Individual Spaces

Exercise 2.1 – Individual Space

Three subjects, three different portraits.  For this exercise, unusually, I engaged with my two sons and one of their girlfriends and from this point of view it was interesting to ask them about something other than our usual family conversations.  Barney is 23 and Cameron is 20.  Lia is Cameron’s girlfriend and she is 19.  There is a link here because Lia’s family moved away from Torquay when she was in primary school and only moved back here in 2015, while our family moved here from Birmingham in 2004.

I talked to the boys about how they felt about moving from Birmingham to Torbay during their primary school years, and whether they felt at home here or whether Birmingham was in fact home to them.  Despite both of them having been born in the city, neither of them felt any affiliation to Birmingham; to them Torbay is and always has been home and they feel very comfortable here.  Lia felt the same way in that Torbay is more her home than London or Reading, and she feels at home here.

Barney: Barney is very active and spends a lot of time in the gym.  Exercise is extremely important to him and is a vital part of his make-up and routine.  He spent just over a year training to be a Royal Marine Commando where “phys” was a daily routine until he fractured his leg and made the decision to leave to allow time to heal, something he has regretted for a long time.  We agreed that Lympstone would not be suitable, given the fact that while pivotal in his life, it was a moment in time that has now passed.  Dartmoor is his place that he goes to for solitude and to walk and think.  However, with an hour to get there and back it just wasn’t feasible to get there this time.  We had to compromise so I took photos of him in his gym kit in his other home – the kitchen.  Keeping fit involves eating healthily and he cooks for himself now so him post workout showing off his tattoos is the next best thing.

Cameron: Cameron is the younger of my two sons and has grown up here so his attachment is to the seaside.  He spent a lot of time as a teenager walking with his friend Chris along the seafront to get out of the house and away from us.  There were two places that he felt would be important to him, one was Rock Walk in Torquay, an elevated walkway and platform that looks out across the Bay and over the harbour of Torquay.  At night, it is lit up with colour changing lights.  The other was the park by Thatcher Avenue which has a pathway that leads down to Thatcher Rock.  This was their preferred destination once he passed his driving test, and so he felt that this one was more important as being able to drive opened a whole new world and independence.

Lia: Lia met Cameron last year and she now lives with us.  Her favourite place is the beach at Preston in Paignton as they would walk the dogs there and have ice-cream on sunny days.  To her, this is the place that is special as it is about her and Cameron and their relationship.

Portraits:

For these portraits, I used an 85mm fixed prime lens rather than my usual zoom lens.  Barney captures him with his tattoos on show and that is important.  He is very proud of his tattoos and plans to get more.  It is very much a statement of him and who he is as a person.  His face on look to the camera is also very him, no holds barred and take on the world.

Ex2.1 Individual Space B-1
Barney

Cameron is a more relaxed pose on a sunny day so there was plenty of available light.  Not looking at the camera and wearing sunglasses gives him a slight air of distance, although he looks relaxed and happy with a slight smile.  He is framed by the sea which is where he feels comfortable, in a place that reminds him of good times.

Ex2.1 Individual Spaces-3
Cameron

Lia is more interesting for me because she is not my daughter, I know her quite well but I haven’t photographed her before this exercise.  She has a quietness in her demeanour, looking off camera and contemplating something.  She is squinting a little because of the bright sunshine, but the light falls quite evenly on her without too many obvious shadows.  I like the blurriness of the beach huts behind her so you can place her at the beach without them interfering in the portrait.  The eye looks at her rather than the surroundings.

Ex2.1 Individual Spaces-2
Lia

I realised that I still don’t actually use the portrait orientation very much and prefer to use landscape mode in order to get more information into the image, eg. good light, interesting clouds, something relevant to the whole image.  I took one of Cameron that was similar but in landscape mode and I think it works better than this one, but doesn’t fit if I was looking at a flow in terms of there being a constant look to the image sequence.  A photo of Barney at the beach with bright sunshine would also have worked better, giving it an outdoors and beach theme.  Maybe that it something to consider for Assignment 2.

Assignment 1 – Criteria of Success

Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

I am pretty confident in using my camera so I made sure I had the settings sorted out before I approached each subject.  I did have trouble with my Fuji focussing system while taking photos of the guy selling the Big Issue, which was a bit offputting.  However I just ploughed on as the moment could have passed if I messed about with them.  The backgrounds were not the best as I tended to make a decision about who to ask and then look at where we were.  Most of the time, it was in the place that we stopped to talk except for The Biker who I directed to stand against the huts.  The images are generally focussed and clear, with even lighting and no great differences in tones.  All were shot outside using natural light and without flash, and of those two were in bright sunny conditions. They required a little balancing in Lightroom but nothing major.

Quality of Outcome

I am pleased that I managed to get the five people as outlined in the brief.  However, I admit that I didn’t have a clear plan in mind and I think that this has shown in the randomness of the people.  There is a good spread of male and female, and most are young which wasn’t intentional at the time.  Given the chance to do it all again, I would like to make more use of the area around me to find suitable events to instil a common theme.  Generally, the subjects are happy and smiling, and willing participants which is something that pleased me and gave me some confidence to carry on.

Demonstration of Creativity

Creatively, I had little impact and it shows that there was no main plan or theme.  Given that I am a natural introvert, approaching people was not an easy task but I got out there and did it.  I think that I was better at doing this than I give myself credit for, being a bit of a ‘grab and go’ person, and they are successful in that I managed to get a decent portrait of each subject.  I do believe that there is a visible connection with most of the subjects with the one exception being the young man in the black glasses who was a bit wary even though he was willing to help me.  I am not sure whether the images tell me any more about the people posing; if anything it tells me more about me as a photographer and how I approach difficult tasks. I may not have enjoyed doing it but the results of pushing myself are a decent first attempt, and I am sure that I will go on to complete this assignment again with better thinking attached.

Context

Approaching unknown people is something that can be difficult for both sides as we live in a world where we shut people out on a face to face level while being totally connected in a virtual sense all the time.  I have spent time in London recently and took  time watching people as they go about their daily lives, travelling on the tube, walking to and from work, shopping and sightseeing.  I live in Devon and we are more used to speaking to each other whether while ordering a coffee, out with the dog, in a supermarket or just acknowledging another person’s presence.  In London, most seemed shocked if I thanked them, smiled or made eye contact.  Maybe that’s what this assignment has really taught me, that we still need that human interaction and to make connections with each other.  To take a photograph of someone is about having a connection however brief and whether that connection comes across in the resulting image.  The context is that in a busy world of phones and chatter, there is a need to find people and look them in the eye and catch something about them even if it is only that they were standing still for five minutes and talking to me.

Overall

Graham Clarke quoted Garry Winogrand in his book The Photograph and it chimed with me: “For me, the true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film…if, later, the reality means something to someone else, then so much the better.”  I think that’s what I was doing, capturing a bit of reality for that moment of that person.  It was not an easy assignment from the point of view of planning and executing, and I think that I could have done more thinking about it beforehand.  I would like to have another go now that I have got a bit more confidence and I will be thinking up ways to do that.  Technically the photographs were bright and in focus and I did not make any glaring mistakes that meant I could not use the images.  It was successful in some respects but more work is required to make it better.