Assignment 1 – Brainstorming

Below is a link to a mind map, which was the result of a brainstorming session for Assignment 1 (.pdf):

Assignment 1 – 2 sides of the story – Mind Map


I’ve had a few ideas regarding the possible subject, some of which are more appealing than others. During past assignments, I’ve found that I’ve been more successful with subjects that are “closer to home”, not in a geographic sense, but in a personal sense. Where I have a more intimate knowledge of the subject, or where I feel passionate about it, this helps me create more meaningful images.

There are 2 things I have already decided on. One is that both sets of images will have the same title, that way, they really are 2 sides of the same story. The second is that each set of images will be taken subjectively. This is not really in keeping with Documentary photography, but given that the aim is “to explore the convincing nature of documentary” I think this is important in order to really create 2 different viewpoints.


  • Zach – My son is a typical toddler. On the one hand, he’s sweetness and smiles, and he can melt your heart. On the other, he can be a little &@$%, especially at this stage of his development (the terrible 2’s).
  • 2 Sides of the self – Here I’m considering creating social media profiles for myself and and an alter ego, using profile pictures to document the 2 personas.
  • Sharon – My wife is a working mum. On the one hand, she’s a professional veterinary nurse, on the other, she’s Mummy and Wife.
  • This is Cambridge – During a recent trip to Cambridge for an exercise, I noticed that it has a number of visible “sides”. It is a student city as well as a bustling commercial centre. It is clean, well kept, and caters to tourists, but yet is fraught with litter and has a lesser seen unglamorous side. It is affluent in areas, but also has a large number of homeless people and poverty.
  • This is the Flitch Way –  The Flitch Way is a 16 mile footpath/bridleway stretching from Bishops Stortford to Braintree along what used to be an old railway line.  It is largely very pleasant and scenic, but is plagued by graffiti, fly tipping and the impact of travellers living close to it. This subject is the most appealing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a subject I feel very strongly about, and I can therefore bring a high level of subjectivity to the images (on both sides of the story). Secondly, I think that this subject fits the role of documentary photography well. I would hope that I could use these images to raise awareness of a situation, and perhaps promote change. Thirdly, I think that this subject is the most challenging. My immediate thoughts on this assignment were about photographing people, because they’re always interesting and their multiple stories can be easily portrayed. Documenting 2 sides of a story which is essentially about the landscape will be far more difficult and challenging, and each image will require a lot of thought in terms of composition, lighting etc.


Given that the aim is to “explore the convincing nature of documentary”, the context is driven by this genre/style of photography. We are also instructed to ensure that the images are candid and taken from real life. Some of my ideas lend themselves towards a “Social Documentary” context, where the images place may be in a newspaper or magazine and shot in a photojournalistic/professional style.  Other ideas lend themselves to the context of Social Media, where images are likely to be shot with a phone camera and uploaded with no editing (candid and taken form real life).  Once I’ve gone firm on my subject, I will explore further how to contextualise the work.


The style will again be driven by the subject and the context. Thought will need to be given to the final look of each image in relation to its context, in order for it to be believable. CCTV Stills, poor quality, citizen journalism type images, high quality aesthetic (documentary as art) type images are all considerations. My gut instinct is to simply create the best quality images that I can, whilst the priority lies with generating meaning in a subjective documentary photograph.


Given that I’ve yet to narrow down my potential subjects, there are lots of possible areas of research which could help to inform my approach, and ultimately contextualise the images.  Some rough areas to start looking at (which will no doubt lead to more pointed research):

  • Cambridge – History, socio economic status.
  • Flitch way – History, impact of fly-tipping, environmental impact, users, attractions.
  • Social Media – The role of profile pictures, self portraiture, creating a persona.
  • Social documentary – Child psychology, working mums, capturing moods.
  • Documentary photography – Image sources, believability, styles, documenting a landscape, Documenting variations of the truth.

Next Steps

My next task will be to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each subject, and to weigh up the feasibility of capturing worthwhile images that meet the assignment brief. Once I’ve finalised a subject, I will formulate a research proposal.


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