ASSIGNMENT 1: TWO SIDES TO THE STORY

Niki South         Student number: 514516

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. This would probably 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 wasn’t 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.
  • Considering whether the horizon should be upright as in some shots I have lined the subject up by verticals instead.
  • 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. I have now recropped several images 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) as well as to reduce extraneous material and focus the viewer on the important information (Castle image 51, Penny Pinchers image 72, Cinema Image 22 and Oxfam image 20). I have in fact substituted image 22 for image 20 of the cinemas as this allowed me to straighten and crop it more effectively. I thank my tutor for these suggestions which I can see 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: 

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mind-map-shooting-1500

mind-map-editing-1500

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.

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

 

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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).