Assignment 1: Square Mile

11th January 2021

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.

(OCA EYV 2014:14)

After the Jab – The Forgotten

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Assignment Concept

The concept for ‘After the Jab – The Forgotten’, looks at how pedestrians often walk past or over objects without noticing them, these objects I have called, ‘The Forgotten’. They are often broken, decayed or have become lost in the environment. The photographs were taken after an injection appointment at the Drs (The Jab), and the series documents the ‘Forgotten’ on a route back to my home along Lake Lothing, a saltwater lake in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Below, the map shows the area in which the journey is situated, and the route which is shown in red.

Map showing the location and the route for the shoot

Technical

  • Camera: Lumix DC-GH5
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: according to shot
  • Lens: 14-42mm
  • Mode: RAW
  • Handheld

Contact Sheets

Shoot one – Contact sheets one: Original files

Shoot one – Contact sheet two: Original files annotated

Shoot two – Contact sheet one: Original files

Shoot two – Original files annotated

Shoot one and two combined and in order

Shoot one and two chosen images (1) annotated

Shoot one and two chosen (2)

Presentation

The series of images are presented in a diptych approach. This encourages the viewer to focus on the close-up of the objects first, which enables the attention to focus on the form, texture, text etc… The second image shows this lost object within it’s environment, it reminds the viewer their are little details lost around us.

The use of a map

Both of my daughters have been geocaching in their spare time and they enjoy walking around locations for hidden clues and objects. This led me to the idea of using a map to place ‘forgotten’ objects on.

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.

Wikipedia

I have thought about how to use Google maps as an extended way of showing my work, a Google map exhibition springs to mind, especially as you can share your maps to social media platforms and they can be seen worldwide.

Google maps below with my image markers on them – Left: Default, Middle: Terrain, Right: 3D terrain with location points and labels

There are many things that can be completed to personalise google maps for example, I have explained how the route is connected with a photographic project so that the public can read about it. I have also added a title for the map which is the same as the assignment title, labelled the location points and uploaded both of the images that were taken at each point. To make sure that my location points stood out from other labels on the map I re-coloured the pin point from blue to red. The re-colouring of pin points shows a more distinct locator marker which can easily pick out my journey route, especially as it is accompanied by a black line to represent the route.

After the Jab – The forgotten, interactive google map

Below is the link to the Google map:

Developing the concept further

I named the series After the Jab because the word ‘After’ can be used to develop the series further. Using the same criteria, forgotten objects on different journey routes can be documented. Possible series titles could be, After the Gig: The Forgotten, After Pub Night: The Forgotten, After the Big Shop: The Forgotten, After the Train Stop: The Forgotten etc… and each would focus on the theme forgotten objects.

Therefore, this Assignment would make a very good beginning for an ongoing series

Below are some more images that did not get chose for this assignment.

What went well?

The overall concept is strong and visually interesting. It can be developed in any location across the world and within any environment.

Presenting the images in a diptych presentation proved to be a good choice because it extends the time a viewer studies the images and together they illustrate a visual description of a location.

What did not work well?

On reviewing my images my technical skills are not constant and this can be especially seen in my lack of knowledge in using the white balance.

Another important area that I need to learn is the changing daylight during a shot due to weather changes and the natural changing light colours and strengths which is seen as the day progresses.

I researched a little more about exposure and colour temperature because reviewing my images has made me aware of where my technical knowledge and skills are poor. I have discovered that there are a couple of technical areas that I need to learn to use so that my images are improved. These are, learning how to adjust the white balance to help with colour temperature and how to adjust for different exposure needs, which is the most important technique in photography. I therefore need to understand and use the histogram when out on a shoot.

Reflection

I have really enjoyed this assignment and the fact that I now have an ongoing project to work on, has been an added bonus.

While researching exposure, lighting and white balance I came across another area which will help to improve my photography practice and this is how to use histograms. The link to my research can be found on the blog post Histograms: Histogram research.

Another area I am disappointed in is my research into photographs on a similar subject and photographers that shoot these type of themes. The OCA provided a list which proved informative and Keith Arnatt’s work definitely aided my learning and development of my concept. I could not however find anyone myself to research, either in the books I own or on the internet. I therefore feel my research needs to be significantly better.

To help me locate further photographers or artists I did put out a shout for help in the OCA Facebook photography group and other groups I belong to such as Suffolk Photography however no examples came out of any of the discussions.


Photographers Research

Keith Arnatt: Pictures from a Rubbish Tip 1988-9

Pictures from a Rubbish Tip 1988–9 is a series of five large colour photographs by the British artist Keith Arnatt featuring close-up shots of rubbish that has been dumped at a local tip. In each photograph, the lens focuses upon select pieces of discarded food – such as bread, chicken bones and vegetables – that lie on clear and pale-coloured plastic bags. These bags both reflect and diffuse the surrounding daylight, highlighting the varying hues of the rubbish so that the scenes appear brightly coloured and partly abstract. Although the types of rubbish shown and their exact position within the compositions varies slightly, each is presented at an apparently fixed distance from the camera and this, as well as the similar lighting effects used across the five works, creates a sense of cohesion in the series.

Michal Goldschmidt, 2014

My initial response to Arnatt’s Pictures from a Rubbish Tip 1988-9, is how clever the concept is. This is a subject that I have shot many a time, however Arnatt took the usual shots one step further by using a pale-coloured plastic bag to alter the subjects light and colour and to add texture to the content of the image. The use of the bag mimics the way that photographers would use their light diffuser and reflector equipment but at the same time it connects with the subject matter.

When researching other shots Arnatt had made in the series and viewing them together on a webpage the content took on more detail, keitharnattestate.com. I was able to notice that the plastic bag also acted like a back drop and table covering to the inanimate discarded objects so that they visually became even more like a still life subject.

I also found that by including the plastic bag the objects are surrounded by a milky transparency which acts as a top layer to colours, patterns, textures to other objects hidden below it. This in itself adds yet another dimension to the images. The milky transparency of the top layer that the objects lay on, give just a little clue to what lays beneath the focus objects and this in turn adds enough detail to give the images an abstract artistic quality.

Walking the Dog is a series of forty black and white photographs of individuals standing outside with their dogs. While the locations depicted in the photographs vary from street pavements and country lanes to parks and gardens, all forty images share consistent formal characteristics: in each case the single owner stands full-length in the centre of the image facing the camera with the dog at their feet, and no other human or animal can be seen within the tightly framed square shot.

Sylvie Simonds, 2014

Arnatt’s photography series Walking the Dog 1976-9, at first glance can be perceived as a series which just consists of portraits of people and their dogs. However, if one takes a lingering look at the subject matter within its immediate environment, a story begins to emerge.

The relationship between the 40 images in the series is not just that of the portrait which consists pre-dominantly of expressions, clothes and dog breeds. Each subject is also personalised by the environment in which they stand. These environments varied from portrait to portrait and included locations such as streets and roads, parks, fields and woods. To make the locations part of the image importance they are also showing details in their backgrounds such as railings and walls, close-ups of parts of houses and shops, towns, rivers and countryside walkways etc… The locations are therefore very diverse and for me, personally, makes the settings equal in importance to the subject.

A sketch of a screen shot taken from Google: Keith Arnatt Walking the Dog annotated.

Another aspect that I like with this series is the connection each subject has with the viewer. They stare straight out at me and it feels like they have literally stopped on their walk and turned towards me to engage in conversation. This oneness could have produced the opposite effect if not constructed well enough, and each person could have looked just as though they were staged and performing for the camera intentionally.

At first, when I saw the isolated image on the Tate website tate.org.uk, I groaned and immediately jumped to the conclusion of how boring and uninspiring this series must be . Yet again, Once I had seen the images together on one webpage, the whole concept changes and with it my viewpoint.

It shows that for me specifically, I must stop jumping to conclusions when seeing isolated images. Research is important especially when viewing a series because one cannot make an educated and personal response to them by looking at one or two of the images in isolation.


Miss Grace’s Lane 1986-7

Arnatts Miss Grace’s Lane series shows two contrasting themes whose juxtaposition causes a shock effect. The shock and disgust that I feel when looking at the images within this series is made stronger by their collective title. By reading the title ‘Miss’ I am given the information and imagery connected with a young female who is innocent and I begin to formulate a narrative in my mind.

The images show the juxtaposition of the man-made pollution which has been left behind and within a natural living environment. The sense of place in the work becomes corrupted and I am left with a feeling of anger because it shouldn’t be like this. The innocence of Miss Grace’s Lane which is nature and life has been defiled by man-made rubbish formed of plastics and rubbish that is harmful to the environment.

The contrast in subject matter is strong. Nature is living and beautiful to look at and rubbish is a pollution, it is a death that chokes that which is living and looks ugly. In the background we have the living natural world, in the mid ground we have the decaying natural world and soil piled high. In contrast in the foreground we have the dumped rubbish in bright man-made coloured plastic which jumps out at me and just shouts ‘I don’t belong here!’ ‘Look at me, Look at me!’

This series holds a message for us. If you compare the decade in which this series was shot to our modern day era, nothing has changed, so the theme of time is also present within this series.


Gawain Barnard: Maybe We’ll be Soldiers

Maybe we’ll Be Soldiers is an intimate project that exposes the anxieties, hopes, suspicions and the excitations of growing up through a series of portraits of young people captured on the cusp of adulthood. 

Tranquil yet unsettling, the cool expressions caught in the camera’s lens belies the hidden turmoil that comes with approaching maturity. Softly lit faces stare with apprehensive eyes into the uncertain spaces beyond the portraits’ borders. 

Barnard’s images, interspersed with photos of the natural environments that his subjects inhabit, reflect the sense of disturbance following the realisation that the lingering summers of youth are about to come to an end.

Gewain Barnard 

In this series to strengthen his concept Barnard has used two images presented side by side. The viewer can see the foliage from trees which are cropped in tightly and the mid way to head portraits of the youths. I didn’t get the connection of the nature to the portraits believing it was just symbolising a rural life. Many of the army barracks that my Mum was brought up in and around were always in a rural area, but by reading the description that accompanies the images I do not think that is the concept.

Re-reading the interpretation of the work’s concept on Barnard’s website I can see how the natural background of trees can represent youth. I spent so much of my time in woods when I was younger whether in appreciation by walking through, playing hide and seek or 40/40 or as a young photographer trying to make abstracts out of the branches. The woods for me do represent a time of free care and innocence.

If you put this sentiment next to portraits of young adults and assign a title to the series, Maybe We’ll Be soldiers, a narrative is created. However as stand alone images the concept and narrative, for me personally, could not be reached.

I also took note on how this series has been presented on the web page. Unlike most photographs which are presented in lines, square grids or a slide show, the presentation of this series is more complexed. This can be seen in the sketch below.


Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter (born 1965, Dorset, UK) explores themes depicting his local neighbourhood of East London, drawing on art historical references. He reconstructs stories, memories and myths to paint a psycho-geographical landscape…

…The series, Figures in a Landscape, 2018, is a personal odyssey which transports the viewer through a world imbued with myths and legends. On this magical journey, from the hillsides of the West Country to the marshes of Hackney, the viewer encounters ancient gods, goddesses and mythical monsters which inhabit the landscape and battle for supremacy between the other worlds and the here and now.

Tom Hunter

At first glance of the title, Figures in a Landscape, I thought the work would consist of people in different landscapes and coupled with the extract above from his website I imagined these figures either dressed up or perhaps posing in relation to a myth or a well known historical painting. After my initial thoughts I began to research Hunters work and realised that the word ‘figures’ was illustrative in that it represented more than a body of a person.

In Hunter’s work ‘figure’ relates to the personification of objects and drawings in history that are found in within the landscape. These ‘figures’ include, Wayland’s Smithy which is a chambered long barrow in Ashbury, Aphrodite which is a beautiful sculpture which looks as though it is beneath ground in a watery tunnel of some type, White Horse Cult which is a photograph of the White Horse in Salisbury, Wilmington Giant on Windover Hill, East Sussex to name but a few.

It is the concept of ‘figure’ that I find interesting because Hunter has brought together many objects that ordinarily would not be in a set at all. However, there is a hidden depth to this series which a viewer can access when you know Hunter’s themes that he explores. If you look at the individual images with their title you gain a visual input which yo can appreciate more aesthetically than intellectually. However, if you include information from myths or a place in time, the images bursts with a narrative and then the simple visual content becomes deep with meaning.

If you visit Tom Hunter’s website there are many works in series connected with the themes of people and environments. I found his site rich with information and visual stimuli that had me thinking for quite a while to the different directions one can take themes and images. I found the amount that I learnt through Hunter’s work encouraging and very informative to my own practice as an artist and photographer.


Bibliography

Keith Arnatt: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/keith-arnatt-666 (accessed 09/01/21)

Gawain Barnard: http://www.gawainbarnard.com (accessed 09/01/21)

Tom Hunter: http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10 (accessed 10/01/21). tomhunter.org/gallery/figures-in-a-landscape/ (accessed 10/11/21)

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