Square Mile (Thought Process)

Brief

Make a series of between 6 and 12 photographs that responds 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 your steps to places that 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 surroundings and meet some of the people around you.
You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwâr further, or you may deviate from this. Decide whether to focus on urban space or the natural environment.
You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs for this assignment from which you’ll 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. 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.

Initial thoughts

My initial thoughts with regards to this assignment were that I wanted to limit the area that I used for the photographs to within a mile of my home. Google provides a useful measuring tool which allowed me to work out an area that was roughly 1 mile in a north/south direction and 1 mile in an east/west direction. My home was not the centre of this area as I found that there were major roads that would provide useful boundaries, the one that provided the southern boundary being reasonably close to my home.

The thing that leapt out at me from the brief was the part about re-tracing your steps to places that you know very well. Recently two places that I know fairly well have undergone changes.

The church my family and I have attended since 2000 has just completed a major renovation project and the vicar is looking for people to take photographs so that they can update the various booklets and leaflets about the church.

In addition to this a public house that we have used for the odd meal out and quiet drink has been revamped and is now a veterinary clinic.

Both of these venues are located on the southern edge of the area that I decided to limit myself to.

At the northern edge of the area a new housing estate is being built. With the new houses springing up I find my home becoming deeper and deeper within the town as it slowly creeps outwards and consumes the surrounding countryside.

While working on the exercises leading up to this assignment I had to return to the area where I grew up in order to empty the last bits from my late parent’s home before we sell it. I took the opportunity to take some photos at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried because I knew that there was a river running through the middle of it. Walking to the bridge that overlooked the river was nothing new, however, getting back to my car led me to discovering a footpath which lead to a part of the cemetery I’d never visited. During the walk to and from the car I found myself noticing gravestones in locations I’d never spotted before, some of which were difficult to reach but which still had flowers adorning them.

On the drive to the cemetery I took a longer route than I would normally have done, with the aim of stopping to photograph a river that ended up in a pool below a bridge. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a place to stop and being pushed for time had to carry on. I found myself driving in parts of the area I’d not been since I was a child and as I did spotted an old quarry with dilapidated buildings, some with walls that had collapsed, others covered with graffiti. Again I couldn’t stop to explore further but both these instances highlighted that no matter how long you may live in an area there are parts of it you just don’t discover unless you have some reason to go exploring.

If I’ve learned one thing since I’ve started exploring my photography, it’s that we go around with our eyes closed to the world around us and don’t notice all the interesting things there are to see.

Research

Tom Hunter

• Look at the two series Life and Death in Hackney and Unheralded Stories.
• Do you notice the connection between the people and their surroundings? How does
Hunter achieve this?
Hunter makes the people in his photos the focus of the photograph. He achieves this by by making them stand out from the surroundings because they are incongruous either because they should not be there, by the use of colour to draw the eye to them or by other features that catch the eye but which then draw the eye back to the person.

• What kinds of places are these photographs set in? Are they exotic, special or ordinary,
everyday places?
The places in the photographs are everyday ones, the sort of place that can be found with little or only slight effort.

• There’s something “mythical” and yet also “everyday” about Hunter’s pictures. Look
carefully at one or two images and try to pick out the features that suggest these two
different qualities.
In “Victoria Falls” Hunter has taken a photograph of water flowing over what appears to be a weir on a river, something that it is possible to see on many a river. At the base of the weir, waist deep, is a woman who evokes the image of a mermaid or water nymph. Why is she there? Is her name Victoria and she has just fallen over the weir into the water below?
In “The Way Home” we see what appears to be undergrowth alongside a road or train line, something that you can see any day as you travel on foot or by car, bus or train. Hidden from the view of passers-by lies a woman, reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty or the Lady of the Lake. Is she asleep, is she resting or is it something more sinister.

Dan Holdsworth

• Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic
about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the
sense of artificiality or “strangeness” that brings to the image?

I think that Dan Holdsworth works at night because the effects that can be achieved because of longer exposures as well as light sources can make scenes seem strange and eerie.

I certainly don’t believe that he works at night in order so that people and traffic don’t impact on his work. Looking at his series Blackout and Forms the presence of people is irrelevant. The images in these series could have been taken any time because the impact of people would have been minimal. Although in Blackout I do feel that the presence of people would have been a bit jarring.

• What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main
emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape?

Wider views give bigger scope for interpreting the image in ways different to what was seen through the viewfinder. In Blackout the choice of black and white leads gives the landscape a lunar feel to it.

• Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the
world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?

I would say that the images Dan Holdsworth produces contain a variety of elements that allow for both objective and subjective interpretations.

 

 

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