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:
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:
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.
I rejected the images of a quiet high street as this overlapped with the empty shops and for sale signs.
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.
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.
I also dismissed the café/music venue shot as I felt the narrative overlapped that of the theatre and bustling high street.
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:
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.