Category Archives: Assignment 3

assignment 3: mirrors and windows – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the fifteen A4 prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive.


 

Revisions:

The two main criticisms of this assignment during its tutorial were that it had not been edited vigorously enough and that there were significant technical shortcomings of some of the pictures that had been included.  So, when revising this assignment for assessment, I have concentrated on making a more rigorous edit and preparing the picture files with more care both for printing as part of the physical submission and for online display, as shown here:

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I have reduced the original twenty five photographs to a more manageable fifteen. In doing so, I have moved completely away from my original idea of providing an insider’s guide to changing lines at Oxford Circus station, removing the book-end images (the Victoria Line shots as we entered the station and the thinning throng on the west-bound Central Line platform) and also the weaker (or most technically compromised) pictures taken on the platform itself; the subjective picture looking out from the central line train as it left the station also has been removed to maintain the unity of point-of-view shown by other remaining pictures.

The result is a straightforward and – I think – successful narrative, which repeats itself every couple of minutes during rush-hour. It is structured around a series of ‘looks’: a woman looks up at a specific point on the station wall; another woman looks left and then right; the crowd becomes more crowded and a man looks off to the left attracted by the sound of… a train bursting into the station; the train races past a succession of people looking back along its direction of travel; the people on the platform stand back to let passengers get off, and then board the train themselves; the doors shut as people on the platform stream past; and the train departs the station.

 

 

assignment 3 – reflection and formative feedback

I appear to have managed neither to publish a reflection nor a tutorial post for this assignment; as I can’t find drafts either, I will try to combine them into this single post, written at the end of the module as I prepare it for assessment.

First though, some context. As I was handing in this assignment, I was also arranging an extension of the deadline for completing my three level one courses in more than the four years allowed. The OCA agreed to this, but any time used for this purpose (I estimated five months) would be subtracted from my level two allocation; there will be no facility to ‘borrow’ time from the level three courses, so I will need to crack on in the autumn to try and make up the time.

Part of the reason for my exceeding the four-year allowance for the level had been small delays in my previous two courses; however I had also pretty much ground to a halt towards the end of 2017, publishing only a handful of posts between September and Christmas. Now, in March, having rejected several ideas for the assignment before settling on this final one, I liked the pictures I had submitted, but mainly I was pleased simply to be getting going again.


With this assignment, my tutor didn’t seem to be having to try quite so hard digging through my pictures to find something he liked to balance criticisms during the tutorial.

This is a lot more focused and subject oriented than your last assignment. Immediately that gives the impression of maturity in content and approach. Clearly a ‘window’ perspective on your commuting community.’

The bulk of the tutorial was spent talking about the twenty five pictures (too many – ‘you need to edit more rigorously’) I had submitted on my G:Drive: there were possible redundancies among the three introductory pictures, taken as a Victoria line train slid into Oxford Circus; the first four pictures (of two women, one in a red coat and the other in black) were ‘strong‘ despite pushing the limits of acceptability in terms of focus and grain; the three shots of people looking out of the left of the frame as a train whizzed past them into the station formed ‘another really good series […] probably the best shots here;’ there were good portraits among the swirl of people disembarking and embarking; the last three pictures ‘really do give the impression of thinning platform crowd.

The last three pictures had been dropped from the assignment after posting them on my G:Drive and having prints made and sent to Robert, but before the assignment posts themselves had been finalised; I’ll include them here both for completeness and because I like them too:

We talked about how I had gone about taking the pictures and Robert was able to concede that the quality of the images was better in the slide-show version than in the shared folder on my g:drive which had been his main source for the tutorial. Later I checked the settings of my saved lightroom export and discovered I had seriously overdone the jpeg compression of the pictures for this assignment. The problem was not as serious as it first appeared but still could have been bolder with setting high ISOs on my camera. I went on to try this out while taking photographs in similarly gloomy conditions on the underground for assignment five.

But back to March 2018: crisis over, it was time to get on with finishing the last two assignments of the module in time for assessment in November…

 

 

 

assignment 3 – inspiration and research – Paul Graham

I have written about Paul Graham before, during the big post that lies at the heart of my experience of Context and Narrative; I had taken some photographs in his late style and thought that trying to apply this to catching stories on the escalators of the Moscow Metro would be an interesting thing to try. This – alongside the pictures of Walker Evans and Lukáš Kuzma – fed into my work for the “unaware” project in part two of this course, especially the pictures I took during a trip last summer to Kiev.

Wishing to find out more about Graham’s recent work, I had also bought the book collecting his three latest series (The Whiteness of the Whale) and  found an interview with him about the related exhibition of these pictures in 2016 at Pier 24 in San Francisco in 2016. Continue reading

Assignment 3 – A Mirror

 

The Pictures:

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(The gallery/slideshow feature does not appear to have a way to disable auto-start. I will continue to look for a way to let you start the show playing once you’re ready, but suspect I need to upgrade my wordpress account.)

Statement:

I was born on a small Scottish island, living there until I was eighteen, Despite – or maybe because of – this, I have always felt that, by nature, I am a creature of the city. I enjoy the bustle, the sense that things are forever changing and evolving around me, that nothing is ever static. But also, I enjoy the anonymity offered to me by my unmarked presence in a crowd of which I am only a small part.

In his book, The Language of Cities, Deyan Sudjik explores this tension between being alone and yet – at the same time – of being part of something much greater than just your experience of it. He sets out the ways by which those who belong to a city differ from those how simply visit. And of the many ways that people can acquire a sense of belonging in that most rootless of modern places, one of the most potent is to be found in the way people navigate their way through the the complexities of its public transport system.

Based on the most recent available statistics (collected in 2016) more than 225,000 people enter or exit Oxford Circus Station daily, making it the fourth busiest station on the London Underground. Eight times a week I pass through Oxford Circus station on my way to or from work.  Normally, I join the further mass of people who change from one line to another without actually leaving the station.

We  find ways to idnetify where we need to stand in order to be in front of a door when the next train finishes sliding into the station and we make sure we will be in the right carriage to leave our final stop by the shortest route. We have glyphs and other markers; marks on the wall and scuffed spots on the platform.  We recognise other people doing the same and identify with them; we may even begin to spot the same faces recurring, day by day, over time.

But as we make our daily commute, we shut our eyes or find other ways of vanishing into ourselves, into our phones, our newspapers or our books. We do not make eye contact with one another; nor do we stare. We distance ourselves, becoming alone again amongst the thronging people around us.  But at the same time, sharing transport helps makes us part of a functioning community, not getting in one another’s’ way, standing on the right and walking on the left and letting people get off the train before boarding ourselves. We share our journeys with each other even if we only rarely acknowledge this..

Normally when I am taking pictures,  I feel that I am putting distance – a pane of glass perhaps –  between myself and the event or thing or person that I am photographing. Taking the pictures for this project has worked differently, opening me up to my surroundings, making me more aware of the people who surround me as I travel to work. I am able to see myself reflected back at me as they do the same things that I do. 

They say there are a million stories in the naked city; mine is just one of them and parts of it are very like the many other people’s stories, too…


A more traditional, prints-on-a-wall presentation of the pictures is shown in this post.


Reference:

  • Sudjic, Deyan (2017) The Language of Cities. London, Penguin

Assignment 3a – A Mirror (alternative presentation)

Statement:

I was born on a small Scottish island, living there until I was eighteen, Despite – or maybe because of – this, I have always felt that, by nature, I am a creature of the city. I enjoy the bustle, the sense that things are forever changing and evolving around me, that nothing is ever static. But also, I enjoy the anonymity offered to me by my unmarked presence in a crowd of which I am only a small part.

In his book, The Language of Cities, Deyan Sudjik explores this tension between being alone and yet – at the same time – of being part of something much greater than just your experience of it. He sets out the ways by which those who belong to a city differ from those how simply visit. And of the many ways that people can acquire a sense of belonging in that most rootless of modern places, one of the most potent is to be found in the way people navigate their way through the the complexities of its public transport system.

Based on the most recent available statistics (collected in 2016) more than 225,000 people enter or exit Oxford Circus Station daily, making it the fourth busiest station on the London Underground. Eight times a week I pass through Oxford Circus station on my way to or from work.  Normally, I join the further mass of people who change from one line to another without actually leaving the station.

We  find ways to idnetify where we need to stand in order to be in front of a door when the next train finishes sliding into the station and we make sure we will be in the right carriage to leave our final stop by the shortest route. We have glyphs and other markers; marks on the wall and scuffed spots on the platform.  We recognise other people doing the same and identify with them; we may even begin to spot the same faces recurring, day by day, over time.

But as we make our daily commute, we shut our eyes or find other ways of vanishing into ourselves, into our phones, our newspapers or our books. We do not make eye contact with one another; nor do we stare. We distance ourselves, becoming alone again amongst the thronging people around us.  But at the same time, sharing transport helps makes us part of a functioning community, not getting in one another’s’ way, standing on the right and walking on the left and letting people get off the train before boarding ourselves. We share our journeys with each other even if we only rarely acknowledge this..

Normally when I am taking pictures,  I feel that I am putting distance – a pane of glass perhaps –  between myself and the event or thing or person that I am photographing. Taking the pictures for this project has worked differently, opening me up to my surroundings, making me more aware of the people who surround me as I travel to work. I am able to see myself reflected back at me as they do the same things that I do. 

They say there are a million stories in the naked city; mine is just one of them and parts of it are very like the many other people’s stories, too…

The Pictures

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This post shows the possible layout for an installation of the photographs. The three asterisks indicate individual groups of pictures with the following block of pictures appearing further along a wall or working clockwise round a room.

There is a separate post here, displaying the pictures as a slideshow and with no variation in picture size, that probably works better as an online thing, without the need to scroll.

 


Reference:

  • Sudjic, Deyan (2017) The Language of Cities. London, Penguin

assignment 3 – further editing

While continuing to make the last pictures I needed for the assignment on the underground, I had quite radically changed and simplified the form that my submission for this assignment would take.  A post describing the process that led to this can be found here
Here is a quick run through: Click on the gallery thumbnails if you want to view them larger.

Prologue

Orientation

Waiting for the train

Arrival

Disembarkation

Embarkation

The lady in the red coat gets on board

Departure

Now it was time to go back to the questions posed by the coursebook (on p.71)

• What order should the images be shown in?
• Are there too many repetitive images?
• Do you need to let go of earlier images because the project has changed?
• Are you too close to some of your favourite pictures and they don’t fit the sequence?
• Do you need to re-shoot any for technical reasons?
• Are there any gaps that need to be filled?

It still needed work, but it was getting there, I thought. The main problem was the number of (repetitive) images in the sections between the arrival and departure of the train.  I had already got rid of a lot of images as the project had changed to concentrate on the Oxford Circus part of my morning commute; the fact that I really liked some of the dropped sequences (the ‘on the Central Line’ section – in the previous post –  works nicely for all sorts of reasons, I think, but it did not fit into the revised timebox), but I don’t think that held me back from putting them to one side.

Order was straightforward. If I was going to build up a sense of the experience of passing through Oxford Circus Station, changing from the Victoria Line to the Central Line, it needed to combine the various passes I had made through the station in a chronological order.

The people waiting (my proxies or in terms of this module, mirrors) needed to build up, a train needed to come; people needed to spill out and the waiting people get on board; the train needed to leave with them on it. Ideally there would be some sense of this being a repetitive cycle as the next lot of passengers began the wait for the next train.

In order to get this across, I needed to create an idea of a place where the action would occur. The final exercise for this part of the course had worked through the idea of different sorts of gaze. The first type of look I had looked at was the one that came out of consciousness of the photographer’s (my) presence. This tied in both with Stephen Shore’s idea of taking ‘a screenshot of my field of vision’ (discussed in this post) and the ideas around producing a subjective representation of an individual’s experience of – primarily urban – life examined in Christopher Butler’s Modernism – a very short introduction. Modernism may be quite old hat (and there is nothing particularly cutting edge about American Surfaces any more either), but this gives a way of establishing me as a participant in the everyday drama that was unfolding in my series of pictures.

The Critical Bin

All the pictures for the central section of my sequences had been taken using a fixed focal length fixed lens from the same viewpoint – to one side of the bin that I used to locate where the correct doors of the correct carriage of the central line train I would take west would  be to allow me to both get on and get off again, by the way out when I got to my destination. (You can see it reflected in the dark windows of the stationary trains in some of the pictures, if you look hard enough.) Standing there, I had tried to keep the camera pointed straight ahead giving me a rectangular stage where the action could unfold.

In order to stop this single frame being both repetitive and flat, I needed the action to move through it on different parallel planes. The trains and people moving along the platform established some of this; I used the direction the people were  the people I was focusing on were looking and the sense of their actual movement to help articulate the transition between the individual pictures:

At this point, I also went back to the digital pictures and adjusted the crop of the pictures so to accentuate this sense of movement over the groups of selected pictures.  I also realised that the sequence would hang together better if individuals – the woman in the red coat or the tall man with a beard and a rucksack, for example –  could be followed from sequence to sequence.

The winnowing process could now be carried out again on the sections of the narrative that remained after I had abandoned the initial  idea of spreading the assignment over my entire journey. I had made another another batch of 6×4  prints made from pictures I had taken during the time I was working through the various edits to try and fill gaps (people getting onto the trains were tricky to isolate and I wanted a better train-leaving-the-station picture) and to add in further pictures of people who were recurring throughout the series:

Once this process was complete and I had made a final selection, I needed to work out how to display them. Again, both Short and Hurn and Jay had highlighted how different presentations – a photo story in a a Sunday supplement; an exhibition at a gallery; part of a book – all called for different numbers of images and for them to be sequenced in different ways.

I decided to put together two sequences which will form part of this log: a slideshow which should approximate the main presentation of the images at assessment, when A4 prints will be viewed one after the other as they are moved from one side of a clamshell box to the other; and a layout that could be used to display the prints framed, on the walls of an exhibition space.

Here, and for tutorial purposes, I would treat the slideshow as the primary view, with the exhibition layout acting as a variant.

Also, as a footnote almost, I have varied the size of some of the images within the exhibition view, playing around with the html to use a table to order and size the pictures on the page that will be displayed in your browser. I realise that this sort of thing – like having people smile in portraits – can be frowned upon, but I was very impressed by the variety of sizes of print displayed at Jurgen Tillmans’ retrospective at the Tate last year. The variations in size of the pictures broke things up, forcing the viewer  to move in closer for one picture and then to step back for the next, making it impossible to simply move along the walls, going from picture to picture to picture with them all blurring in one simple sequence. Viewing the pictures became much more active in the process, adding a lot to the experience of viewing the huge number of pictures shown.

Also, to return to the influence of Paul Graham on the development of this piece of work,  the way the pictures are printed and arranged across the pages of his recent collection of  work made in  America, The Whiteness of the Whale (2015)  led me to think about how differing the size of the individual images relative to one another might affect the way they are perceived. In  A Shimmer of Possibility (2005-2007)  irregular sizes within groups of pictures (where a cutaway to a parked station wagon is much larger than the main sequence of a man mowing a grass verge during a rain shower for example) vary the rhythm of viewing them while in  The Present (2008-2011)  each of a pair of pictures is presented the same size, but the size varies from pair to pair. The effect is very different from the regular steady progression from picture to picture as your turn the pages of Walker Evans’ American Photographs or Robert Frank’s The Americans.

I think that what I have tried here  is only the beginnings of experimenting with online layout beyond what is available in basic WordPress, but it is definitely something I would like to develop further as I move on.


Reference:

  • Butler, C (2010) Modernism – a very short introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press
  • Graham, P (2015) The Whiteness of the Whale. Mack Books

 

 

assignment 3 – initial edit

You can create as many pictures as you like but, in your reflective commentary, explain how you arrived at the final edit. The set should be concise and not include repetitive or unnecessary images. Be attentive to this aspect of production.
Some questions to consider are:
• What order should the images be shown in?
• Are there too many repetitive images?
• Do you need to let go of earlier images because the project has changed?
• Are you too close to some of your favourite pictures and they don’t fit the sequence?
• Do you need to re-shoot any for technical reasons?
• Are there any gaps that need to be filled?
IaP coursebook – p.71

Recap: The Initial Idea – A journey in three parts with two entr’acts

Four times a week,  I travel on the tube from Walthamstow Central (a few minutes from where I live) to White City ( a few minutes from where I work). The journey takes around forty five minutes and is broken into two legs: first I take the Victoria line south to Oxford Circus; then I change to a Central Line train which takes me west to my workplace.

Like anyone who wants to optimise their journey, I have worked out exactly where to stand on the platforms and which carriage to get into in order to shave as many milliseconds off my commute as possible. I am sure I am not alone in this…

The previous post details how I got to the point where I had a lrge enough body of photographs to start off a rough edit. My intention was to end up with between 15 and 20 pictures, split into five sequences: Walthamstow; Victoria Line; Change at Oxford Circus; Central Line; White City.

The travelling sequences (two and four) proved easiest to put together…


Sequence 4 – Central Line; Oxford Circus – White City:

There is an obvious linear order here, and a sense of rhythm and movement provided by red pole cutting each image in two vertically. The pole is of course colour-coded to indicate the Central Line (contrasting with the pale blue of the Victoria Line). And of course, I appear in the second image, distorted in the mirror of the window  – another commuter, but one with a camera – while my newspaper appears at the bottom corner of the third, mirroring that of the woman opposite.

Sequence 2 – Victoria Line; Walthamstow Central – Oxford Circus:

This was another sequence that came together early on. It feels much more crushed and dark, with the movement provided by arrows and diagonals an tilt rather than the repetition of poles.

It would have been easy to go on taking pictures like these, but heeding David Hurn’s warning  not to reshoot the “gimmes” but to get on with the other things you were trying to photograph, I tried to concentrate on the bits that didn’t work yet – the ‘in’ and ‘out’ sequences and the interchange at Oxford Circus.

 

Sequence 1 – the start of the journey

I had intended to balance the White City/Destination Sequence with an opening group of pictures located at Walthamstow Central Station. It was all a bit literal and ‘sign-y’.

Pictures two and three both could be re-shot (two needs to be taken later in the day, when the sun has moved round to light the flat, north-facing sign; three to remove the woman walking towards the camera) but overall everything starts out well. On the plus side, the first picture managed to contain a lot of red and pale blue which would establish the overall colour palette from the off.

Sequence 5 – White City:

I began trying to arrange the sequences in a less linear fashion. In part this was to try and get around the way the exchange sequence needed to swap direction of travel from left-right to right-left.

Sequence 3 – Change at Oxford Circus

These work as pictures (I particularly like the radiating lines on the ceiling  in fig.1 and fig.3) but lack focus as a description of how I find my way through the station. There are figures who act as my proxy, the signs point the way, and the two escalator pictures continue the change of direction, but it doesn’t work yet as a sequence. I began to wonder how it could be expanded (and how the other sequences could be contracted to compensate).

I had already taken the photographs that included the markers (bubbling paint and a plaque with a stripey red line indicating something or other to people in a different sort of know from the one I occupied) I used to indicate where I should stand to get onto the right carriage of the second, central line train:

Building Block 1 – peeling paint marks the spot!

What I couldn’t do was to find a way to fit in the other marker  – a bin that is pretty much directly behind the dark haired woman in the paint sequence:

I took other pictures in an attempt to fix it, but they didn’t really take off either. I made more prints and stuck them to the wall. I grouped different pictures into different sequences, organising them into chronological order or other ways indicating movement:

Building Block 2 – a Central-Line train passes through the station

For Example, I had already assembled this linear sequence. I had a lot of material to go between image 1 (train leaves the station, revealing the wall-plaque) and image two (woman in a parka in front of a train entering the station.

You don’t really see people’s faces on the tube, at least in part because of the rules we’ve absorbed about not staring… I tried to pick up on some other people waiting:

Building Block 3 – A growing sense of anticipation

And then, trying to get some pictures to indicate arrival at Oxford Circus, I took these:

Building Block 4 – Arriving at Oxford Circus

And it was with this group of three  – with a window acting as a fantastic mirror and with the camera and the train moving from darkness into light – that I got the final thing I needed; I thought of Paul Graham. There was movement and the station sign provides a definite location for what is happening. It would work nicely as an in media res (opening in the midst of an action) beginning. Could I lose the pictures that had been penciled in before these? Possibly I could drop everything I had planned to put earlier and concentrate on this stage of the story, while I was moving through Oxford Circus.

Perhaps it could move away from a prosaic description of my everyday reality and become something more subjective, more poetic even. I moved more pictures about on the wall, bluetacking them into new groupings…

I needed something to break up the arrival and departure of the Central Line Train. I had a lot of pictures taken while a train was in the station.

Pre-Selection short-ish-list – people getting onto and getting off trains

This is some of them; when you have people streaming both from right to left and from left to right, and you have people moving towards you from a train and moving away from you into a train, it’s quite hard to get a decisive moment but they could be narrowed down into further related sequences, and I had pictures that included quite a few of the people who featured in the ‘waiting’ pictures.

2 More Building Blocks: Narrowing Down Alighting and Boarding



And then, to finish it off, follow the woman in the red coat from BB3:

…let the train exit the station:

 

And close on the beginnings of the build up of people waiting for the next train.

I tried to balance the individual sequences as if they were balanced verses in a poem rather than paragraphs of prose, and ended up with eight sequences of 3, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 3  pictures respectively (giving 26 pictures in total). It could still come down a bit, but at this point, I felt I had the good first draft that I had been looking for.

getting there – a work-in-progress installation view (the livingroom, home; 3/3/18 – 12/3/18)