Assignment 5: (another) alternative title

I’m still thinking about the advice I was given to make the project title link to the content (and concept) more clearly.

For today anyway, I’m falling out with the last title idea I’ve been working with – Two Kinds of People – as the project deliberately doesn’t include people, and depicts whole towns using stereotypes.

I’ve already acknowledged a inspirational debt to Martha Rosler’s The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1972-74), and I’m currently pondering whether to go one step further and make the title an homage to it:

Northern England in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems

… but I might change my mind tomorrow!

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Assignment 5: further refinements

I said early on in this assignment (many months ago now) that I wanted to document my working process and draft ideas more than I had previously done, and this has certainly proven to be the case – I just had no idea just how much the project would evolve in the intervening time. Looking back it’s been a necessary but sometimes meandering journey to get to where I need to be with this work.

Last week, after a flurry of activity were I posted up some work-in-progress images, I took some time to ponder how the overall work was coming across now that I could see it taking shape as (potential) final images.

A couple of changes are needed I believe:

Captions

Up until recently I was working on combining data, images and provocative text captions to get across my message (about divisive over-simplification).

Middlesbrough 1

Looking at the images I produced at this stage, I’m now of the opinion that these text captions are overkill – they are directing the reading too much, and competing for attention with the images. One thing I realised is that the message would still work if I removed the images! – which, for a photographic project, didn’t feel right.

A rethink was needed. I am currently working with captioning each image simply with the town’s name, but with the addition of a question mark – to imply that I am challenging rather than reinforcing the stereotyping I am depicting. I’m aiming to say “This is <town x> – or is it?”

Middlesbrough 1

Title and statement of intent

However… the oppositional pairings of labels that I had been planning to use as captions are, I still think, a powerful aspect of the message that I don’t want to completely lose. They have framed my shooting and selection decisions, and I do want examples of them to be floating around in the viewer’s mind when they view the images.

After deciding to simplify the captions as depicted above I had the opportunity to discuss the work with an OCA tutor (not my own tutor Derek as it happens, but Les Monaghan – a tutor I first met last year and met again at the weekend in connection to his project Relative Poverty). His view was that I needed something to frame the context that the pie chart splits were the Leave/Remain percentages, as this isn’t clear. His suggestion was to make the overall project title more explanatory (my current working title is Two Kinds of People) and he suggested I go for something like Leave/Remain, Leave or Remain, Leave vs Remain etc.

My reaction was (and still is, to be honest) that I don’t really want to be so overt with the title – but I do completely see what he means about helping the viewer a little more. I’m also wary of elevating the Brexit element too much, as to me this is the context of the ‘oversimplification’ message and not the core message itself.

With the above in mind, my current solution is to keep the title but update the statement of intent (again!) to add more of a frame around the context – including some of the oppositional pairings that up until recently were going to be captions. I hit upon the idea of using the pairings as a kind of verbal rhythm through the statement.

So my statement of intent currently looks something like this:

Two Kinds of People

Politics, like photography, simplifies.

Are you a Remainer or a Leaver? On 24th June 2016 the UK woke up to find itself newly sorted into binary, oppositional tribes.

Are you the liberal elite or the left-behind? The referendum that was itself fought on an extreme oversimplification of an impossibly complex situation was followed by a doubling down of this unfortunate tendency for the politics of division, as new labels emerged overnight – some neutral, some self-identified, some insulting.

Are you young and naive or old and bigoted? Data is a potent simplifier; percentages and charts can confer an undeserved authenticity upon a situation. Narratives emerged to explain the result, often falling into the generalisation trap and painting whole groups of people as not only homogenous but also diametrically opposed to whoever had put their cross in the other box.

Are you part of the multicultural middle class or the white working class? I looked at the last five towns I’ve lived in through the lens of the EU Referendum result, with the aim of provoking thought about the absurdity of such ‘weaponised generalisation’; how much easier it is to lean on divisive stereotypes than to understand the nuances of human behaviour and the range of opinions and values.

Are you striver or a skiver? An enemy of the people or one of the people? A foreigner or a racist?  I also intend this to be a kind of postmodern meta-critique, to bring to the surface the subjectivity of the documentary photographer – I can depict these towns exactly as I want to; all of these images are real, even if none are wholly ‘true’.

Photography, like politics, simplifies.

Burnley 1Pickering 1Dewsbury 1

Assignment 5: word association

Almost a month has passed since I last blogged (busy with other things rather than avoiding study, honest) and this week I planned to throw myself back into the assignment, having closed off most of the other distractions for now.

The idea was to get out to one or more of the remaining locations (Dewsbury, Barnsley and my current home of Pickering) for full days of shooting – but the weather forecast is for persistent rain in all three locations for the rest of the week. I know bad weather shouldn’t be a deal-breaker but having wasted a rainy day in Accrington early on in this assignment I think it’s worth waiting slightly longer for drier weather.

So even though it sometimes feels like I’ve been doing too much planning and not enough shooting, I intend to use at least some of this week to refine my shooting plan per town – not in such a way that restricts me, more in a way that amplifies the points I’m aiming to make.

To recap, the concept is to juxtapose pairs of images of specific northern English towns based on stereotypes / clichés of how the population voted in the 2016 EU Referendum – as a comment on the absurdity of extreme over-simplification.

The visual treatment is based on the images being in the proportions of the Remain/Leave vote ratio so the images will resemble infographics to some degree.

Burnley test round

The text labelling is key – I will be using pairs of increasingly provocative labels to highlight the extent to which we tend to generalise about populations.

The list I brainstormed a while ago is as follows, though here I have reordered it to build up from neutral/innocuous to more judgemental/offensive, to give a loose narrative arc (or at least a sense of escalation):

  • Remain / Leave
  • Globalist / Nationalist
  • White Collar / Blue Collar
  • Young / Old
  • Urban / Rural
  • Rich / Poor
  • Have / Have Not
  • Multicultural Middle Class / White Working Class
  • Upwardly Mobile / Down and Out
  • Metropolitan Elite / Left Behind
  • Establishment / Workers
  • Enemies of the People / The People
  • Strivers / Skivers
  • Foreigners / Racists
  • _____ / _____ (I intend to leave the labels blank on the last pairing, with the implication that the viewer can make up their own stereotypes)

Some of these lend themselves to particular towns more than others and so I will look to group them accordingly:

  • Young / Old and Urban / Rural are most appropriate for Pickering, which has notable extremes of both
  • The Establishment / The Workers could work best in Middlesbrough or Barnsley as both have experienced notable industrial decline in recent times
  • Metropolitan Elite / Left Behind aligns well with Burnley as it has examples of both extremes
  • Foreigners / Racists (undoubtedly the most provocative pairing) will work best in Dewsbury which has a high ethnic minority population

The challenge I’m setting myself whilst I wait for better weather is to think of associations with these words that might lead to subject ideas. Again, I don’t mean this to be prescriptive but to open up some neural pathways :-)

I want to see if I can work in some metaphors and metonyms that allude to the labels in some way; I don’t mind if they are obscure, as it’s mostly for my own inspiration that I wanted to do this word association thing.

  • Remain
    • Straight road
  • Leave
    • Exit sign
  • Globalist
    • Travel agents
  • Nationalist
    • Union jack
  • White Collar
    • Skyscraper
  • Blue Collar
    • Working men’s club
  • Young
    • Micro scooter
  • Old
    • Mobility scooter
  • Urban
    • Wine bar
  • Rural
    • Farm shop
  • Rich
    • Car dealership
  • Poor
    • Bus stop
  • Have
    • Smartphone
  • Have not
    • Phone box
  • Multicultural Middle Class
    • Coffee shop
  • White Working Class
    • Chip shop
  • Upwardly Mobile
    • New build
  • Down and Out
    • Derelict building
  • Metropolitan Elite
    • Delicatessen
  • Left Behind
    • Food bank
  • Establishment
    • Council offices
  • Workers
    • Factory
  • Enemies of the People
    • Court
  • The People
    • Shopping centre
  • Strivers
    • Briefcase
  • Skivers
    • Bookies
  • Foreigners
    • Mosque
  • Racists
    • Graffiti

To be realistic it’s very unlikely (and overly limiting) that I’ll be using this as a subject checklist while I shoot – the value in this exercise was simply to expand my horizons on potential subject matter.

In parallel with this text brainstorming, I’m also spending some time this week looking at how other photographers have captured places, specifically English towns, without relying too much on pictures of people. A separate research post on this will follow shortly.

Assignment 5: slight change of scope

Assignment 5 is back in planning phase for various reasons – mostly to do with time (first of all an ambulatory injury and then diary logistics not allowing shooting trips away from home for most of April), but also to do with me revisiting what I’ve done so far and not yet being happy with the way the assignment has been progressing. My last target date of completing the assignment by the end of April – and submitting the whole course for assessment by the end of May) – is no longer viable. So I am in a ‘taking stock and deciding next steps’ phase (again).

Revisiting scope

One aspect of the assignment scope that had been niggling away at me recently came to a head and I think I’ve now resolved it to my satisfaction.

My starting point for the assignment, several months ago now, was very much driven by a socio-political point about inequality being an underlying factor in the Brexit vote. I chose the shooting locations based on a set of criteria that specifically included a high Leave vote (>65%) as this suited my intended message. The shortlist was as follows:

  • Accrington (66.2% Leave / 33.8% Remain)
  • Barnsley (68.3 / 31.7)
  • Burnley (66.6 / 33.4)
  • Hull (67.6 / 32.4)
  • Middlesbrough (65.5 / 34.5)
  • Redcar (66.2 / 33.8)

However: the assignment objective has moved on from making a socio-political point in a straight documentary photography style, towards more of a postmodern critique, using documentary photography to make a comment on the absurdity of over-simplification. The Brexit vote is now the context, the backdrop – not the main content.

With this shift in tone and message, the fact that I had specifically selected locations with high Leave votes risked becoming a distraction – the socio-political message was potentially competing with the more subtle message on over-simplification.

A more neutral framework

I started thinking about other frameworks I could use to select shooting locations, less politically-charged and hopefully better able to communicate the intended message about the dangers of generalisation.

The one approach that seemed to make most sense was to look (dispassionately) at the towns I’ve lived in as an adult:

  • Middlesbrough (65.5 / 34.5)
  • Accrington (66.2 / 33.8)
  • Burnley (66.6 / 33.4)
  • Barnsley (68.3 / 31.7)
  • Dewsbury (54.7 / 45.3)
  • Pickering (55.3 / 44.7)

There’s some overlap with the original list, which is interesting. I’ve lived in a bunch of Leave-heavy areas in my 20s and 30s, peaking in Barnsley, followed by slightly more balanced places in the last 15 years or so.

The good news is that I have already shot in the first three of these.

The other good news is that widening the net a little allows me to use a broader set of ‘generalisations’ to play with, as different areas have their own variations on the media clichés. For example, Dewsbury has a diverse ethnic population and one of the angles locally is the ‘multiculturalism vs nationalism’ trope. Similarly, Pickering offers alternative stereotype pairings such as ‘young vs old’ and ‘urban vs rural’.

The assignment asks for 15 photos – I’m planning to deliver 15 pairs (or diptychs, or composites). I’m thinking three pairs each from five towns. As there’s six in the list above, I need to remove one. My current thinking is that Accrington and Burnley are geographically very close, so I should pick one. From my shoots so far, I think Burnley has more potential.

Wild card

There’s a wild card that I could include that would change the shape of the whole assignment: for four years (up to the start of last year) I spent just over half of the year working away from home during the week, in…

  • Richmond-upon-Thames (30.7% Leave / 69.3% Remain)

Now, Richmond is not only an outlier in my list, it’s quite an extreme Remain outpost full stop – it’s already had a by-election that was decided on the Brexit question and so is probably the most famous Remain-y place in the UK.

For this reason, I feel like there’s a risk that including Richmond might upset the balance of the rest of the assignment (not to mention the tenuous definition of ‘living there’ if I was actually dividing my time between there and ‘home’).

However, I also think that this imbalance might actually be a good thing! It’d be a different visual challenge for a start. It might add a little tonal texture / light and shade to the overall series.

So – I need to decide whether to include Richmond or not. And if I do, I will need to think about if I remove another northern town to make space for it.

This is not an immediate decision though – I can continue working on the ‘northern England only’ version of the assignment for now and decide later if I want or need some variation.

Sources

BBC EU Referendum Results http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36616028 (accessed 19/04/2017)

Assignment 5: framework and presentation questions

My last post on Assignment 5 from a few weeks ago was optimistically titled ‘The clouds part‘, but I’ve spent most of the time since being dissatisfied with my work to date and struggling to ‘find a way back in’ to this assignment… so the clouds hadn’t so much parted as shifted around slightly. However, I am finally starting to see real chinks of daylight.

My concerns

There have been two related obstacles:

  • Dissatisfaction with the content of the photos so far
  • Concerns that my concept may not be clearly communicated

Unhappy with my photographs

My basic problem over the last few weeks has been dissatisfaction with my photos taken so far.   I’ve taken over 500 photos in four locations over five shooting days since November last year. Very few of them are standing out as good photos individually, and almost no pairs of images to juxtapose are making themselves apparent to me. I have a strong sense of how I want these images to end up looking like, but am not yet being successful in finding subjects that match my visualisations.

Part of it is down to an ongoing debate I’m having with myself on whether to include people in the project or not (I will do a separate blog post on this particular point). Part of this is related to the conceptual communication point I come onto next.

Lacking confidence in the communication of the concept

As mentioned in several recent posts (a fact in itself that reveals how unsure I am about its clarity) my overarching communication intent is about the perils of oversimplification, and the conceptual approach I am taking is to juxtapose binary stereotypes (which happen to be based around the EU Referendum vote).

My fear is that using stereotypes to draw attention to stereotyping as a phenomenon is inherently risky, as there is a danger that the viewer simply sees the stereotyping… :-/

I needed to find a way of making the use of stereotypes more self-evidently deliberate and therefore significant.

My ideas

I have been wrapping my head around these two interrelated dilemmas and am gradually evolving my approach in a way that I think might – might – resolve both concerns.

Framework

First, I came to the conclusion that to improve the success rate of the photos themselves I needed some kind of framework to the images I want to capture – a shooting list. I’ve been shooting with two sets of keywords in my mind but it’s still been a little too vague to be useful. I need to really hone my visualisations down to a subject matter level.

In order to do this I also started thinking of ways of making the underpinning ‘stereotypes’ concept more obviously deliberate. I started thinking of how supporting text can be extremely useful, and so how to work stereotypes into the captions. To this end I enlisted some OCA Facebook buddies to brainstorm Remain and Leave stereotypes with me, and between us we came up with the following list:

  • Rich / Poor
  • Have / Have Not
  • Posh / Plebs
  • Experts / Man in the Street
  • Multicultural Middle Class / White Working Class
  • Metropolitan Elite / Left Behind
  • The Establishment / The Workers
  • Enemies of the People / The People
  • Thrivers & Strivers / Skivers & Survivors
  • Smug Liberals / Angry Bigots
  • Swots / Uneducated
  • Fat Cats / The Great Unwashed
  • White Collar / Blue Collar
  • Upwardly Mobile / Down & Out
  • Globalist / Nationalist
  • Unpatriotic / Patriotic
  • Losers / Winners

A subset of these, or something similar, could become briefs for specific image pairings, and in turn appear as captions of some kind.

Presentation format

I’ve been trying to think creatively about how to visually communicate the message about binary oversimplification by using the exact Leave/Remain vote percentages from the specific towns and cities as the ratio of the two parts of the composite image.

My initial approach to this was quite straightforward, juxtaposing the pairs of images as two appropriately scaled rectangles:

However, I wasn’t sure whether this really drove home the binary categorisation that I was looking to project. I started thinking about infographics and data visualisation, and hit upon the idea of using a pie chart (it was National Pie Week…) with the segments labeled to form the captions:

Please note that I am not sure about these specific images – these are just mockups to test the concept.

My current feeling is that the visual concept does broadly work in terms of data visualisation, but it’s not necessarily easy (depending on the specific images) to visually decipher the two component parts due to the irregular frame shapes.

Hmmmmm…

Next steps

  • Review existing images (again) against the ‘stereotype pairings’ discussed above
  • Shoot new images with stereotype pairings as image briefs
  • Consider the pie chart visual treatment more, and potentially gather some peer feedback

Assignment 5: the clouds part

As mentioned on here recently, I took a three month break from Documentary, including work on the final assignment, that ended last week. Yesterday I went out for my first shooting trip since that break, and think it’s time to collect my thoughts on the assignment and where I go from here.

After such a break, it’s tempting to think that one of two things can happen to a project:

  • I remain enthused and pick back up where I left off
  • I become disillusioned and abandon the whole idea

In reality however, it’s ended up being somewhere in between.

This in itself is a good example of what is increasingly the underlying message of the assignment – that we humans are drawn to over-simplifying complex situations!

It’s simply about… simplification

What the assignment is ‘about’ has evolved, even though the subject matter and visual approach are unchanged:

  • The assignment began life as being ‘about Brexit’
  • Then in my mind it became more ‘about inequality’
  • As time’s gone on I have distilled this down to it being ‘about simplification’

Whilst I am excited about the new depths I am finding in the assignment, I remain concerned about my ability to successfully articulate the message. The work still needs to be rooted in the same subject matter – the images still need to be of socially unequal northern English towns that voted to Leave the EU, yet still communicate my over-arching message of the dangers of over-simplification.

‘I hadn’t thought of that before’

At the risk of name-dropping, whilst in Arles last summer I had an opportunity to speak to OCA principal Gareth Dent about my intended assignment subject. He asked an excellent question that I presume is one often used to challenge students: he asked, what’s the ‘I hadn’t thought of that before’ aspect of the project? Familiar subject matter needs to have some angle that makes the viewer think of it in a new and different way, some way into opening a new line of thought. Good documentary work needs to be – to employ an overused phrase that resonates here – thought-provoking.

What thoughts did I want to provoke? At the time my answer was more shallow and less satisfactory than it is now: I said that I wanted to highlight the co-existence of the haves and the have-nots in the same places, that these towns are overlapping parallel worlds with different populations. But this didn’t feel like all there was to it.

I Woke Up and Everything Was Fine

I’m a firm believer in the importance of titles to projects, and the working title for this project, for as long as it’s had one, has been ‘I Woke Up and Everything Was Fine‘. As time’s gone on I’ve realised that coming up with this title was the beginnings of me refining this idea down to the ‘simplification’ message.

All politics, and very specifically a referendum, is predicated on simplifying impossibly complicated situations to a point of almost meaningless bluntness. It forces a diverse population to sort into binary tribes. All nuance is lost. From 24th June 2016 the UK population was, if you believe the media, sorted into the Metropolitan Liberal Elite and the Disenfranchised Left-Behinds.

The simple act of placing an X in one of two boxes on a form carried with it an implicit expectation:

  • Remain meant “I protect my happy life”
  • Leave meant “I change my unhappy life”

Yes, I’m over-simplifying. Deliberately.

Photography = simplification

The main epiphany of the last three months thinking about, but not working on, the assignment has been the solidification of this fundamental point:

Photography itself is simplification

The documentary photographer is a professional over-simplifier. A subject is chosen, an authorial stance is adopted (knowingly or otherwise), decisions are made at the shooting, editing and presentation stages that boil down the complex world in front of the camera into a series of two-dimensional rectangles of time and light.

I’m not saying this shouldn’t happen – it would be impossible for any medium to adequately record a 360º, 100% view of any reality… even rolling 24-hour video surveillance has to choose a location and a viewing angle. There’s always something not shown that may or may not be pertinent to the ‘truth’ being captured.

What I want to do with this work is get viewers to acknowledge and think about this inherent simplification. Maybe also to consider the risks it brings, and what we as humans can do to mitigate these risks.

I’m hoping that the parallels between photography and politics will become apparent through the imagery; I will however weave this into the Statement of Intent as well to reinforce the message.

Application to the assignment

This navel-gazing has to lead me somewhere practical :-)

Since restarting my studies I’ve been revisiting some of the images taken so far with this ‘lens’ of over-simplification, and determining which images still make the cut (spoiler: not many).

To get the over-simplification message across I feel like I might need to be more deliberately stereotypical in my subject matter – to make the juxtapositions overtly more jarring. I want to present the message that says something like: “Town X is 33% like THIS and 67% like THAT” with the intended reaction that I have gone too far, that my characterisation has tipped over into caricature.

I want people’s reaction to be to disagree with me! Or at least what they think I am saying.

This feels like quite a tricky endeavour. Quite a fine line to walk.

But I think I can pull it off.

Next steps

  • Rate images taken so far against the new criteria
    • Including the new set I took yesterday in Middlesbrough with this approach in mind
  • Schedule more shooting days in other towns
  • Start building up a longlist of candidate images

Assignment 5: slow progress

I’m slowing down a bit on this assignment for various reasons. I’ll pick it up again properly in the new year and will focus on the section five coursework until then…

Some big picture context first

At the start of 2016 I set myself the target of completing both my Level 2 courses (Documentary and Gesture & Meaning) in time for the January 2017 submission deadline, which realistically meant finishing up before Christmas and spending January doing a little rework (not too much) and mainly pulling together the submission packs.

This has proved to be optimistic…

I’m almost finished on Gesture & Meaning: all coursework is done and five out of six assignments are done, with just an essay left to write. I will submit this in January.

Documentary looked on the face of it to be slightly less work overall: only five assignments compared to G&M‘s six. However, whereas G&M finishes coursework at the end of section four, leaving only two (non-photographic) assignments for the last third of the course, Documentary continues with coursework through section five. Add to this the brief that the final assignment is the ‘personal project’ and is intended to be bigger in terms of both scope and final deliverables than all the other assignment, it’s become apparent recently that I’m not going to finish Documentary before Christmas! So I’ve told my tutor to expect the assignment sometime around the end of February / beginning of March.

This realisation sunk in after a few photoshoots for Assignment 5 over the last week and a half…

Experience so far

My assignment is based on producing 10-15 pairs of images (‘positive’ and ‘negative’) from shoots in the following six northern English towns and cities that voted heavily to leave the EU:

  • Accrington
  • Barnsley
  • Burnley
  • Hull
  • Middlesbrough
  • Redcar

So far I have shot in three locations, with the following experiences:

  • Accrington:
    • I struggled to get many ‘positive’ images (and the weather was atrocious)
  • Middlesbrough:
    • Opposite problem – there’s been lots of regeneration in the centre and it was harder than I anticipated to find the more disadvantaged side of the town!
  • Hull:
    • A timing problem… the entire city centre is being dug up for regeneration works in advance of the 2017 European City of Culture celebrations
    • So getting any photos without cranes, workmen, holes in the road, barriers, ramps or apologetic signs is pretty much impossible :-/
    • But it will be lovely when it’s finished, I’m sure…!

Add to these specific problems a few general learnings:

  • Shooting in some of the more disadvantaged areas is proving more difficult than I expected
    • Quite a few suspicious looks from people
    • (and I’m too introverted to walk over and chat with them…)
  • Generally I’m trying to shoot photos without too many people in them
    • As I want to let the places speak for themselves rather than use people as signifiers (this may sound odd / not make a lot of sense, but I know what I mean…)
    • But the time of year is meaning that the town centres in particular are exceptionally busy (Christmas shopping)
  • Frankly, I haven’t done enough research and planning on what kind of subject matter I want
    • I was expecting to be inspired once on location, but it isn’t really happening that way just yet…

The result of all of these points is that from three days of shooting over two weeks, I only have a handful of images that I am happy with.

So with all of this in mind, I think I’m postponing further shoots until the new year. I’ll no doubt go back to the three locations already used, but hopefully come back with better results.

Some more processing experiments

I’ve been posting work-in-progress for this assignment, even though I’m not happy with the images, as I’m experimenting with the layout – this is an important aspect of the presentation on this assignment.

The thing I’m playing with at the minute is how to depict the % split between the two parts of the composite image.

Next steps

  • Step away from it for a while and come back with a fresh pair of eyes later!

Assignment 5: format experiments

I’ve been playing around with the format of joining the pairs of pictures together, as I decided that as well as not liking many of the pictures I’ve taken so far, I’m unconvinced by the format I’d started with.

To recap: I’m joining pairs of images to show two sides of a particular town or city.

Photographic ratios

I’m looking to present the images in a comparative horizontal ratio of approximately 1/3 to 2/3. My original intention was to keep the resultant overall rectangle to be a ‘normal’ photographic ratio, and the widest such ratio is 3:2. When this is divided into 1/3 and 2/3 horizontal splits, the resultant images are a tall and thin left hand portion (2×1) and a square right hand portion.

Shopping
Accrington (33.8 / 66.2)

Both these ratios look distractingly odd and cramped, and for me this visually overrides the 3:2 ratio of the complete image.

I decided to set aside the intention for the overall image to be in a recognised photographic ratio and looked instead at the component parts being in standard ratios and working together to produce an overall image that would be more panoramic.

ratios

I concluded that a 2×3 left hand side and a 4×3 right hand side to produce an overall image that’s twice as wide as tall, and would visually work better than my original layout.

Accrington (33.8 / 66.2)

Communicating the split

In the mockups above the split between the left and right hand positions is signalled both in the actual visual balance between the two sides and by the numbers in the caption.

However, I felt that this doesn’t strongly enough steer the viewer to the underlying meaning of the split, namely that it represents the two responses to the EU Referendum (and in my deliberately over-simplified take on the situation, the ‘haves’ vs the ‘have nots’).

The panoramic ratio of the revised format seemed to better lend itself to showing that this is a kind of ‘chart’ with each portion representing something. I experimented with including a partial scale along the bottom of each image. Once I’d done this, it also felt right to include the town name as a photographic caption rather than a text addition separately.

Visual separation

With this new panoramic ratio, the effect of seeing the image as a whole is diminished somewhat, and it’s more evident that this is a juxtaposed pair. This should make matching pairs together a little easier, I think. As it is now more clearly a juxtaposed pair, I started wondering whether it might benefit from a tiny bit of delineation between the two parts, so I introduced a 1-pixel keyline between them.

Finally I looked at further visual separation, now that the key line acts as a kind of visual break, to emphasise the disparity between the two parts of the image. I converted the right hand side to black and white.

This wouldn’t have worked as well prior to the key line separation but seems to be effective now. Whether making the right hand side black and white is a little too heavy-handed, I’m not sure. It might be, and I might be OK with heavy-handed!

That’ll do for now. I did another shoot on Friday and am sorting images from that at the moment. Then 2-3 more trips out in the coming week, with selection and editing as I go along. I’m getting there, bit by bit.

Assignment 5: mind map

I’ve done a flurry of planning and preparation posts for this assignment this week, and it’s just occurred to me that I haven’t posted a copy of the mind map that captures it all together in one visual view.

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Whilst I’ve been aware of mind mapping as a technique for a long time, I hadn’t really tried to apply it to my studies until my tutor Derek recommended it to help with structuring the critical review essay. I don’t know whether I’ll always apply it to photographic projects, but for something as pre-planned and complex as this project it felt like a useful way of drawing together the various threads.

As for the last few times I’ve used mind maps, this isn’t a definitive plan and I reserve the right to deviate from it, but it will be a useful aide memoire for me, particularly as I go through the selection and editing stages.

Just in case anyone is interested, I use an application called SimpleMind for the iPad.

Assignment 5: lightbulb moment

In the flurry of recently writing up my preparation on this assignment I’ve struck upon a realisation that I hadn’t previously been consciously aware of, or at the very least I couldn’t previously articulate it.

This may come across as being very ‘brave’ (in the Yes, Minister sense of the word) but I’d like the project to work on two distinct levels:

  • Literally: it’s about social inequality
  • Metaphorically: it’s about how both politics and photography over-simplify complex situations

The images I’ll produce will reduce two ‘sides’ of a particular place down to two views, one overly positive and the other overly negative, both of them to some degree unrepresentative of the much more nuanced reality.

And this is a metaphor for the referendum!

(too subtle?)