A2 Planning and preparation

Photographing the unseen

 

Initial thoughts and ideas

I have given a lot of thought to my tutor feedback from assignment one to; “Think about your interests and passions. As a rule, your work will be more interesting the more it reflects your real interests.” Part two of the course “Narrative” has really made me think about moving my photography forward, in particular about being less literal in my images. I am keen to develop and experiment with my approach to portray symbolic and imaginative interpretation in my photography to give the reader a sense of something rather than a clear record of it.  I have enjoyed all the reading and referencing of photographers leading up to this Assignment, in particular the work of Duane Michals, more here Research of photographers (Context and Narrative). I am interested in the relationship between image and the creative use of text – how they interact with each other to develop strong visual impact.

This assignment brief is fairly open-ended to encourage the student to use their imagination. It asks what kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable and how one might go about portraying them using photography, with the objective of developing one of those ideas into a visually consistent series of 7-10 images.

For me photographing the unseen implies giving the reader just enough information to create their own narrative. Paul Seawright (1) points to the fact that it is a fine balance; too direct equals too explicit. Too ambiguous equals too obscure. I gave some thought as to what things are unseen and not photographable and came up with a list, some topics being very similar to that of other students.

  • Memory – Mum’s history passed down to me through her memories and story telling.
  • Dad – passed away, but still with me. Take a photograph of a photograph in original location. Use of props as symbols of our time together?
  • Atmosphere – as in the mood in a room, building or place. Can I capture the moment and visually represent something that I feel?
  • Beyond human vision – over the horizon, outer space, underground, under the microscope.
  • Thoughts – thinking out loud.  I could photograph the scene of a thought maybe…but this could be too ambiguous.
  • Aroma – I adore books, so the whiff of the paper from old books, that musty old bookshop smell.
  • Emotions – but there are so many, too broad a subject. I could photograph facial expression, but how would I be certain to capture what they are feeling?

Many of these ideas I found too broad to tackle in the suggested number of images.  More importantly I want to work on a subject that is more personally driven, evocative. The idea of My Dad would be a powerful story (for me), but perhaps too poignant …. maybe a future project.

Chosen subject

I have settled on my Mother’s history. This is a huge topic and one I have been researching for many years. I have selected a small, but significant, segment of her life for this assignment. So first a little background…..

Mum is 88 years old, she has dementia and lives in a very caring nursing home, she is comfortable and happy in her own world.  She does though still has vivid memories of dreadful incidents from her early childhood.  Mum is Czechoslovakian who along with her mother and four siblings escaped the Nazi invasion in 1938. Her father was arrested and taken to concentration camp for “Protected Custody”. Following two dangerous failed attempts to escape and several months later, a long train journey, they finally arrived in England in July 1939.  Mum, then aged eleven, the eldest of five, still recalls the trepidation of arriving in a new country. But there were happier times – freedom to play again, new friends, kindness and support. The family thrived on hope, hope that one day, when the war was over they would return to their homeland and see their father again. Sadly that was not to be. He was murdered in Auschwitz.

I have chosen a location that has a strong connection to my Mum, Patterdale in Cumbria. Of the many hostels they were moved to Patterdale Hall was the place she felt the most settled and free. My aim is to visit Patterdale and walk through the area, in particular the grounds where Mum spent so much of her time.

Kreissl family Patterdale

Mum (2nd left) with her mother and four younger siblings. Patterdale Hall, 1940

I want to connect to Mum’s past by exploring visually and more importantly sense emotionally. In terms of executing the assignment, apart from requesting permission to access the grounds of the main hall, there is no agenda, it will be what it will be. My images will reflect spontaneity based on heartfelt intuition and memories, unseen but not un-photographable.

Research and influences

Marianne Hirsch
Before continuing I read Marianne Hirsch (2). She is mostly concerned with the memories of the holocaust in relation to family history. Hirsch has recognised that as one of the generation whose parents were holocaust survivors she has no direct memories of the event, but that the inherited stories – traumatic and vivid, have been passed on verbally and visually through recollection and photographs.  To differentiate between direct memory and received memory Hirsh uses the term Postmemory. She explains; “Postmemory’s  connection to the past is not actually mediated by recall but by imagination, investment, projection and creation.” She adds; Postmemory is distinguished from memory by generational distance and from history by deep personal connection. As second generation I have first hand experience of this and feel deeply connected to Mum’s past.

“The Power of Now”
This was another influence, while chatting to a friend about my project idea, she recommended a book she had just read, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle (3). Although I have only dipped in and out of the book so far, I did identify relevant links to my assignment subject. Tolle points to the fact that “Nothing exists outside the Now”. What he is inferring is that nothing ever happened in the past, or in the future, only in the Now. It is taking me a while to get my head around it all (and I look forward to reading the whole book), but in essence what Tolle is saying is, when we think of the past we reactivate a memory trace, but we do this in the present, in the ‘Now’. This got me thinking about what I am doing for this assignment – transcending time, connecting my ‘Now’ by walking through my Mum’s ‘Now’ of 1940!

Barthes
I read Camera Lucida (Reflections on Photography). in Barthes’ theory of punctum he states “…..punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole….”.  “A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).” (4) I can relate to this in my images, this one in particular. (Larger image further down the page).

final-4

I love this poem by Giorgio Caproni, I feel it captures a powerful sense of  nostalgia, familiarity and remembrance:- “The Last Homecoming”.

I have returned there
where I had never been.
Nothing has changed from how it was not.
On the table (on the chequered
tablecloth) half full
I found again the glass
never filled. All
has remained just as
I had never left it.

Intent
My intent is to produce a narrative of transcending through time, connecting with my Mum’s past by being there in her ‘Now’. What is unseen are any thought processes – mine now and Mum’s then, as I walk over the same ground, observe the same scenes and feel the emotion. This is about demonstrating through photographs, a sense of place during a period of great disruption. It is about Postmemories, entering into Mum’s world through the eyes of a twelve year old.

My Mum’s history is a huge topic so I have selected a small, but significant, segment of her life based in Patterdale, Cumbria. This was the place she felt the most settled and free. This is about being my Mum.

By communicating through metaphors I hope to trigger the emotions and curiosity of the reader. There is nothing in the images to reveal anything about the complicated history of the subject. I want the images to speak for themselves, individually and as a cohesive series, allowing the reader to bring something to the story, to ask questions, seek to relate and understand.

Process 

DSC_5925 DSC_5926 DSC_5927 DSC_5929 DSC_5931 DSC_5935 - Copy DSC_5935 DSC_5937 - Copy DSC_5943  DSC_5979 DSC_5974 DSC_5998 DSC_6004 DSC_6006 DSC_6008 DSC_6012 DSC_6038 DSC_6040 DSC_6044   DSC_6049  DSC_6116  DSC_6117 DSC_6130  DSC_6162  DSC_6051  DSC_6052  DSC_6053  DSC_6056  DSC_6069  final-1  final-5  final-4  final-3  final-2 DSC_6169 - Copy DSC_5981 - Copy  DSC_6130

The image below was a “happy accident”. In experimenting to convey a feeling of time and entering into my Mum’s memories, her ‘now’, I decided to explore multiple exposure (in camera) and discovered the transparent imagery this can produce. By adding layers to the photograph this happy accident seemed to be a metaphor for fading memories and the moving of time.DSC_5926

Below: I asked a friend to assist as I shot pictures with her in them as multiple exposure images, these achieved the ghostly effect of transporting through time.

DSC_5929

Next my friend took similar shots with me in them. But a number of these needed retaking from a tripod (as in the image below), camera movement has created the distraction of many rooftops, the building has aged but not moved!

DSC_5927

Below: This picture is a metaphor for adult/child – my Mum as a twelve-year-old and me as an adult, looking into her life.  Linear perspective makes the figure in the distance appear smaller. The watcher is looking at someone who is child-like.

DSC_5928

Below: I was walking a path my Mum would have taken many times and it exuded a strong sense of familiarity.  This feeling is not portrayed in the photo, it is too solid, there is no relationship to time or history and the image is literal.

DSC_5945

 

I then looked at colour versus black and white. Colour spoke of the present and was distracting, it brought a different emotion, too current. Black and white brings in the detail, it suits the sense of time, nostalgia and history.

DSC_5935    DSC_5935 - Copy
Above: Putting myself in the position of a child, (my Mum speaks of playing hide and seek and rolling around in the long grass), I took this shot. A metaphor for hiding, a shelter and protection.

Most poignant for me is the image below, it connects with Barthes theory of  ‘punctum’ .  This image is punctuated by a hole, a prick, a highlighted area, but for me it is about that sudden gush of recall, recounting the fear of danger, hiding. I am now my Mum, an alien in a new country, peering through at the figures with apprehension, not knowing whether I have been observed. Am I safe? Are they friend or foe? The feeling is visceral, overwhelming and I move away quickly.

final-4

DSC_5981 - Copy
Again too literal. The hall with a group of children visible in the distance puts context to the series, but that is not what I am trying to achieve, it is telling and therefore not “unseen”.

DSC_6158 - Copy  DSC_6159 - Copy
I would like to include the clock showing time and no time, but these two images are too bold compared with the rest of my images. I am also thinking that it is too literal? I may return to Patterdale and retake this one…. to be discussed with my tutor.

 

Selection
Below in no particular order are the final images I am to select from, the ones I consider illustrate the theme metaphorically, but more importantly for me, viscerally. This body of work is my interpretation of what I experienced and felt. I am presenting the images in black and white to portray the sense the time. I have considered different effects, putting to use my learning from Part one “The manipulated image”. By gently manipulating my images to “finish” the intent I want to convey is just enough to trigger curiosity but not make them appear fabricated.

final-10Here I am using linear perspective and multiple exposure to suggest movement through time, for example the changing scale of the tress and the distant child-like figure. We are drawn to highlights in images, here the reader’s eye is drawn into the frame, to follow the adult figure in pursuit of what lies ahead. I am following in my Mum’s footsteps.

final-3This image was composed to capture the barbed wire and fence as the sun shines on the partly camouflaged building. I wanted to imply mixed emotions and conflict. Because I know Mum’s family history, this image evokes ‘Postmemories’ of concentration camps and seeking shelter and warmth.

final-9 Again using perspective, this photo is a metaphor for adult/child – for my Mum when she was twelve and me looking into her life. A double meaning, the adult is looking at someone child-like, reminiscing and/or engaged in a game of hide and seek. I selected this angle to include the tree to frame the picture.

final-7
The watcher or the seeker? Capturing an ephemeral existence, me moving through time, my Mum’s time, fading memories produced by transparent imagery. Framed against a cornerstone for anchorage.

final-6
Using a tripod, self timer and remote shutter release, my intent here is to portray the ball and chain and the horizontal bars of the gate as a barrier to freedom but beyond is light, hope. I also use shadow and light to enhance the black and white image.

final-5 This scene stopped me in my tracks as I wandered through the gardens. It reminded me of one of Mum’s recollections “running through ‘rhodi’ bushes and finding secret places to hide”. I wanted to capture the vagueness of the path, yet it exists along with the presence of absence of people.

final-4 Taken at a low wide angle through the shrubbery, I had the view of two people, not close enough to make out any detail, action or expression. It conveys warmth and comfort, This is about seeking familiarity.

final-2Steps often symbolise purpose and connection. Here they are well-worn and speak of the presence of many people, including my mother and her family seventy six years ago.

final-1
It was a warm and sunny day so I lay in the long grass as a child would do. I like the fact that I may be sharing a viewpoint that Mum had, as though she were behind the lens.

final-8 Again taken as though through a child’s perspective, a glimpse of the hall at the brow of a hill. This image is as much about what is outside the frame as what is visible.

final-spinningBy panning with my camera I was able to achieve what I see as a spinning effect. For me it speaks of childhood, my parents spinning me around in the park, but also the progression and compounding of time. I shot in colour then de-saturated the image to represent the overlapping of the time period. The blur is a metaphor for uncertainty, a curtain between me and a true understanding of what is was like for Mum. I want to include this photo as my disruptive image – Page 17 of the Narrative course module states that; You don’t have to conform to standard narrative approaches, but if you’re to push the boundaries it’s important to understand why you’re doing so…..

There was no agenda, it is what it is. I experimented with the layout and have chosen not to present the series sequentially as in a linear narrative, but in a random, loose fashion. My disruptive ‘spinning’ image placed centrally and larger than the rest, drawing the reader in and around the images. I captured the ‘spinning’ shot in colour then de-saturated it to represent the overlapping of time. The blur being a metaphor for lack of clarity, a curtain between me and a true understanding of what it was like for my Mum. The lack of order reflects spontaneity based on intuition and mixed emotions – unseen but not un-photographable.

Proposed layout
The series will not be presented sequentially as a linear narrative, but in a loose fashion to allow the reader space to view the narrative. Looking in from outside, then returning again to read each image individually at random, then as a cohesive set, ask questions, seek to relate and understand.

P1120781

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I wondered about the inclusion of text.  Several exercises in Part Two discussed captions and the inclusion of text with photographs,  the relationship between text and image. Should I add text to my images and guide the reader into a reaction, or do I want to blur the message and leave the narrative vague? My series could be left open for interpretation in a postmodernist style, or I could build in captions to steer the interpretation in an attempt to retain authorial control.  I printed the photos and displayed them on an easel so I could view them cohesively.

P1120752

 

This was when I recognised that the individual images needed no additional supporting material. I want the images to speak for themselves and the reader to ask questions.  By way of introduction I have included a piece of complementary narrative, not sure at this stage whether I would display it with the series (represented by the blank card on the display board)?

 

 

I also want to include a photograph of Mum and her family on arrival at Patterdale in 1940 and wonder whether to include it somewhere in my display………. I made a decision to add it to the text.

Escape was the only option-page0001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postmemory

 I find myself occupying the same space that she occupied, connecting to her thoughts and feelings. I feel the presence of absence, brittle fragments of laughter, singing and tears. The space is the same, it cannot change. I feel the emotions of her ‘now’ in 1939 – dread, familiarity, longing, warmth and finally love. In essence, our individual memories are woven together by stories told, traditional family albums, documents, memoirs, souvenirs and trinkets. This story is framed with photographs of my postmemories.

Escape was the only option. Her beloved Father could not be with them. Surviving on berries and mushrooms and if they were ‘lucky’, maybe bread and milk too. The family trudged by day and slept in barns by night. It was a big adventure for the little ones, hide and seek in the woods, hiding from the enemy. Eventually a long train journey brought them to a foreign land.  

She still has vivid memories recalling the trepidation of fleeing to a new country, the seesaw of emotions – uncertainty, laughter, apprehension, joy, sadness. But here there were happier times – freedom to play again, a safe haven, new friends, kindness and support. She thrived on hope, that one day they would return to their homeland. Sadly that was not to be.


A final check to see if I have met the criteria for a cohesive narrative.

  • What elements back up your central theme?  A postmodern approach, ambiguous and presented metaphorically.
  • What disrupts it? My ‘spinning’ photo, because it is part colour, part black and white and portrays movement.
  • Are there good reasons for this disruption? Yes. It portrays temporality, the crossover of time periods and encourages the reader to pause and question the series as a whole.
  • Do the images have a visual consistency that holds them together as a recognisable set? Black and white with one exception. Theme is clear based on a single location/setting – no rogue images out of context.

My final selected images for the assignment can be viewed under A2 Submission to tutor”.

References
1. Seawright, P. Available from: http://vimeo.com./76940827 [accessed 18th July 2016]
2. Hirsch, M. (2012). Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory.                 CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. England.
3. Tolle, E. (2016). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Yellow Kite. London.
4. Barthes, R. (1993). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Vintage Classics. Penguin, Random House. London.

 

 

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A5 Formal assessment submission

Client brief

Dales National Park Authority – Public Consultation bypass proposal

Introduction

Hawes is a thriving, picturesque market town of historical interest, with the added attraction of  two museums and its own waterfall in the village centre. On market days and busy summer weekends Hawes’ narrow arteries can get seriously clogged with traffic. Conflict with traffic in various forms is common throughout the town – commuter traffic,  tourist traffic, heavy goods vehicles, farmers auction traffic, local community and business traffic.  The protection of the unique character of this Dales market town can best be achieved by the provision of a bypass. To gauge support and objections for a bypass the Dales National Park Authority (NPA) propose to hold a public consultation exhibition in early March 2016.

Requirements

To produce 10 full colour quality photographs for consideration by the NPA for use on exhibition boards as part of the public consultation exercise.  The images should show the existing situation in the town, specifically the following;

  • Historical village setting
  • Narrow streets and pavements
  • Heavy goods vehicle usage
  • Market day congestion
  • Farmers Auction Mart traffic
  • Conflict between pedestrians and vehicles
  • Safety issues
  • Traffic impact on the environment

The deadline for photographic submissions is January 15th 2016.

Following tutor feedback and my reflection, and taking care to include the above points in the brief, I have reviewed and re-selected my images. I have also added captions based on the comments I gathered from the public (listed under planning and preparation tab).

Submission – 10 photographs

DSC_3694

Historical village setting

 

Narrow streets and pavements

 

“There needs to be a ban on HGVs travelling through Hawes on market days”

 

6

“More footpaths or “traffic-free zones” (particularly Market Place and cobbled area).”

 

“Some people are parking their vehicles straddling both the road and pavement, forcing pedestrians into the road.”

 

“Illegal on-street parking means nowhere for goods vehicles to unload.”

 

“Bus stops need to be set back from the road (in a lay-by) for safety.”

 

“Road safety risks – especially for children, the elderly and disabled.”

 

“Lots of pollution and noise from HGVs and farm vehicles.”

 

“I would like a pedestrian crossing on the main street.”

 

Reflection

How well did I succeed in my aim?

I have completed the task I set myself, in that I have produced 10 images that convey the key issues as laid out in the brief. I believe I have provided a clear visual representation to support argument for the need of a bypass of Hawes.

Something I had not expected was my increased confidence, built up from the street photography exercises, proved to be a huge boost when moving through the busy town to capture candid shots. I was also able to recall my earlier learning of “capturing the moment” to produce to true look and feel of the impact of the heavy traffic and congestion in this rural setting.  Likewise I took care to consider the framing, composition and natural lighting conditions which varied considerably throughout the day.

Not being much of a disciplinarian, the task of following a client brief, sticking to it and producing good quality images to meet the requirements of the brief is a step in the right direction for me!

Unforseen difficulties and opportunities

Challenges: This assignment was more time-consuming than I had anticipated. Initially I was out shooting for the best (and worst!) part of the day. I had pre-planned the shots I was aiming for and was therefore able to set up my camera and tripod and select suitable viewpoints. However, the main challenge I had omitted to plan for was the inclement weather – gales and heavy rain and therefore lack of activity in the town. This meant abandoning the project on two occasions.

Positives and opportunities: I had not expected to be able to get so close to the issues and concerns of the local people. My brief was created from personal experience rather than from any known source. The feedback and comments I gathered were an added benefit and added meat to the bones of my assignment.

I had a couple of ideas going around in my head prior to commencing the project. However it was during a day trip to the village on a busy sunny day that I had a “light bulb” moment to use this situation to my advantage and build my brief around it.

Summary:

Overall a challenging assignment because of the choice of subject I gave myself. I did not have the flexibility to shoot what I wanted, when I wanted. Nor could I prepare or stage a scene to shoot. Moving away from my comfort zone and having to think creatively with what I viewed as quite a dull and unexciting project, served me well in respect of testing and stretching my skills in photography. My indecision and lack of confidence in the work in progress, meant I took longer than I should to finalise this assignment. I still need to learn when to stop, submit my work to my tutor and just move on!

 

 

A4 Formal assessment submission

Note to assessors: I have also printed these twelve images and included them with my submission for assessment. I felt it was important to view them as a physical body of work and have the flexibility to view them together in cohesion as well as individually. 

Barrow Island, Cumbria

 Barrow Island, part of Barrow-in-Furness on the west coast of Cumbria – one time biggest iron and steel centre in the world and major ship-building industry. The Island is still home to one of the largest shipyards in the UK now owned by BAE Systems.

In the late 19th century, to accommodate and retain the 17,000 strong workforce, a “planned town” was constructed in Barrow which included “company housing” on Barrow Island, a grid of tenement blocks in the main residential area.  The end of the Trident submarine building programme in the 1990s led to around 10,000 job losses from the shipyard, most of those affected lived on Barrow Island.  Hard times followed for the residents of this geographically isolated community. The industry decline led to further job cuts and depopulation.

The twelve images I would send to the magazine editor are;

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

Juxtaposition of soft focus and the 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 (Jason) leaning against the wall of an empty street under a nuclear sign. The wall and fencing form a barrier between the lad and the factory. I approached Jason, he told me he used to work here, but the jobs are long gone.

 

Some of the luckier lads deep in conversation on their lunch break. The colours in this image convey a feeling of a brighter, more cheery existence.

 

The eye is immediately drawn to the discarded chair in this back alley, conveying a sense of deprivation. The eye wanders around and to the child running – away from or towards? The blue fence clearly states 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. A hint of luxury among the urban desolation. The boy’s face is hidden from view, leaving the viewer to interpret his body language.

 

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

Picking up on the exercises leading up to this assignment, “figure small”. This image offers the powerful visual presence of the tenement block – unforgiving yet impressive, then the eye catches the figure walking out of the frame. The grass and weeds growing in the pavement adds to the sense of neglect.

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

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) a constant reminder, looms large over the sanctuary of his allotment.

Every picture tells a story……. The barricades block entry to anything pretty and bright.

 

I selected this image for the composition as well as the subject – the concrete posts (more barriers?) reinforced with double yellow lines. The many satellite dishes – yet good old-fashioned conversation continues beneath them. The woman is clearly very comfortable in her surroundings.

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

I took several shots using varying focal lengths. I selected this one as I like how it puts my subject (Leanne) in context and portrays the tenement building as solid yet fragile – mirroring the community as a whole.

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

This shot captures the spirit of the children of Barrow Island – innocent, playful and divorced from the real world.

Brougham Mrketing n Multi exposure

This shop had closed down a 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 symbolises the instability of the docks.

 

The final seven

This is the order I would present them in the magazine. I have chosen seven images, the first would be complimented by introductory text about Barrow Island. I would name the article “Shipwrecked”.

 

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 believe 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.  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! I also had to win their trust; I was asked twice  “Are you from the press?” I had some banter with the kids too and became known as “Camera lady”. One up from Tom Wood being known in Liverpool as “Photie man”! 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, pouring long and hard over the resulting shots I brought home with me. 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” that are too remote from the subject matter. I also understand and appreciate that all art is open to interpretation, therefore I needed to be creative, not fixed, 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.

 

A3 Formal assessment submission

Buildings (and spaces) in use

I found some relevant and interesting  points in the enlightening  book called ‘Non-Place’ by Marc Auge.  He writes of anthropological spaces of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”. Examples of a non-place would be a motorway, an interchange, an airport or a supermarket.”

Mark Auge                      Gabiel Li Gabriel Li 2007

This got me thinking about the importance of setting and how human activity may change. With this in mind I set about making images for my first two buildings and spaces.

 

Preston bus station.

1intro

“Four rows of sculptural concrete fins make up the brazenly “Brutalist” facade of Preston Bus Station in Lancashire.” [1]

Completed in 1969 by architects Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson,  the 170 mt long structure became the largest bus station in Europe. The colossal scale of the structure, boasts 40 gates for double-decker buses on both its east and west sides with a 4 storey car park above. Once seen as the building’s greatest feature and, by some, its failing. Years of decline, thought by some to be deliberate neglect, followed. 

2a

Taken from a low angle to capture the many lanes for anticipated bus passenger queues. The shabby appearance – peeling paint, highlight the neglect.

 

2

Mid afternoon shot taken in the now defunct side of the bus station. The only sign of people presence is the litter.

 

3

A classic 1970’s image – nothing has moved on. This is a favourite image of mine, it draws out the atmosphere of the cafeteria and whisks me back in time.

 

4

I chose this shot for the dated marketing and signage. The juxtaposition of the figure creates an anachronism,  using modern technology, the boy looks to belong to a another time and place.

 

Saltburn Pier

1 Intro

Saltburn by the Sea is a small Victorian coastal resort where the industrialists of the region flocked at weekends to escape the dirt & grime. The building of Saltburn’s pier was by railway engineer John Anderson (1814-1886) and opened to the public in 1869. The pier, the first iron pier to be built on the North East Coast, is the most northerly surviving British Pier. It is in an exposed position and facing due north into the unforgiving North Sea – yet it still draws in the crowds, winter and summer alike. 

1

Family day out. Interesting how the seats are placed close to the edges of the space (the pier), so one has no choice but to look out over the beach and sea. This image forces the viewer to consider what is happening outside the frame.

 

3

Utilising the space. A steady flow of people strolling along. The runner creates tension with movement and colour.

 

2

People are drawn to thresholds, in this case the barrier between land and sea. Each in private thought as they gaze into the distance, with regard to what may be further away – in time and location.

 

4

Symbolic and poetic.  I selected this restrictive framing to give it strength, no other distractions, allowing the viewer to unfold a story of their choice.

 

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” (Frank Lloyd Wright 1867-1959).

Having spent more time researching, I would now challenge the design theory of Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) “form ever follows function” [2]. It can, and does, work in reverse too.  Particularly now in the current trend of retro, vintage and nostalgia. It seems as though we humans are growing weary of the pace of technology and are clinging on to the past. Many buildings and spaces are defunct or have been abandoned for “state of the art” or “futuristic” designs.

Thankfully, new generations are inheriting and preserving the former glory of deserted and neglected buildings and spaces, therefore adapting the existing form to take on a new function – as my next two buildings show.

 

Maria’s art studio – Brougham Hall, Cumbria

1 intro

Brougham Hall in Penrith, Cumbria was built in the 14th century. Rescued from dereliction in 1985, today it is one of the largest country house restoration projects in England and the old stables are home to a wide variety of arts and crafts workshops. It is a space where collaborating artists, share and develop. They display their work, run workshops, host exhibitions, sit and chat to visitors and gain inspiration.

1

This space is compact but it’s contents show it has been embraced and utilised well by its inhabitant. The open door invites us in and the footprints say that it is okay to cross the threshold.

 

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The artist at work. Taken from a different angle, this image looks out to the courtyard and displays artificial and natural light.

 

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The studio and workshop are bright and cheery, but the heater reminds us that it is cold in here!

 

Corn Exchange – Leeds

1 intro

Leeds Corn Exchange, a stunning Grade I listed oval building, has been attracting visitors for more than 150 years. Designed by world-renowned architect from Hull, Cuthbert Brodrick (1821-1905), the Corn Exchange opened in 1863. From the late 19th century until the 1990’s the building was a bustling centre for the exchange and sale of corn, wheat, barley, hops, cake and flour and also hosted a farmers’ market and regular leather fair. 

Leeds corn exchange 1864

Today Leeds Corn Exchange has come full circle and is once again a thriving retail hub, but this time around it is home to independent specialist retailers and foodie outlets. Particularly popular during the festive season when stalls set up in the now redundant “functions” area on the lower ground floor.

1

Visually attractive, framed to show the design of the interior and how the layout lends itself to pedestrian traffic.

 

2

Interesting observation here of how people tend to sit safely on the periphery of the space. Is it our culture and custom that dictates that we be less visible, less vulnerable?

 

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The lower floor of the Corn Exchange has remnants of what has been a night club and bar and latterly a function room. Now lying empty, the floor cries out for merriment, music and dancing once again.

 

My final two buildings, although in complete contrast with each other, demonstrate how they are used to experience a common interest.

Rufikopf Restaurant – Lech, Austria

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Lech is a beautiful Tyrolean alpine village situated in the Arlberg region of Austria, a high valley, 1450 meters above sea level. The village provides access to a varied and wide-ranging ski area. This panoramic restaurant and sun deck is at the summit station of the cable car Rüfikopfbahn. 

Skiers stop here to rest and refresh and gather their strength for the 22 km ski race “Der Weisse Ring” or the “Langer Zug”, a skiing route that presents itself as a 4.7 km long challenge with a gradient of up to 78%! Whilst those on foot can relax and enjoy the breath-taking mountain panorama on the large sun terrace at an altitude of 2,350 mts. 

1 intro

Early morning, the tables are lined up and look out at the magnificent vista ready to receive the day’s guests.

 

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An inviting marketing shot taken from a low angle. Cutlery in a beer Stein – food and drink awaits for hungry skiers!

 

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Lunchtime – a meeting place for common interest and to share experiences on the slopes.

 

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In contrast – late afternoon. A walker alone with his thoughts, enjoys the tranquility, basking in the winter sun. I chose to  include the “caution triangle” in the frame for humour. The message is clear “do not disturb”.

 

Conishead Priory – Buddhist Temple  

1 intro

Set within the grounds of the ancient  Conishead Priory, the Buddhist community have built the magnificent Kadampa Temple. Though built according to a traditional design, it is a modern Temple that provides a peaceful respite from our otherwise busy world.  Work began in 1995 on the site of the old priory kitchen garden, completed in 1997 it became the first temple for World Peace. Each year, thousands of people visit the Temple to admire its artistic and architectural features and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

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This image portrays order, discipline and peacefulness. The beam of sunlight hints that this is a bright and happy place.

 

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The temple is use during a meditation and Buddhist reading. The viewer is left to consider the facial expressions and thoughts of the audience.

 

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In the pretty temple grounds, even lunch is a relaxing affair – shoes off, mug of tea. Note how she occupies just one side of the bench, leaving an open invitation for a companion.

 

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Finally, a humorous shot. This monk has found his place – a big comfy leather armchair, his laptop and his music.

 

Reflection

I wanted to bring variety and originality to my choice of buildings and spaces. I  also wish to show how external factors  – economic climate, attitudes, lifestyle, influence the function and use of a place.

This assignment called for careful planning, research and thinking about the space that I was going to photograph, rather than going along and taking lucky shots. I need to get more familiar with this kind of thinking, I often look back at images and wish that I had used a different angle or had focused on something more closely. I think that is because in the moment itself I don’t really force myself to consider what the scene in my viewfinder is telling me. The composition is sort of going through my  mind, but not specifically on what it is that I want to portray. Hence, this was a good exercise for me!

Following the initial submission to my tutor and the subsequent feedback, I have given considerable thought to this assignment. Having now researched, visited and studied many more buildings and spaces and the people who inhabit them, I decided to ditch some of my buildings and have a re-think. I’m glad that I did. I feel I have taken a risk by including some rather unusual places to represent “buildings in use” for this assignment.

I have enjoyed this project immensely. I am interested in architectural styles and their impact on society, coupled with my fascination of observing people, I now have a greater understanding of  how people interact with place and space. I am particularly captivated by how human behaviour is affected depending on location and surroundings. This will lead nicely in to my next module “People interacting with place”.

References 

  1.  www.dezeen.com (12th September 2014). Brutalist Buildings, Preston bus station.
  2. Sullivan, L H (1924). Autobiography of an Idea.  Press of the American institute of Architects. New York. Inc. p. 108.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A4 Tutor feedback and response

assign 4 feedback pdf

Overall Comments
This is authentic documentary work. You’re searching for character and mood in the social condition of Barrow Island. It’s bleak but it communicates an idea of social degradation and the plight of working people. You’ve shown a lot of commitment here; this looks like the work of a mature observer of human life. Pleased to read that I am progressing well in this area – observing human behaviour and life in general. As previously mentioned this is something I wish to pursue and develop further.
Some of this work reminds me of pictures of post-war Britain in its compositions of people in relation to the environment. But you’ve also been skillful in your framings to avoid too many people or cars. My aim was to portray the disconnect. The social environment of Barrow Island is far removed from that in nearby Barrow town.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
1
Your opening shot, as you call it, sets a scene. I took on board previous feedback, by setting the scene I am providing a context to my images. It conflates visual symbols into a social narrative: barbed wire, fences, industry, dark waste ground and cold looking houses. It looks like there are too many demarcated areas for freedom to flourish.

2
In many ways this is a classic cinematic social documentary shot. The man is at the same time dwarfed and excluded from industry (= work). Strong use of framing and composition to communicate the idea clearly.

1a

Really pleased with this photo. My intent was to convey different layers of meaning: insignificant person set huge industry backdrop, redundancy, pushing against the boundaries, the factory is/was the nucleus of the town….. 

3
These lads don’t necessarily look like they are working, but what it does look like is that their conversation is very serious. This picture makes it clear you wanted a high contrast, vivid colour look to this series – something that goes against the cliché of a grainy black & white rendering. That was a good decision. There’s something sharp about the colours and you’ve managed to organize them well in the frame. I chose to use colour in contrast to the familiar black and white images found in my research.

                 3      San Fran dock workers 1901
4
This long shot of a group of children in the street is really good. You were exceptionally lucky to get a street without cars! One of the reasons I took the shot was because this was Saturday afternoon, the streets were eerily deserted. It’s nicely framed because you manage to capture the sense of place which is quite grim and that is contradicted by the kids.
5
This looks like America to me. It’s bleak. It’s also really well organized within the frame. The eyes wander easily around picking up information: the discarded chair, the worn tarmac, the red brick building, the pink child running; all this builds a sense of urban desolation.
6
There’s something funny about this. He’s in a very unconducive place for a swim but it looks like he’s going to jump in anyway! It’s a fish out of the water picture; the subject looks so out of place it transforms out reading of the space. An emotive image – for me it evokes sadness.
7
I like this a lot because to me it speaks of a time gone by – a time which died in England in the 1980’s. This is the good neighbour who goes out in her dressing gown because it’s ‘her’ street and her street is her home.

7I think you could lighten the satellite dishes a touch just to emphasize them. I tried it here with the Curves tool. I think what it does is introduce the ‘problem’ of social alienation caused by too much TV. Yes, and the contrast here is that this woman is being sociable!
8
Again a nice social detail, with this woman looking out at you from her window. There is plenty of environmental information: the crumbling bricks and railings; the woman provides a ‘centre’ for the picture.
It looks a bit slanted left, maybe you should see what you can do in Photoshop’s Lens Correction Filter to get it looking a little less skewed.

8       3
9
The tenement blocks are grim reminders of the past and they have a powerful visual presence, dwarfing the man with his dog.
10
Schooner Street looks like it didn’t make it through the recession and this photo of a closed down and barricaded hairdressers emphasizes the point. Good choice of what to frame and how.
11
Denise’s looks like it’s holding on all right but times are certainly not rosy! It’s a good street detail. I think I miss the human element here which gives a ‘centre’ to many of the other photos. I purposefully chose to show the image absent of human presence – closed shop.
12
Lighten up the path a touch so we can see the dog better. This is a grim picture that tells a story of a corporate relationship with the community. The fences are very strange, make-shift looking things. Strong sense of place here, well composed with that wonderful human centre.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Context
Your text is good and quite honest. Your images are expressive of a place of economic hardship but with a tight-knit community. You clearly know something about this community and looked at photos from the 1950’s – which I think deeply influenced your work. For the good of it. For research, I looked at Bert Hardy, Nicholas Battye and Julian Germain in particular.

I have a tendency to over-saturate colour in my images. For my final submission I have decided to take the colour back down thus portraying a more representational view. I have also printed the twelve images and will be submitting these for formal assessment.

Suggested reading/viewing
Context
You may want to have a look at Jean-Marc Bustamante’s photographs. It’s interesting and unpretentious. Maybe a take on urbanization that will refresh your view. I have looked at the work of this photographer and noted the absence of people and lifestyle in his images, more the progression of buildings and landscapes to accommodate people.

A5 Tutor feedback and response

assign 5 feedback pdf

Overall Comments

Your photographs are strongly expressive of traffic congestion as a dreadful imposition on people’s lives in the village. (The shot off the wheelchair trying to cross the road is particularly poignant). You’ve managed to conflate traffic and people well with framing and using the fore-shortening caused by telephoto lenses. This gels this series well – people and cars in a claustrophobic space.

As well as the visual strategy, you’ve clearly got a “political agenda”! Are you aware that you have this perspective? ? I was not aware I had a political agenda. I consider this to be a good idea for a brief to work to in that I am using a real situation. By relaying public opinion I have, hopefully, conveyed the issues within my images, i.e. photo documentary style.  
In terms of the series, I think you could edit down the number of photos here – there are some really strong pictures which are more strongly expressive than others which tend to repeat. I’ve mentioned when I think one could be cut out. You’ve got a lot of pictures to choose from: the caravan that looks so big in the street, the blue lorry next to the pavement of people, the unhappy market trader with the trolley, the telephoto shot of the bus and the market.
What you’re really looking for within a series like this is different incidents that suggest the breadth of the problem to different kinds of people: old people, children, farmers, tourists, truck drivers etc. Each of these characters has a motive and clearly they are clashing! That is where the inherent conflict lies. I was aware at the time of shooting that many of my frames would be of a similar nature due to the subject matter. I did attempt to capture some more creative shots and will review all my draft images for formal assessment.  
Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of
Creativity
1 & 2
I’m taking these together because they express similar themes. Shot 2 could be cut out.
These photos set the scene visually – the squash of vehicles, buildings and people. It is not clear that the jeep is ‘mounting the footpath’ as you say. You’d have needed to show that not just write it. I agree and will remove shot 2. 
3
This is your cover shot – it is a strong ‘decisive moment’ because the woman in the wheelchair looks so small and vulnerable in this truck sandwich! I really like the way you’ve managed to frame the front of a car in the foreground and suggest even more impending danger!
4
I think this could be cut out, it isn’t doing anything different then the other ones. Agreed I can use other images for more variety.
5
This could have been a great shot, but the man on the left edge of frame is indecisively framed. But it does get across the way the vehicles dwarf the village! I will cut this one.
6
This is good, but it doesn’t quite make enough of the market. Maybe you needed to find a more decisive shot that shows the conflict of people vs traffic. The Lorry is good – because it is so big though. I will use this shot and check others for more of a market scene.
7
People trying to cross the road! This is exactly the way you needed to develop the narrative of this project. Showing people’s interactions with the traffic.
8
I like the idea here – the narrow pavement full of people next to busy road. Maybe you could have waited for some people to squeeze passed each other.
9
You could cut this one. I like the suggestion of speed blur and the danger of the cars, but the people don’t express much. I was attempting to show the speed of cars passing through this tiny village, but I do accept the point raised here.
10
I like this evening shot of a traffic jam with a mother and boy crossing the road. It would have been ideal visually if they’d have crossed near that arrow on the road. But maybe you could suggest the danger with a crop on them in front of that lorry! Done! 

10a    7a - Copy

11
This could be cut, because it doesn’t create a conflict. The car looks parked.
12
Your final shot of hoards of people on the pavement is a good idea but you’re not capturing the same conflict that you did in the other shots. Also, visually it looks quite different, with
more saturated colour and a brownish, warm tint. I think I may have overdone the saturation in Lightroom, I have better pictures so will cut this one too.
Learning Log
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
Your preparation looks good – you mention speaking with local people but you haven’t put their comments anywhere, which would have been interesting. You could even have used them as captions for the photos. The local people’s comments are included – see planning and preparation tab. I like the idea of using these comments as captions to reinforce the issues and concerns.

In your exhibition reviews you write up some good points – reflecting on the way you “fill-in” the narratives of Keith Roberts juxtapositions of Chambre-Hardman’s portraits and of Parr’s old lady under Christ.
Your research or exhibition going is eclectic. Are you understanding the key differences between commercial photographers like David Bailey and artistically motivated photographers like Martin Parr or portrait artists like Vermeer? It isn’t clear that you are understanding the nuances of his expression of the Milk Maid’s humility for example.

I do have a fair understanding of the key differences of commercial v artistic photography, the obvious ones being; Commercial – commissioned and/or paid work, usually quite literal or portraiture…..  Artistic –  uses creative vision…. But, my tutor’s comments above have made me think about this more deeply, so I am off to do more research to include in my exhibition notes!

Congratulations on finishing People and Place.

Tutor name
Robert Enoch
Date
25th January 2016

A3 Tutor feedback and response

assign 3 feedback pdf

Overall comments

Some of these photos are really strong and do much more than show the function of places, they show how character and place fuse to create mood. I can also see your visual sensitivity in this work – as in the last assignment – and your observation skills. Good to read these comments, a great boost to read that my visual sensitivity and observation skills are coming through in my photography. “Although I’m occasionally surprised that you are not straightening the verticals and horizontals in your pictures! With buildings you really need to get them right! Point taken! I will be more aware of this in future. For the images I can’t retake I will adjust in Lightroom. 

I will give some feedback on selected images here. Some really are just photos of buildings, but others are more pertinent to the brief.

 Feedback on assignment

 Bus Station

This photo of the old man with a cup of tea reminds me of Paul Graham’s work in Job centres. It’s  a really good documentary portrait of a place and its character.  It brings up something about    the trepidation of change, of ‘moving on’ that is engendered by travelling spaces like a bus station. The natural light works with the strip lights to give the unnatural, institutional colours an eerie quality.

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This is the kind of photo that can kick-start a strong series of images because it identifies straight away interesting human themes and atmospheric visual effect.  Could be a project for the   future? I am interested in human behaviour, so this is a project I will pursue when time allows.

The fourth shot in this series is dreadfully slanted! Struggled a little with this because of the angle I chose to shoot the building. I have attempted to straighten the image here. (original on the left). 

DSC_2331      DSC_2331    And I think you needed a real person in there to contrast with the photo in the background. My intention is to show how the bus station is no longer functioning effectively. When I re-visited I did take some photos with people in the scene as a comparison (see below). However the lighting/exposure are not the best and I still prefer my original shot.

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Park Pavilion

The 2nd image, inside the pavilion, of the silhouetted people sitting in a cafe, could have worked a lot better. I like the inside to outside idea for example. But this photo has a lot of empty space where nothing is happening on the right (the empty table) and the lower edge of frame.  A more symmetrical view with the silhouettes low in the frame would have worked  better.

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The shot with the chairs in the foreground and what appears to be a child running in the park  in the background was a nice compositional idea, but you needed to focus on the child not the chairs!  Try to think quickly about where the strongest point of interest is in a  picture/situation. Fair comments. I need to consider the view in the frame as well as having the idea in my head.

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Nature Reserve

The first landscape shot of the buildings is a nicely balanced composition, although your sky has some blown highlights.

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You haven’t really nailed a telling functional image of the nature reserve. Ideally, you’d want to photograph animals and people together as that’s the essential function of the place.  Also, try  to avoid shots of people’s backs or shots of people on the edges (periphery) of frame because it suggests that they are not important.  The view can always ask, “why did you take this?” I accept that this could have been better. I will not use this location in my final submission.

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The eating area with chairs and tables looks visually interesting with the high A-frame roof and the reflective sculptures, but it’s a bit disappointing that nothing much is happening! Also, it’s slanted left a lot! I took this photo to show the function of the room along with the environmentally friendly design. I didn’t feel the need to include people.

Buddhist Temple

I suppose the most telling use of a temple like this would have been of Buddhist’s meditation or chanting. Some of your photos do express the peacefulness of the place – for example the rows  of benches have a measured, orderly quality.

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The monk walking up to the temple door shows a bit of ‘action’ . My point in choosing this building is that it’s not a place of action, rather I am conveying the peacefulness. The function here is one of contemplation. but it’s really all about the architecture that frames him. In a picture like this, with so much contrast caused by direct sunlight, you can often bring up the shadows with a “Shadows and Highlights” adjustment layer or whatever is the equivalent in Lightroom. Adjusted in Lightroom, see below.

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I like the candid peek at the monk with the headphones. It’s not perfect, but it shows you can express your sense of humour through what you see.  I’ve brightened it a  bit.

Learning Logs/Critical essays

 You don’t need to add ‘stories’ to your pictures with your writing. Things like, “This chap was the only customer seated in the cafeteria. Maybe he has memories of a busier, bustling environment. Maybe he just pops in for his daily cuppa to get him out of the house?”  I assure you, the picture  is much stronger than this text implies.  Let your pictures do the   talking! A valid point and something I still need to get used to – letting my pictures tell the story.

You are finding important themes in your subjects, like the 1970’s colour scheme and the abandoned shop, which is really important. These are the essential subjects, what photography can be“about”, and which viewers identify and empathize with. And these are the subjects you need to develop by creating series of pictures about“lonely old people in deserted stations” or “empty shops and buildings” or “people at play”. When you work on a series like this, developing your theme visually, you get much closer to photography and to its expressive   power. Definitely a project for the future, hopefully something I can introduce in a future assignment.

Suggested reading/viewing

 Have a look at Paul Graham’s work here:  http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/beyondcaring.html

I think you could get a lot from his work, because he’s very observant of people and of atmosphere in places. I enjoyed looking at Paul Graham’s project “Beyond Caring”. I am interested in photography that conveys “real life”. To quote Paul Graham; “I’m a firm believer in working in the world as-it-is, and arriving at your ideas through that.” (BJP March 2015)

Pointers for the next assignment

 As I said on the phone, you’re better off finding somewhere you have good access to or that you will spend a long enough period of time make a deep view of the place. It doesn’t have to be a singular, small place like a bus station, it could be wider, as in Robert Frank’s “Americans”. But try to use a connecting theme because I think that will help you to progress as a photographer.

Good luck with it!

 

A3 Submission to tutor

I am to choose five or six buildings and for each produce between two and four images that describe effectively and attractively the way in which these spaces are used.  I can choose to include people in the images, or not.

For each building it is important that I conduct some research beforehand, either archival or personal (or both), so that I have:

  • a good understanding of how and why it was designed in the way it is
  • an opinion on its effectiveness as a usable space.

With the brief in mind, to “try to encompass variety in your choice of buildings, including in size and purpose”. I have selected the following buildings/spaces.

Preston bus station

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This exterior image of the building shows the concrete tiers of the car park. The viewer can see straight through the lower floor space demonstrating how little used it is. Brightly coloured double-decker buses line up proudly and in the bottom left corner, gate no. 80 tells us just how big this bus station is. Sadly there are many unoccupied gates.

 

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The huge interior of the bus station on a busy weekday afternoon. This image shows a long stretch of mostly unutilised space. A smattering of passengers/visitors points to the building being counterproductive. The clock (fifteen minutes fast) and the twenty-four hour display shows a mismatch.

 

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I chose this shot of the almost deserted station cafeteria, holding on to its early 1970’s style and colour scheme, because it hints at the fact that twenty-first century passengers are more likely to buy “coffee to go”. This chap was the only customer seated in the cafeteria. Maybe he has memories of a busier, bustling environment. Maybe he just pops in for his daily cuppa to get him out of the house? This is an example of how human activity may not always match the main function of the building.

 

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This shot depicting the dated empty premises within the bus station demonstrates a loss of use and function. The bright poster of a 21st century boy looks down smugly at his outdated surroundings. I feel this image portrays not just an emptiness, but a sense of abandonment.

Photographing this building with its vast, open spaces, capturing the architectural features (internal and external) was without difficulty. Once inside I walked through the building several times, observing at first, then I spent around 45 minutes capturing shots, all the time looking at how the building was being used – or not.

 

Avenham Park Pavilion, Preston

It was a warm day, so while I was in Preston I went for a walk around one of the lovely parks. As I entered the park I spotted this building. I was able to collect the following information from boards inside the building.

The park has undergone an improvement programme as part of a Heritage Lottery-Funded project. The Pavilion was completed in 2008 to a design by architect Ian McChesney. The striking modern building was designed to reflect the sweeping lines of the Park and the River Ribble. The Pavilion provides a base for the park ranger and houses a fully licensed cafe. The Pavilion can be hired out for conferences and is licensed to host weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.

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My first photograph shows how the building is integrated in its setting, on the riverbank within the grounds of Avenham Park. The building’s design is organic and sculptural enhancing the natural surroundings of the park rather than imposing on it.

 

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Inside looking out. My image shows the success of this space. The glass walls and pale wood roof give a light, airy effect offering shelter while at the same time allowing the visitor to enjoy a “brew with a view”. Note how people choose to sit by the window.

 

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Even the functional form and finish of the children’s high-chairs complement and mirror the building’s shape. I took this shot to link the subject to the child running towards the Pavilion.

This shoot was a pleasant surprise, fortunately I always carry my camera with me! I decided to include this building in my project for its modern design and function. I took several photographs inside the Pavilion, I wanted to show the user environment and how it adds value to its setting.

 

Brockholes Nature Reserve

Brockholes is owned and managed by the Wildlife Trust charity. It is positioned amazingly close to the M6 motorway – an old quarry site, yet it is a haven for a variety of wildlife. Since opening in April 2011 Brockholes has won a long list of prestigious awards. These have been for a wide range of topics, from architectural design to sustainability. Although it is predominantly a nature reserve there are also shops, a play area, cafe and many walking trails.

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I shot this image to put the “floating” building in context. Shown is one of two entrances via a draw bridge. I like how the eye is led to consider the gaps between the buildings. The architect Adam Khan describes the arrangement of buildings and spaces as ‘an equivalence of enclosed and open rooms, forming a matrix’.  Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school of art, supported that an object’s design should be dominated by its function – simple forms, clean lines, rationality and, of course, functionality. I feel that Brockholes does just that.

 

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Benches in the exterior spaces indicate the boundaries of the pontoon and opportunities to touch the water. The site is fully accessible for all. My shot addresses my concern is that it is too accessible, the water presents a risk to young children as all the platforms are open-ended leading to the water.

 

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The Welcome and Activity Centre. This shot captures the “room’s” usefulness, the  provision of  information and activities for curious and inquisitive minds.

 

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Due to the tranquil setting, there is an unnatural silence as one wanders around the buildings. Any sound is pleasingly acoustic thanks to the cleverly designed vaulted roof spaces shown here in my image.  Light is provided by the large glass windows and a  funnel of light from the central roof-lights.

When photographing Brockholes I wanted to convey the purpose of the build and how it promotes the natural surroundings to educate and inform. I particularly wanted to show  the environmental sustainability of the building materials  – an additional function.

 

Connishead Priory – The Buddhist Temple  

Set within the grounds of the ancient  Conishead Priory, the Buddhist community have built the magnificent Kadampa Temple. Though built according to a traditional design, it is a modern Temple that provides a peaceful respite from our otherwise busy world. Each year, thousands of people visit the Temple to admire its artistic and architectural features and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Work began in 1995 on the site of the old priory kitchen garden, completed in 1997 it became the first temple for World Peace.

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My first shot shows a Buddhist monk entering the temple via one of the four doorways.

 

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I chose this image because it gives the viewer an impression from the user’s point of view. The practicing monks use the benches and kneeling mats for their meditation. This image shows how the many windows allow light to flood in. This place of worship is in stark contrast to our traditional, dimly lit Christian churches.

 

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Spotted through an open side door – this made me smile. A Buddhist monk chilling out with modern technology!

 

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My final shot was chosen to represent the purpose of the space surrounding the temple. This image could be challenged as depicting a “non-place”.  I feel it is a rather special place.  Note how the seats are facing outwards to the trees and the sky beyond rather than towards the gardens, temple and other visitors milling around. The function being to enable people to rest peacefully and clear the mind without distraction. I purposefully shot this with an absence of people as I think the impact and meaning is more strongly portrayed.

I specifically wanted to photograph this location for the project because I felt it was something a little different. Aside from the first image, the shots are without people yet clearly convey the usage. Apart from the obvious function of the temple, the peacefulness of the grounds creates a sense of place for reflection, relaxation, fresh air, exercise  and a general feeling of well-being.

What I have learnt

I wanted to bring variety to the buildings I chose –  a good mix of  public spaces, particularly those based on innovative design and function. I have also attempted to show how external factors  – economic climate, attitudes, lifestyle, influence the function and use of a building.

This assignment called for careful planning, research and thinking about the space that I was going to photograph, rather than going along and taking lucky shots. I need to get myself more familiar with this kind of thinking, because I often look back at images and wish that I had used a different angle or had focused on something more closely. I think that is because in the moment itself I don’t really force myself to consider what the scene in my viewfinder is telling me. The composition is sort of going through my  mind, but not specifically on what it is that I want to portray. Hence, this was a good exercise for me!

I have enjoyed this project immensely. I am interested in architectural styles and their impact on the environment. I now have a greater understanding of  how people interact with place and space. I am particularly captivated by how human behaviour is affected by place and space. Which will lead nicely in to the next module “People interacting with place”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A2 Tutor feedback and response

assign 2 feedback pdf

Overall comments

The first impression I get from your work is your strong commitment to photography and to the course. You’ve worked on this assignment twice, which is not only keen, it shows that the assignment inspired you and that you were prepared to re-shoot it to get it right.

The old train station (see planning and preparation), has a lot of potential and you’ve made some good photos of “meaningful activity” and strong characters, but you’ve clearly struggled with the bright sunlight, which bleaches some of the faces and heads. To remedy this you ought to be able to get some detail back with the Recovery slider in Adobe Camera RAW.  I don’t have this piece of software, but will try to redeem some of the images in Lightroom.  During the shoot, you could have used a fill flash, which would have allowed you to underexpose the background – more on that later.

I will review the shots made on the building site. I liked the less ‘touristy’ subject and also the interest caused by the discovery of a Roman bone! Having said that, the train photos show your commitment and your observational skills really well and the shot of the large luggage cart is one for your wall! This is good to read, particularly the comment that my observation skills are coming to the fore.

You’ve remained quite close to the subject in your shots of the construction site, and that is good in places, but there were times when a wider, big shot of the whole scene would have given the viewer important contextual information. Try to challenge yourself to shoot more wide views that are as telling as your closer shots. I will take this feedback on board. I intend to return to the site to capture some “wider views”, although I don’t intend to replace too many of my images as the captured moment cannot be repeated.

1 On revisiting the site, I discovered that “the dig” had finished. However I took this shot of the site for contextual purposes.

About editing your work: keep your blog as tidy as possible with only the assignment photos on the assignment page. Other work should be clearly “contact sheets” or “other photos”. I have now separated out all the preparation work and other photos and have reviewed the tabs on my blog for clearer navigation.

Feedback on assignment

Firstly, I like the patchwork sequence you’ve made which says something about the clash of motives on the site. How to handle it so quickly was always going to be a work in progress. Two key elements stand out: 1) the frustration and response of the builders in contrast with, 2) the archaeologists unearthing the bones. You may want to think about how you can order the final sequence to get across this ‘scene’. I will review the sequence in time for formal assessment.

1 I understand why you’ve got this “double take” kind of look, but it shouldn’t be the first image. You needed to start with a wide shot of the construction scene or the ‘find’.  See above image of the construction scene.

Although this is a telling image that shows us the location type and the possible role this woman is playing, you have reduced the whites way too much. Clearly her helmet was white. I returned to Lightroom with this one. Her expression needs to be connected to something, which probably means that either the preceding or succeeding image needs to be ‘the find”.

           Original shot.                                Reworked image.

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2 Your next image though, is the same woman taken out of sequence. It is not clear why her tapping in boundaries is important. You had to establish that. For example, had you the bones in the foreground and her putting a fence up in the background, we would understand, “Oh yeah, she’s protecting the find”. Note the tone of her helmet here is much more true.

3 A good shot, but we still don’t know why these workmen have had to stop work!  Also, because  it’s a freeze frame, we can’t tell whether or not the man in the tractor is working or not. In that sense it is confusing. Try to think about the information your pictures get across. But the pose of the man with the spade is really telling and well spotted. You’ve also overdone the de-brightening here too! I have cropped this one so the focus is on the worker with the spade. 

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4 One of the stronger pictures here because the expression of that man is really impatient. It’s a pity that another man is obscuring him though. It was a case of grabbing the moment, but I agree I could have re-positioned myself for a better result.

5 Perhaps this, maybe wider to include the workmen and the diggers, could be your first shot. It’s sort of mysterious because we don’t know exactly what they’re up  to.

Note here the way the eyes move to the group on the right edge of frame. Because of their proximity, you needed to decide to either include them in their entirety or to just frame the two on their knees.  It helps if you can – as much as possible – encapsulate the  action. I may have to crop this one as I didn’t get a wider shot. 

                         Original shot                                                      Reworked image

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6 This is an excellent shot that gets right into the heart of the mystery. It could be the first photo of the sequence. Put the waiting workmen after this and #5 and we’d understand what’s going on!

What you’re doing here is showing us two vital things: 1) the archaeologists careful work;   and 2) the subject of his work, the bones. Fill flash would’ve helped you here to bring a little more detail out of the darker tones.   Although hi-viz clothing does come out super bright. Pleased with this one! I agree it works well.

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FILL FLASH

Fill flash is simply a flash used in daylight to “fill” the shadow areas caused by the sun.

Try this: in Manual Mode, take a shot of the background using a shutter speed not higher than your flash sync (probably around 1/125th of a second) and altering the f-stop. Then use the flash output to control the illumination of the foreground. As you will see if you experiment with this, you will be able to play with the balance of foreground and back- ground illumination because the background will be exposed according to the shutter speed but the foreground will exposed according to the f-stop and the intensity of the flash – which will not affect the background. This is a technique very well used in fashion photography to add‘sparkle’ to models and to lift them out of the background. It can be particularly effective at twilight when your foreground subject is set against dramatic skies. Technical stuff! I had to read this a couple of times to grasp what to do. Pleased to say I now have the hang of it and took the following “before and after” shots of my husband (having dragged him out of the garage, hence his clothing!). It works! I shall practice more, when we get some sun……

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7 A simple close detail helps to reveal more of the artefact.  The hands are helpfully off to one  side!

8 Alas, your words are doing something your picture isn’t doing!  Once you identify a vital action in a chain of actions, you should then seek to get yourself into a position to shoot it to show the key subjects. For example, you really needed the ‘soil’ in their hands. We just can’t see what they’re doing.  Again, re-positioning would have made a better image. I will discard this shot.

9 This is the best photo of the workmen. It’s very measured and well composed. We get their faces in full view because you’ve positioned yourself well.  The folded arms are also telling.

But you could have used near/far compositions to contrast (remember the Art of Photography’s first assignment?) the near archaeologists with the workmen in the background standing around.  That would have set up a drama. A good point, something to bear in mind for future.

10 This final image strays from the story because it attempts to wrap it up when the real story is the archaeological discovery. You can cut this one. Agreed!

Learning Logs/Critical essays

You say that you sometimes lost the ‘moment’ fumbling with camera settings. You need to get used to using your camera quickly by practicing with settings that work for you. The most vital one is focus and if you have an autofocus camera, you just need to point and shoot. That’s really what this kind of photography is about. I did have my camera on autofocus, maybe there was some camera shake due to my eagerness to get the shot? I now know I have to be able to quickly adjust the camera settings for fill flash. I will need to practice this.

Your blog is good. You’ve already had it going for a while and it’s pretty large. The research looks good and your writing is honest and intelligent. Just keep responding naturally to the work of other photographers like Vivian Maier and you’ll do well. Excellent! I am pleased about this comment. I am trying hard to get to grips with critical analysis. I have recently purchased the book, “Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument”  by Stella Cottrell.

Suggested reading/viewing

If there’s one key book about photography from a critical point of view that you should read, it’s David Bate’s “Key Concepts: Photography”.   It’s short and lucid. I have read mixed reviews on this book, mostly that it is hard going…I may see if I can borrow it from the library first.

 

A2 Submission to tutor

I am to plan and execute a set of approximately ten final, selected  images, of people in some form of meaningful activity. 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.’ [1].  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.’ [2]

I chose to photograph construction workers on a major highway improvement project. 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!

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.

Final selection for assignment

1

A graduate surveyor looks on with interest.

 

2

Under instruction to mark out the boundaries quickly.

 

3

A pose that speaks volumes, none to happy about work being stopped in its tracks. The driver also has his head down, dispirited.

 

4

Workers told to “down tools”.

 

5

I’ve included this image because it shows what is happening to the side of the highway, the archaeologists at work.

 

6

A close up, the archaeologist  works slowly and carefully.

 

7

His efforts are rewarded. Bones of a Roman skeleton are revealed.

 

8

Careful transfer of a soil sample taken from around the Roman remains.

 

9

Meanwhile, the construction workers look on, but is it with interest, indifference or impatience?

 

10

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.

References:

1. Dyer, G. (2012). The Ongoing Moment.  Canongate, Edinburgh.

2. Frank, R. (2008). (special edition). The Americans. Steidl, Germany