Category Archives: Assignments

The parent category for assignment work.

Assignment 2 – Collecting

Brief

Create a series of between six and ten photographs on one of the following subjects:

  • Things
  • views
  • Heads

Collecting

After reading the brief, I had a few different ideas for a photographic series.  One of which came about during a conversation with a friend, who is suffering from Cancer. I discovered she wished she had asked me to document her journey from the start. As a result of this conversation, I had the idea to do a photographic series on Living with Cancer, to which she agreed.

I wanted to reflect the reality of cancer in my series.  I did not want to shy away from the hard images that are rarely seen as I felt this would not do the subject matter justice.

The photographers I found most inspirational and influential for this series were Walker Evans and Don McCullin, due to their similarities in capturing the hard realities of life.  They achieved powerful images by using black and white and avoiding the distraction of colour. This is something I thought would work well with my series.

In addition to the above photographers I also took inspiration from Mona Kuhn, particularly in terms of the close framing and depth of field creating an intimacy between the subject and viewer.

In order to capture the photographs I had planned on the first day, I set the ISO to auto to ensure a faster shutter speed avoiding any blur.  Prior to taking the photographs I decided to use a longer focal length for the more relaxed photographs and a shorter focal length for the pained images, which would be slightly harsher on the skin, picking up the subtleties when she winced.  

On the first day I struggled with the lack of space within the room, which restricted my viewpoints. Although I had planned for this, there are many photographs with items in the background which are distracting.  On the second day we staged the photographs enabling me to control the ISO at a lower setting and to move furniture around allowing me to choose my viewpoint and background.

Living with Cancer

Reflection

I have never taken portrait photographs prior to this course, so the whole experience has been new to me.  Because I had planned the photographs I wished to take prior to starting, I managed to capture natural expressions, especially in the eyes on the first day. This was achieved by not staging or posing my friend and leaving her to naturally fall into the positions I was looking for. However, I feel that on the second day I achieved better technical photographs by staging and posing my friend and having a clearer background. This worked really well on the images where I did not require the emotion to be reflected in the eyes.

Although I have made a step forward in incorporating the frame as an active part of the image rather than just using it to frame an image, I do need to work a bit more on this aspect and gain a better understanding.  The other aspect that I feel still needs improvement is standing back and when reviewing my images and deciding which images work best together as a series.

Overall I feel that the I have managed to capture the images I had planned resulting in a powerful photographic series on Cancer through portraiture.

Contact Sheet

Day One Contact Sheet

Day Two Contact Sheet

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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

Contact Sheets