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.
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
Images in pairs
Full submission to tutor:
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.
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
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!
Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley
Shore, S. (2007) The Nature of Photographs, Phaidon, London