Assignment 5: an inauspicious start

I started shooting for this assignment yesterday. I’m not particularly happy with the shots I got, and have learned a lot about how challenging it’s going to be to make this visual concept work :-/

I haven’t really done this on other assignments but I’m thinking I might document my experiments as I go along. The shooting will take place over 2-3 weeks in 5-6 locations and I think (hope) that the work will evolve as I do more shoots. However, for some reason on this assignment I’m feeling the need to be more public with my work in progress. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m not sure about it and want feedback as I’m going along? I’m sure I’ll work it out…

To recap: the visual concept is to juxtapose the more prosperous and more economically disadvantaged sides of a particular northern English town or city in composite pairs, approximately 1/3 ‘positive’ and 2/3 ‘negative’ (in line with how these areas voted in the EU referendum).

The images will be deliberately polarised as I’m aiming to echo the over-simplification of referendum politics by effectively saying ‘Town X is one-third like this and two-thirds like that.

Yesterday’s shoot was in my old home town, where I lived for the first 20 years or so of my life – but haven’t been back too much in the last 20-odd years, apart from flying visits to family.

Issues to overcome

Weather

The first issue was the weather. It rained intermittently, which was good for the right-hand (‘negative’) images but not quite as appropriate for the left-hand (‘positive’) images.

I need to be better prepared logistically and look at the weather forecasts a few days ahead to determine the best sequence of locations to shoot! This is pretty basic stuff that I shouldn’t have tripped up on.

Subject matter

The second issue was quite dispiriting: I struggled to find many ‘positive’ images yesterday. My realisation was that the town has, over the last 20-odd years, suffered significant economic and social decline – throughout. There aren’t really any ‘nice’ areas to juxtapose the declining areas with. This in itself was a little depressing, but specifically in terms of this photographic project it made it difficult to achieve the counterbalance effect that I am seeking. The concept only really works well if there is a disparity in prosperity between parts of the town; it works less well when it is disadvantaged throughout :-(

So I’m doing a little more upfront research into my other locations, and calling on some local knowledge to check whether the blend of subject matter that I am seeking actually exists – instead of relying on memory (which can be out of date or faulty).

Composition

The third issue I experienced was back at home, selecting and processing the shots. Finding compositions that visually work in the rigid format I’ve set myself (essentially a 2 x 1 ratio tall image next to a roughly square image) is surprisingly difficult! Each image has to make some kind of sense separately, and the two need to have some sort of relationship, whether that is harmony or deliberate disharmony. Add to that the intention to make the two segments thematically linked (albeit loosely in some cases) and the selection and juxtaposition of specific images becomes something of a puzzle. Sometimes I felt I had a good standalone image for one side, but nothing appropriate to pair it with. I’m also still wrestling with how literal vs ambiguous I can make the images I shoot.

I’ll need to carry this learning around in my head as I shoot all the other locations – think about what’s going to work tall and thin and what’s going to work square, and whether there’s relationships between shapes, colours, lines etc that I can use to connect the pairs of images together – rather than hoping it will all click together in the edit.

Sample outputs

These are not necessarily candidates for the final selection by any means, but I thought it was important to try to salvage what I could from yesterday and at least start laying out images to practice the selection and editing stage. If I hadn’t done this then my third realisation above might not have materialised. So I will continue to edit as I go along rather than wait until all locations have been photographed.

pubs
Hyndburn 33.8 / 66.2 (pubs)
shopping
Hyndburn 33.8 / 66.2 (shopping)
spa
Hyndburn 33.8 / 66.2 (health & beauty)

Next steps

I have my second location shoot tomorrow and will try to rectify the issues I encountered in the first!

Wish me luck… I fear I’m going to need it on this assignment!

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