The new edit I’ve just tried is predominantly landscape I guess. It’s also a fairly rough edit at the moment, with too many photographs in it ( it’s also possible I’ll be reducing the photo count from 30 down to 20-25 images, not sure yet ). Depending what I get rid of, this will change to being either completely landscape ( which I don’t want, well, I don’t think so at the moment anyway ) or more balanced in terms of three legs. Slightly more balanced anyway.
I need to contemplate the photographs and the sequencing some more - quite a bit more. Hone it until it feels right for me - it says something about me and my photography, rather than just being about recreating something that’s been before, with me aping the style of, I don’t know, a mish-mash mix up of Paul Russell, James Ravilious, Faye Godwin and a reporter for the local rag. The original proposal and more specifically my approach to fulfill it sought to do this I guess, but I have been pushed back to “me” by my frustrations and confusions along the way. It’s certainly been a difficult journey to this realisation, but it’s been useful to go through.
Coming to this realisation has also made me think a little differently about the book presentation, but I’ll have to think about this some more when I’ve picked my sequence - the idea I have will help the feeling I have about the images, but whether it will work will ultimately depend on those final images. More on this later then…
I’ve just realised that I’ve not updated this, or maybe that I’ve not updated it in a way that’s easily traceable. So, yes, I’ve changed my tack so that the finished narrative is more about my photographic journey than as documentary of the region, which is fine - and I think it works better for me too. I’d also decided to stop shooting and concentrate on pulling things together - a major task in itself. There’s been a number of trials that have led me to the layout offered for the 5th assignment, and these can be found at the links below:
Draft 4 seems to have gone missing temporarily...
Draft 6 also seems to have gone missing...
Draft 8 (submitted for assignment 5)
I thought I’d add this one to the pot - I wasn’t sure originally because it was only taken with my iPhone, but as I won’t be printing it large within the context of a book, I thought it would be suitable. The iPhone camera is 8mp, and really quite shocking when in low light, but this one isn’t so bad.
As an image, it also works with a fairly recurring theme ( through lots of my work, even before YoP ) of barriers, boundaries or whatever you might want to call them - walls and hedges in normal English. Thinking in terms of pairing it with another image, perhaps this one could be considered:
Or even one of these:
My current preference is for the first, but of course that could change - no idea what else I will photograph before the end of the project!
I had wanted to use this chat to pick Gary’s brains for guidance on the approach to formulating the narrative and his curatorial methodology, however the discussion very quickly moved to something far more fundamental. You either are or are not a (social) documentary photographer, with a deep connection with and passionate care for people and an understanding of society and culture, and a desire to use your photography to drive elements of change. I’m not this type of “people person”, and so will never have the type of connection he spoke about. Similarly, Gary isn’t the sort of “New Documentary” type of photographer, which would probably be nearer my “thing” (mundane scenes devoid of people) if I were ever to be considered a documentary photographer, and I really don’t think of myself in that way anyway. I don’t know how I would pigeon-hole myself; it’s not really necessary, and it would likely drive me crazy with worry in the process if I ever did.
Talking about the subject matter, he spoke of the fetes and festivals as being “fake” - a pseudo-rural façade frequented by townies who want a brief experience of the countryside and of cows, or for people with an eye of the vintage tractors and cars. I had fallen into this trap myself, I thought that in going to these events I was experiencing something of the rural life of the region, but it’s only really very superficial. And having spoken to a local farmer a few weeks ago, I can see that the reality of sheep farming and the ceremony of these agricultural shows are quite divorced, although I still see it as a form of celebration of the reality. Gary pointed out that the photographing of the events is something that has been done quite a lot (Martin Parr has done similar for a start), but that rural street photographer is still quite unusual. I can understand why!
The street photography that I would like to pursue just isn’t happening for me at the moment, maybe it’s the wrong time of year or maybe I’m just approaching it wrong, but I’m just not seeing any people (or maybe just no people at that “decisive moment”), so my images have an urban landscape feel to them. I don’t really want to do some of the things that Gary has done - looking through his books there’s a photograph of the village post-mistress taking in a parcel, and this isn’t for me at all. I’m not saying the photograph is a bad one, or that it has no worth - there will be great worth in the image within the social context in which it was taken. But it just isn’t “me”. How will I get around this? I’m not sure at the moment, a change of tack is the probable answer.
We went on to speak some more about the countryside itself, and how it is becoming a theme park for the rich - a “toy” farm here and there, and I’ve noticed people with a few acres to potter around in a tractor without really doing anything. Not “working” the land. I consider myself to live in the countryside, but most of my neighbours drive 4x4s of the “non-functional” kind - from Mercedes, Porsche or the posh end of the Range Rover marque (my Mini feels like the poor neighbour). Yes, there are working vehicles, there are a few farms, so there has to be, but like me, these expensive car driving people live in the countryside and commute. Whilst I’ve not had the neighbours organising a work share to sweep leaves from the country lanes like Gary has had, there has been discussion about the blocking of views of Pendle by people allowing their hedges to grow too high…
Anyway, speaking with Gary has really confirmed what I’ve been thinking for a little while now; that I’m really doing the wrong project for me. I should have had the courage of my convictions and stuck with my original idea (or reworked it so it would work better) rather than allowing myself to be nudged into what should be a social documentary project. After all, I didn’t want to take the L2 social documentary module for a reason, and that’s because I knew I would really suck at it. Ok, I might have taken a small number of interesting images, but my heart’s not really in it. And without that “heart”, I’m now struggling in terms of inspiration and in terms of interesting images. It’s also having a knock-on effect that photography as a whole is beginning to lose its appeal, but that happens with me every now and then. More of a by-product of being bogged down in what I’m doing and my work/commute situation than photography itself as a whole. I need a mini project to revitalise myself, but I’m conscious of the need to push on too.
So, I’m very grateful to Gary for taking the time, even if it didn’t give me the answers I was hoping for, but gave me questions to ask of myself and my photography. It’s perhaps too late to change YoP now and go back to an earlier option, so I’ll just have to work out how I should be doing what I’m doing in order to make it interesting and cohesive and something for me, even if it’s not what I really should have started in order to suit my strengths and interests as a photographer.
Due to a tweak to the site, some of the comments don’t seem to be displaying so I’ve managed to get a screen grab from the previous version:
I suppose most of what I’ve said before still stands, it’s just the landscape element that is moving a little, and in a direction in keeping with some of my later images. I’m hoping further inspiration will come from Edgelands, a book buy Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks - hopefully I’ll get enough together for the next batch.
Sunday however, was a completely different kettle of fish, and there was blue sky - it was cold, but the rain wouldn’t stop me doing anything. Good job really, because I was quite sufficiently put down by my own creative block. I had set off to take some MF images, so landscape type, and also had another camera with me should some street snapping opportunities arise.
My first port of call was the McDonalds/petrol station I had photographed last weekend - the clearer weather meant that the proximity to the distinctive shape of Pendle Hill could be seen in the background.
Well, just about seen anyway. The photograph is really a little dull - it lacks something that the early morning light had given the week before and just goes to prove it’s all about the light. If I’m going to work this idea the way I’d like to see it, I really need to get back there in the right conditions.
After this, I headed up to the Forest of Bowland and the Whitewell estate. I’m not sure I faired much better here though. I took a small number of photographs with the Hassleblad and I’m suitably impressed with the visual properties of the camera, but I’m not really using it to the best of its abilities. Certainly I need to do something more to warrant the money that was spent on it.
Perhaps it’s the blue sky that is working against me - I’ve not really taken much without plenty of clouds, and it all feels a little too… mundane? No, well, yes maybe, but I like mundane. Clichéd? Probably. Too “biscuit tin”? Again, possibly. Whatever it is, I just feel disappointed. I’ve cropped them down and I’ll put them in the gallery, although I doubt that they’ll get much further. One thing worth noting I thin is that the cropped version of the upper of these two pictures has also had the horizon straightened - the square picture is what it was like as I had the camera properly levelled on the tripod, but it just felt a little odd when cropped down.
I also grabbed a few other shows with the little Fuji, which seemed to behave a little better for me today. Or maybe I just used it more carefully. The first of these two images brings together the urban emptiness I had been talking about with the original theme I had considered of rural sports. Again, in the background there’s Pendle Hill… For what it’s worth.
With the second image I was looking at the contrast of the old, sympathetic country building with the big red brick building behind, a nod I would say to the farming tradition and the lure of the countryside for the commuter in his Range Rover. Not sure I pulled it off in the slightest though.
All in all, a very disappointing foray out with the camera, and one that brings forth again a quote I have on a piece of paper on my desk - I copied it from Street Photography Now (p10), and it’s by Doisneau - “If I knew how to take a good photograph, I’d do it every time.” I guess my confidence is low at the moment, and it’s reflected in the images.
I’ve subsequently been thinking some more about these images, especially those from the Hasselblad. Firstly, I think they’re perhaps a little “safe”, a little traditional - I still need to put my thoughts down from the reading of Liz Wells’ Land Matters, and perhaps this would help me here. The other thing is that, stylistically and narratively, I feel a little all over the place.
I have to become coherent and concise in what I’m putting forward.