The assignment brief:
- To produce a small photo essay of 10 images that demonstrates your engagement with the lives, experiences and histories of your local community and its people.
- Do this assignment with only one camera and one lens.
- Provide a short commentary (200 words) explaining your ethos and rationale along with your images.
Recapping my original project brief
A generic project title of 'Markets' was agreed, with the caveat that it was not just 10 photographs of stalls and stall holders. My initial research was to clarify what constituted a typical market image, I then spent time at various markets watching all activities from stall erecting in the morning through until stall dismantling in the evening. Unfortunately, this just confirmed that I took typical market images and so I needed to develop a different angle.
After a chance conversation with a busker, I found my angle - converse with the stall holders to collect their new years resolutions (NYR).
In the first section of this course we have debated 'what makes a document?', the output being: context. As such I have developed a set of images that have two common themes - markets and NYR, thus providing for the viewer a clear context for the portfolio. To add further to the context, I have also titled each of these images with the name (or nickname) of the individual and dated them 2014.
In December 2013 I included this paragraph re: “taking this [project] further”
I intend to continue with this project even though the assignment is completed. If treated correctly, I believe it could be a project that just keeps on going. I am currently debating revisiting the market in July and asking the 'team' how they are getting on with their resolutions. Follow up documentaries are always the most interesting.
Update on Assignment 1 Revisited
Unfortunately, I have been an infrequent visitor to the market since the original project and when I did return to do the catch-up with the team only half of the original people where there. As such it seemed like a futile exercise, that said, I did not want to give up on what I still believed to be a good project.
Over the next couple of months I toyed with numerous different possibilities around the same theme and during my visit to the Brighton Photo Biennial I finally came to the radical but obvious conclusion – why work very hard with a limited number of people who are resistant to having their photograph taken by you, when you could be working on a much larger scale and engaging with more people by inviting them to join your project by taking their own photograph?
Without doubt, Anthony Luvera’s project entitled “Assembly” influenced my new approach to this project. To summarise the project, Luvera taught a group of homeless people how to take photographs and then 'left them to it’. He then presented this portfolio of images at the Biennial. I referenced his work on my blog in my review on the Biennial.
For my project this time around I did not target buskers or market stall holders; via email I approached family, friends and work colleagues with a very clear and simple brief:
Subject: Help please - I'm collecting selfies....
I am currently working towards a degree in photography and would like to enlist your help for one of my projects.
This time last year I spent countless hours in Nuneaton town centre talking to people (and photographing them) about new year’s resolutions. This year I'd like to extend that project further. So....
The brief should you like to get involved is as follows:
- Using your mobile phone (ideally a phone, but any camera will do) take a selfie.
- Portrait not landscape please - this helps for when I present the work at Uni.
- In terms of the contents of the image it can be anything from a close-up portrait to full body.
- Colour or b&w.
- With your photo please provide both of the following pieces of information:
- A new year’s resolution
- Something from your bucket list
This work needs to be formatted and presented to my tutor pre Christmas so I'd be very grateful if you could send your images to me by the 10th December.
Thanks in advance for your support. Any questions please let me know.
I set myself the target of collecting 50 selfies, so I knew I would not be able to afford to present the portfolio as per the brief ‘8x10 unmounted quality prints’.
In addition, since these images were not taken by me, a key criteria for the assignment was ensuring that the portfolio was visually consistent.
Fortunately, earlier in the year, I watched a video by digiDirect demonstrating the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-1 printer. This printer allows wireless connection and printing of Instax photographs direct from your mobile phone. Whilst this Polaroid-esk format would certainly standardise the photographs, it meant that the information (New Year’s resolution and bucket list item) could no longer be added as captions. One problem solved and another one created.
This problem resolved itself by accident when I dropped some business cards on my desk beside the Instax photographs – they were virtually the same size. The next steps were simple - design a business card format for the information and attach the photograph to the card. The format for presenting the portfolio naturally followed on from there.
The positive response to this project has been amazing, after some initial disbelief people actively wanted to get involved. Not only that, but people actually take the card file away to study the photos and read the information.
A good proportion of the people asked did not have a bucket list at the time, subsequently, they have developed a list and I am aware that a number of bucket list items are currently being actively planned.
The execution of this project, in this format, took significantly less time (probably half the time of the original project) and rather than struggle to ‘get the shot’ people offered me different photographs to choose from.
I commented that the original photographs I submitted for this assignment were “certainly not the best photographs I had ever taken”. I would also have to comment that these photographs are not the best and are undoubtedly not in the same class of the photographs ‘taken’ by Luvera’s homeless people. However, I genuinely believe that these photographs capture the true character of the individuals far more accurately than Luvera’s portraits.
This is what it looks like now.....