Category Archives: Assignment 1

Assignment 1: Photograph as Document – The Pictures

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Half-Way Along Walthamstow High Street

Swamped or Enhanced?

In Walthamstow, the high street runs west to east (or east to west) for a bit over a mile. While there is a seventies mall and some larger shops, most of the shops are housed in square units. While some of these smaller shops have been open for years, there is a fairly high turnover of businesses. The shops tend to reflect the patterns people moving into and out of the borough as well as the economic fortune of different sorts of trade. Woolworths closed and a Lidl opened in the aftermath of the crash and there aren’t any record shops anymore. However there will probably always be a call for cheap jeans, pots and pans, regardless of who is selling them.

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the photograph as document: assignment 1 – from idea to pictures

“This assignment is designed to give your tutor a feel for your work […] Create at least two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story. The aim of the assignment is to help you explore the convincing nature of documentary, even though what the viewer thinks they see may not in fact be true. Try to make both sets equally convincing so that it’s impossible to tell which version of the images is ‘true’. Choose a theme and aim for 5–7 images for each set, depending on your idea.” – C&A Coursebook

As the first assignment of each of the level 1 courses is intended as a benchmarking exercise, allowing your tutor to make an assessment of where you are at this (that) moment, it makes sense for it to follow on directly from the work I did for Assignment 5 of The Art of Photography where we constructed a narrative. My response to this tried to give enough information for a viewer to work out what had happened to a terraced row of houses in Walthamstow one December night in 1940, when a single bomb destroyed a chunk of the terrace. That space is now filled in with post-war housing that is quite different from the Victorian terraces on either side.

The pictures were heavily informed by Steffi Klenz’s Nummianus. For it, I took a series of pictures of the street-facing elevations, each showing two doors-worth of houses. These were then combined into a long concertina-folded strip that opened out to show the affected section of street.

At the time, I thought that it did more than simply show that there was bomb damage in Elmfield Road. There was a second narrative, showing how different owners had modified their houses, resulting in a small typography of variations in how identical houses had been personalised (mainly since the 1980s). There was also the seeds of an idea of how pictures taken in different streets could be combined to provide a fictional street of my own designing.

The Background:

I was working on this final assignment during the UK election and its immediate aftermath. There was a lot in the air about immigration from (Eastern) Europe, of being “swamped” and of the character of parts of England being changed. Usually for the worse in the eyes of those trying to make political capital from it.

I live in Walthamstow and the rhetoric around race and migration and being swamped didn’t latch with my day to day experience. Continue reading