Category Archives: Square Mile

Square Mile – Initial Analysis

The brief is to use the concept Y Filter Sgwar to look at your surroundings in a new way, producing a set of six to twelve photographs that illustrate this.

I use a Panasonic micro two-thirds camera and for this project I fitted a fixed 45mm focal length lens which equates to a 90mm standard lens. I set the camera to P except for a few images of moving water.

My main interests in photography are landscape, nature and the environment. I rarely take pictures of people other than the mandatory ‘snapshots’ of family events and friends. I had thought of trying to break this mental barrier for this project and considered using the theme of ‘Taking a Dog for a Walk’ but I struggled with the idea of asking strangers to allow me to photograph them, although I could have concentrated on more distance images, or their backs. On reading about Arnatt and his series on ‘Walking a Dog’ I thought that this could, in this context, be considered very derivative.

I gave myself a limit of two weeks photography time and took the camera with me day. This left me with multiple images, many were duplicates, which use of a digital camera has encouraged, unlike in analogue photography when I would have been very aware of the costs and much more considered in my approach.

The images were divisible into several possible themes, ranging from detailed architectural studies, via the environmental impact of rubbish to landscape and nature. The weather was extremely variable, on one day ranging from brilliant sunshine, though grey clouds, a blizzard and back to sunshine. This lead to my final theme – ‘A Day in the Park’.

Beforehand:

‘Blossom’ and ‘Path in the Woods’ are very typical pictures of spring. Ideally the sky would have been blue, and I did consider going back on a better day to retake ‘Blossom’. ‘Crocus’, is the image I am happiest about of this section. I enjoy taking details of nature and I feel the colours typify the concept of spring.

Snowstorm:

These images were taken at the height of the storm while trying to shelter and keep a dry camera. I was trying to show the intensity of the storm and feel I have only been partially successful although ‘Dog’ does show the atmosphere and misery well. The final image is almost a whiteout and I struggled to get the exposure correct while still showing the intensity of the storm.

Aftermath:

This was the most difficult selection to make as I could have simply shown the snow, but it seemed important to also show the flooded burn and the longer-term effect of the intense deluge of snow and its equally sudden melting.

Overall I am content with this set of images, although I am aware that some could have been improved technically. I deliberately avoided altering the images at the post-production stage so this shows an ‘where I am now’ view.

 

A Square Mile – A Walk in the Park

The brief is to use the concept Y Filter Sgwar (The Square Mile) which is the connection with your childhood home to look at your surroundings in a new way, producing a set of six to twelve photographs that illustrate this.

I started in a very literal manner by identifying the square mile around my home. I shifted the area slightly to the south as I rarely go more than two streets to the north. This area includes:

  • Some housing, mostly late nineteenth and early twentieth century with some social housing built in the sixties
  • A large and well used public park with a burn running though it
  • Farmland, mainly arable
  • The local shopping zone
  • A historic area with an abbey

This is an area I have lived in for 25 years and must have taken thousands of photographs of and I was very aware that I risked simply reproducing these or giving a tourist guide to the best spots.

I walk this area every day with my dog, so I decided to change my standard camera zoom lens to one with a fixed focal length, carry it with me every day and photograph anything that caught my eye. As I did this I realised that there were several possible themes developing:

  • Water and its impact on the area – this was especially noticeable as it was a very wet time, with the weather varying from brilliant sunshine, though heavy rain to blizzard conditions
  • Close-up nature studies
  • Architectural details
  • The environmental impact of man and the debris left behind
  • The time of year – balanced between winter and spring

I eventually decided to use the last theme as, one day when out walking, we started in brilliant sunshine, then nearly got blown off our feet in a blizzard, which then stopped to leave a mix of sun and snow on the spring flowers. This was a day with extreme weather changes, even for Scotland, but I felt it showed the area in all its moods.

I use a Panasonic micro two thirds camera and for this project I fitted a fixed 45mm focal length lens which equates to a 90mm standard lens. I set the camera to P except for a few images of moving water when I changed to a slow shutter speed.

Beforehand

Blossom

Blossom: 1/500 sec, f4.5, ISO 200

Path in the Woods

Path in the Woods: 1/250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Crocus

Crocus: 1/100sec, f/2.8, ISO 250

Snowstorm

Abbey

Abbey: 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200

Dog

Dog: 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Whiteout

Whiteout: 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 250

Aftermath

Crocus 2

Crocus 2: 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Seats

Seats: 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200

Flood

Flood: 1/100 sec, f/2.6, ISO 320

Square Mile – Reading and Research

On examining the photographers and images suggested for researching the Square Mile project I noted that although all of them show some linking in their thoughts to an area that is clearly important to them the actual thought processes and end results are very different. They can be broadly divided into a group that use photographs of people to show the identity of the place, and a group where the focus is on the place itself.

Barney, Dearden and Knorr focus on using people to give identity to the area of interest. Tina Barney (Artic.edu, 2006) took images of her family and friends in New York. These images show details of family life and the tension that can occur, thus exploring the place though the people that inhabit it and whom she knows well. Cotton says ‘there is a compelling blend of a photographically distant perspective with a subject that is intimately known’ (Cotton,2015).

Venetia Dearden’s series ‘Somerset Stories, Fivepenny Dreams’ is set in the area where she grew up. She says ‘My passion and curiosity for Somerset has been fuelled by my long-term connection with this area where I spent my childhood. I am compelled to return again and again to explore my relationship with the landscape and the people living here……… I witness a sense of belonging and identity within these rich bonds of family and community’ (Dearden, 2014). Dearden looks at the lives and activities of the families’ resident in Somerset at present to explore a place she knew well in the past.

Karen Knorr (Karenknorr.com, 2014) uses portraits to show the ideas that were prevalent in a very wealthy area of London during the 1970’s.

Horn, Hunter, Taylor and Barnard have focused on the place itself to explain their sense of connection with an area. Romi Horn (Tate.org.uk, 2009) has published a series called ‘To Place’ where she looks at the identity of a specific place, Iceland, in detail though photographs, drawings and text. Interestingly, this is far from where she grew up in New York, however, has become an area that she has studied intensively.

Tom Hunter’s ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories’ (Purdyhicks.com, 2017) investigates the history of his local area in East London, re-staging stories which paint an unsettling picture of the area.

Jodie Taylor (Taylor, 2013) for her OCA project focused on the area she lived in as a child, and the memories of that place which have been revived by returning there as an adult.

Gawain Barnard investigates the wildfire burning in Wales which occurs yearly in ‘Boredom for Burning’. He focuses on small details of the remains after the fires, bringing back memories of his youth. He says ‘The landscape of youth is laden with memories………our place of youth, our ‘home’ and the memories created during this period, for better or worse can create an embedded sense of place and can go some way in self-defining our later life attitude.’  (Barnard, 2013).

Keith Arnatt has utilised ideas from both these of groups with two series that are linked to his local area. The series ‘Walking a Dog’ (Tate, 2010b) is a collection of 40 out of 200 photos taken in his local area of people and their dogs in a standard pose taken in 1976 -1979.  The number of images form a work that makes a comment on society and people and points up the oft remarked similarities between dogs and their owners. He later showed a further series based in his local area ‘Pictures from a Rubbish Tip’ (Tate, 2010 a) 1988–9. This shows close-ups of rubbish from a local tip. Although these are factual images the way they are taken gives the series a feeling of an abstract composition.

John MacLean has taken a fascinating twist on this approach in photographing the hometowns of artists and photographers that he is inspired by, looking for what has, in turn, inspired their work. He says ‘It’s about escaping the hometown to spending all our time exploring, only to find ourselves back there once again’ (Pantell, 2017).

References:

Artic.edu. (2006). so the story goes. [online] Available at: http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/story/barney.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Barnard, G. (2013). Boredom to Burn. [online] Gawainbarnard.com. Available at: http://gawainbarnard.com/photo_13162026.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.
Dearden, V. (2014). Welcome to Venetia Dearden’s Website – Somerset Stories Fivepenny Dreams. [online] Venetiadearden.com. Available at: http://www.venetiadearden.com/en/somerset_stories_fivepenny_dreams.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Karenknorr.com. (2014). Belgravia | Karen Knorr. [online] Available at: http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Pantell, C. (2017). Hometowns. British Journal of Photography, (7857), pp.60-74.
Purdyhicks.com. (2017). Tom Hunter Porfolio at Purdyhicks Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Pictures from a Rubbish Tip, Keith Arnatt 1988 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-pictures-from-a-rubbish-tip-t13169 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Walking the Dog, Keith Arnatt 1976 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-walking-the-dog-t13064 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate.org.uk. (2009). Roni Horn aka Roni Horn: explore the exhibition, room guide, room 10. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn-explore-exhibitio-22 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Taylor, J. (2013). Photography and Nostalgia – WeAreOCA. [online] WeAreOCA. Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].