For this assignment I am concentrating on telling moments and on “explaining” the activity. I knew where and what I wanted to photograph but I decided not to plan or give too much thought to what I might photograph. Robert Frank said, ‘the project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic.’ . Dorothea Lange believed that ‘to know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting.’ 
I chose to photograph construction workers on a major highway improvement project. However due to adverse weather and the need for an official to find the time to conduct a health and safety induction, the visit was delayed.
Therefore, in the mean time, for practice and to gain experience, I set about producing an alternative – a visit to a preserved steam railway. These are the initial shots I took on the day, they were taken randomly as and when I spotted an opportunity.
Focusing on telling moments and “explaining” the activity, this was my final choice.
A happy chappy, clearly he enjoys his role. By chatting to John I found out that he has been volunteering on the railway for just over twenty years.
I couldn’t resist this shot. The gent from the ticketing office using his mobile phone to check the progress of the due steam locomotive. A traditional setting with modern technology!
I included the above shot along with the shot below because although they are of the same subject, there is a time-lapse. Above shows the driver waiting in anticipation for the signal to proceed out of the station.
A few moments later, on the move, showing an expression of satisfaction and pride.
An action shot. The signal to proceed with the focus here being on the eyes.
A smile from the stationmaster as the train pulls away. Everything has gone to plan.
Another engine arrives at the station. A well earned rest for the driver, still clutching his rag as he chats to an enthusiast.
I like the expression on this fireman’s face in this shot. I managed to capture some reflection in the shiny bodywork of the engine.
The end of the day, chatting to visitors.
My focus for this set of photographs was on the “staff” of volunteers rather than the visitors to the railway. I am happy with my selection of activity shots, maybe I could have looked for more “telling moment” opportunities. I am aware that I have two of the same subject, in similar poses, my reason for this is that they each give a different (admittedly only slight), expression. If these photos were given to a magazine for an article, I would submit them both to allow the editor to make the final decision.
Some of my shots have suffered. It was a sunny day and there were lots of shadows and brightly lit faces to contend with. One or two images do have some glare due to me shooting into the sun. These shots were mostly spur of the moment and I didn’t consider adjusting my camera settings. I need to work on this before I return to the construction site to shoot photos for the assignment.
Assignment work – my shoot on the construction site.
This was a good day to visit the site, the multi-million pound construction project had just been halted due to a “find” by the on-site archaeology team. I had to work quickly as the contractors were keen to finish the job – it was Friday afternoon! I commenced by shooting what I could, when I could. I didn’t give too much thought to sequence because at this stage, I wasn’t sure what activity I would capture. I took around 90 photos, here is my first edit.
When the archaeologists’ dig stopped play, I focused predominately on the reaction of the construction workers. I feel I have selected the strongest images to portray the event as it unfolded.
Possibles for my assignment
Under instruction to mark out the boundaries quickly.
A pose that speaks volumes, none to happy about work being stopped in its tracks. The driver also has his head down, dispirited.
Workers told to “down tools”.
I’ve included this image because it shows what is happening to the side of the highway, the archaeologists at work.
A close up, the archaeologist works slowly and carefully.
His efforts are rewarded. Bones of a Roman skeleton are revealed.
Careful transfer of a soil sample taken from around the Roman remains.
Meanwhile, the construction workers look on, but is it with interest, indifference or impatience?
Smiling once more – back to work lads!
My assessment of assignment two.
I was lucky on the day in that a natural story was formed. This proves the point that one should not go out on a shoot with a firm plan in mind.
At the back of my mind is always the reminder that I need to be more creative and try different angles and approaches, but when the project is around moments and capturing action as it happens, all my “arty” ideas go out of the window! The day was dull and overcast and the workers’ protective clothing bright and visual, at times I lost “the moment” in attempt to adjust my camera settings. The other technical aspect I need to consider is my inclination not to show the context and assume the viewer needs no explanation.
The telling moments I have captured are particular reactions and expressions. Explaining activity is hopefully obvious in that the photos speak for themselves, therefore I have included only a little narrative by way of loose, lighthearted comments. My aim was to show people really engaging with something and I think I have succeeded with this set of photographs.
1. Dyer, G. (2012). The Ongoing Moment. Canongate, Edinburgh.
2. Frank, R. (2008). (special edition). The Americans. Steidl, Germany