Assignment 1 – Square Mile

The Brief

Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you.

You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further, or you may deviate from this. You may want to focus on architecture and landscape, or you may prefer to photograph the people who you think have an interesting connection to the square mile within which you currently find yourself. You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs from which to make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit’ together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively communicate your idea. You may wish to title your photographs or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.

Think of this assignment as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor.There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter. Try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.

Square Mile

After reading the brief, I realised that there were so many different routes I could go down to reflect my surroundings in Walthamstow.  Did I want to reflect its history, the regeneration and gentrification, its diversity, the people or what it’s like to live here.  Walthamstow is a vibrant part of East London, with many cafes, restaurants, bars, activities and culture. 

Because the brief allowed a wide variety of options, I first looked at other Photographers work to help realise my concept and focus my ideas, to avoid walking around aimlessly trying to work out how to capture what I wanted to depict. 

Whilst looking at Jay Maisels website I noticed that he made a point of saying that he was asked what he is looking for when he goes out on a shoot.  In response to this he states

My answer is, “absolutely nothing”.  I’m not looking for anything.  I’m just desperately trying to stay open to whatever is in front of me.’ Masiel J (s.d.)

I found this approach fascinating.  Although I had decided on the areas I wished to photograph I did not have a defined image in my minds eye which allowed the series to grow organically.

Whilst researching photographers I found the work of Jon Nicholson and Jay Masiel to be quite influential.  The use of colours in Jay Masiels work portrayed the vibrancy of spaces without the need to overcomplicating the image. Whereas Jon Nicholson’s approach was to angle the frame slightly differently, keeping a fairly short depth of field to portray the hustle and bustle of people.

I began my series organically through spending time in the center of Walthamstow taking photographs of two or three locations I wanted to include.  I found that the common denominator within my photographs was daily life.  As a result, I decided to make my Assignment ‘A day in Walthamstow’. 

I adopted several methods to achieve the photographs I envisaged.  The main one being that when I found a scene I wanted to incorporate, I experimented with different compositions, angles, focal lengths and depth of field.   The most challenging photographs were of Walthamstow Stadium, where I used a long exposure to create the motion blur of the traffic. I used a WB of 5000k knowing that this could be altered in Lightroom.  For the photographs where the background was busy, I used a shallow depth of field to make my subject matter stand out and for the spaces.

Overall, I feel that the composition of the photographs are strong and captured the vibrancy, atmosphere, diversity and lifestyle I wished to capture.

Whilst it was a conscious decision to organically grow the photographic series, in retrospect I do not feel that this has led to the photographs sitting as seamlessly together as I would have liked.  Within future projects I need to think more about how the photographs flow and sit together.

In addition I now recognise that I need to take a little more time thinking about the full composition when attempting street photography, which I found quite daunting as it is outside my comfort zone. 

A Day in Walthamstow

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