Assignment 1: Square Mile

Brief

In our earliest years we know a patch of ground in a detail we will never know anywhere again – site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes.
(Professor Mike Pearson)

Photographers and artists have always found inspiration in their immediate location.There is a concept within Welsh culture called Y Filltir Sgwar (The Square Mile), described above by Professor Mike Pearson. It is the intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings. Use the theme of The Square Mile as a starting point for your first assignment.

Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you.

You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further, or you may deviate from this. You may want to focus on architecture and landscape, or you may prefer to photograph the people who you think have an interesting connection to the square mile within which you currently find yourself.

You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs from which to make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit’ together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively communicate your idea. You may wish to title your photographs or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.

However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography. Think of it as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter. Try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.

Photos and Contact Sheets

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The Square Mile-1

The Square Mile-2

Initial Thoughts

When I first read the brief for Assignment 1 was what I am going to shoot. I cant take photos of where I was brought up as I was never really brought up in any one place due to being moved every couple of years by the army.

The only place I could say I know is where I have settled with my family for the last 10 years  in a small Welsh village on the border of Bridgend and the Rhondda Valley namely Llanharan.

The Square Mile is quite a fitting name for this assignment as the village is just over a square mile in size. All I have to do now is to go and take some shots.

After walking around the village trying to search for inspiration I believe I have managed to settle on one idea for a set of photographs, the hardest part was finding something that was interesting enough in s sleepy little village to take pictures of but its quite surprising what you can find on your own doorstep as long as you take time to step back and look. The main problem was deciding what is my square mile, is it the physical mile of my home surroundings or even work as I seem to spend just as much time there as I do at home? We seem to spend most of our lives building fences for ourselves and loved ones, as parents we build them to protect our children, as adults we build them to ourselves.

Research

There a couple of photographers that I have taken inspiration from and ideas about how I would like to tackle the images I wish to take. The first photographer from the list was Tom Hunter in particular the ‘Travellers’ series. The way he portrayed the ordinary people and made them the kings of their own castles, colour and light composition in such a small area is truly incredible making the whole image come alive. The long exposure shots for Tom’s Dublin Bay Bathing Places series have an eerie feel that leaves you wondering what lies beneath the surface.

travellers-email-ii (1)

Another photographer who has interested me over the last few years is Dr Ralph Graf a cell biologist until 2006 when his photography career took off. I love the simple monotones of his artwork in the ‘Roadside America’ series, The photos have an almost post apocalyptic feel about them. When looking at the full series they are of nothing more than old or derelict buildings and objects littered along the roadside but that’s not the only similarity in the series, the colour tones are also constant throughout.

Ralpg Graf Wrecked at Tony's Gas Station

References:
Tom Hunter Travelers email ii, Tom Hunter’s website  http://www.tomhunter.org/travellers/

Ralph Graf Wrecked at Tony’s Gas Station, Ralph Graph’s website             http://www.graef-fotografie.de/unterwegs/rgf_a6000__09044ae24nost8.jpg.htm

Technical Approach

The photos were all taken with a Nikon D5600 and a Nikon 18-200mm lens. I find the lens will cover most situations I find myself in. The tilt screen on the D5600 came into its own on this assignment as I was taking shots through fences some had to be taken from a low angle.

All the photos were taken using full manual settings, focal length set to 27mm and f8 aperture except for the graveyard picture as this was taken in a narrow overcast street so a wider aperture  and higher ISO was needed. I didn’t want to use a flash as due to the distance to the subject through the fences there would be no benefit also the rebound from the flash and fences would leave the fences looking somewhat dazed and unnatural.

Self Assessment

Initially when I read the brief I was quite excited to get started but then when it came to taking the photos it dawned on me how nerve racking this could be. The brief said to experiment outside your comfort zone I don’t think I could be anymore outside my comfort zone than this assignment, normally I would take photos away from the general public as the attention that comes with photographing in public areas actually makes me quite nervous. I have to say the experience had a positive impact as the more time I spent taking my photos the less aware of peoples gazes I became.

Personally I think I may have rushed the process and believe more time should have been spent studying my surroundings, with my new found semi confidence I am sure I could improve on the story line as there seems to be missing spaces within the set such as employment, social engagements and even shopping or does the less is more work here?

Trying to incorporate the barriers we create mentally and physically theme has not been fully portrayed in all the photos and this is definitely due to my lack of understanding this type of photography. More research and practice is a must.

Tutor’s Feedback

Please feel free to click on the link below for my tutor’s feedback which I was pleased with and believed to be a fair assessment of my work

Tutor’s Feedback link

Assignment Rework

I have followed my tutor’s comments and reworked images 1, 3 & 6. I have also removed the photo comments to allow the viewer to create their own narrative.
Original images are below.

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