Assignment 3: theme and early planning

I’ve not quite finished the coursework for this section but have started on the assignment in the background. Now feels like a good time to summarise where I’ve got to so far, as I have a significant shooting opportunity tomorrow and the real work starts in earnest.


It’s always good to take a look at the brief early and often. Here it is in summary, with my emphasis:

Produce a photo story of 10 images that, as a set, tells a story and conveys a narrative. As in Assignment One, engage at local levelDo this assignment in colour.


  •  This is NOT a ‘day in the life of…’ exercise; it is not a visual chronology unless your theme naturally has one
  • Structure your visual story as you would a written story. Present your viewer with the theme, further developments and complications and, finally, a resolution – or non-resolution that poses further questions. Edit and sequence your work accordingly
  • Go for visual variety – use a variety of lenses, viewpoints and compositions – but ensure visual and conceptual consistency across the images


By far the biggest local story in Ryedale, North Yorkshire is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – a controversial technique for extracting gas from shale rock deep underground. Four miles away from my home town of Pickering there is a village called Kirby Misperton, which at the end of May 2016 had a planning application to start fracking approved by the county council – the first since a UK ban on fracking was lifted in 2012.

The story as I currently see it is not the fracking application process itself – that’s currently in a bit of a lull while a legal review is being undertaken – but rather the residents’ response by way of the setup and activities of various Frack Free action groups.

Frack Free Ryedale had been campaigning locally against the fracking application since 2014. Since the decision to approve, the group has swelled in numbers and been even more vocal than before. At the same time, a number of other local Frack Free groups have emerged, as different parts of Yorkshire become more aware of the dangers – and as residents began to realise that their own towns and villages have been granted licences to pursue the same kind of planning application, i.e. it could be their town next.

These Frack Free groups have however been quite fragmented, small-scale and parochial – I know of at least 12 in North Yorkshire alone (and across the rest of Yorkshire, some places such as Leeds have even got rival Frack Free groups…!).

So the focus is on the people, the Unlikely Activists: villagers, older people – not your usual protesters at all.

Working title: Fracktivists


I’ve been lucky in that a friend of mine, a retired GP who lives down the road, is one of the leaders of Frack Free Ryedale. He’s kept me informed of local events that I could take my camera along to. He’s been doing a tour of some of the newer Frack Free groups giving talks on the health risks of fracking.

So far I’ve taken some photos at three fairly small events:

  • A local countryside march for one of the newer local Frack Free groups
  • An educational talk by Frack Free Ryedale leaders to one of the newer local groups
  • A tea party organised to raise funds and awareness at a village near the Kirby Misperton site

The first really big one though is a public march in York tomorrow (Saturday 30th July) which is hopefully going to attract people from all the outlying Frack Free protest groups to take part in a single event. This will hopefully be crucial in not only getting some good shots but honing my narrative intent in order to take relevant pictures at subsequent events.

Next steps

  • Take photos at the York march tomorrow
  • Confirm further shooting opportunities locally over August
  • More structured planning on the shape of the narrative:
    • Identify key messages
    • Identify starting point, main markers/milestones, proposed ending image
    • Identify different types of images to select or take, research (revise) photo essay best practice
    • Research similar projects from other photographers
    • Re-read Hurn and Jay (On Being a Photographer) for tips on planning shoots

That’s it for now. More to follow!


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