Since my last post I’ve been busy developing Assignment 1. This has involved work in a number of areas, but has predominantly involved shooting masses of photographs, reviewing them, and shooting yet more photo’s to try and create the final product(s) that I envisage.
Having covered a lot of ground to identify key areas of the Flitch Way to photograph, I eventually settled on 4 main stretches of the route. These were:
- The vicinity of the A120 underpass.
- The stretch of route from Little Dunmow to Flitch Green.
- The vicinity of the Flitch Way travellers site.
- The vicinity of Rayne Station Centre.
I have since re-visited these sites a number of times, taking advantage of different light/weather conditions to best capture the required mood/set the scene for the photographs content. This has been a work in progress and has required a cycle of constant review/re-shoot. Some of the planned images never happened due to poor timing, or uncooperative subjects! In an ideal world I would persevere, and go out shooting again and again until I got the shot I wanted. I have the patience, just not the time! I am now at a stage in the assignment whereby the images I have, are the ones I must work with. This is due to an impending study break which will be beginning soon, as work takes me overseas until mid April.
During the past week or so, the assignment has developed theoretically, as well as practically. I initially set out to take objective photo’s in a bid to stay true to the documentary angle. I found this increasingly difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m quite passionate about the subject(s) I’m shooting (environment/nature etc). Because of this, I got more enjoyment out of being subjective, to the point where I found the assignment quite therapeutic, in dealing with refuse and fly-tipping. Secondly, I found myself thinking back to Assignment 1 of Art of Photography, which was about photographing Contrasts. In a way, this assignment is very similar, creating contrasting views through photography. With this in mind, I found myself trying to increase the contrast between both sides of the story, almost to the point of exaggeration, through my subjectivity. Rather than fight the subjectivity, I decided to embrace it, remembering that the aim of the assignment is to “explore the convincing nature of documentary photography”.
Whilst out and about, I met the chairman of the Friends of the Flitch Way, Mr Gordon Cameron, who gave me a guided tour of the Flitch Way museum. He was quite taken with the scope of the assignment, and has invited me to send him some images for inclusion in future publications. He has also invited me back to the museum to photograph an educational visit by local schoolchildren. Listening to the history of the old railway, and the work undertaken by the charity has helped to inform my approach to one side of the story, adding context. I have also met many of the route’s users, who have shared their experiences and concerns over the effects of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour on the route. This has strengthened my resolve to submit some of my images and a story to the Dunmow Broadcast. In considering this, and my approach to taking the photographs for this side of the story, I came across this article on the BBC website. Although the situation on the Flitch Way is nowhere near as bad as this, I found the approach taken to the images useful in terms of research.
One of my areas of concern was my own safety, and this has hindered the assignment slightly. Recently I was attacked by a group of 6 people from the Flitch Way travellers site for taking photographs in that vicinity. The occupants have an assumption that anyone photographing close by is doing so because they are either a) a “Nonce” trying to photograph their kids (which I was accused of), or b) a “Grass” gathering evidence to send to the police/council (which I was also accused of). With very little rationality, punches were thrown before any explanation could be given. With this in mind, I was overly cautious, particularly given that a bloke carrying a large DSLR and tripod is not inconspicuous. The “So What” is that the images taken in this area were done so hand-held, and in haste. Likewise, the A120 underpass is out of sight and out of mind. It is close to the town of Dunmow and is a popular hangout for youths thanks to the makeshift skate park that has been built there. Although low-light images of ASBO kids in hoodies would have best suited this assignment, I wasn’t going to risk it. So instead, I opted for images of a deserted and atmospheric graffitied underpass to communicate the issues.
The last area of development has been in processing. In order to stay true to documentary photography, I don’t want to manipulate the images in terms of content (i.e. no cloning or compositing). I have found myself asking what constitutes manipulation though? For example, is adjusting the colour (not replacing), boosting the clarity or contrast, manipulating the image? This brings me back to the earlier point of subjectivity vs’ objectivity. Having now shot all of my images, this is the area that is still developing. I have experimented slightly on 1 or 2 images regarding the final look/feel created in the digital darkroom, but more work is needed.
My next job is to whittle down the remaining 498 images to a final 10-14, before processing them. Due to time constraints, I have decided to skip the planned “peer review process” that I mentioned in the research proposal. It was something that I looked forward to trying, but given that this assignment is not counted towards the final grade at assessment, I am willing to forego it this time.