ASSIGNMENT 1: TWO SIDES TO THE STORY

Niki South         Student number: 514516

TUTOR REPORTTutor report OCA Niki South 514516 ass 1

MY REFLECTIONS ON FORMATIVE FEEDBACK

STRENGTHS HIGHLIGHTED

  • The research that I’d undertaken; I was especially pleased with this as my Expressing Your Vision feedback from assessors was that they’d like to see more research practice.
  • A strong collection of images providing a good answer to the brief.
  • A very good academic approach.
  • My own assessment of my work and images.
  • The layout and content of my learning log. 

AREAS FOR DEVELOPMENT

  • Ensure that I really select what is in the frame to present the strongest elements to the reader. This would have made the images more interesting which I struggled with.
  • Making sure that if my images are only slightly off centre or at an angle that it doesn’t look lazy; it was deliberate but I understand that it may look like a “grabbed aesthetic”.
  • Using the ISO to my advantage e.g. to increase the shutter speed to avoid any camera shake.
  • Consider whether the horizon should be upright as in some shots I have lined the subject up by verticals instead.
  • Less use of the wide angle and more use of close up detail to deliver a message.
  • Include more visual material in my research to support my text. I have deliberately reduced this as copyright issues have been raised by colleagues, however I will return to using more images to support my research but add this disclaimer I have attached to my homepage to every post that includes an image by another photographer or artist.

MY LEARNING POINTS

  • The most important message that I will take away from this assignment is to really consider what is in the frame, excluding what is less important and crop post shooting if necessary. I prefer to compose as I shoot, but I should consider cropping post shooting if necessary to ensure that the viewer is presented with the most powerful elements.

REWORKING THE ASSIGNMENT

My tutor said not to reshoot however for the final set of images I have made some alterations to the final set of images:

  • I have recropped several to straighten them on the horizontal rather than the vertical (Boat builders Image 25, Unbuilt supermarket image 6, Penny Pinchers image 72, and Oxfam image 20).
  • I have also recropped to reduce extraneous material and focus the viewer on the important information (Castle image 51, Penny Pinchers image 72, and Oxfam image 20).
  • I have substituted image 22 Cinema for image 20 as this allowed me to straighten and crop it more effectively. I thank my tutor for these suggestions which have improved the images submitted.
  • I did consider substituting the post office image as I agree it does give a message of deprivation, however I don’t feel that there an image the declining series where the message contained in both the image and the accompanying text is not as strong; I also feel that each image in this series brings a slightly different message about deprivation.

Link to work submitted to tutor: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/a1-work-submitted-to-tutor/

Link to learning log: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/a1-learning-log/

These mind maps summarise the narrative of my planning, post shooting thoughts and editing notes contained in the learning log: 

mind-map-planning-1500

mind-map-shooting-1500

mind-map-editing-1500

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LEARNING LOG: TWO SIDES OF THE STORY

THE PROCESS

Planning:

I decided to develop a story local to Pembrokeshire (well actually just over the border in Ceredigion). Cardigan once a Norman stronghold, a booming sea port, a market town now a rural town has many faces and I thought I could present it in two ways, as a thriving town and as a sadly declining town.

My research showed that in the latest index of multiple deprivation the area was ranked 149 out of 1909 in Wales (1 being the most deprived) and particularly deprived in Income, housing and employment (2015, 2006a). However there has been much visible renovation around the town in recent years, a theatre/cinema complex, a reopened Castle, the refurbished quayside and many tourist attractions. A walk down the high street alone reveals both sides of this story.

When planning I easily developed ideas for both stories, but more for the story of deprivation. I had to shoot the assignment when visiting the area in a short window and hoped to confirm these ideas then. I researched the local area in particular news stories that might lead me t examples of deprivation. I also researched documentary, urban decay and street photographers, see: Link https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/exhibitions-books/

Planning Mind map:mind-map-planning-1500

Shooting:

I knew that I would need to adopt a visual style to give the context and narrative I intended to, documentary. I considered what documentary style I would adopt, reportage (subjective), photojournalism (objective), or art (seductive). I considered shooting as” documentary as art” however I was concerned that the images might not be considered as realities if I didn’t present the narrative fairly explicitly. Whilst I thought the deprivation story might be effective presented in this way I didn’t feel it was appropriate for the revival photographs, which I felt needed a more conventional documentary style; I settled on a photo journalist style and aimed to shoot as an “outsider” to present an objective viewpoint as I believe a photojournalist should.

I had initially thought as documentary style photography I should present it in black and white; I next thought I would present the positive story in colour and the negative side in black and white to falsely lead the viewer to believe that the positive story is the reality. However before shooting I decided that I would present both on colour as I agree totally with Joel Meyerowitz that “If photography is about describing things, then colour describes those more” (cited in Louise, 2012). Stephen Shore (2010) concurs that “colour adds a new level of descriptive information” to the image. I also thought that I could try to shoot the deprived photos in the style of aftermath images.

I was surprised when on location how difficult it was to find signs of visible poverty in the area. I had expected to find run down housing, people living on the streets or unemployed evident during the day time. However this was not so. The housing estates were comparatively clean and tidy. So in order to show the underlying poverty I concentrated on empty shops, thriving charity shops, concentrations of housing for sale, closed down community amenities and decaying businesses. I more easily found locations of revival though these were not gripping to photograph (castle entrance, theatre, new eco housing). I did seek out through networking a couple of successful local businesses to shoot (boat builder and housing construction).

Shooting mind map:mind-map-shooting-1500

Editing:

Post shooting I was not feeling particularly inspired, which is an unusual experience for myself. I knew that in adopting a documentary style I would probably be less experimental than I would normally like. I had tried to “look” in interesting ways but I didn’t feel that came across in my images.

When choosing my images I knew I should look for a narrative within the frame and possible broader context outside of the frame. I wanted to show good observational and compositional skills and some experimentation.

I began editing my declining town images as these were the ones which If felt more positive about. I knew I would include the charity shop, evidence of empty shops, and evidence of housing for sale. I also wanted to include the closed and neglected livestock market and marina. From my shortlist I rejected the closed health centre and the image of the job centre as I didn’t think they had a strong narrative.

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I rejected the images of a quiet high street as this overlapped with the empty shops and for sale signs.

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I also eventually rejected the image of the closed post office as I felt it was telling the same story as the closed penny pinchers shop.

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In creating a series I was mindful that there should be a consistent narrative, a visual flow and overall coherence. After settling on 6 subjects I then sought images of them which were offering an interesting perspective, possibly jarring in some way, angled lines and that contained an explicit story within the frame. I was satisfied that the old livestock market, the houses for sale, the unbuilt supermarket and the dilapidated marina contained some of these elements and settled on a brutal frontal of the empty shop and a shot showing contrasting lively interest in the charity shop.

I felt that I had through the editing of the declining town photos developed a consistent style and then edited the revived town images. I knew that I should show the bustling high street, castle entrance, theatre/cinema complex. I toyed with a shot of the coastal bay, an adventure sports site, eco social housing, the successful boat builders and the café/music venue. I dropped the coastal bay image as it moved away from the town centre location of the others images, including the declining town images.

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I also dismissed the café/music venue shot as I felt the narrative overlapped that of the theatre and bustling high street.

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I found these generally less interesting than the declining town images, as they were necessarily pretty, conventional and unchallenging. I decided to include images of the successful boat builder and the eco social housing to echo opposing stories in the deprived town images (the houses for sale and the dilapidated marina). For the six subjects I eventually settled on I looked for images that again had either a slightly interesting perspective, strong lines or an obvious story.

Within each series I have tried to present coherence through style and determined as the narrative may not be obvious in some, for instance the eco social housing, the boat builders and the old livestock market I would accompany the images with cations throughout.

Editing mind map:mind-map-editing-1500

References

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Shore, S. (2010) The nature of photographs: A primer. 2nd edn. new York: Phaidon Press.

 

RESEARCH: TWO SIDES OF THE STORY

Two sides of the story

I searched for inspiration other than those studied during the exercises in this module but struggled. I looked at urban decay photography, which is interesting, but the majority of these images are interiors whilst mine would be exteriors; although it does ally itself with aftermath photography which I like. I returned eventually to photographers I had explored when visiting the Strange and Familiar exhibition (March 2016) showcasing international photographers images of Britain. However most of the images I’d seen there contained people and I thought mine would not. I did revisit the images of Candida Hofer of buildings in Liverpool using clean graphic lines and interesting perspective, the colourful shop front images of Jim Dow, the angled lines and abrupt framing of Sergio Iarrain and the diagonals and upright lines of Garry Winogrand. I also drew on my observations after the William Eggleston exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (October 2016) that I would consider using more unusual compositions and use of space in a frame, leading lines and colourful objects set against dull backgrounds. (Link to write up: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/exhibitions-books/)

I found the work of the following photographers helpful:

Stephen Shore (B. 1047)

I returned to the work and writings of Stephen Shore who I had discovered when studying Expressing Your Vision. Shore made several road trips across the states where he shot roadside architecture in colour. His book Uncommon places (Shore 1984) proved that colour was essential “by creating composition of mindboggling complexity and brilliance” (Golden, 2013). Shore rather like Eggleston “shot the commonplace and made it suddenly arresting” (O’Hagan, 2015).

In Shores images I was able to see exteriors of buildings and streets presented with an interesting way of looking.

shore-1

https://fotocolectania.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/stephen-shore.jpg (Accessed 30.10.16)

 

shore-2

http://www.phaidon.com/resource/shore-1.jpg (Accessed 30.10.16)

It was also good to remind myself of his writings in The Nature of Photographs: A Primer (Shore, 2010). I like the way he describes how a photographer gives structure to a photograph on the depictive level by time, frame, flatness and focus. I realise that I do now change my vantage point as I compose to change the relationships within the frame. However it reminded me that the framing would be vital in these images to convey the correct context and narrative and should be “active” containing all the information needed by the viewer. It was stimulating to remind myself of these things although I felt that I would need to be less experimental in order to present the context and narrative for my documentary photos.

 Walker Evans (1903-1975)

He was a forerunner of American documentary photography, photographing the ordinary “creating an encyclopaedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making” (Walker Evans, 2000). He portrayed American life factually through individual portraits, surveys of buildings, signs, advertising, cars and domestic interiors. Walker Evans contributed more than 400 photos to article in Fortune Magazine using a standard journalistic picture-story format. His images of the Great Depression did more than hold a mirror up “no mirror ever made, after all, could so clearly reflect what he saw, and wanted others to see” (Cosgrove, 2012), he certainly gave a clear and unadorned documentary vision of his subjects.

Many of his photographs of buildings are shot straight on, perhaps this was a style I could try for my documentary photos:

walker-evans-1

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/52683?locale=en (Accessed 30.10.16)

This picture illustrates how his heighted attention on a part of a photograph gives the image the appearance of a collage.

walker-evans-2

Gas station, Reedsville, West Virginia, 1936 http://www.brianrose.com/journal/evans_gas_station.jpg (accessed 30.10.16)

In order to understand my subject the local area of Cardigan, I additionally did much reading around local news especially on housing and welfare and these are included in my bibliography. One story that particularly struck me was  the article on the increasing number of charity shops, their exemption from business rates and that it is unfair “as it’s not a level playing field” as other high street businesses have higher costs (Robinson, 2015).

References

Cosgrove, B. (2012) “American photographs” by Walker Evans. Available at: http://time.com/50857/walker-evans-american-photographs/ (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Golden, R. (2013) Masters of photography. 3rd edn. London: Sterling Pub Co.

O’Hagan, S. (2015b) Shady character: How Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s (Accessed: 31 October 2016).

Robinson, H. (2015) “Concern” as tenth charity shop opens in cardigan. Available at: http://www.tivysideadvertiser.co.uk/news/13624531._Concern__as_tenth_charity_shop_opens_in_Cardigan/?ref=mr&lp=3 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Shore, S. (1984) Uncommon places. New York: Aperture,N.Y.

Shore, S. (2010) The nature of photographs: A primer. 2nd edn. new York: Phaidon Press.

Walker Evans (1903–1975) | essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of art history | the metropolitan museum of art (2000) Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Bibliography

Dunlap, D.W. (2009) Behind the scenes: Edgar Martins speaks. Available at: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/behind-10/ (Accessed: 24 October 2016).

2015 (2006a) Aberteifi/cardigan – Teifi, Ceredigion – neighbourhood profile – schools – house prices – council tax – gas / electricity prices. Available at: http://www.uklocalarea.com/index.php?q=Aberteifi%2FCardigan+-+Teifi&wc=00NQNT (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Information and maps of walks in the cardigan area and beyond (no date) Available at: http://www.visitcardigan.com/cardigan-tourist-information/walking-in-the-cardigan-area (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

The Guardian (2013) UK seaside resorts in decline – in pictures. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2013/aug/06/uk-seaside-resorts-decline-in-pictures (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

(2016) A tax on outsiders, or sensible bid to tackle housing crisis? Available at: http://www.cardigan-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=104688&headline=A%20tax%20on%20outsiders,%20or%20sensible%20bid%20to%20tackle%20housing%20crisis?&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2016 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

Mathew Merrett (no date) Available at: http://thephotomat.smallfolio.com/#galleries/decay/urban-decay (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Rossington, B. and Miller, C. (2016) The most deprived places have been revealed – how does your area compare? Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/10-worst-deprived-places-england-6548105 (Accessed: 25 October 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part One The photograph as document

Project 3 Reportage

Research point

Do some research into contemporary street photography. Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Graham, Joel Sternfeld and Martin Parr are some good names to start with, but you may be able to find further examples for yourself.

  • What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly black and white?

Colour and the street

Street photography began life in black and white, in an age when colour photography was deemed unrealistic because it carried connotations of advertising. Henri Cartier- Bresson, Eve Arnold, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, amongst many others, paved the way for reportage to be used in an artistic way, with no functional purpose other than to tell viewers about life from the point of view of the photographer. As colour photography began to be accepted as an art form in the late twentieth century, street photography followed suit.

Martin Parr (b 1952)

A UK photojournalist who uses heightened colour photography in an almost surreal sense and has said “you either get my photography or you don’t” (Golden, 2013). He “has consistently tested the boundaries of documentary style” (Cotton, 2014) sometimes using a handheld camera with flashlight combined with a macro lens to focus close up on a subject. He uses humour to convey consumerism as a visual language and is known for capturing the essence of Britishness especially in his documentary series The Last Resort (mid 80’s) where he portrayed Thatcherite Brighton.

I saw some of his work first hand when I visited his exhibition Unseen (Guildhall art gallery London, 4 March – 31 July 2016). He used his unprecedented access to high-profile occasions (as the City of London’s photographer-in-residence) to shoot behind the scene images of the pomp and glory in the city of London such as private ceremonies, dignitaries and Banquets. Katherine Pearce, Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery says: “Parr reveals the ‘unseen’, literally and metaphorically. He pays attention to detail and spots things that make you think again about what you’re seeing.” (Pearce, 2016).

I particularly liked the unusual viewpoints that he used such as this image shot from behind the queen, and the way he captures impromptu moments.

martin-parr-queen

Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

martin-parr-officials

Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

He presents the city and its rituals in a variety of ways, such as fun, as boring, as incomprehensible. I actually wondered if he was “taking the mickey” out of the ceremonies and traditions in the way he presents them without any reverence, but then maybe that’s just his way?

Joel Sternfield (b 1944)

He was one of the pioneers of colour photography known for large-format images that capture the American roadside. His body of work On This Site: Landscapes in Memoriam (1966), at first sight seem to be random locations and yet it transpires that these were all previous crime scenes. He applies his studied observation of colour to the everyday he found as he travels taking full length photographs of people where “Each picture tells a story via the person’s physical appearance and the rich details of their surroundings” (Sternfield cited in Getty, nd). These portraits “propose the facts of what has transpired” (Cotton, 2014).

 Interestingly whilst researching Sternfield I came across the story of this photograph which interests me particularly in light of my earlier research into objectivity in photography.

sternfield

  (Sternfield 1978)

In the photo you see a fireman buying pumpkins whilst a fire crew fight a fire in the house behind. On first sight you might think the fireman was being negligent however it transpires that this was a training exercise which the fireman was on a break from. The photograph was apparently the most iconic image of his career, though published without captions other than location and date, “if this picture is deceptive, it’s only because we’ve deceived ourselves” (Keats, 2012).

Joel Meyerowitz (b 1938)

Is a street, Landscape and portrait photographer, influenced originally by Robert Frank. During the 1960s he worked in black and white with 35mm cameras looking for the extraordinary on the streets. In the 1970s he used colour in revolutionary way with larger cameras; he said that the small camera “taught me energy and decisiveness and immediacy… the large camera taught me reverence, patience, and meditation” (cited in Mulligan, 2005). Apparently he learnt that with so much action on the streets he just had to shoot and later discuss and think about the photos. “A lot of what I am looking for is astonishment” he says (cited in O’Hagan, 2012).

He is probably best known for his 9/11 photos Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (2006), the only photographer allowed onto the site immediately afterwards; the US Government later mounted exhibitions using his work.

I can identify with his feeling that colour gives him the sensation of things, a richness and more description. “If photography is about describing things, then colour describes them more” (cited in Louise, 2012). I also like the way that he describes a body of work as a building block of visual language “These pictures are all little gestural elements that don’t necessarily add-up on their own to anything profound, … they have to be interesting and interlocking in a way that you could fuse them in runs… to be stating a sort of collective of ideas into one thing that will carry the reader along”. (2point8, nd).

  He describes his use of context and relationships in images well. I found his reasoning for using a Leica as opposed to a single lens reflex (SLR) camera very interesting, as I had never thought about and SLR as being one eye, whereas with the Leica you have one eye in the camera and one outside due to the positioning of the viewfinder, so that you see the world and its context.  He explains “What you put in the frame determines the photograph… what you put in and where you cut the rest of the 360 degreesas the world continues outside of the frame; so what you put in and what you leave out are what determines the meaning, potential of your photograph” (YouTube, 2012). Certainly his photographs’ suggest relationships not representing objects.

 Paul Graham (b.1956)

Is an English documentary photographer, who was one of the first to photograph documentary in colour. He believes that photographs are subtle and deserve to be looked at with respect. He likes to uncover things that people might miss. His series A1- The Great North Road (1083) is one example of ordinary places, in this case on an arterial road.

paul-graham

(Coomes 2011)

This and other of his eighties work enforced the importance of using colour in documentary photography to expand its visual message. “The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness…it is a shimmer of possibility” (cited in O’Hagan, 2011). He says that when he takes photographs he is questioning how we photograph the world and asking what is the world like?

References

Coomes, P. (2011) Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-13133461 (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. 3rd edn. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

Golden, R. (2013) Masters of photography. 3rd edn. London: Sterling Pub Co.

Getty museum (n,d). Joel Sternfeld. Available at: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/3731/joel-sternfeld-american-born-1944/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016a) Guildhall Art Gallery. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/image-library/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016b) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

 Keats, J. (2012) Do not trust this Joel Sternfeld photograph. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2012/09/06/do-not-trust-this-joel-sternfeld-photograph/#50225726b22f (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Mulligan, T. (2005) A history of photography: From 1839 to the present; the George Eastman house collection. Edited by Therese Mulligan and David Wooters. 25th edn. Köln, Germany: Taschen GmbH.

Pearce, K (2006) cited in: Kallaway (2016) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr. (Accessed 17.10.16).

 You tube (2012) Joel Meyerowitz –‘What you put in the frame determines the photograph. Available at: http://youtu.be/Xumo7_JUeMo (Accessed 17.10.16)

2point8 (n, d) Available at: http://2point8.whileseated.org/2007/12/03/joel-meyerowitz-interview-part-1/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016b).

Bibliography

Another mag (n,d) Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8073/martin-parrs-last-resort (Accessed: 17 October 2016a).