Assignment 1 Feedback and Rework

I was really pleased with the feedback from this first C&N assignment. It was a good balance of positive comments with some clear and helpful critique around improving and developing this type of assignment. Although not assessed, it is helpful to have a clear view of strengths and areas for development. As with feedback from previous courses I use different colour highlighter pens to identify the strengths, areas for development and things to follow up on.

The full tutor feedback can be found hear: §

Dear Matthew,

Many thanks for your detailed and encouraging feedback. I was pleased overall with the assignment, but also recognise there are lots of areas for improvement.

Your critique of the assignment images is very helpful and in the light of your comments I will rework the assignment.

You are right about the initial pair of images and given they are the first that the viewer sees, I am going to replace them with a pair I pondered on using in my original edit. Your comments about the majority of the images being from behind the adult is also correct. In part the motivation was to use this viewpoint on purpose. When I had my ‘stop and stare’ time in the planning phase, it was the children that trailed behind their parents that caught my eye. That said I have some different view points in the contact sheets an I will look through these again with a view to adding something different ino the set.

I am very much enjoying the reading and research element of this module and will continue to add to my blog. I am reading a lot of John Berger at present and will be adding some thoughts about this on the blog soon.

Thank you very much for the suggested reading material I will press on with part two!

Again, many thanks for your detailed and constructive feedback.

Best wishes

John

 

Reworked  Assignment

Taking on bard the issue about the initial images and to address the point raised by my tutor editing, set out below is a slightly revised set of diptychs. Making images in the car was difficult so I have made new images that locate the start of the journey for the adult and child outside the car. A minor change but one that I think adds to the narrative.  This revised set has also been printed in readiness for submissions for assessment. Although this assignment doesn’t form part of the overall assessment i still preferred to change in the light of tutor feedback.

 

‘Every parent’s nightmare as seven-year-old son goes missing’

A mother whose seven-year-old son went missing for more than seven hours has described how she feared she would never see him again.

Eastern Daily Press January 2014

    

   

   

    

    

    

    

Assignment 1 – Submission

Introduction

After some initial planning and reflection I settled on the theme of:

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

As I developed the idea I focussed on two core elements to my interpretation of the assignment expectations. The first is the notion that I had observed a number of parents and families at times ignoring, indeed quite oblivious to their children, whilst out and about in crowded places. A more detailed description about how arrived at this theme is set out in the Assignment 1 planning section of my blog which can be found here.

The second element is the idea of viewpoint, a notion explored in the course materials, particularly with regard to reportage and the preposition that within a reportage approach, as distinct to a documentary approach, images may offer the viewer an ‘insiders’ view of a place, situation or theme.

With this in mind I constructed a set of parallel images showing a short excursion into the city, seen from a child’s perspective and from the parent/adult perspective. I tried to record the same sense of place but from two similar but fundamentally differing view points. I made around 400 images over a two day period, then progressively edited them down into a final set.

The adult/parent viewpoint was relatively straightforward in that I photographed scenes and locations with the camera at my eye-level. For the child view point images I wanted to ensure a degree of consistency and authenticity. To try and achieve this I used a camera with a rotating LCD screen and made a ‘plumb bod device to maintain the lens of the camera at a consistent height. To decide on the height I looked at images of my daughter when she was around six years of age and measured the height of her eyes above the ground using reference objects in the old pictures of a known height. I made a plumb line with a weight at one end that is attached to a threaded bolt which was in turn connected to the tripod socket of my camera. Not an exact science but it allowed me to maintain some consistency in the viewpoint of the child I was trying to convey.

Both sets of images I believe show a truth and document a series of events and places. I considered presenting them separately, but I liked the idea of a set of diptychs, which allow the viewer to see both viewpoints simultaneously. I think the images together do create a sense of separation between the two view points and I tried to capture parents with their children in some of the images, in particular parents aware of and interacting with their children. To heighten the tension and the sense of separation between the two view points I found a range of quotes from newspapers about children who went missing. Starting the sequence with one of these quotes I think significantly influences how the viewer reads the set and its narrative.
I have reflected on the question: ‘Does the viewpoint alter how you read the situation?’ I genuinely think there is a discernible difference between how each viewpoint tells a story and I think this has been prtially successful in my assignment. I realise this is because I am alerting the viewer that one of the viewpoints is that of a child and the images suggest a parent that is oblivious to their child’s presence, preoccupied perhaps with the tasks of the excursion. I realise I am manipulating the viewers interpretation, but story telling is a mechanism for manipulating a reader or viewers thoughts and feelings about the work.

As with much of my OCA work to date I think my ambition for the set is not quite realised by the final set of images and I did struggle with the final selection and keeping within the prescribed limit for the number of pictures. The idea of viewpoint and its influence on narrative is an idea that having started to explore I will work on more as I progress.

Technical Information

All of the images were made using a crop sensor camera (1.5x crop factor) with an 18mm focal length prime lens, giving the equivalent field of a 27mm on a 35mm frame. This gives a 66 degree horizontal field allowed me to manage the pictorial elements in each of the frames which in turn I used to create the sense of narrative. The images were recorded as RAW files, processed in Lightroom then converted to Jpegs, 1500 pixels on the long side and in Adobe (RGB) colour space. A second set was made ready for sending to a commercial printer as TIFF Files in SRGB Colour space and the the files size specified by the printer.

 

‘Every parent’s nightmare as seven-year-old son goes missing’

A mother whose seven-year-old son went missing for more than seven hours has described how she feared she would never see him again.

Eastern Daily Press
January 2014

Images in pairs


jewels-a-0338jewels-a-0310

jewels-a-0091jewels-a-0092

jewels-a-0084jewels-a-0082

jewels-a-0127jewels-a-0155

jewels-b-0064-copyjewels-a-0062

jewels-a-0171jewels-a-0199

jewels-a-0074jewels-a-0066


Full submission to tutor:

C&N Assign One Tutor Submission-PDF Final

Self Evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have sought to create two clear and different viewpoints in this set of images. I have considered the technical aspects of this assignment and decided on a consistent angle of view through the use of a prime focus lens for all of the images in the set. I thought carefully about how I could achieve a degree of authenticity for both of the viewpoints I was seeking to demonstrate and I have found a technical methodology, all be it not so elegant, to achieve this. In addition to the attention to view point I have considered the visual elements in each of the images and their signifiers. In several of the images, from both the child’s and the parents viewpoints I sought to depict parents engaging with or at least being responsible for their children. There is observational awareness demonstrated in the images and the contact sheets show the range of viewpoints and differing compositions that I experimented with before deciding on a final image. In terms of design and visual construction, I did try to find common reference points between each of the two perspectives, in each of the diptychs. Reviewing these I recognise the use of a visual element ,such as the table in the final image and the M&S shop front in the penultimate image, is a strategy that has worked better in some images than others. I like the idea though and will explore this further in my own work.

Quality of outcome

The images are clear and tell a story from two perspectives. There is always room for improvement and looking at the final set there are things I would have done differently, particularity with the parent view point set. To create the illusion of the viewpoints being simultaneous the best way to do this would be two photographers and two cameras. My images are therefore to some extent a compromise in attempting to achieve my desired outcome and there are several of the images where consistency in viewpoint is a little tenuous. I do think the overall effect is however to offer the viewer two distinct viewpoint, attenuated through the thoughts provoked by the opening quote in the set.

Demonstration of creativity

It would be true to say that there was an element of staging to this work and it built on a concept that I think was worthy of the expectations of the assignment. Although I could stage manage some aspects of each image I was also making the work on the street in real time with some elements that I could not control. I think this tested me creatively in that I still needed to ensure there were common elements in each of the pairs of images to give the illusion of simultaneously different view points. This work did take me out of my comfort zone and the device I used for the child’s viewpoint drew attention and comment. I think it did increase my confidence because after the first reactions to what I was doing I ploughed on and did not let the attention distract me.

Context

This set of images grew out of a wider set of thought processes and reflection on the content of section one of the course. A more detailed exposition of my thinking can be found on my blog. In short though I experimented with the idea of a narrative with some tension created by an opening statement. The two viewpoints present in each of the diptychs have a reportage quality but combined I think they create the sense of a documentary all be it a short and simple one. I am struck by a statement I recently read by Stephen Shore (2007) which resonates with my thinking about how I went about this assignment, Shore suggests:

A photographers basic formal tools for defining the content of a picture are vantage point, frame, focus,and time. What a photographer pays attention to governs these decisions”

In this assignment I believe I have payed close attention to each of these variables in an attempt to create some coherence to the set. That said, vantage point using Shore’s terminology, was the overarching anchor to this work and to some extent governed all of my creative and technical decision making. The idea of viewpoint, or vantage point which I am interpreting as the same thing seems to me to be central in documentary and reportage image making. The creative photographer is perhaps someone who experiments and explores a range of vantage points and exploits this ‘tool’ to tell a wider, more detailed and revealing story. I must also add that whether the story contains truth, is ultimately about the motive and intent of the image maker

Summary

I believe I have responded to the brief and produced a set of images that has some coherence and a narrative thread that runs through it. I have also applied thinking to the assignment that has built of the material in part one of the course. In particular the analysis and reflection on documentary, reportage and photojournalism. The work which is documentary in overall nature, provides some insight for me at least in to the difference between the generic notion of documentary as a record of something and reportage and its ability to offer an ‘insiders’ view. That said the work only really scratches the surface of the concepts explored in the first section of the course and I recognise that achieving a truly satisfying response to the brief will require further research and practice. I feel this is an OK start though!

References

Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Shore, S. (2007) The Nature of Photographs, Phaidon, London

Assignment One- Preparation and planning

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.

Initial ideas and planning

Whether it is the right approach or not I had been giving some serious thought about the assignment for some weeks before I needed to make a start on the work. I looked at the options within the brief and had broadly set my mind upon the idea set out in the first bullet point of ideas for this assignment. Namely to interpret the brief by showing the same scenario from two different angles. Through this approach I felt it offered the possibility of exploring whether the differing viewpoints altered how we read the situation? This seemed to me to be a good way to consolidate the learning of part one of the course and in particular to consider how images form a narrative and how the photographic process can control, indeed manipulate what the viewer draws from an image or set of images.

I had some initial ideas and used a mind map to plot them out, below are some scans from my notes file.

MM 1

To assist in decoding my scribble the core themes are based around using a stark contrast of some sort to establish/emphasise a potentially differing view point.

Pastoral /Industrial, being an exile in the rural flatlands of East Anglia there are some sharp contrasts to be found between the collective ideas about the beauty of the countryside and the reality of a very industrial landscape that is pressed to its limits at the hands of large international conglomerates. I thought there could be some interesting opportunities with this theme. Timing wasn’t going to work for this though. In a another couple of months the peace of where I live will be disrupted by the mammoth machines that take from the soil (which I think would make a good project), but I need something sooner.

Day/Night offered a simple way to consider a place at different times of the day, town or city centres for example take on a different form during the day to how they are at night. This I thought was a simple but perhaps effective theme with some potential

Wealth/Poverty is a bit of a well worn track but I was struck by the news that several new food banks are to open in the seaside town of Lowestoft not far from where I live. The town’s past fading former grandeur has been a theme I have explored in the past. I thought I might contrast the seafront and holiday makers spending money, with the run down town, boarded  up buildings and  high level of rough sleepers.

Clean/Polluted was another contrasting theme that i thought a possibility. I work in different places in east Anglia and many of the larger towns and cities have  rivers running through. Rivers can tell a story, one of leisure, beauty, pastimes such as boating or fishing.  Additionally some of the rivers I am familiar with have issues of pollution, refuse being dumped in them and issues with agri-chemical run off getting into  the water courses and rivers. I thought this had some  potential as an idea too.

Having developed these potential themes  I sketched out a bit more detail, in particular some specific locations and localised themes that might  be used. Below is another page scanned from my notes.

MM2

After some further thoughts I decide to settle on the Wealth and poverty theme. In part because I felt I didn’t have enough time for the pollution them and because th time of year was not quite right for the industrial perspective on the land, serious harvesting won’t start where i live for a noter couple of months yet. The night and day  theme remained a possibility, but I had been in Lowestoft recently for work I noticed the crowded promanade and thought this might be the most prudent purely from a timing point of view. Particularly with a looming deadline! and

So I further developed the idea and again I have included below a scan from my file notes.

How one idea leads to another

In preparation for the assignment I visited the location and began to plan and scout out the ideas for both sides of the story. I spent some time in the  town of Lowestoft  itself photographing  decay and dereliction, in particular there were lots of shops, pubs and restaurants closed and boarded up, some covered up as if wall papered with very dated ‘fly’ posters advertising events that had long passed. There were also quite a few rough sleepers in the town. I have to confess to a sense of unease when taking images of such individuals, it is hard not to feel like I am exploiting them. I have no inhibitions about street photography and will happily walk up to strangers and take a photograph, it is much more about my sense of the innapropriate with people who are experiencing hard times and whether this is a suitable subject to make images off. I know from a photo documentary perspective I need to work through this issue though

I also spent some time  on the seafront in the town, near the pier and on the long east facing promenade. I made some images of the crowds, people buying ice creams, doughnuts,  fish and chips, in essence people spending money. I have always really liked Parr’s (2008) work ‘The Last Resort’, through looking at Parr’s work I discovered Ray-Jones and find his 1977 work:  ‘A Day Off’ utterly inspiring. My images were far from the content of either of these two works and I realised this as iIwandered the promenade with my black box and lens.

Inspiration perhaps comes at strange moments. I sat on a bench watching the seaside visitors pass by me.  People of all types, wealthy (judging by clothes, although this is perhaps stereotyping) less wealthy, people of different cultures and ethnicity, people of different  ages, couples, families, a steady two way stream that was a microcosm of the British.

I sat for about an hour not taking a single image, just watching. It was whist doing this that I noticed something that caught my eye and imagination. There were a  number of couples with a child and they seemed to be oblivious to where and what the child was up to. This is not unusual maybe, but I was struck by how young some of the children who were being ignored were. I chose not to take pictures of families ignoring their children. In part because of the difficult and potentially contentious nature of the subject.

I started to count the number of times I saw a child I judged to be less than 6-7  where parents were oblivious to the slow progress the child was making along the promenade. occasionally  a parent turned and called or shouted to the child and they then caught up with their parents. Although not true of the majority of families with children I witnessed, I did see a significant minority of relatively small children being ignored.

I felt it inappropriate to make images of children being ignored by their parents given the potential for this to be miss interpreted. There is boundary that where I believe photographers need to be rightly cautious about.

I also thought about press reports of children going missing and this gave me the idea for the narrative I might explore in this assignment.

Although some way from my original thoughts and ideasI felt I had hit upon an interesting narrative to explore. I then set about planning a set of staged images showing the world from the viewpoint of a child and the viewpoint of a parent. I thought. I sketched out some thoughts and ideas and then decide upon a shopping trip seen from two perspectives.

Bob 4-5759

 

Getting the imagined child’s viewpoint right need some thought. In my own work I predominantly  use cameras with waist level finders and thought this might assist. Needing to do the work digitally, I managed to borrow a camera with a tilt screen on the back that in effect mimics a waist level finder. Securing and authentic child’s physcal viewpoint was achieved keeping the lens of the camera at a relativelly consistent height above the ground. After some thought I created a simple ‘plumb bob’ using heavy bolt as a weight , a length of string and a camera trip socket securing screw. the type used to run a strap through the cameras tripod bush. Calculating the height was done by looking through the family archive of photographs . I used images made when my now 18 year old daughter was around 6 years of age. Measuring where her eyes were on some of the images against objects of known height allowed me to arrive at a height of 31″. The plumb bob was then set to this length in order to maintain the lens of the camera at this height. Children will stretch up and bob down at times but using this simple all be it inelegant device did allow a good degree of consistency in the viewpoint of the child.

Bob 3-5756

Bob 1-5751

Bob 2-5752

I then set out making the images, around 400 were made across two days and it is from these that I settled on about 50 for final review and selection. This edited set was then further edited down to what became the final tutor submission.

My notes and final selection are set out in the next part of the assignment page on my blog.

References

Boothroyd, S. (2014) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Parr, M, (2008) The Last Resort, Dewi Lewis Publishing, London

Ray-Jones, A (1977) A Day Off- An English Journal, Thames and Hudson