Assignment 1 – Feedback and reflection

I received my tutor feedback for Assignment 1 a week ago, but due to working away, I’ve only just gotten around to posting it. Initially, my tutor told me that she would not send my feedback until she had received the prints, but as the Royal Mail seem to have lost them, she has sent me the feedback anyway.

This is the first assignment that I have made prints for. They were printed at 9″x6″ on Lustre, with a 1/2″ handling border around each edge, as recommended by my tutor. When I received them, I was very impressed with the quality and colour reproduction (thanks to a colour managed printing process), but they were just a tad soft in some areas (but not noticeable to the untrained eye). I think that this is because I sharpened the images for “screen” as opposed to “print”, and is something I need to look into further. The cost was very reasonable, and I shall definitely use the same print lab in future (www.proamimaging.com). I am deeply disappointed that despite sending them 1st class recorded, the Royal Mail have mislaid them, and I have not had the opportunity for tutor feedback on them.

Below is a “Cut and Paste” of my tutor feedback. My reflective thoughts are in red italics.

Tutor report

Student name Adam Newsome Student number 512403
Course/Module C&N Assignment number 1

Overall Comments

Your thorough approach to the module has meant that you have already done a lot of work which I can see is feeding into the way you have approached your assignment. This is great to see, and very encouraging as I wrote the course. Well done for committing yourself I have no doubts that it will result in stronger practical work as you are already beginning to produce.

I’m very sorry to read that you experienced an attack when out shooting for this assignment.

Very positive and encouraging overall comments. No defined or outlined areas to work on – must keep it up.

Assessment potential

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”

Yes, I intend to go for formal assessment. Must remember to inform tutor when submitting A2.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

First of all it was a good idea to give yourself a research proposal. This helps formulate ideas that are just beginning to form in your mind and helps you stick to the purpose of your project throughout. I always recommend writing about your work right through the process for these reasons.

It seems like you have a strong work flow in practice. Great.

Overall the idea of this project is quite good. Although not outrageously original, I have seen this approach a few times now, you have articulated it well and produced images that capture the two very opposing sides very well with some outstanding stand alone images. I particularly love the abandoned sofa!

Technically the photographs are good, showing a good eye and strong composition and exposure and use of available light.

As an overall outcome the final production does effectively what you set out to achieve. Indeed these two sets of pictures do not appear to be the same place and show the artifice of photography as a tool to be molded in whatever way you like! This is what I wanted you to get from this assignment – to understand that photography is putty in your hand. To be shaped to say whatever you want it to say. That with careful editing and a strong idea photographs can communicate anything you want them to. This is something to push forward in the next assignment…

These are very positive comments, and I can’t help but wonder if the lack of criticism and areas for improvement is down to this being the first assignment? Is my tutor being kind in order to motivate me for the rest of the course? In regards to originality, I agree with my tutor, and could have perhaps tweaked my approach to make it a little more original.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context

Your blog is very well laid out with thorough documentation and is easy to navigate – music to my ears!

I was encouraged by your analysis. The level with which you engage with your reading materials is beyond most level 1 students I encounter. Keep it up! I particularly like dhow you summarized the point of the article or book and provided your own reflections on it sometimes mentioning other reading you had come across and noted how they related to one another. Excellent.

Your self assessment is critical and self aware.

Again, this is very encouraging. I intend to maintain this in order to ensure success at assessment.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

The course should provide you with enough to be getting on with for mow but in direct response to this assignment and issues you raise for further study you might be interested in the following:

Keith Arnott – Areas of outstanding beauty

Anna Fox – Basingstoke and The Village

Pointers for the next assignment

Drawing upon what I said above – that photographs have the power to be molded according to their author – what do you want your photographs to do for you? How will you make them do it?

Photographing the unseen – how can you make photographs tell a story in a metaphorical way? This short TED blog might provide some sparks. They are talking about spoken metaphors but how might you relate this to imagery?

http://blog.ted.com/2012/12/27/the-best-of-ted-ed-the-art-of-the-metaphor/

Tutor name Sharon Boothroyd
Date 12 Jan 2015
Next assignment due 12 March 2015

I am really pleased with this feedback, not only because I am proud of the work that I achieved, but because I have a lot of admiration for my tutor and her work. I feel that I’ve set myself a strong benchmark for this course and the remainder of the assignments. I am now about to embark on a study break due to work commitments and intend to submit my next assignment in mid-late April.

Assignment 1- Development

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:

  1. The vicinity of the A120 underpass.
  2. The stretch of route from Little Dunmow to Flitch Green.
  3. The vicinity of the Flitch Way travellers site.
  4. 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.

Contact sheets:

Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-01 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-02 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-03 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-04 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-05 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-06 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-07 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-08 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-09 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-10 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-11 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-12 Assignment 1 Contact Sheets-13

Assignment 1 – Research Proposal

In order to formulate an approach to Assignment 1, I’ve decided to create a Research Proposal. This will help me to clarify the scope of the assignment and to keep me on track when it comes to creating the images. It will also help to contextualise the assignment.

Title: This is the Flitch Way…..

This is a working title and any changes to it will be documented. Both sets of images will have the same title, as they are 2 sides of the same story. I have considered giving each set a different subtitle, but instead will allow the images to speak for themselves. I have chosen a title which makes a statement, so that the viewer is informed that what follows is “real”.  After viewing the set, the viewer is then free  to make up their own mind as to whether the statement is a positive or negative one.

Topic or theme:

The assignment brief that I am working to can be found here. It is my intention to use photography to document two different sides of the Flitch Way, which is route that runs from Bishops Stortford to Braintree (approx 16 miles) along what used to be a steam railway line. (see here for a map and more info).

The route brings a lot of joy to walkers, cylists and horse riders. It is largely traffic free, very scenic, rural and peaceful. It also runs through Great Notley Country Park, and has a visitor Centre/Cafe located at what used to be Rayne Station. However, there are sources of frustration. Because the route is largely rural, but with good access and transport links, Fly-tipping is a big problem. Underpasses which run under the M11 and A120 are heavily graffitied and are popular hangouts for large groups of youths which often intimidate local residents or users of the route. A travellers site, owned by Essex County Council sits along the route near Little Dunmow. Here, horses and dogs owned by the travellers are often found roaming freely, causing a hazard to dog’s and children, and again there is often intimidation. Just this week, I was attacked by a group of travellers, for taking photographs in close proximity to their site. Essentially, I intend to create a positive set of images, and a negative set of images.

I see this assignment developing quite well. I’m keen to get underway, although this will probably be after Xmas now. The weather will play a big part in the final look of the images. For the “positive” set, I envisage warm tones, with rays of sunlight breaking through leaves. Unfortunately, it’s winter and the trees are bare, so there will have to be some creative flex there. Instead, I may look to capture rolling fog on a frosty morning. As the assignment progresses and ideas shift, I will attempt to record this in my learning (b)log.

Who is the audience

At the moment I see the audience being the general public. In the first instance, this assignment will be seen by my tutor and fellow students, but in terms of context, I see the images situated in 2 different camps:

  1. The first set of images (the good side) will hopefully be worthy of inclusion on a visitors information leaflet (like this) or website such as this. To work, the context must fit. The images must be created in such a way as they denote/connote happiness, pleasure, etc and this is where I will be most critical in developing the images.
  2. The second set of images (the bad side), I see being published in the local newspaper (The Dunmow Broadcast), or being used as documentary evidence to help raise awareness of the issues which plague the route and its users. In order to capture the readers attention, the images must be interesting, and should be capable of telling the story themselves, perhaps with only some assistance from a caption or supplementary text.

At present, I see all of the images being shot in colour, but this may change subject to how the assignment develops. Although each image will be a part of a set, I want each photograph to be able to stand alone as an illustration of its particular set.

Approach and methods

I have decided to approach this assignment in 6 stages:

  1. Recce – Firstly, I’m going to cycle the route, identifying the areas and specific subjects that I think will show the Flitch Way in its Best and Worst lights.
  2. Image planning – From the Recce, I will plan out each of the images that I intend to take, which will include possible compositions, exposure times, lighting requirements etc, although I’m conscious that these still need to be candid and taken from real life.
  3. Research through practice – I will revisit the pre-identified areas to take the shots that were planned. I will then look for areas of improvement. I may also submit the images to student forums for peer-review/critique.
  4. Final Shooting – Based on the points identified at stage 3, I will re-shoot images as required.
  5. Image selection – From contact sheets, the final set of 10-14 images will be selected (5-7 per set), processed and printed.
  6. Submission – Images will be submitted to my tutor and may also be submitted to other agencies – see below.

I will experiment with images taken at different times of the day as the lighting may lend itself better to one particular set of images. Likewise, bright hard sunlight and shadows may suit some images better than soft diffused light due to heavy cloud.

Research will be conducted in a number of ways:

  1. By travelling the route to get a feel first-hand for both sides of the story, which I then intend to convey.
  2. Through local news – looking specifically at issues regarding the Flitch Way.
  3. Through tourist information – what brings people to the Flitch Way?
  4. Research through practice/continual development.

Getting in

Access to the route is unrestricted. Certain attractions, such as the Country Park and the Visitor Centre have specific opening times which will be looked at.

The visitor centre may have specific rules governing photography which will be discussed with staff in person, but the remainder of the route is public.

My biggest concern is using my camera in close proximity to the travellers site and the underpasses, which may not be welcomed despite the land being public. I will always respect peoples wishes if they do not want to be photographed, but these people have a complete lack of rationality.

Timetable

The completion of this assignment will be dependant on a number of factors, such as the Weather, Christmas plans, and Childcare options. Although this is very loose timetable, I hope to have the assignment complete by 5 Jan 15, as this is when I go back to work.

Proposed research references

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

Subject

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.

Ideas:

  • 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.

Context

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.

Style

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.

Research

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.

Essential Reading: The ongoing moment – Geoff Dyer

This book took some getting in to. Dyers writing style was not initially reader friendly. In fact it seemed to be all over the place, with musings on photography interspersed with poetry. This was quite off-putting, but I’m glad I stuck with it, because actually, I found the book to be a very enjoyable ramble through Dyers insights and observations on some of histories most influential photographers and their work.

I found the content to be quite opinionated (i.e. from Dyers perspective), and images and photographers were discussed contextually in relation to each others work. Dyer offered insights into how the meaning of certain images has changed  over time, due to the shift in context and the way in which semiotic language has changed, but more importantly, what the meaning of an image may have been according to the photographer, at the time an exposure was made. Dyer looks at individual photographs in-depth, dissecting them and opening up debate, by discussing the interactions and narrative content, as well as composition and use of colour. This is backed up by also looking in-depth at some select photographers. I was left feeling like I’d read a series of mini-biographies. Dyer delves in to the personal and professional lives of these artists to help us understand their methods (and in some cases madness). He also helps us to understand how their work relates to the work of other artists, and how many of the prolific photographers of their day interacted with each other. Of note is the fact that this book is not divided into chapters. There are no separate topics. Instead, there is a constant preamble, which flits back and forth in quite a fervent manner, which can make for difficult and heavy reading, but which is also quite refreshing and entertaining.

My interest was initially peaked  whilst reading about an apparent lack of planning and preparation for photographic projects. The planning of assignments is not one of my strong points, so it’s nice to see that some of histories best known photographers have done away with it altogether. Robert Frank apparently said on his Guggenheim scholarship application (for his project The Americans) that the project would “shape itself as it proceeds and is essentially elastic”. I have no doubt that Frank still had a strong idea of what he wanted to achieve, and how he would achieve it, but did not plan in great detail each shot. Dorothea Lange is quoted as saying “To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting”. Lange is best known for her work as a documentary photographer, and I can see this approach working well in this genre of photography where objectivity is vital, as is candid reportage. But in order to create highly aesthetic work in an abstract, surrealist or modernist style, surely the opposite is true? The photographer must already have an idea of the image he/she is trying to create?

Another area I struggle with, is confrontation. I love street photography, and I love to photograph people. The human condition is by far the most interesting subject for photography (to me), and I’d love nothing more than to get up close to my subjects with a camera. Unfortunately, we live in an age of suspicion, and despite the constant CCTV surveillance on our streets, people seem to inherently dislike their photo being taken by strangers. This is probably for fear of candid photo’s appearing on social media in unflattering poses or compromising situations. I’ve had  my fair share of run-ins whilst photographing people in public. It was therefore interesting to read that Paul Strand used to attach a lens to the side of his camera to create an impression of photographing something else, in order to catch people unaware. He states that by doing this he was “being true” to his subjects by capturing the real them.

In looking at the work of Ed Clark, the composition of his photograph Going Home, 1945¹ is analysed. Dyer points out that the sense of pain and suffering is heightened by the crop, due to the frame partially amputating the arm/hand. There is also a sense of this being an official photograph thanks to the photographers point of view approximating that of the cortege. It is almost as if we are seeing this scene from the funeral procession. Both of these points are valid, and although subtle, they help to add real impact to this documentary image. This is worth noting for future reference.

Dyer looks at the narrative sequence of images, and although it may seem obvious, a narrative can work best if the sequence has multiple arrangements. That is to say that a narrative doesn’t have to be linear. Multiple narratives can be achieved by inter-linking images in a web-like arrangement (think gallery installation), or by having a disrupted narrative, where the story ends at the beginning or flits back and forth. This in itself can bring an element of surprise to a story (think Pulp Fiction).

Next we look at “Self Labeled Photographs”. That is photographs which include signs or text. Reading the text obliges us to read the photograph, and can add meaning in the form of Relay. This often carries more weight than a caption because it is an integral part of the image and is contained within the frame, therefore becoming part of the narrative, not the context. Some not so subtle examples can be found in Lee Friedlander’s series Letters from the people.

There are large portions of the book that are dedicated to the subjects of photographs or to elements of a photograph that have specific meaning. Some examples:

  • Hands – Can contain many meanings, such as building the part from the whole. Can be clasped in solidarity or in prayer. A photo concentrating on the detail can still provide the “bigger picture”.
  • Hats – In depression era America, the hat represented social standing. It became a means of codification (semiotics) within photography, provided the viewer has a knowledge of the era.
  • Beds – Made and unmade, and their connotations of death.
  • Photographers as the subjects. Begs the question as to whether the image is about the subject or the photographer. This can only be answered based on the context and narrative.
  • Benches – lots of bloody benches. Dyer almost makes you feel sorry for them!
  • Fences, windows, gas stations and roads to name but a few.

As mentioned above, Dyer takes us on a detailed journey into the lives of some influential photographers. This highlights many of the similarities between these creative minds and also many of the differences. Alfred Stieglitz, despite being highly acclaimed, was very aloof, where as Weegee was very much in touch with the lower classes. Both Stieglitz and Edward Weston found the act of photographing “herculean or back breaking” – I can empathise. Since I’ve started to formally study the art, a lot of the fun has been lost and it has become a bit of a chore (at times). Many photographers, including Stieglitz and Weston were sexually involved with their subjects (and perhaps each others subjects/partners). Does this mean that a relationship is required between photographer and subject to create “art” photographs? I don’t necessarily mean sexual, but in order to really capture emotion, eroticism, pain etc there must be a need to intimately understand your subject? We also see that the masters of photography were highly critical of each others work. Cartier-Bresson is quoted as saying (in the 30’s) “The world is going to pieces, and people like Adams & Weston are photographing rocks”. I guess that this just goes to show that even the “masters” have different opinions on what is art, or at least what is important!

As I’m approaching Assignment 1, I found a comparison between 2 similar images (one by Frank and one by Lange) to be quite enlightening, particularly in understanding how context can have such an impact on an images meaning. In Lange’s image The Road West, New Mexico, 1938³ , viewed in the context of her work for the FSA, we see a road to economic salvation and infinite promise. There are no other vehicles on this road, it is a one way journey. We see the scarcity of resources, and read this as a story of the migrant workers. In Franks image US 285, New Mexico, 1955-56♠, we are faced with a very similar scene. The hint of a car coming towards us on the opposite carriageway gives us the option of return. The light on the road gives us a feeling of movement, motion and speed. In the context of Franks series The Americans, this image is about covering ground. Despite their similarities, given the different contexts, the meanings are worlds apart. It would be fair to say that Lange’s photograph is about the search for work, and Frank’s is about the search for works of art.

Having reached the end of the book, I was quite happy to find an advert for the “Geoff On” App, which is available on Apple and Android. Having downloaded it to my phone, it features essays by Dyer on a multitude of subjects, some of which are related to art, artists and photographers. I’ve not had a chance to look at it in depth yet, but look forward to doing so in the near future.

app

Bibliography:

Dyer, G (2005). The ongoing moment. Canongate books ltd, GB.

References:

¹ Ed Clark (2005) ‘Going Home, 1945’. [photograph] The ongoing moment. GB: Canongate books ltd, p.39

² http://fraenkelgallery.com/portfolios/letters-from-the-people – accessed 16 Dec 14

³ Dorothea Lange (2005) ‘The road West, New Mexico, 1938’. [photograph] The ongoing moment. GB: Canongate books ltd, p.221

♠ Robert Frank (2005) ‘US 285, New Mexico, 1938’ from The Americans. [photograph] The ongoing moment. GB: Canongate books ltd, p.223

Assignment 1 – Brief and first thoughts

The brief

Two sides of the story

This assignment is designed to give your tutor a feel for your work and won’t count towards your final grade if you decide to have your work assessed. However, the assessors may wish to see it so that they can gauge your progress across the course.

Create at least two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story. The aim of the assignment is to help you explore the convincing nature of documentary, even though what the viewer thinks they see may not in fact be true.Try to make both sets equally convincing so that it’s impossible to tell which version of the images is ‘true’.

It might be interesting to consider the project as evidence for a court case. What conflicting stories can you make your images convincingly tell? Would it stand up in court?

Choose a theme and aim for 5–7 images for each set, depending on your idea. Discuss this with your tutor.

Here are a few ideas:

• You could interpret this brief by showing the same scenario from two different angles. Does this alter how we read the situation?

• You may wish to create an alter ego by using snapshots of yourself or a friend. This could involve photographing them in two very different and potentially conflicting personas.

• You could make a parody of a dating website profile picture. Create different versions of the same person looking completely different in each one. Which one represents them best and how can we know?

Or you may prefer to use your own take on the theme. However you choose to interpret the brief, ensure the images are candid and ‘taken from real life’. Be experimental and take some risks. Perhaps you could make a list of ideas and choose the most challenging or absurd option to stretch yourself.

Send your sets of images to your tutor by the method you’ve agreed. Include an introduction of 300 words outlining what you set out to do and how you went about it. Also send to your tutor the relevant pages of your learning log or your blog url.

It’s good to get in the habit of printing your work so try to send prints to your tutor where possible. This is not obligatory but will help when it comes to assessment. Developing your prints in order to achieve the best results is a long process so it’s best to start now.

First thoughts

In order to simplify the brief, I’ve extracted and bullet pointed the key requirements below with some thoughts:

  • 2 sets of photo’s – telling different versions of the same story.
    • A true and false?
    • To be convincing.
    • Would it stand up in court?
  • 5-7 images per set (10-14 total).
    • Fewer stronger images is better than more weak images.
  • Images to be candid and taken from real life.
    • Documentary/reportage.
    • No staging.
  • Include an intro of 300 words.
    • No waffle then!
  • Include prints in the submission
    • Not obligatory, but good to get the practice in.

I read the assignment brief before starting Part One in the hope that I’d find inspiration during those first few weeks. I was initially quite taken with the idea of photographing a couple, showing a loving/romantic side, and then a waring “at each others throats” side. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the brief properly, because on reading it again, it states that the images are to be candid and taken from real life. My idea hinged strongly on staging/posing, but on reflection, this would not have been true to “documentary” and would have been more akin to a photo essay/narrative.

The ideas listed in the brief are a good starting point, and there may be something in the idea of a “dating website parody”. Taking it a stage further, I recently read a classmates (Emma Pocock) research post¹ which toyed with the idea of presenting the images for this assignment within Social Media. Although she points out the reasons why she chose not to, I like the idea of exploring the way we use images to document our lives/personas on Social Media, and how we present our own version of the “truth” to our “friends”. Perhaps 2 conflicting Facebook profiles for the same person may be a starting point?

As well as the subject, there are still a lot of other unknowns at the moment. In my previous posts², I’ve looked at the role of Citizen Journalism, and documentary photographs coming from video stills, and mobile phone cameras. Given the different mediums in use in contemporary documentary photography, this is an area that needs to be given some considerable thought. In order to create a believable set of documentary images, the medium must be aligned to the subject, so that it denotes/connotes realism and truth to the viewer.

Next Steps

Having gathered my thoughts, I need to structure my approach to this assignment. This will involve some detailed research into documentary photography, its practitioners and contemporary methods. I will also look at the use of images on Social Media, and see if this idea is worth developing further, or whether I should switch fire, and seek inspiration elsewhere. No doubt some brainstorming will help, and then a Research Proposal will cement the ideas before shooting begins.

References

¹ https://emmapocockphotography.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/constructing-personas-social-media/ – accessed 15 Dec 14

² https://contextandnarrative.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-photograph-as-document-project-1-eyewitnesses-exercise-1/ – accessed 15 Dec 14