Assignment 5: visual planning

I’ve done a couple of blog posts explaining my initial research and authorial stance on this assignment, so now it’s time to try to explain what my visual concept is for it.

Visual concept

My photos will be composite pairs each depicting a particular town in the north of England.

The communication objective is this:

There are two distinct categories of people coexisting in these towns: those who are content with their lives and those who are not. The EU Referendum brought this division to the surface by making people decide between two binary choices.

Note: I am fully aware that I am over-simplifying with this – this is the entire point. I’m aiming to draw a parallel between the simplicity of a yes/no referendum and the juxtaposition of two sides of a town’s character.

The ratio of the two parts of the composite image will be the ratio of Remain : Leave votes in the EU Referendum.

The left-hand image will depict the town from the point of view of the ‘haves’ (those who are happy with their lot) while the larger right-hand image will do the same from the point of view of the ‘have-nots’.

Below is a mockup using stock images (not my own). Please don’t read too much into the exact choice of images, I’m merely trying to articulate the visual effect:

Redcar mockup.jpg
Redcar 33.8 / 66.2

 

Practical considerations

This approach means that the left-hand images will all be tall and thin (almost exactly 2 x 1, barring a few pixels variation) whilst the right-hand images will be (almost exactly) square. This may drive subject matter choice. It will depend on the exact execution:

  • Do I want each part of a pair to work as a standalone image?
  • Or do I want to make the viewing experience more jarring by arbitrarily cropping off from full images?

I should get a better feel for this once I have some shots in the bag.

Photographic decisions as metaphor

One of the most fascinating points that came out of my research for my critical review was that metaphor can be used in documentary photography not just at the level of objects in the frame, but in terms of photographic decisions – such as composition, vantage point, colour, light and shade, shooting distance, focal length, focal points, graphical elements and so on. These visual cues can give the viewer’s mind some parameters to help steer the interpretation of the images.

In a sense, the basic presentation concept of juxtaposing two images together is itself a metaphor for the simplified coexistence of the two sets of voters.

With this in mind, even before I get down to examples of specific subject matter per shot, I’ve drafted up some ideas on how I will shoot images for each ‘half’ of the pairs.

The left-hand images are to depict the ‘thrivers’ (Remain voters in this context) and so will be more positive in style and content. The right-hand images are to depict the ‘survivors’ (Leave voters) and so will be more negative in style and content.

(Just realised: one could interpret the left-right positioning politically! As in, Remain was more of a left-wing response while Leave was more of a right-wing one. This isn’t intentional but may have been subliminal. The conscious reason for the Remain pics being on the left if that I felt the tall, thin pic being to the left of the square one worked best visually.)

When I first started planning this assignment in detail a couple of months ago I drafted up lists of words I associated with each of the two ‘halves’ of the subject:

Left-hand side

  • Optimistic
  • Open-minded
  • Internationalist
  • Wide angle
  • Open edges
  • Low angle, looking up
  • Bright, vibrant, saturated
  • Multiple people
  • Interaction, collaboration
  • Movement, going places
  • Travel agents
  • Consumerism
  • Status symbols
  • Positive signs of globalism
  • Universities, colleges

Right-hand side

  • Pessimistic
  • Local, parochial
  • Static
  • Contained
  • Close-up
  • Long lens / long distance (for visual compression)
  • Constrained at edges
  • Lonely, isolated (individuals)
  • Decay, deprivation
  • Closed shops
  • Zero hours contracts
  • Pound shops
  • Immigration tensions, distrust
  • Job centres, food banks

Keeping these lists in mind whilst shooting should help keep me on the ‘rails’ of the authorial points I’m aiming to make with these pictures.

I think I have one more prep post in me before I start shooting. I’ll do a post summarising some of my thematic ideas for images and their specific subject matter.

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