I enjoyed working on this topic whilst finding it challenging. I took many of the photographs with a 24mm equivalent wide angle lens and tried to use colour, proximity and motion to give a sense of being there. I am lucky in that this group of people trusts me and I was able to photograph them in a way that few people would normally permit and for that I am grateful.
However there was a huge degree of time pressure as I had to capture the images whilst running the classes! A degree of time pressure isn’t a bad thing – these images are certainly not composed at leisure. This required that I work quickly and without distracting people from their main reason for being there. Personally I enjoy the banality of the surroundings contrasting with the absolute effort of the people there. I enjoy the shot of one client in his garden, being observed by his dog but perhaps it doesn’t feel quite as much as part of the series as the other images.
I chose to present the images starting with broader contextual shots, moving closer as the series progressed. I hope there is a sense of connection with both the people and the place for the viewer.
The feedback from other students would be very welcome as I find it quite difficult to analyse my own work when it looks so different from much of what I do. I am particular worried about the colour element given my colour blindness and lack of confidence in this area. But this is my start – my square mile.
This first project deliberately takes me away from my comfort zone – I will be using colour and different lenses to usual. I have mostly used a standard or mild wide lens such as a 50 or 35mm, so using a wide-angle will present some challenges. For research I was keen to look at photographers that use colour effectively and that are more people-focused as making people the main subject is another of my dis-comforts on this assignment. Coupled with using wide-angle I am literally going to have to be in the face of my subjects.
For inspiration I have enjoyed the Journey’s by Train portfolio by Gawain Barnard (see figs. 1-2) – most, but not all of the images involve people and are often snatched images. But he makes great use of colour and movement, often using motion blur. I would like to be able to convey some of that sense of motion along with the empathy he conveys in his images.
Venetia Dearden presents images in both black and white and colour. I particularly enjoy the muted colour in her colour images; coupled with shallow depth of field and the frequent use of contra-jour her images have a warm, emotional and very connected feel . She clearly loves what it means to be human and shows humanity glowing brightly amongst a selection of banal surroundings, something that I really hope to be able to convey in my shots.
List of illustrations
- Barnard, G. “Journey’s by Train” number 4, At: http://gawainbarnard.com/photo_5597131.html#photos_id=5597134 (accessed June 2017)
- Barnard, G. “Journey’s by Train” number 22, At: http://gawainbarnard.com/photo_5597131.html#photos_id=6910999 (accessed June 2017)
- Dearden, V. At: https://www.venetiadearden.com/joie-stills/mqw9k5jb6yop0bn2bfu3yza9712inu (accessed June 2017)
The brief for the initial ‘Square Mile’ assignment had a powerful and circular impact on me. Even before reading Professor Mike Pearson’s summation of Y Filltir Sgwar, the words ‘The Square Mile’ to me mean, and have always meant, the City of London. By which I mean not Westminster or the suburbs but the single square mile of the London capital, which contains the banks and finance hub and centuries of history of merchant trading. It is especially significant to me as the City was my father’s passion and his life and he spent most days there, in love with the place and in love with his work there. It resonates for me because he died very recently and this resonance is circular because it was my Dad that first introduced me to photography.
It would be easy to interpret the brief very literally and go and photograph the City of London and it would be a fitting tribute to my Dad. There is so much to photograph there and I would be very comfortable taking black and white graphic images with a standard lens.
However, the whole point of doing this project (BA in photography) is to develop my photographic voice, take me out of my comfort zone, and do things very differently.
So my approach is to look at my current square mile. the area that I know very closely now. Professor Mike Pearson talks about “neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play”. I am a self-employed personal trainer and martial arts instructor when I’m not taking photographs. I work with communities of people that are into fitness or training but who do not like conventional gyms. I create a workspace in the various halls that I hire in my locale and this band of peripatetic people, of all ages and abilities, follows me to these various locations to be trained. The locations are mundane and the antithesis of glossy high-end gyms. But the playfulness, humour, hard work and humanity contained within these classes is interesting I think. I want the challenge of people photography – it’s difficult; far more so for me than photographing landscapes or abstracts or still life. I have no doubt I will return to these subjects in time but for now I will focus on capturing humans going about their business in these little communities that have been created and occupied by them.