Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 1

EYV Assignment 1 ‘Square Mile’ Reflection on tutor feedback

I was surprisingly nervous when I received my ‘end of part 1’ feedback email from my tutor and hesitated before reading it. My first reading of it was rushed, in an attempt to quickly get the main points, hoping that I could then relax enough to read it again more slowly.

I will not reproduce the whole report here, but I will pick out the main points:

I will start with the positives:

  • Good reflection
  • Conceptual thinking
  • Researching around topics
  • Good to keep hard copy learning log
  • Good to be getting involved in the OCA community
  • Two particular images

Areas for further development:

  • A few technical issues – thumbnails were square, some images too big, hyperlink style
  • My images lack depth – they look squashed
  • My images rely quite heavily on text for their meaning

My initial reaction was that I first wanted to address the technical issues, and I did that immediately. I was disappointed in myself that after trying so hard with a steep technical learning curve, I made stupid mistakes.  Rectifying the square thumbnails really is as simple as un-checking a box!  I didn’t know this at the time but it is now sorted.

Next, my images: yes, they are squashed.  My tutor explained that this is an unwanted effect of a long lens – the foreground and background appear nearer to each other in distance than they actually are. I am aware that my longer lenses are my ‘go-to’ and favourites, and my 16-50 is my least favourite. However, I had not been particularly aware of the squashed effect, only the ability to zoom. Robert showed me the effect  by pointing out the difference between my ‘squashed’ photographs and two ‘industrial landscape’ images from exercise 1.3 that he preferred for their ‘wonderful space’.

I looked again at these two images and something surprising happened. I began to really like them. I had included them in my exercise as something of an experiment, separate and additional to my main sequence of images. I can see now that the sense of depth and space really draws the eye into the image. Robert sign-posted me to John Davies whose photography includes industrial landscapes, and I intend to have a look at his work soon.

In terms of storytelling, my tutor explained that, without text to guide the viewer, the meaning of my images is unclear. I love the idea of telling a story through photographs but I am currently more of a writer than a visual artist and can see that my experiences lead me to rely on the written word.

I decided to take a few of my assignment images again. My intention was to see if I could make any of them tell a story that was less reliant on text, and to create more of a feeling of space. I chose not to re-do the whole assignment since I felt that, if I were to do that, I should want to start again with a completely different story.

Here are my re-taken images:

Club new 1

Schoool new 2 School new 1

Pub new 2 Pub new 1

These images are taken at three of the four original sites included in my assignment. I was surprised by how the landscape had changed in just a few weeks. I have not included any text but I hope that my wider angle and altered composition tells a clearer story.

I re-read my initial written analysis that accompanied my assignment:

‘Although I like this approach, I feel that I should have taken the opportunity to experiment and a wider angle may have helped to contextualise my story’

EYV Assignment 1 ‘Square Mile’ Contact Sheets

I took quite a number of images for my first assignment and I chose to take both raw and JPEG. My digital contact sheet therefore contained over 120 images. Here is a link to the photographs from which I chose my final selection:

EYV Assignment 1 Thumbnails pdf

Learning following tutor feedback:

My tutor queried why my thumbnails were square. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about it. Not having produced a contact sheet before, I assumed that thumbnails were square versions of an image (!) This was very easy to correct, it was just a matter of un-ticking the ‘crop to fit’ box when selecting the type of print.

My tutor also commented that ‘there should be no repetition’ of images in a set of thumbnails. I had worried that I had submitted too many images on my contact sheet since I included both the raw and the JPEG image of each photograph in the understanding that I was required to submit all photographs taken during the shoot for the assignment. I can now easily reduce the number of photographs and avoid repetition by selecting just one version of each image.

EYV Assignment 1 ‘Square Mile’ Written submission

Expressing your vision

Assignment 1 – Square Mile

I initially wanted to tell a story about the ordinary people of my village and highlight the importance of the personal within everyday communities.

I ultimately rejected this approach for its failure to show the physical community. My final choice is intended to show how people live with continual change, how the past is lost, and how communities move on.

I was inspired by the artist Jenny Saville  and the photographer Jen Davis and by films like ‘Kes’ and ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, which show the lives of ordinary people. I also took a lot from Martin Parr’s exhibition: The Last Resort depicting the stoicism of working class people on holiday, and Les Monaghan’s: The Desire Project which shows the shared basic desires of individuals within a community.

My final submission was influenced by the concept of taking photographs deliberately for the camera. This assignment enabled me to consider taking photographs of subjects that I would never have previously considered, and for a specific purpose.  I enjoyed thinking in advance of the final outcome rather than simply attempting to take a technically accurate shot of something I liked the look of.

The work of Jodie Taylor (WeareOCA.com) also inspired me to take pictures of the ordinary. Her work in respect of the place where she grew up depicts ordinary streets and buildings, to show an intimacy with the area.

I used my 55–210 mm lens. I know that I use this lens a lot and have a tendency to zoom in. I feel that I should have taken the opportunity to experiment and a wider angle may have helped to contextualise my story.

I think my images work together as a whole: four each of past, present and future, but individually, they lack creativity. They are mostly taken at eye level and directly facing the subject. The image of the empty school yard, with its narrow depth of field is an exception but consequently incongruous. I considered re-taking this image but was deterred by the passer-by who shouted to me as I took the original image. I like the photograph of the part-demolished club yard set against the colour of the washing line. This picture tells a significant story on its own and, though not elaborately staged, I can relate this to my new awareness of storytelling through photography (Cotton, 2014: 49-80)

To develop this project further, I would consider wider creative options.  Vitor Schietti takes photographs of his neighbourhood at night. I became acutely aware that, although this may not have been right for my assignment, the learning was that I never even considered it.

438 words

Bibliography:

Cotton, Charlotte (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London: Thames and Hudson

Schietti, V. Enjoy the Silence. In: Digital Camera (Spring 2016) – I have included an example of his work in my ‘Sketch Book’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EYV Assignment 1 ‘Square Mile’ Self Assessment

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I mostly stuck to my favorite lens 55-210mm and I feel now that my project may have benefitted from a wider angle on some of my images. After finishing my project, I read in the course notes later in part 1:

‘Looking back at some of your composition exercises…would you agree that in the less successful shots there is the feeling of a ‘cropped’ view rather than a ‘transparent window to the world?’ (Course notes p27)

I feel I am guilty of zooming into a view and therefore cropping my images. However, in terms of visual skills, I have consciously looked at things that would normally pass me by.

Quality of outcome

I believe I have told a story and presented it in a way that communicates my idea clearly. I have embraced the story telling genre and the presentation of multiple images together to present a narrative. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to take photographs that make the ordinary seem significant since this is a particular interest of mine. I have drawn on my existing knowledge and looked at examples of the work of other photographers, taking inspiration from their approaches.

I believe my images present as fairly coherent. The photograph of the school yard is a bit incongruous because of its narrow depth of field. I kept my images in colour and the same size and orientation to aid consistency and fluidity and I considered my options in terms of how I wanted to present my project. The use of text headings helps the viewer to understand my story.

Demonstration of creativity

I know that my interpretation of this brief is far from original and it was, in fact, suggested as a possibility in the course material. However, I had many different thoughts leading up to my final choice of subject.  I should like to think though that my imagination in the future would enable me to present something unique.

However, in terms of learning, I feel that I have stepped outside my comfort zone in capturing images that I would not ordinarily consider, and in combining images to tell a story. I also have pushed myself by taking photographs in public places.

Context

I took time to think about the task and, after deciding on an approach and beginning to take my photographs, I was prepared to change my response to this brief in light of my developing understanding. I took inspiration from my experiences so far and from storytelling photographers and the concept of deliberately taking images for the camera.

 

 

EYV Assignment 1 ‘Square Mile’ Initial thoughts

I live in a semi-rural spot. The local pub closed down a long time ago, leaving only the working men’s club, which will be demolished soon and given over to residential housing. That leaves the church and the post office. How could I do an assignment on the post office? I gave my square mile not inconsiderable thought. Though I love living so near the countryside, the stillness and quietness did not initially inspire my photography for this assignment. However, I have a particular interest in the real lives of ordinary people, and I gradually became aware of the activity within the community. I thought about my own life.

My home is almost exactly one mile from the motorway, and, since I can reach it via two different routes that roughly make a square, I began to think of my journey to work each day as significant in terms of what happens in this small area of the world. I decided to document the mile within the context of one day, thus highlighting the many things that actually happen within such a small space and short time in the area where I live.

I then began to think that I am not the only person doing this each day, and, far from my initial view that not a lot happens here, I realised that, in fact, everyone is busy doing something, all the time, and that many of us are linked in our routines, our interests and lifestyles without really thinking about it.

I was inspired by my previous (non-photography related) studies that highlighted the personal experiences of individuals as important in a political context, and I wished to draw attention to the reality of lives in hidden northern corners. I was once asked, by a Londoner, ‘what on earth do you do in the north?’ I was also inspired by artist, Jenny Saville. She made images of herself as an ordinary woman, naked mostly, showing her reality in terms of the body. Also, the photographer Jen Davis, who, in her exhibition Eleven Years (Davis 2017) documents her reality of vulnerability and relationships in the context of her weight loss. It is the ideology of the personal being significant that interests me, not especially the subject matter of these two artists, though I certainly admire them.

I took my first photograph, actually of my mobile phone, showing the alarm set for 6am, on my bedside table. I wanted this to convey an image of the community rising as one, to begin their unrecorded and ordinary days.

Phone

I include my photograph here because, on reflection, although I didn’t use it in the end, it taught me a lot. It struck me how different this photograph is from any I have taken before. I would never previously have considered taking a photograph of my mobile phone. Why would I want to do that? It would not work as a picture of something, but it might work as part of a series of pictures about something.  How interesting. I thought of films like Kes and Saturday Night Sunday Morning that capture the ordinary and make them visible and significant.

I considered that my selection of photographs might include perhaps an image of travelling to work, taken from inside my car, pictures of daily routines, things I love doing, the beauty of the landscape, people walking their dog and doing other suburban ordinary things, an evening glass of wine etc., to show real life in this quiet part of the world. I even considered a macro shot to show the importance of the detail in people’s lives.

However, my subconscious turned this round and round, and after looking at comments from tutors on my fellow students’ blogs, I realised that this particular project would not fulfill the brief of the assignment since my images would say very little about the place in which they were taken – they could have been taken anywhere. So, further consideration needed!

I was fascinated by the quotation at the beginning of the introduction to this assignment in which Professor Mike Pearson writes about ‘gestures and stories – textures, smells…'(course notes p14). Can a photograph evoke a smell? Can I put smells into my assignment? Even if I can’t, this quote made me re-think my storytelling. I am very interested in ordinary people’s lives but this assignment is perhaps not the right avenue to pursue it.

I began to think about the area surrounding my mile and this made me question by image of it as a lovely but static village. Yes, I knew it was the site of an old mine, but that was a long time ago. I decided to go on a photo-walk of the village. I realised that a once popular pub where men had shared a pint and swapped shooting stories, was now half demolished. The working men’s club, where mining stories and banter were freely shared, was soon to be so, and with it, the oral story telling tradition around the village’s mining heritage. New housing is to be built instead. A significant employer has moved his business elsewhere, disrupting some working lives I am sure, but creating new opportunities in bigger new premises. A school has been demolished, the school yard now unused and empty. No doubt the children all found modern new schools in the area.

I began to think about how the past is locked to us and, although we can access stories of the past, it can never be changed and it can never be lived again. I wanted to document something of the changes that have occurred in my village to preserve the old, while acknowledging the new, and present them if possible side by side to show a village that is in constant movement and development, living in the past, the present and the future.

My brother-in-law was photographed some time ago by Moira Lovell, OCA tutor, for her project on miners. I was inspired by the sense of absence in her image of him – a miner without a mine. I thought of the school yard without a school, the farmers without their pub, and the miners without their meeting place.

I took a few photos to see if I could make my story work. I was pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of identifying images that might work and in terms of the reactions of other people as I walked around with my camera.

I took a few photographs of the pub from the front but really wanted an image from the back where the new-build housing, adjacent, was more visible. The gate in the security fencing was open so I stepped inside. The owner was busy with building work and I asked if I could take an image not visible from the road. He declined, saying that his plans for the site were controversial and he did not want to be exploited. As I took a photograph through the railings of the old school site, a man from a passing van shouted ‘stalker’! However, I am aware that I would have taken none of these photographs before but, pushed to tell a story through a set of images, I feel that this is a creative step forward for me.

On trying to select my photographs for inclusion in my assignment, I realised that the mood I was creating was quite gloomy; one of decay and loss. While I want to acknowledge the significant loss within my community, I also want to celebrate it as a success, and a happy place and show that although things change, it is not necessarily a bad thing. To that end, I found myself out with my camera again to capture more of the ‘new’ within my square mile, with the hope of presenting an image of loss, yes, but also movement and progress. With these additional images, I was happy with my story.

Bibliography

Davis, Jen (2017) Eleven Years. [online] Available at: https://www.jendavisphoto.com/eleven-years/ (Accessed 13 April 2017)