Brief for Assignment One – Square Mile

Assignment one Square Mile

In our earliest years we know a patch of ground in a detail we will never know anywhere again – site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes.

(Professor Mike Pearson)

Photographers and artists have always found inspiration in their immediate location. There is a concept within Welsh culture called Y Filltir Sgwâr (the ‘Square Mile’), which is described above by Professor Mike Pearson and refers to the intimate connection between people and their childhood surroundings. Use this as the starting point for your first assignment.


Make a series of between 6 and 12 photographs that responds to the concept of the ‘Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace your steps to places that you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your surroundings and meet some of the people around you.

You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwâr further, or you may deviate from this. Decide whether to focus on urban space or the natural environment.

You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs for this assignment from which you’ll make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit’ together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively communicate your idea. Title your photographs or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.

However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography. Think of it as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter; try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.

As research for this assignment, look at the work of two photographers and note down your responses.

Dan Holdsworth

  • Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image?
  • What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape?
  • Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?

Tom Hunter

  • Look at the two series Life and Death in Hackney and Unheralded Stories.
  • Do you notice the connection between the people and their surroundings? How does Hunter achieve this?
  • What kinds of places are these photographs set in? Are they exotic, special or ordinary, everyday places?
  • There’s something ‘mythical’ and yet also ‘everyday’ about Hunter’s pictures. Look carefully at one or two images and try to pick out the features that suggest these two different qualities.

Send your images to your tutor.

The format for your images should be: 1500 pixels along the longest edge, Adobe (1998) colour profile, RGB JPEGs.

Include a digital contact sheet (no more than 36 images per page) of all of the photographs you shot for this assignment. Also answer a written analysis of no more than 500 words (in Microsoft Word or PDF format), answering  these questions:

  • What was your initial response to the brief and what ideas did you have for how to complete it?
  • What have you learned from the two photographers you looked at, plus any other photographers you sought inspiration from? How did they influence your work on this assignment?
  • What was your technical approach to the assignment? And what techniques did you use to make it?
  • What’s your opinion on how you did? Are you satisfied? Are there any areas you’d like to improve?

If you prefer to submit prints, you can post them (no larger than A4 size) to your tutor with your contact sheet and written analysis. Make sure they’re labelled with your name, student number and the assignment number


It’s important you try to complete this assignment as soon as possible. Your tutor will use your assignment to get a rough sense of your current level of technical, visual, analytical and creative skills. While you should commit to the assignment and pursue an idea that interests you, it primarily has a diagnostic purpose so don’t labour it.

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