Assignment One – Square Mile – Initial Thoughts and Ideas

“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.”  (Enoch; 2017)

My Interests

Sociology, People, Inequality, Diversity, Events, Macro, Transcendence, Buddhism, Colour, Sweets, Flowers, Birds, Digital Developing, Films, Meditation, Routine

Out of Comfort Zone/Dislikes

Landscape, Tourism, Being out at night, Conflict, Talking to people, Black and white/Monochrome photography, Carrying a tripod, Exercise, Enclosed Spaces, Crowds, Anxiety

Ideas

1) Taking photos in a city that is familiar to me and looking for things I havent seen before. Leaving envelopes where I take photos with a request “I am a photography student and am exploring the idea of ‘things we overlook’. Would you be so kind as to have a look around and taking a photo, right where you are standing, of something that you havent noticed before. You can email it to me at…. My only requirements, for reasons of ethics and consent are that you must be over 18, if you are not then please ask an adult to take the photo and send it to me. The photo cannot be of an individual or a group of individuals with them as the main focus, but a general street photo with people in it is acceptable. Many thanks”

This idea is one of collaboratively exploring a familiar place with different perspectives. What do we overlook because of familiarity? Do my ideas of a place prevent me from seeing what is there?

2) Exploring the use of text and captions to add narrative. I follow other OCA students blogs, and a recent entry from Emma Pocock’s Landscape Blog. Emma is studying Landscape as a module of the BA (Hons) Photography with the Open College of the Arts. Exercise 2.5 is an exploration fo text in Art. After completing the exercise she says:-

“Although this isn’t a form of art I think I am cut out to make in its pure form, I am definitely going to try harder to jot down words which convey my thoughts and feelings when I start my walks for my assignment. The tiny glimmers of something interesting in the work above is enough to show me that there is merit in trying this out, either with a view to using the words alongside the images or just to trigger new ideas about how to visually represent the way I experience the journey.” (Pockock; 2017)

Along with the inspiration from Pocock’s blog, I have recently reviewed photography by Chloe Dewe-Matthews and an image by Walker Evans. The introduction to Dewe-Matthews “Shot at Dawn” and the title and date of Evans “Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania have helped me to see the importance of text, captions and introductions, and the consideration of what style of text is best with a series or narrative. However I like the idea that Pocock used of writing notes as she walked around, and I could explore this technique as a way of exploring myself and my thoughts and feelings whilst I am photographically exploring the Square Mile. Present the idea as a photo book series with the photo on one page and text on the other.

3) Going to tourist attractions and taking photos in the style of John Hinde, following my recent review of his photography. I don’t find myself attracted to the photography that he made and neither do I enjoy tourist photography. However I found myself to be impressed with his development of his images and, what at the time was, pushing the boundaries with colour photography. Residents in tourist towns often have a negative view of tourists. I could go to popular tourist attractions and take postcard style photos of them and develop them in the style of Hinde, either through digital manipulation or over painting in the style of Gerhard Richter. If I were then to speak with tourists and locals and ask their opinion of the town or attraction and its tourists, I could use these with the images. It would be good to produce these a postcards with the tourists comment on the back, as if they were sending a postcard home, but with the quote from the person who lives near the attraction on the front.

I believe that conceptually idea 3 is the strongest from a conceptual viewpoint. I like the juxtaposition of a tourist postcard and a locals view of tourists. I remember someone from Filey referring to the tourists as “Comforts” meaning “Come for T’ day” as a derogatory statement. Tourism is a great source of local income and also disruption. This idea would also push me with regard to technical ability with regard to landscape photography, how to use space, or control space to tell a story, and with developing photographs. There is an emotional challenge as well. Being in busy, populous and confined spaces with people is something that provokes anxiety within me.

Any feedback on the strengths of the above ideas would be appreciated.

References

Enoch, R; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Barnsley; Open College of the Arts

Pocock, E; 2017; Exercise 2.5: Text in Art; Online at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/63756241/posts/1538253432 (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review of “Shot at Dawn” Chloe Dewe-Matthews; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/review-of-shot-at-dawn-chloe-dewe-matthews/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review of “A Graceyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” by Walker Evans; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/review-of-a-graveyard-and-steel-mill-in-bethlehem-pennsylvania-by-walker-evans/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Keys, R; 2017; Review – John Wilfred Hinde; Online at https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/review-john-wilfred-hinde/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

Richter, G; 2016; Gerhard Richter (online gallery); Online at https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/ (accessed on 01/08/2017)

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.

Brief

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 http://www.danholdsworth.com

  • 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 http://www.tomhunter.org/gallery/

  • 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

FINALLY…

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.