Tag Archives: Martin Parr

Preparations for assignment 3 shoot (finally)

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I really need to move along with Assignment 3 now, and it is time to put aside some of the other projects I have been exploring in my Personal Reflections. The more I think about the assignment, the more I believe I am over thinking it, and trying to make it too complicated – it really should not be that difficult. I therefore decided to revisit the assignment criteria again, and to me the following are the important aspects that we are asked to consider:-

  • it should feature a community (more than one person)
  • it should tell their story
  • the story should be something we can all relate to
  • I can choose if the community is one with which I am familiar or not.

I have already photographed various people from my village community for this module, and I have decided to continue this by photographing another village event, this time the Carnival, which takes place this Sunday. This post is by way of preparation, so that I can make the most of the day itself. There will only be one chance to do this, so I have to get it right.

I am intrigued by John Berger’s idea of a photograph “cutting across the continuum of time” (1) and how they can function as historical documents for future generations. An excellent example of how this can be achieved is in Martin Parr’s series Unseen Cities (2) which I reviewed here. In it, Parr examines a way of life which has been repeated for hundreds of years but which seems anachronistic to the current generation. He looks both at the behind-the-scenes aspect and the on-show element to give a rounded picture of the ceremonies and people involved in the City of London.

My previous research on David Hurn’s Tintern Photographic Project (3) series is also relevent to this, as is Paul Strand’s Tir A’Mhurain (4) and Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. from the point of view of my own photographic practice, I prefer the aesthetic of the former two to Goldin’s, and I would like to take the opportunity here to consider Paul Strand’s book in more detail, as I am lucky enough to own a copy.

Strand made it his life’s work to immerse himself into various communities around the world and to make works which have a powerful sense of place as well as the people who lived there. Apart from South Uist, he produced similar works for Egypt, Morocco, France, and Ghana among others. Tir A’Mhurain is a mixture of text and poetry, alongside portraits and landscapes, although it is not entirely clear to me how much of the text was written by Strand and how much by Basil Davidson, who collaborated with him on the book. It was photographed over three months in 1954, and thus the images are black and white, while the aesthetic is realistic. The majority of the portraits are taken as close-ups, although there are some full length ones too of groups and individuals. Strand managed to capture most of them against a fairly plain background, often in a door frame, so that the attention is focused squarely on the person and not their surroundings. The “place” element is supplied by the interweaving images of the countryside and people’s activities within it, mostly farming, fishing and housework. The thing that captures my own attention most is the clothes, which mark the year as being from the past; many of the activities still continue in the Outer Hebrides in much the same way today, so the clothes are what separates the people from now. (In contrast, the clothes in the Martin Parr series are what marks the historical aspect of the ceremonies – in this case they haven’t changed for centuries, and the punctum is that their wearers are seen in very modern situations.)

So, the aim on Sunday will be to achieve a mix of single portraits and street shots, alongside some images which root the village in its past. And for the single portraits I will have to overcome my fear of rejection and ask people directly if I can take their photograph. I will need to take a great many images in order to have sufficient to select a series that not only represents the village, but also my own place in it as an outsider (one isn’t considered a local until one has lived here for several decades) but also an active participant in village life. The issue which I am mulling over now is whether to make the carnival the centrepiece of the series, or to use it as a vehicle to enable me to present a wider range of people than I would normally be able to  on a day by day basis. And as a sideline, I also want to try to produce something with a specific unified colour grading. The idea I will be trying to achieve is a representation of the village as it is today as if it were a future historical document. It may also be that I present it in a book style, to allow for more images to be included.

References

  1. Berger, J.  (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.
  2. BBC (2016) Unseen City: Martin Parr reveals the square mile’s secrets. (online) At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/culture/story/20160301-unseen-city-martin-parr-reveals-the-square-miles-secrets (Accessed on 27 June, 2017)
  3. Tinternvillage.co.uk (n.d.) David Hurn’s Tintern Photographic Project (online). At:  http://www.tinternvillage.co.uk/history/david-hurns-photographic-project/ (Accessed on 27 June, 2017)
  4. Strand, P.(2002) Tir A’Mhurain. Edinburgh: Berlinn Press.

 

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Assignment 2 – The final idea

It has taken a long time to get to grips with this assignment, and until now I have had no sensible ideas of what to photograph. However, yesterday morning I attended a vitally important local event in my capacity as Acting Chair of the Parish Council – the opening of a new playground in the north of the village – which was to be featuring in the local newspaper in the Saturday morning edition , on page 25, so it was hardly headline news. Here is a screenshot of the page.

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A motley crew of people turned up for the opening, including representatives of the waste management company which helped pay for it, the Parish’s paid staff and a couple of other councillors. I didn’t take my camera, thinking that I would be too busy to use it, but there would have been several opportunities, including elderly and overweight people trying out the zipwire and candid shots of the interactions within a very disparate group of individuals, etc. There was one image that stuck in my mind though, and I dearly wish I had had the forethought to take at least my phone. One of our Borough Councillors (who must be in his late 60s) turned up on his motorised bicycle, crash helmet askew, and with his paperwork extruding out of a pannier, but brimming with enthusiasm. It was a classic example of the reality of local government at its most grassroots level, and I decided I wanted to work with it for my assignment, which is nominally called The Foot Soldiers of  Local Government – Portrait of a Community in Flux.

In particular, I am interested in the ideas of belonging and community and how these can be portrayed through the work of the Parish Council. Photographers I intend to reference will include Tony Ray Jones, Martin Parr, John Myers and David Hurn, although there may be others.

My initial thoughts are to make a series of portraits of some of the Parish Councillors, standing by the elements of community life that most concern them, individually. Some would be close-ups and others shot in the middle distance, to indicate something about their relationship to their subject, and all will be aware, but with the subjects not necessarily looking at the camera. So far, I am thinking the following:

  • Anne – potential new housing projects – outside, Wichelstowe – large scale
  • Chris – planning – in the office, looking at plans, or bus service, at the bus stop
  • Hannah – childrens’ amenities – at the playpark, or renewable energy, at the solar farm
  • Talis – closing services – outside the library with a placard
  • Dave – youth sport – at the Saturday football club
  • Steve – in the Parish office, with the staff

At last, I have a plan that I feel will work, and about which I have a sense of enthusiasm to put into action.