Square Mile – Reworked

In our earliest years we know a patch of ground in a detail we will never know anywhere again – site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes. (Professor Mike Pearson)

Photographers and artists have always found inspiration in their immediate location. There is a concept within Welsh culture called Y Filltir Sgwar (The Square Mile), described above by Professor Mike Pearson. It is the intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings. Use this ‘sense of place’ as the starting point for your first assignment.

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.

Response

Initial Thoughts

By this stage 12 months had passed and I was between assignments and I had had plenty of time to digest the very constructive feedback from my tutor. I had a sense of unease with the first set of images as discussed initially in my reflection on this assignment. As such my approach to composition, framing and camera setup will be consistent. I am still settled on the subject of roads because that is my connection to home and this because beyond a place that I call home, that I had little or no connection with the area. I spent much of my younger years overseas with my father being in the armed forces. Any connections I had as a child were punctuated by moving from one place to another and starting all over again. The same for the area of Doncaster where I have lived for nearly 20 years with my wife, spending much of my time on the road travelling for work with my time split between two towns.

Research

In revisiting this assignment I chose to take the opportunity to look other practitioners:

Gawain Barnard

As stated in my first attempt Barnards work on “Journeys by train” really did strike a chord with my own past and present. it reminds me of all the travels I had growing up. The series provides a collection of perhaps other stories we do not contemplate as we view the world going by. In choosing the roads travelled, I am reminded of the feelings of anticipation when returning home and those thoughts connected with it, may they be spending time with family or jobs planned around the home. When travelling I am often contemplating work related tasks that need tackling or mulling over various issues that need to be addressed. My focus beyond that is the road which leaves little for me to observe beyond that and if I do it is often with little regard for any significance.

Keith Arnatt

In reviewing the works Arnatt produced I began to see a sense of cohesion in his work. For example in his Self Burial set everything you see is unchanged except the slow disappearance of the artist himself and the disturbance in the ground around him. Had I not known who this was, I could of easily mistook it for something from a Monty Python sketch. There is very little going, yet at the same time there is and I imagine this would have become quite alarming in some ways to the viewer. In “Pictures from a Rubbish Tip” again there is a sense of cohesiveness to the series and this I thought would have presented some challenges being done over a period of time with no artificial light in an environment that is constantly changing. Yet you would think that this had all been done in short period of a day. Had it not been for the title I may not have known what I was looking at with these images.

In perhaps understanding some of Arnatts work I could associate it with my own attempt with the Square Mile. What I am trying to achieve is a sense of cohesion between the images and the context of what those images represent to me.

Peter Mansell

What I find interesting with Peters work is his vision, his work thought provoking to say the least as it conveys a sense of the world literally from his point of view. It reminds me not to take anything for granted and perhaps not to overthink things and try to use my own voice in interpreting briefs and ideas. It is Peters work that really helped me to understand what I wanted to achieve with this brief.

Approach

For this sequence I took another early morning walk with my Canon 6D with a 24mm-70mm lens mounted. I chose this time of day as it often represented the time, I would normally travel home, wherever I was travelling from. The idea this time would be to take a series of black and white exposures simulating my travels to and from home so the roads will feature heavily in my response. In addition all exposures will be landscape at 35mm, shot in aperture prioity mode on an ISO of 100 at f8. The white balance will be set for daylight. I liked the black and white approach as it set a mood for most of my travels to work and the responsibilities that came with it, but I have decided to introduce colour as well to illustrate the emotions of returning home and spending time with my family. So I will shoot the whole series in colour and show my outbound journey in black and white.

As I shot this sequence in RAW format, I used Adobe Lightroom to set the white balance (cloudy), convert the images to black and white along. I also selected a lens correction for the lens used on the shoot.

Final Selection

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/60s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/80s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/15s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/80s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/160s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/20s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/80s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 17 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/60s

Contact Sheets

Reflection and Further Development

There are several things I should have done here to improve the sequence. Technically I should have set my ISO to 100 as many of the images were set to auto and my F-stop should have been at the higher end such as F18 or F22 for a greater depth of field.

There are a couple of areas I could revisit with this, the first being to decide on framing the photos in either portrait or landscape mode to give a feel of continuity throughout the set. Another thought I had was whether I should have opted for a more singular approach by continuing the set on foot or retracing the whole subject from the in-car perspective.

References

Tate. Keith Arnatt. [online]. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/keith-arnatt-666 [Accessed 14 May 2020].

Gawain Barnard. Journeys by Train. [online]. Available at: https://www.gawainbarnard.com/section713958.html [Accessed 14 May 2020.

OCA. Peter Mansell. [online]. Available at: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/archived/peter-mansell/ [Accessed 14 May 2020].

 

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