Thursday, 7 February 2013

Assignment 1

Preparation for assignment 1:

This is the first time that I've studied an OCA course that has begun with an assignment. No projects or exercises, just get straight on with it. Is this a level 2 thing? I'm relishing the challenge though. The brief is to photograph your local town - so, quite open with regards to how the project can be approached.

I've written down some notes with my ideas into my workbook and drawn some sketches. I already have an overriding theme for the assignment and one that also ties in with the blog as a whole. I've looked at a number of photographers including William Eggleston and already been out and taken some images. I need to review what I have so far and take it from there.

I will probably keep this post updated for the whole of the assignment rather than make multiple posts. I think I prefer that idea and all the information from the planning to the final images will be kept together.


After processing the images from my first day's shoot I was pretty happy with what I had. I'd completed the first part and managed to convey a sense of the newish development where I live on the outskirts of town. This was to be phase one of the shoot. I'd planned another day closer to town to give a sense of Ashford and what that meant to me as a relative newcomer. As usual I was up against the projected number of images - between 10 and 15 needed for the set. I already had over 20 development shots that I wanted to use and I'd have to edit them quite strongly to squeeze in any more from further afield.

Looking at my workbook notes I can see that if I keep what I have then I will stray from what I'd originally intended to do. This always happens to me. I find that the story, as envisaged, is too wide to tell in the number of images allowed. For there to be any meaning in the sequence it needs to be narrowed down and focused on a smaller topic. But am I getting the balance right? Will the development sequence have enough variety? I'm already shooting the assignment with a particular theme and style in mind that could make the images look similar.

After a couple of days I've managed to include some shots at the local station to bookend the sequence. I'm fairly pleased with how it looks now. I still do not have any wider shots to show a more varied aspect to the town but I will leave the set as they are for a few days before I decide if any changes need to be made.

 The images:

The brief was to portray my local town. I wasn't keen on including postcard type aspects like a tourist brochure or guide book would. Ashford is as old as many other towns in South East England and has plenty of picturesque buildings and good and bad areas. It is also surrounded by a number of large new developments and I live in one of them.

I decided that I wanted to show how I personally live in Ashford and to do that I would need to narrow down what I include in my sequence.  We moved here for the good transport links - fast dual carriageways criss-cross the town. There is easy access to two motorway junctions and a high speed train service to London and Europe. When we are not at home most of our time is spent travelling out of Ashford and beyond. The occasional trip to the library and a cup of coffee is to some extent our only connection with the more traditional part of the town. To my shame, after five years or so of living here I know hardly any of the road names outside our development.

So, that is the narrative I wanted to show in my images. There is also a more subtle undercurrent running through the images that I will describe at the end of the sequence.

You've more than likely noticed that all of my images are photographed tilted towards the floor. This is a conscious style decision that I made for this assignment and is also alluded to in my blog title. The ground will at times be a recurring theme in my work for this course.

The ground is significant in a conceptual way for me because it refers back to my childhood. My dad was an alcoholic and died when I was twelve years old. The only piece of advice that I can remember he gave to me was to, "Always look down. Never look up." I suppose he thought his words useful at the time and he was probably referring to finding money on the floor - who knows... Now, I view the words as a metaphor that pretty much encompasses what it's like to be a child of an alcoholic parent.

This is my attempt to turn a negative into a positive. Photographically, to look down at the ground can reveal some interesting objects, juxtapositions and insights into the world around us. I want to use my creativity to explore that, put some of myself into my images and find my creative voice. The beer cans and bottles allude to the alcoholism and along with the broken fence try to show that no matter how much society tries to create order and neatness and nice clean suburban streets the darker aspects of humanity will kick back.

At the moment the sense of what I'm trying to explore and portray of my past may not appear in the images that strongly. I think that subsequent assignments will help with that and at any rate they are only a side issue and I'm not too worried if the images are not read in this way at this early stage.

20 Feb update:

I made a switch to one of the images in my sequence. I was concerned that my subtext of private and public faces wasn't coming through strongly enough. So, I have constructed an image to allude to this by photographing my partner through our kitchen window. This replaces the cycle lane sign as I thought that I had too many images of signs and lines in the sequence. I think the set strikes a better balance now.

14 May update:

I've had my feedback on this assignment from my tutor for quite a while now. I've been mulling over his comments which were on the whole very positive. Keith's overall thoughts helped me to move forward. I am very glad to have received these as, for me, the assignment felt a bit off-key. It hadn't quite come together in the way I'd intended and I'd already decided to re-shoot some elements almost as soon as the images were posted off to my tutor.

I've been given a photographer to do some further research on and have ordered the books on inter-library loan. I will update my blog with these and provide links back to this post soon.

Nicky Bird - Tracing Echoes

Nicky Bird - Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place

5 Jun update:

It has taken me a while to catch up and report my tutor feedback for this assignment. On the whole the feedback was positive with special mention of the constructed image using my kitchen window and partner, plus the image showing the base of the electricity pylon. My tutor notes that I photographed a quite narrow slice of the town that I live in and from quite a subjective viewpoint. He wonders what relationship the new development has with the older part of town and suggests investigating the archive.

With this in mind the feedback has sent me on an interesting train of thought and has helped to clarify my thinking. I have a few ideas up my sleeve to expand the sequence with consideration to Keith's comments and I hope to start making some new images to add to this set to be ready for assessment by March 2014.

6 Jul update:

One of the exercises in part 3 of the course is to re-work assignment 1 in the light of the tutor comments. I have started a new post to accommodate my thoughts and new images here:

Assignment 1 re-work


  1. I can't imagine diving straight into an assignment - it must be so refreshing!

  2. Hi Catherine,

    Sorry for not replying sooner - I was away on the Liverpool study visit. Yes, it is very refreshing. No pesky exercises - Lol..