Barrow Island, Cumbria
The twelve images I would send to the magazine editor.
My opening shot: The juxtaposition of soft focus and sunlit windows of the houses against the harsh barrier of the barbed wire fence creates visual tension. My intention here is to convey the conflict of residents remaining in their homes, in their town, regardless of the hardship and steep decline in employment.
I captured this young lad leaning against the wall in the empty street under the nuclear sign. Afterwards I approached him and he told me he used to work “here” but the jobs are long gone.
Some of the luckier lads on their lunch break.
This shot captures the spirit of the children of Barrow Island – innocent, playful and divorced from the real world.
The eye is immediately drawn to the discarded chair in this back alley, conveying a sense of deprivation. Bright blue fencing draws attention to the fact that beyond is strictly out-of-bounds. A clear contrast between public space and private space.
My favourite shot. I feel this image is very emotive and poignant. The boy’s face is hidden, leaving the viewer to read his body language.
I selected this image for the composition as well as the subject – the many satellite dishes, the concrete posts (more barriers?). What is going on with the subject is not obvious and leaves the viewer to draw their own conclusions.
I took several shots using varying focal lengths. I selected this one as I like how it puts the subject in context and conveys the tenement building as solid yet fragile – mirroring the community as a whole.
Picking up on the exercises leading up to this assignment, “figure small”. The image shows the scale of the tenement block and delayed reaction as the figure is spotted walking out of the frame.
Every picture tells a story………
This shop had only closed down one month prior to my visit. To me it speaks of tradition and unchanging values, resistance to the pace of the modern world. I like how the tilting signpost depicts the instability of the docks.
Bill, now retired on ill-health, served in the shipyard for 45 years. No escape though as the Devonshire Dock Hall (the tallest building in Cumbria) looms large over the sanctuary of his allotment.
The final six
This is the order I would present them in the magazine. I would name the article
Assessment and reflection
- What did I set out to achieve? I wanted to produce something a little different from the norm and give myself more of a challenge. Feedback from my last formal assessment, (The art of photography), was “Little evidence of risk-taking with a few imaginative outcomes”. I also aimed to incorporate my learning from the exercises within the module “People interacting with place”.
- The character of the place? For me it was important to have to have a sense of empathy with the place and to consider how it affected me. I would describe Barrow Island as a traditional, industrial, tight-knit community that has not moved forward with the times. Economic hardship and declining population is very evident. The buildings are impressive, unforgiving yet fragile and crumbling. The streets mostly deserted. All of these things leave me with a nagging concern, a sadness and hope that life will get better for the proud Barrovians.
- I hope my images succeed in conveying the above. I have spent a good deal of time on Barrow Island, chatting to the few folk I could find and pouring long and hard over the resulting numerous shots I brought home with me. One of my big successes was an increase in confidence in approaching people to gain permission to take their photo. I now accept that the worst that could happen is they tell me where to go! Time and access were not an issue for me, my biggest challenge was finding people to photograph! Even on a sunny Saturday in the school holidays, I was pushed to find many residents. Initially I found myself orientated towards street photography, attempting to “capture the moment”, some successes but many discarded images too.
- The hardest task of all was compiling a shortlist of just twelve images. Decision making is not one of my finer points – images were shortlisted and then eliminated, then returned to the pot several times over. I am still wanting to offer more than twelve photos. My learning from this is to keep returning to the brief and not become swayed by “strong images” too remote from the subject. I also understand and appreciate that all art is open to interpretation, therefore I needed to be creative in my thinking.
- How would I have approached the assignment if I’d simply been taking photographs with no end result in mind? I guess my approach would have been more loose, more street photography style, any strong and interesting shots would have made it into the final twelve…or twenty…. or more. My research would not have been so thorough and I would have been more relaxed about the whole thing. Would the final selection have been as strong and cohesive? I doubt it. Being given a set brief, basically told what to do, be disciplined…well that’s a tricky call for me! But, I’ve no doubt in my mind this method will always produce more effective results.