Square Mile

Brief

Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response 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 places 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 new surroundings and meet some of the people around
you.
You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further, or you may deviate
from this. You may want to focus on architecture and landscape, or you may prefer to
photograph the people who you think have an interesting connection to the square
mile within which you currently find yourself.
You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs from which to 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. You may wish to 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.

Research

These are just a few practitioners who have worked within their locality and/or in an
autobiographical way. Spend some time looking at their work to help you generate
some ideas. Document your research and your initial ideas in your learning log.
Keith Arnatt: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/keith-arnatt-666
Gawain Barnard: http://gawainbarnard.com/
Tina Barney: http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/story/barney.html
Venetia Dearden: http://www.venetiadearden.com/en/somerset_stories_fivepenny_dreams.
html
JH Engström: http://www.jhengstrom.com/fbh1.html
Roni Horn: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/roni-horn-aka-ronihorn/
roni-horn-aka-roni-horn-explore-exhibitio-10
Tom Hunter: http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10
Karen Knorr: http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/
Peter Mansell: http://www.weareoca.com/photography/peter-mansell/
Marc Rees: http://www.r-i-p-e.co.uk/
Jodi Taylor: http://www.weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/
[all websites accessed 13/06/14]

Submitting your work 

Include a digital contact sheet (no more than 36 thumbnails per page) of all the
photographs you shot for this assignment. (Read forward to Part Three, Project 1 for
how to do this.)
Also send to your tutor a written analysis of your work of no more than 500 words. This
should contextualise your project by briefly outlining:
• your first impressions and initial response to the brief, and how your idea(s)
developed
• which practitioners you looked at for inspiration and how their work influenced you
during the project
• your technical approach and any particular techniques you incorporated
• the strengths and weaknesses of particular photographs and your project as a
whole (self-assessment)
• any thoughts on how you could develop this project in the future.

Assignment 1: Square Mile

#1: Facing Forwards, Looking Back

1-facingforwardslookingbacksmall

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#2: Obstructed

2-obstructedsmall

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#3: Charming Rural Landscape

3-charmingrurallandscapesmall

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#4: Golden Age of Steam

4-goldenageofsteamsmall

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#5: Glimpse of a Romantic(ised) Past

5-glimpseofromanticisedpastsmall

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#6: You Can’t Go Back There

6-youcantgobacktheresmall

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Contact Sheets

Contact Sheet 1

contactsheet-001small

Contact Sheet 2

contactsheet-002small

Contact Sheet 3

contactsheet-003small

Contact Sheet 4

contactsheet-004small

Contact Sheet 5

contactsheet-005small

Square Mile

 First Impressions & Preparation

Initial plans to travel to the village where I grew up were dropped due to cost. I settled on the town where I live (Worksop), for though I feel no emotional bond with the place, it does contain some pleasing architecture.

Studying the suggested practitioners inspired me, in terms of a concept for the series.  It would be easy to take a set of photos, all within a certain geographical location, but to a person unfamiliar with the place, what would tie them together?

The Concept

Inspired by the work of Jodie Taylor, (Taylor, 2013) I chose nostalgia as a theme.

The local architecture creates in me a sense of nostalgia for a romantic… or romanticised, past. This is coupled with the knowledge that we cannot go back to that (imagined?) simpler time.

These scenes might be described as psycho-geographical landscapes, a concept utilised by Tom Hunter (Hunter, 2015).

Gawain Barnard and particularly his Journeys By Train series (Barnard, 2016), inspired me to retain, or include, objects in the near foreground, partially obscuring the main subject. They seem to have the effect of placing the viewer into the reality of the photographer. In the real world, things get in the way of what we are looking at.

Technical Approach

A tripod was used in shots 1 and 6, all others were handheld.

In shot 1, the camera was set to full manual, with a medium aperture, and approximately 25 second exposure. On all other shots, the camera was set to aperture priority mode, with the widest possible aperture for the given focal distance.

Multiple shots of each scene were taken with different autofocus and metering settings.

Shot 1 was the only pre-planned image, for the rest, I simply walked to areas that I was familiar with, and explored them through the viewfinder.

Strengths & Weaknesses

#1

The framing of the scene by the car interior tells a story.

The distance to the gatehouse reduces the impact.

#2 

The overall image creates an interesting mental sensation.

It feels clichéd.

 #3

The juxtaposition of the repeated man-made and natural vertical structures is pleasing.

The connection to the overall concept of nostalgia is tenuous.

#4

There is a sense of playful chaos which I find pleasing.

The viewer might suspect that I had dropped the camera or pressed the shutter by accident.

#5

From a technical perspective, the lens flare in the original colour image rendered the photo unusable in that form.

In black and white, the background, and indeed the lens flare, creates a pleasing sense of romance and nostalgia.

#6

The feeling of oppression is satisfying. It’s not a comfortable image to look at, but it’s not supposed to be.

The poor light, while adding to the atmosphere, leaves certain desirable details looking indistinct.

Overall

I feel I represented the intended concept successfully, but was less successful in producing images that were clearly a coherent set.

Potential Development: Revisit locations in different weather conditions.

(Word Count: 498)

 

Bibliography

 Barnard, G (2016) Gawain Barnard. At:  http://gawainbarnard.com/ (Accessed on 07/11/2016)

 Taylor, J (2013) Photography and Nostalgia. At: https://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/ (Accessed on 07/11/2016)

Hunter, T (2015) Purdy|Hicks. At: http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10 (Accessed 07/11/2016)

Self-Evaluation

 Having no independent baseline on which to assess this work (or experience of such assessment), I can only base it on comparison with my own previous hobbyist work.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Technically, I am reasonably happy with the techniques and skills used on several of these images, having made use of vanishing points, depth of field, aperture settings and exposure times, shooting both with a tripod, and handheld.

Image quality on the night shot was less than ideal, due to noise in the darker areas, but with the camera set to ISO 100, there was little else I could do under the circumstances.

Visually, while some of the images have real impact, I feel there may have been a lack of imagination at times. #1 ‘Facing Forwards, Looking Back’ and #2 ‘Obstructed’ both have very obvious and unimaginative compositions, though the framing within those compositions is as I had intended.

(5/10)

Quality of outcome

I feel I achieved the aim of depicting the concept ‘Nostalgia for a romanticised past, shot within a square mile’, reasonably well, when the images are viewed in conjunction with their titles. Without those titles, it may be less obvious.

That being said, I have to question whether I shot the photos to fit the concept, or adapted the concept to fit the photos.

The answer is probably a little of both.

There is a lack of coherence in terms of the feel of the images. As a set, they represent an idea, but when that idea is not openly expressed, they don’t ‘feel’ like a set, lacking a unifying visual style.

(5/10)

Demonstration of creativity

This is the section I am most happy with. While the first two images are fairly standard in terms of my usual style of photography, what followed represents a deliberate attempt to break away from old habits and be a bit adventurous, both in terms of subject matter and use of perspective or viewing angles.

I made a deliberate choice to include images which are challenging, and insist on being evaluated as art, as opposed to just ‘a pretty picture’.

(6.5/10)

Context

Could I look at the work of the practitioners I studied, and say that I adhered or conformed to the traditions of which they set examples? Not really.

Would I say that I was inspired by their work, and made use of ideas that came to me after studying their work? Yes, absolutely.

Certain of the images I captured, I would have done, with or without the research, but several are a direct result of ideas obtained by studying those practitioners, and I feel my work was stronger for it.

Incidents

I learned the need for caution and situational awareness while shooting in public places.

Encounters with drunks while night shooting and almost being run over by a woman on a mobility scooter, while crouching to shoot the signal box in town, were both incidents I could have done without.

(Word count: 496)

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Author: Photos Things and Stuff

Study Log for Expressing Your Vision module, for BA (Hons) Photography Degree with OCA

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