iii. Buildings in Use
The purpose of this assignment was to use photographs in order to effectively and attractively describe how buildings are used. Click the individual images to enlarge.
In the event of errors on this page you can download the entire assignment by clicking the 'Ass. iii' button opposite.
Download the mood board created for this assignment.
Download my tutor report for this exercise (when available) by clicking 'Tutor'.
The purpose of this assignment was to use photographs in order to effectively and attractively describe how buildings are used. No clear brief was given about the type of building to use or whether photographs were intended to demonstrate the entire building or just a specific space within the building. Indeed once I began tackling the assignment it became clear just how many spaces and ‘negative spaces’ buildings actually have. (By ‘negative spaces’ I'm referring to areas immediately adjacent to a building. As an example, a school may have a playground. The playground can be regarded as being part of the building but is not in itself a building. The school also has classrooms, a dining hall, gym, science labs, library and so on.) At this point I decided that perhaps I was over-thinking the assignment and concluded that the intention was to demonstrate the use of spaces in general and how one space can typify the entire building's use. As such I may have taken some artistic liberty in my interpretation of this assignment, however in so-doing I settled on adopting the following approach:
1/ Building selection
I made an initial list of a diverse range of buildings that either incorporated a variety of spaces or illustrated a certain type of use. I was careful to include buildings that allowed or encouraged photography as so many do not these days (more on this later). I deliberately included more buildings than were needed in my shortlist in order to provide some choice towards the end of the assignment. In this way I hoped to edit out those buildings that were not as illustrative or effective as others whilst retaining enough choice to complete the exercise. This approach enabled me to cut those that were impractical to photograph effectively. My initial list included more than a dozen buildings and the following were rejected:
- Starvin' Marvin's restaurant (Google image search: starvin marvin west london)
Photographed many times by others. Hard to find something ‘new’ (perhaps a little defeatist). Needed a late summer visit in order to capture twilight which would serve to illuminate the neon signage.
- Bus shelter
This had potential and I mocked up a number of sample images in my mood board. However this building would need the help of people to illustrate the space and on balance I felt the result would be too far removed from the brief.
- Ibiza villa
A great deal of potential - I've decided to use this in assignment IV
- Domestic garage
Not enough potential, not a creative response to the brief
- London Eye
Again, a subject that has been photographed many times (though not by me). Although this was a building/space that encouraged photography, other than photographing inside the pods, I felt much of the story here was either the London skyline or piazza below the eye. Neither really seemed to fit the brief
Once the buildings above had been rejected I was left with: Airport, Barn, Boat, Apartment, Rosewood hotel, Ritz-Carlton, Shopping centre, Derelict house
2/ Research buildings
Wherever possible I carried out advance research on the buildings using a variety of sources. In some cases this included my own personal knowledge (including images, architectural plans and drawings. In other cases the Internet was a useful tool. The research in each case is described further with each image.
3/ Research the space or other similar buildings
Where it was not possible to thoroughly research in advance, I carried out an initial visit to the building in question prior to shooting. This was normally several days before I returned to photograph although in 2 instances (Villa Mexico and Banyan Tree hotel) I could only visit the day before. During my research I used two important tools to assist me. One of these was a pocket camera which enabled me to try some sample shots and help me recall what I'd seen in later analysis.
However the 2nd more important tool was time. I found that by sitting and watching I was able to ascertain for more about the space that had I just blundered in with my camera blazing. My normal practice was to observe the space for a few minutes, change my location and perspective and observe the space again from a different advantage point. Over time what I noticed was that I was able to read the photograph I needed for more effectively simply by asking myself 'what is the story?'. In empty spaces, the trick was to read line, shape, colour, texture and pattern in order to determine the needed images. In populated spaces the trick was to determine how important the people were to the space. I realised that with this knowledge all I need do was return to the spot with my camera and wait for the perfect moment to shoot.
4/ Conduct photography
In carrying out the photography I used the Information and research gathered in trying to show off the ‘best’ feature. In some instances I had plenty of time at my disposal and this allowed me to return to the building on more than one occasion. For example in the case of the derelict building I was unhappy with the lighting around the staircase. I returned at a different day and time in order to rectify this. At the Ritz Carlton I literally only had a few minutes and a pocket camera. So whilst the quality of these images appear somewhat grainy, I'm nevertheless happy that they meet the brief required by this assignment.
5/ Initial analysis of images
Once the images had been shot I took a fairly brutal approach about which images to delete and which to reject from my initial batch of ‘approved’ images. Knowing that only 2 to 4 images were needed for each building I ensured no more than 5 or 6 went through for digital processing.
6/ Digital processing
I felt it important to carry out full digital processing on my shortlist of 5 or 6 images per space prior to making a final selection. It was only when I was happy with white balance, composition and the like did I feel there was a suitable level playing field upon which to judge each image per building. For this assignment I've started using Adobe Lightroom and, despite being a true Apple diehard, have found it a lot faster and more flexible than Aperture.
7/ Final selection - do these images fit the brief?
With all the images compiled and sorted by building I then selected the 3-4 images that best described each building. I also made a final selection of the 5-6 buildings to be included in the assignment. Both processes, together with my accompanying notes are described more fully below.
8/ Write up & review
Finally the assignment was written up and my learning notes and conclusions appear at the foot of this blog.
The following buildings were shortlisted and photographed, but have not been included in my final assignment. As rejects I have not included individual copies of the images on this blog - just in series (below).
Errors on the page? Download the series here.
Heathrow airport is somewhere I have spent a lot of time in over the last few years. While my experience has been restricted to those of a passenger, I feel quite qualified to see the airports' spaces from this perspective. I called upon my own personal knowledge during research as well as using the Internet to study photographs and Google Earth to look at the general layout. As a qualified pilot I was also able to review the part of the property relevant to air and ground crew and, although I did not have any access or clearance to visit the spaces.
From the travellers' perspective the function and layout of the buildings are uniquely designed to deliver travellers to their aircraft. Perhaps more than any other building in the study, Heathrow airport is uniquely designed for its task. It is in effect a factory whose singular purpose is to get people where they need to be without delay or confusion whilst at the same time enabling security and administrative functions. Heathrow, like all airports, also provide spaces to wait and be delayed with a whole raft of associated services such as shopping, money exchange and refreshment. Some have argued that Heathrow is designed more like a shopping centre than it is an airport. Indeed anyone passing through security at terminal 5 will be faced with a forced route through the shopping area before they are able to navigate their way to the escalators and beyond. Terminal 5 is better than some of the other Heathrow terminals in that regard. As example, terminal 1 is a shopping centre with aeroplanes parked outside.
Many online photos I studied tended to focus on the architectural elements of the buildings–indeed there's been a lot written on the subject since the terminal opened. A quick search on Google for 'terminal 5 images' quickly reveals this. However for this assignment I wanted to study the interior spaces to not only understand but also describe how the spaces are used. Luckily Heathrow is built on several levels and benefits from galleries overlooking spaces below. This proved the useful vantage point from which I could observe and photograph. In my approach I want to show not just the scale of the buildings but also emulate something of a Birds Eye approach, similar to the view passenger's see from their aircraft's window. This works in image 1 and 4.
My 1st image shows a general look across the main concourse which serves several functions. In the foreground we have people seated and laying as they wait to be called for their gates. In the middle distance an escalator and elevator take people down to the underground rail system. Further beyond as a whole variety of dining, retail, service desks and security. It's a whole ecosystem in one image. I've noted how this image illustrates both static and moving people. This is a nice summary what happens in airports.
In the 2nd image people are finding their way into the underground rail system. I like the colours, leading lines and gaping hole of infinite tunnel leading off into the distance. Image 3 shows a waiting area close to one of the satellite gates. From here large windows look out to the aircraft but, curiously many of the seats face away from the view. In my final image aircrew are gathering by Gate 15 prior to boarding their flight. Here we see the purpose of the airport from the aircrew's perspective.
Overall the design of the airport succeeds–at least from the perspective of departing passengers. That Heathrow moves so many million passengers per year illustrates just how effective the design is. Yet we've read in the news earlier this year about how incoming passengers have something of a different opinion. Unfortunately I was neither able to visit or photograph this part of the building.
So I rejected of this series in my final selection because there are so many facets to the buildings operation. Outgoing passengers are kept separate from incoming ones. Ground crew and aircrew are separate from passengers, yet the airside part of the buildings' use is just as, if not more important, than those of the passenger. All in all, whilst I felt the images here are competent, I don't summarise the whole story.
Errors on the page? Download the series here.
The Rosewood hotel in Cancun, Mexico is the 2nd building researched, photographed and subsequently rejected. Again, my approach was similar to that of the airport: personal inspection, online research and Google Earth. I also have the advantage studying several promotional brochures and pamphlets.
As a resort hotel, the purpose of this building is to provide an elegant five-star beachfront resort experience. The resort is quite widespread over a long narrow plot bordered on one side by jungle and on the other by the Caribbean Sea. The result is a series of smaller structures each with a specific function; accommodation, restaurant, gym, spa and so on. In themselves the spaces are effective in that they provide the required facilities. However it was often the spaces between facilities that were important. For example there is little point in having a five-star beach resort unless the beach itself is attractive and desirable. Unfortunately it's a shame that a beach is not a building and therefore had to be excluded from this exercise. Ditto the pool and other outdoor relaxation spaces.
Does the design succeed and have I managed to demonstrate this in my photographs? As explained, I don't think I've been able to capture the spirit of the resort with the photographs submitted here. The photographs are each quite interesting and together illustrate an interesting use of design repeated throughout the resort. This is something I wanted to demonstrating my images. However I rejected this building from my submission as I did not feel the images did the resort justice.
Errors on the page? Download the series here.
This is another building I know intimately well having spent far too much of my life the and several years involved in the design and development. I know every inch, every corridor and the rationale behind the design and layout of every space. I have blueprints for everything know exactly what was intended throughout.
Whilst I can certainly attest that this building provides an elaborate, luxurious and award-winning environment to guests it does not easily lend itself to being summarised in only 3 or 4 images. In fact the initial brief for the properties redevelopment was to create a wide variety of spaces to give the impression the property appears far larger than it actually is. This is my principal reason for rejecting images in this series for submission into assignment 3. Nevertheless it worth reviewing what I did photograph:
Image 1 shows the opulent luxurious lobby as designed and presented to guests. What you don't see the guests and I feel that this is the lifeblood of any hotel (you're probably starting to guess what industry I'm in.) What also missing is any type of context. Is this a city hotel, visiting the mountains by the sea? We just can't tell from the photo and again I felt this was a reason for excluding this building from the series. Image two shows a different part of the lobby and here it's filled to bursting with guests. This is a hotel in action. By contrast image 3 shows an empty ballroom. During my walkabout I was fascinated to discover avast ballroom populated with just one banqueting table. My image shows how lonely it looks through the double doors and under the chandeliers. I couldn't begin to guess what's taking place here. Perhaps a menu tasting or meal space for photographer, wedding planner or somesuch participating and in an event in an adjacent ballroom. Either way I couldn't resist the opportunity of this photograph, handheld at 1/30 of the second and 2000 ISO. Image for shows the bedroom of the Commander-in-Chief suite, recently occupied by Barrack Obama himself. Unfortunately this image doesn't really connect to the previous 3.
All in all, an interesting collection but not effective enough to meet the brief. Rejected.
The following buildings are included in my final selection for assignment iii.
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My cousin lives on houseboat Cecilia, tied up on the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge. Over the years she and her fiancé have made it their home where they pursue their passion for the River and food (Charlie is a chef). Having visited the houseboat on several occasions I knew it and the occupants very well. It did not take long to research because I was so familiar with the boat layout and how the occupants personalities had suffused throughout the spaces.
Unfortunately it was impossible to research how the boat was designed as it has been bought and sold many times over since being originally commissioned: no one remembers who the shipbuilder was. Nevertheless the layout focuses on 2 principal areas, namely the aft deck and the galley. My cousin is a chef so you would be forgiven in thinking that she had installed such a grand and elaborate galley herself. However the boat came with the installed galley when she moved in. With these 2 key features in mind I wanted to illustrate with my photographs how important cooking and entertaining is to Charlie and her fiancé. I know for a fact that the spaces work well from the many social events Charlie hosts from her unique vantage point overlooking the River. Clearly the river also needs to be an important part of the story.
So my focus was to wait for a warm summers day when I could illustrate the attractiveness of the outdoor space, whilst demonstrating something of the boat owners personalities. I did not want to include either Charlie or her fiancé as I felt they would over-dominate the spaces. I'm happy that image 1 presents a warm, welcoming feel to the aft deck. The seating is presented casually, it's surrounded by a makeshift or pop-up Garden. Together they overlook the River and provide a sense of the views that can be enjoyed from this elevated space. The railings, ladder and flagpole all hint at a nautical theme.
Image 2 highlights the casual and informal approach to on-board living. Large windows allow the occupants to enjoy water views in several directions. Quirky decor cast about in a haphazard way provide a suggestion of the relaxed, informal approach to shipboard living. Wooden planking on floors, walls and furniture hint at the nautical theme. Image 3 highlights the kitchen. A Butler's sink takes pride of place and again the space is cluttered with informal chaos. The stack of cookery books and wine bottles convey the importance of the space to Charlie.
I've removed images 4 and 5 from the selection as I don't believe they really add anything significant to the story. (Image for both convey something of a nautical theme more so than image 5) yet I didn't feel either were sufficiently strong to include in this submission.
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There's a disused barn not far from where I live. I've always been fascinated by it, watching it being slowly consumed by ivy and nettles. I've not been able to determine the original use but I expect it used to hold pigs or cattle. There are 6 doors, one at each corner and one in the centre of each end. Internally there is a central walkway which runs the full length of the interior. Either side of this is a trough which perhaps reveals the original purpose of this building. The interior looks as though it has been subdivided into smaller pens at some stage. Metal braces on the roof supporting pillars have slots into which plywood partitions were once inserted to create these pens of around 3 m x 3 m. On the outward side (i.e. adjacent to the windows) of these enclosures is a small step down which leads to the doors in each corner of the building. Finally an exhaust system or extractor in the roof provides the final clue.
However I've not been to find any evidence on the Internet but the building was actually used for. Although Google Earth shows the building from the sky in 1945 the image is far too blurry to make out any detail. The barn is abandoned and other than the physical evidence within, there does not seem to be anything around the structure to illustrate its purpose other than the field it sits in. However I find the construction somewhat surprising if the purpose was to house animals. If pigs or cows, why flimsy plywood partitions? Why install stable doors, which indicate horses rather than anything else? If the barn was intended for any type of battery farming, why windows and why make the windows more like those found in a garden shed? Finding 7 or 8 bags of chicken food doesn't help my pig or cattle theory, but the building does not make any type of sense at all for chicken farming. All in all quite puzzling.
However on the assumption that some type of animal was housed or stabled here the layout seems sensible. Animals are held within some type of enclosure or partition, food and/or water can easily be provided to the troughs, supervision can be given from the central walkway and my assumption is that waste can be removed from the outer corridors. Finally the extraction system will be of practical benefit for all. So as a building design I would say that it is successful. The fact that it is now abandoned and being swallowed into the surrounding countryside just to adds the overall mystery and interest.
So my first task in this part of the assignment was to photograph the building from outside. I wanted to show the shape of the building, the context and how dilapidated it was. I also wanted to demonstrate how the building is being lost as it's slowly consumed by Ivy. The 2nd image demonstrates the symmetrical structured layout of the interior. I've scribbled some notes about the photoprocessing needed but overall the image shows a neat, will ordered, but nonetheless empty interior. Image 3 was an attempt to show the interior from a different perspective noting how many of the diagonal lines were in contrast to one another. This has not worked so successfully and I've rejected it from my final selection. My final image shows an assortment of forgotten junk (including the chicken food) in the darkest and dustiest corner. I couldn't resist adding some flash from outside the windows to illustrate the shape, cobwebs and highlight the texture of the tin roof.
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A luxury apartment on Mexico's Cancun coast is the next building featured in this assignment. Initially built as part of an elaborate residence, this apartment forms part of a grand estate hidden away from view. According to the hoteliers I was visiting, the original residence was conceived and built by Spanish family, the mother of whom built a 2nd, private, stairway down from her bedroom. The additional staircase was used to spirit away her nocturnal visitors. I decided against photographing that particular building as it was a complex assortment of outdoor spaces that really didn't help to show off a building in use. Instead I settled for this luxury and somewhat sterile apartment which sits within the estate.
The layout of the apartment is simple, geometric and clean, very reminiscent of modern Catalan homes and very much in keeping with the owner's tastes. I noted how the white reflective surfaces, light wells and clean lines enhanced the lightness of the interior and it was this I wanted to illustrate more than anything. Because this entire apartment is a hideaway surrounded by trees and jungle I investigated the idea of incorporating the exterior into the images. However the thick shrubbery surrounding the building was not terribly conducive to exploring on foot and in any event the building was easily lost from view only a few metres into the undergrowth.
So instead I wanted to concentrate on the interior to make use of the light, clean lines. I found the bright and airy interior to have a cooling effect. I imagined adding carpets or rugs to the floor a noted in my mind how these would over dominate space and raise the temperature. Yet I also noted how the few pieces of furniture and other objects were enhanced and emphasised by the blank campus in which they sat. Shape and texture was also emphasised in such a simple setting.
It was these factors but I wanted to highlight in my photographs. Image 1 illustrates a series of geometric shapes each repeating within the other. The overall bulk of the chair is repeated in the stone archway and this in turn is repeated again in the window and alcoves beyond. Yet the curved arms and legs of the chair sitting contrast to the regular, rectangular shapes elsewhere. Even the golden lamp stands out because of its contrasting shape.
Image two emphasises these geometric shapes further. One half of the bathroom is symmetrically identical to the other. There is little colour yet the overall effect is relaxed, luxurious and effective. Would you pay $1,000 per night for a bathroom like this? People do.
Image 3 introduces some variety. There is more colour, diagonal lines and, dare I say it, curves. Texture in the bed's drapery with the small bow detail add a luxurious touch. The red throw and table lamp provide some contrast to the stark interior. One minor annoyance is the window frame behind the bed which is somewhat distracting. This will be removed from the submitted image.
All in all these images convey the feeling of light, relaxed sophistication. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, yet altogether a pleasing space.
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Westfield shopping centre in West London was my target for this next building. I've visited it many times and there's plenty of information online about its layout and look. Like most people I've visited several shopping centres over the years and can easily determine how well or how badly Westfield's been designed. Shopping centres have one singular purpose and that is to deliver people to retail stores and allow them to shop in comfort. Transportation and car parking are paramount. If shoppers can't reach the centre conveniently and quickly everything else is pointless. However I didn't want focus on this aspect of the shopping centre, concentrating instead on the retail experience within it.
Being able to walk, browse and shop in climate controlled comfort is another vital aspect for shopping centres to deliver. If they can keep shoppers warm and dry, if they can provide additional reasons to visit (such as Cinema, restaurants and bars) and if they can extend their opening hours late into the evening, shoppers will stay and spend money. Westfield have understood the importance of natural light. They go to great lengths and enormous cost to provide as much of it as they can throughout much of the retail experience. This was not always the case with modern shopping and one only needs to look back as far as Brent Cross (North London), which opened in the mid-1970s, to see how the developers were more interested in controlling cost than providing daylight when the Centre first opened. Building a solid concrete box with no windows is far cheaper then creating the same building with windows. By the mid-90s this was rectified at huge expense when the centre finally acknowledged how they were losing business simply because customers felt too removed from daylight.
So my first task was to research the building and I did this with a simple Google search for 'Westfield shopping centre images'. This gave me an indication of how the architects used natural light and demonstrated the importance of including large social spaces within the centre. In essence the developers have created the community feel with a large atrium often filled with fashion shows, displays and exhibitions. This focal point is enhanced on 2 sides with restaurants, bars and cinema. It's only on the periphery where retail spaces begin. But of course retail is the prime purpose of the centre and care has been taken to maximise the density of retail space with double loaded corridors (i.e. shops on both sides) wherever possible. Large anchor tenants are positioned in strategic points and the entire layout is designed to funnel shoppers from the main transportation entry points. This last fact is confirmed with a look at Google Earth where we can see how important Westfield's position is in relation to local transportation links.
Once again I wanted to focus on a certain aspect of the building and in this case it was the shoppers retail experience I wanted to illustrate. Having completed my research I felt confident in adding Westfield to my list in knowing that it was also a place where I could comfortably take photographs of the people needed to illustrate the story without being conspicuous (reference OCA photography 1, People & Place, Project: a comfortable situation). At least that's what I thought at the time. As described in my introduction I spent plenty of time just sitting, watching and waiting to really get a sense of how shoppers moved and browsed. Whilst I wasn't able to pick specific advantage points I was then able to circulate waiting for the right opportunity to capture the images I wanted.
My initial selection of images from the shopping centre showed a variety of different events. I immediately decided to remove the image of people arriving into the centre is it really did not say very much. Whilst I like the lighting and leading lines of the sole shopper walking to the camera, I again removed it as it showed little context. So my final submission includes 4 images. In the 1st we shall see shoppers laden with bags moving from one shop to another. The skylight and daylight above illustrate the comfort and convenience of their retail experience. There's enough interest in context of the background to set the scene. As I put in my note it is a little posed (although it was not) one could easily see this image forming part of an advertisement for the centre. Image 2 shows the broad open spaces of the indoor ‘streets’. Escalators climb into the sky there is a hint of many levels of retail delight. The curves and reflections together with gentle tones illustrate a cocoon like gentleness created to comfort and woo shoppers. Why would you ever want to leave? I like image 3 with a shopper outside a darkened Prada storefront looks into the bright shiny interior at the treasures within. Image 4 presents a whimsical postscript to an exhausting trip to the shops.
It was only at the end of this exercise, when paying for the car park, that I realised the difficulty that concealed photography can bring. I was approached and stopped by a centre security guard who wanted to know what I'd been up to. I hadn't noticed him during my 'rounds' but evidently he been watching me for some time and wanted to know, quite reasonably, why I had a concealed camera and what I was up to. Once a supervisor had viewed the images they both seem satisfied with the explanation given. luckily I had a suitable explanation to give! I'd like to research more about what my rights and entitlements are in such a situation. I've read separately that a photographer is not required to even show his images when asked but I don't actually know the extent of the law in this respect. Perhaps a suitable section on this should be added to the People and Place module.
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In trying to come up with building ideas for this exercise I automatically thought of including residential property but I didn't want to go for the obvious approach. Having discovered a derelict building not too far from my home I realised this would be the perfect place to investigate in anticipation of a photo shoot. The house itself is in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire just off the main road. I've passed it many times, but because it's surrounded by dense shrubbery around the perimeter I hadn't realised that was not only vacant but also derelict. It was my wife and children who clued me in, as they had been slowly watching its destruction at the hands of local youths. I decided it was worth investigating.
The house sits about 3 acres of grass, now overgrown, and faces directly south. I paid a visit one afternoon in late summer expecting either yobs, tramps or at least boarded-up doors and windows. A sad comment on the dilapidated state of the building is that I encountered none of the above. The house is being completely stripped of everything even remotely useful. The door was ajar, windows were smashed and everything save the bathroom fixtures had been ripped out. Rubbish and graffiti was everywhere. Sad for the house but perfect for me.
During the course of that afternoon I investigated all of the rooms, checking the layout, orientation and purpose. Downstairs it was hard to identify the function of each room but it was reasonably easy to conclude which was the Lounge, drawingroom and kitchen. Upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms were more readily identifiable. Once upon a time this would have been a happy family home with ample room to live and play in a secluded yet safe environment. Rooms downstairs had garden access, upstairs well appointed bedrooms had enjoyable views towards open countryside. During my initial visit late afternoon turned to twilight casting a golden glow across everything. My conclusion was that the owner must have died without relatives or at least no one to inherit the building for it to have fallen into such unfortunate disrepair. In this part of the world a character home with land would be worth a significant sum of money. For it not to have sold or been redeveloped must suggest a sad and unfortunate story. I looked on Google Earth to see if I could identify when the building had fallen into disuse. From what I could determine this happen sometime between 2006 and 2010.
Nevertheless I realised I now had the perfect opportunity to tell more than one story, that of a happy home fallen on hard times. I returned for a 2nd inspection at an earlier time of day in order to view the impact morning light on the property, finally concluding that afternoon shoot would be best.
Image 1 shows the scale of the building from the front. The entrance is overgrown, garden furniture is strewn around haphazardly, windows are broken there is clear evidence of destruction within. Image 2 is taken at the top of the staircase. The ironic motto ‘home, sweet home’ is scrawled in graffiti which someone has rather defiantly crossed out. That both are written upon a suburban-styled floral wallpaper wallpaper at a poignant twist to the property's new use. Image 3 shows further destruction, identifying the new use office space to vagrants and hoodlums. Where once this garden door served as a threshold from an entrancing garden 2 family home it is now no more the blank canvas for a graffiti artist. I wanted to illustrate more of the emphasis of this graffiti on the house in my 4th image. Here I stepped into the scene and pretended to spray paint onto the walls. The hoodie, the debris and crowbar contrast starkly with the wallpaper, floral drapes and built-in furniture.
So does the design of this house succeed? As a suburban family home on the edge of the green belt overlooking countryside, undoubtedly. As an urban playground the local youths with nothing better to do then cause destruction of an otherwise elegant building, unfortunately.
Here's what I've learnt from this assignment:
What did I learn from the assignment?
- My initial approach was to look at buildings or spaces and try to find interesting images of the space. However I found this to be fairly unsatisfactory; I could photograph a space but I could not easily convey the purpose. Eventually I realised that the key was to convey a message about the space. I called these ‘stories’. Once I could identify a story, choosing the image to accompany it became much easier and more effective. With the derelict house, for example, the story was to show how a family home had become a forgotten pile of bricks.
- I also discovered that time rather than speed was of value when carrying out the exercise. Taking a considered approach to finding the story/building purpose was paramount in getting the shot. In many instances - the shopping centre in particular - the images couldn’t be rushed. My guess is that as my skills increase, the timescale reduces - but sometimes you still have to wait for the shot to ‘happen’.
- A return visit to the same location often yielded more information, and this in turn benefitted the overall result. Again, the shopping centre was a good example. In the case of the derelict house, it was a question of returning when the light was more appropriate for the result I wanted. (Since completing the assignment I have found an app called LightTrac: it shows the shadow length and direction for given objects (trees, buildings etc.) in your location at given times of year.)
- Including people was sometimes necessary to reveal the purpose of the space. I would have found it hard to convey the same story at the shopping centre without any people in the frame. Of course, the reverse is also true: some images - some stories - only work without people.
- So it then makes sense to say that, if circumstances require it, the story can and should change. Had I been on assignment with a tight deadline at Westfield but found no-one about (say late at night or during construction), I would have needed to choose a different approach.
- It took me time to understand all of the above. Once I’d prepared my shortlist, I had a natural inclination to rush out and start shooting the assignment. Again, a slow and considered approach was of benefit for many of the images. Yet many images in the People & Place module must benefit from spontaneity. The whole art of street photography is to photograph life as it happens. Witness Atget, Maier, Doisneau, Gay, Winogrand and others, all masters in this genre. But note how the couple with yellow trousers and striped top just seem to posed at the shopping centre. For this assignment I preferred to seek inspiration from the likes of Tuenissen, diCorcia and others.
All have been reviewed in the Photographers category in the Research section of my Learning Log (http://www.educatedfred.com/research_blog/research.html)
- Once you have the story clear in your mind, finding the images and shooting them is actually quite easy...