Notes and plans – first thoughts

Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you.

You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further, or you may deviate from this. You may want to focus on architecture and landscape, or you may prefer to photograph the people who you think have an interesting connection to the square mile within which you currently find yourself.

You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs from which to make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit’ together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively communicate your idea. You may wish to title your photographs or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.

However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.

‘Intimate connection between people & their childhood surroundings’; ‘we know a patch of ground’, ‘detail we will never know again’, ‘people and places’, ‘neighbours and habits’, ‘favourite places, places to avoid’, ‘stories’.

These are the key words that I took from the Square mile brief. I worked in a notepad – drew diagrams, lists, thought processes. The issue for me was the breadth of the square mile, and how to visualise it. I am from Dublin, my parents are from Dublin, their parents were from Dublin, their parents were from Dublin – so in part I could use the whole city. But this doesn’t feel right to me – I don’t know the whole city in detail, I just know one bit.

So it is this bit that I am going to focus on. My street. Not my street now, but my street when I was a kid. The people and the place. I didn’t choose the place, my parents did, but I did have some choices about who I played with, who I knew and how they effected me. It is these people I will focus on – but I can’t show the people – I don’t know where they are now. But I can’t separate those people and that street. Even more specifically I can’t separate their individual houses and those people. They may not live there now but those houses are those people. The person may not live there, the houses may have changed, but they will always be so and so’s house – always. So it is them I will focus on, their houses, the people that made up the space, that made me.

I think this rather cold, Becher-like shots of the modern formulaic houses brings into question the issue of what is a house and what is a home. Also the sense of the individual. These houses which were simply built to sell, for profit, no other purpose, mass produced like TVs or Coca-Cola, have been slowly adapted into ‘individual’ items, sculptured (as best as means and regulations would allow) to suit the people for whom it was a home.

So how do I ‘individualise’ the works? The images of the houses is one part, that shows the variation in the properties, but it doesn’t show how I know those houses. How I know them not as houses, but as people – the people who once lived in them. That is something I need to address.

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