaque to give a sense of reverie to a scientific study.’
However, the title of the project is poignant. For many of the poorest residents of Victorian terraced housing, the question is not one of how to best retrofit for energy efficiency, but how to ensure that the everyday energy costs of living can be managed.
McCoy Wynne are currently developing a brochure that alludes to estate agent brochures. It will explore Energy House 1 room by room, with text from Energy House scientist Dr Richard Fitton identifying measures to prevent heat loss and creating the correct level of thermal comfort. It provides tips across a spectrum of reducing energy use – from pulling curtains and covering floors, to brick cladding. ‘We hope that the pictures resonate with the public and help them to engage with the aims of Energy House,’ say Mccoy Wynne, ‘to make affordable and sustainable changes to their own homes, so we can all live comfortably.’
Are You Living Comfortably? series by McCoy Wynne, 2021