The Square Mile


Photography 1: Expressing Your Vision

Assignment: The Square Mile – Y Filltir Sgwar

  1. Make a series of 6 to 12 photographs within a square mile
  2. Produce a Contact Sheet with no more than 36 thumbnails per page of all the photographs shot
  3. Produce a written analysis of my work no more than 500 words
  • First 1st impressions and initial response to brief
  • Who I looked at for inspiration and they influenced me in the project
  • Technical and practical techniques I used
  • Strengths and weaknesses individual photos and the whole project
  • Any thoughts of how I may develop this project in the future.

So this is my first assignment. I understand this is to paint a picture of me, my life, who I am. From this, my tutor will get a better understanding of where I am coming from and my present abilities.

So where do I start? I really want to get me camera and rush out snapping away at the local community, I love taking snaps, but…. Lets get real

First I have to think of a theme, the narrative, the story I want to tell. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, blow up my ego or undersell myself. Let’s start by looking at how others have approached the concept of the Square Mile and take it from there. Although my initial reaction is pulled towards a theme of ‘My Day’, this is me!


After giving it some thought and doing a bit of research I have decided on how I am going to approach this assignment. ‘MY DAY’ is out, and ‘REFLECTION’ is in!



Gawain Barnards collection of photos titled Boredom to Burn, made me think that, along as you have a theme going through your story, the object/subject of the image does not really matter as long as it makes sense to the collective. After reading his explanation of what the collection was about, the images knitted together very well, his youth, his childhood memories and the way he portrayed the excitement at burn time swept me along with his memories, and I ‘WENT’ there with him and relived my own boredom of youth. It took me back to my childhood in the 50’s and 60’s and what we used to get up to in the summer holidays when we were bored. Going out of the house at 9 in the morning with a jam sandwich and water, spending the day in the local park, getting upto little mischievous antics, then returning home at tea time, before the parents got home from work.

Walking the Dog 1976-9 by Keith Arnatt 1930-2008Keith Arnatt’s ‘Walking the Dog’ initially I found boring, the images one after the other of people and their dog, with the same expression and almost the same poses, but differing locations, street, garden, country side. I understand why he chose these 40 images. What his collection of images reads to me, is that what ever background these dog walkers come from, what ever their life lifestyle is, underneath they are all the same, we are all the same They have almost the same expressions, the dogs have the same curious look. The fact that they are all black and white again reinforces the connection between them.  You tend to forget about the different locations after a while and just concentrate on the dog and his owner. I suppose to me its not about the dog or the owner, its saying, we all come into the world with nothing and go out the same way! It’s said that some dogs look like their owners. Looking through this series of photographs I have to agree! I think this dog does look like its owner

 Tina Barneys ‘So the Story Continues’ is a collection of images that we might all have in our family photo albums, OR 15maybe not, I know that many a time when I have taken a snap shot, in this digital age, the subject has asked to see it and wanted it deleted with a cry of… ‘I look awful,‘ then a resounding ‘delete it and take another.’  Tina Barney, in my opinion, here is showing the emotions of the subject in a ‘moment of time’, be it, ‘Yes I feel good take my picture’ (agreement/happy), or ‘Go away. I feel bad, don’t take my photo now’ (sad/down), and maybe ‘Oh my god, don’t you ever put that camera down!’ (indifferent/annoyed). Maybe its because I can relate to this collection that I find it really interesting and want to keep going back and taking another look, then finding something new in each image that I missed on my previous visit.

Karen Knorrs I just love Karen Knorrs series of photographs, putting her own interpretation on each one through the captions, and then letting the spectator make their own mind up on what the image is saying. Reading the captions below each photograph, puts a differing perspective on what the photograph is portraying. Her own words below could not have put it better!

The-Interior-represents-the-Universe-800x1000Quote “The work describes the ‘everyday’ of a privileged minority. Historically, portraiture of the upper classes has tended to be flattering but the combination of image and text brings this work is closer to satire and caricature, without losing the strong reality effect specific to photography. The meaning of the work can be found in the space between image and text: neither text nor image illustrate each other, but create a “third meaning” to be completed by the spectator. The text slows down the viewing process as we study the text and return to re-evaluate the image in light of what we have read.. There are key words capitalised and words from conversations are broken up and laid out on the surface of the photographic paper emphasizing its constructed and ironic nature, The people photographed become actors and perform their identities in a collaborative fashion with me. We choose clothes together and decide in which part of their homes would suit the portrait, There is a real complicity between us. They are after all “family”.

Tyler Shields – I found some of Tyler Shields work very provocative, some had the shock value, while others where beautiful or grotesque. He seems to want to shock the spectator. In his series of photographs PROVOCATOR, he mixes black & white and colour. Here he uses, cigarettes, lipstick and underwear, but for some reason then moves away from the cigarette in some of the images. This puts a kink in the story. He seems to do this in quite a few of his collections. I would have thought this would detract from the story line, for example in  ‘Death by Rolls Royce‘, there was not one cigarette in sight, I think the kink in the story is there to make the spectator, further question the meaning of the whole series.

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Georges Rousses’ This artist shows how he can use what is in front of the lens but change it so that the perception is altered. He actually paints the area to make it look like it has been manipulated after the shot was taken. I like the way he changes an otherwise boring subject, making it more interesting and giving food for thought. I also think that he plays a kind of mind game with the spectator. The circle gives emphasis to the image, whether in black and white or clolour.

So getting back to my assignment. I want to use REFLECTION as a title/theme for it. I was driving to the shops in town. It had been raining hard and there were puddles all over the road. My eye caught the reflection of our local CE church and it was so clearly reflected. I cant go to my childhood ‘home’ as I moved away from there many years ago, but here, where I live now, is my choice of ‘home’, so this is where I will start.

Looking for further inspiration, I was flicking through photographs I have taken and came across one that I liked in particular. We lived on a narrowboat for many years, and on trip to Liverpool from Nantwich we passed under a bridge which was reflective. As we approached I quickly grabbed my camera, shot one image after another till we were right underneath it.

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With the assignment in mind I have decided to go around my town, photographing places of interest to me but using a mirror to reflect the subject. Each image will be of different location, but using the same mirror. I have giving thought to including me taking the photo, also reflected in the mirror. We will see how it goes. I plan to go out today and visit some sites that I will use. Later I will have another look at the recommended reading in the research list.

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The four photos above where taken while on a fishing trip in Turkey, the mountains on the horizon look mystical and far off, I thought framing them with the life buoy would give a ‘far off feeling’ a bit like looking through a window,  but this only gave the desired effect when the lifebuoy was closely cropped. Is this what i want in my images? Maybe not.

I decided to try out the mirror theory by using my husband to stand at the back of our bungalow and hold the mirror reflecting the bungalow. Starting at the epicentre of my square mile, where I live. I soon found out that because the mirror I am going to use is small, I had to be very close to it in order to get a good amount of the reflected image in the shot. Additionally, looking at the images, I have to decide how much of the background I need to crop away, as I think this detracts from what I am trying to say.  I also think that having me in the photo would not work, although I would have 2 constants in each of the submitted images, me and the mirror. Having my husband hold the mirror got me thinking back to Keith Arnetts’ walking the dog, it would better to get strangers to hold the mirror for me. This would also help in a practical way as I would be making things difficult for myself, trying to hold or place the mirror AND take the shot. Also if I was in the mirror reflection this would reduce the space there for the thing I was supposed to be reflecting.

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These are ‘as taken’ the ones below are cropped. It also begs the question, should the people holding the mirror all have the same expression? Smiling? Thinking? Looking at the camera? Looking at the actual object I have the reflected in the mirror? I think its a suck it and see moment!

With head in image? without head in image. Looking back at the image of the lifebuoy and the way it was cropped, I thought I would try it with the mirror. Cropping close so that the person became a non entity. It may have worked for the lifebuoy, but it doesn’t work for the ‘mirror’ images

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Armed with my camera, student card and a mirror, I set off to try out the approach I was going to take. Introducing myself to people was ok, almost every person I approached was willing to hold the mirror for me, although one person didn’t want to be in the picture and only one other said No, that’s because she was late for work. So I had to re think part of my introduction, No longer will I say, ‘you dont have to be in the picture if you don’t want to’, I was educated in human nature. I opened my intro with, ‘Hello, my name is Lucy and I wondered if you had time to do me a little favor?’ I found on the whole people were quiet happy to help out.

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I soon found out that communication is more than important when soliciting people in the street and getting them to agree to holding up a mirror and letting me take their picture. In general people are willing to help where they can. Half of them asked for direction, how shall I stand – shall I smile? Some just took over and stood how they wanted. Some hiding behind the mirror. Thinking back to Tina Barney’s photographs and the natural emotions in her images, I decided to give as little direction as possible, because this was not only about the image reflected, but also about the people holding the mirror. Let them be themselves. Its amazing that most of them did not smile, but just looked away. This was my first attempt, and I have learnt some lessons. I will go out again on a quieter day and relive the adventure!!!

After reviewing the photographs I took, I have decided that the best way forward is to produce images with people holding the mirror in black and white and adding a caption.

Reflections of Whitchurch

CAPTION: The landlord took the car keys off me, now I have to walk home

Part 1 – Assignment 1 – The Square Mile – Planning
Part 1 – Assignment 1 – The Square Mile – Assignment
Part 1 – Assignment 1 – The Square Mile – Images
Part 1 – Assignment 1 – The Square Mile – Tutor Report
Part 1 – Assignment 1 – The Square Mile – Review and Reflection