Category Archives: Assignment 1

Assignment 1; Two Sides of the Story – Notes for the Assessors

It’s a long time since I put Assignment 1 to one side in January 2016, intending to come back to it and do extensive re-shoots after a suitable pause. I reckoned that this would be sometime in the autumn of 2016 when the shops’ lights would be on as the sun set, reducing the contrast between inside and out.

But of course, by the time that autumn 2016 came round the context of this piece of work – predicated upon the idea that it would be ridiculous to think that  anyone could see Eastern European shops offering anything other than an enhancement to any high street – had changed somewhat!

After the Brexit vote, it seemed a bit pointless to try to simply improve the technical quality of the images a bit and to let the implicit ‘message’ that no one was being ‘swamped’ speak for itself.

I had also never been quite certain whether the original online presentation (a typography-style layout of square photographs arranged  to show “trad” English shops replaced by ones serving an eastern european market row by row contrasted with a second assembly, showing the heterogenous makeup of the actual high street) worked obviously enough. So, when it came to preparing my work for this assessment event, I have made a start on reshaping this assignment into something completely different. This is not a completed process and I will try and make the time to make a finished piece of work off to one side of my work on Identity and Place.

One of the things that was bubbling around in head when I started work on the original assignment was Edward Ruscha’s 1966 work Every Building on the Sunset Strip. This did exactly what it says in the title and showed both sides of LA’s Sunset Strip in a series of  photographs taken from the back of a pickup truck (like a section of early google streetview, I suppose). The two sides of the street were printed with a white gutter down the middle of a long, concertina-ed piece of paper. If you turned the book over so the top became the bottom, the other side of the street (inverted on the paper) became the right way up. This seemed like a good way to demonstrate a contrast, as well as being a fitting return to the assignment that the direction my work has taken towards construction and conceptualism over the course  the module.

So, I have made a long, thin composited image showing two sides of a street (one is more trad; the other peppered with Polish, Latvian and Romanian shops); both sides contain shops To Let – the economic climate is not good for anybody it would seem.

fig.1 : one side of the high street

Depending on which way up you have the image, you can read one of two captions/titles. On the trad side – which includes a sprinkling of West Indian and South Asian shops –  you can read: “The vibrant character of east london has been built up over the years by wave upon wave of immigrants” (the original caption for the second series of pictures). On the other side the caption is taken from an interview with a brexit-voting member of the public aired on Radio 4’s Today: “The high street is no longer English; and the foreign people do not shop in English shops so the English shops will slowly die down as the Eastern European supermarkets expand”

fig 2 : the other side of the high street

This reworking is included here and much larger, high-resolution files (both ways up) are included in the g:drive space for this assessment event. They are called ph1can-512973-assessment-1.1.jpg ph1can-512973-assessment-1.2.jpg.

The original assignment version is available as part of my log.

This is still a work in progress.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 1


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Assignment 1: Photograph as Document – The Pictures

c&n-a1pics-header

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.

Continue reading

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