Assignment one (self assessment)

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I spent considerable time before taking the images on planning what I wanted. I then visited the site beforehand to take quick snapshots to see if my ideas would ‘work’ without concentrating too much on technical skill, for example, at this stage I didn’t spend time setting up my tripod and didn’t seek to avoid camera shake particularly. I just wanted a rough feel for what the images may be like. I gained a lot from this actually so may make it a standard practice from now – a sort of trial beforehand. I then returned to the location when I had much more time available and really slowed down and concentrated on what I wanted to achieve.

Visually, for the two sets of images to work together I felt that there had to be a clear visual link so I made sure that there was evidence of the actual brickwork of the arches in all the photographs, and I purposely included the actual shape of an arch in the outdoor ones. If I had ventured even slightly further from the actual arches to capture more evidence of a social area then there would have been no visual connection between the sets. Both sets had to look like the same place.

First side of the story

The first ‘side’ of the story (the black and white images showing the area as menacing and unchanged) was from under the arches where there was limited light. I needed a long exposure so my tripod was essential. Where I needed to, I used my GorillaPod instead. I chose my wide angle lens to capture a feeling of space where someone could be hiding and watching and waiting. Avoiding people (it was actually quite busy so I had to wait for the right moments for people to pass me by) contributed to the lonely feel. I felt that monochrome was the only option to create a sense of unease as colour would have distracted from the mood. My images have a tonal range of mainly dark and mid, with only a small proportion of white, and I find that this adds to the menace.

Visually I looked for corners and hiding places and lonely areas and tried to create a  voyeuristic feel as though someone was waiting to pounce or someone was  being watched and was in danger.

I took images that included the flowing water of the River Aire but the resulting blurring and softening of the water from the long exposure was not consistent with the feel that I wanted to convey so these were rejected from my select. I did try a fast shutter to freeze the water in motion and though the image was pure black in camera, I hoped to expose it  in Photoshop later. I had some success with this and I was pleased that I tried to capture the image that I wanted rather than accept what was easy. Unfortunately the image (below) was too noisy to include in my assignment.

A photographer friend said that sometimes the images that we want are just not possible but it may work to take two images; one exposed for the water and one for the rest and then merge them together post camera. This could be something to look into in future.

I gained a great deal previously from the exercise I completed on black and white v colour see here and thought that the two mediums would compliment this assignment. The black and white images, I felt reflected the connections that the Dark Arches has with the Yorkshire Ripper and adds to the gloomy ambience. Colour would have been associated with an inappropriate cheerfulness.

Second side of the story

The second side of the story (the colour images showing a popular social hub) was from the side of the arches where there was more light. I kept with my wide angle lens and felt that there was still a need to use my tripod. This time, I wanted to take colour images to show the area as well used and popular. Including people in these images contributed to the welcoming feel and presented a well populated and safe area. Visually I wanted colour to show the coloured lighting in the roof structures that has been used to create a feature of the arches and to give a more cheerful and lively feel to the area.

Visually the primary colours from the roof lighting and the railway lockers and signage add a vibrancy to compliment the more cheerful approach. In my contact sheets there were a few mages that I rejected, but if the people in them had been wearing brighter colours, they may have worked. The images may have been improved if the day had been busier as crowds would have enhanced the social feel.

Quality of outcome

I have produce two sets of images that show very different sides of the same story. Any stranger to Leeds would see very different interpretations of the location. These are both ‘real’ images taken from real life but I have shown how the choices that I have made as a photographer will have a direct influence on how viewers understand the subject and will influence how they think of the Arches.

In both sets of images there is a linking theme as evidence of the arches can be seen in all images. I purposely included some element of the curved brickwork in the outdoor images as otherwise the two sets would have been disparate and not obviously linked. The two sets have a common physical link but their styles are in contrast in order to show their different messages. My consistency with my lens choice adds to the coherent link between the sets.

Throughout this part of the course I have learned that what is left out of the image is just as important as what is included and with the black and white series I purposely left out the people in spite of the tricky logistics of waiting for groups to pass and cyclist to move on. With the colour ones, I purposely included them, waiting for them to appear on stairs, escalators etc.

I feel that I have fulfilled the brief to show two sides of the same story. I have understood how a photograph is a point of view and a manipulation of reality and recognise that neither of my sets of images tells the whole story, or the truth.

Demonstration of creativity

I wanted to create two different scenarios and show two very different sides to the same place. Choosing the first series to be in monochrome and the second series to be in colour is a technique that I have not attempted before, in fact I have not previously used black and white in an assignment.

I have shown a story of the arches based on its link with the Yorkshire Ripper and although I don’t think Sutcliffe actually attacked in this exact area, it was certainly rumoured. As a result it became out of bounds as women feared for their lives in Yorkshire. I wanted to present a side of the arches as being relatively unchanged from the 80s with it still being an unwelcome and sinister place and contrast this with a series showing the development and attraction of the area. The second set needed to show the development that has taken place at the Arches including the new railway entrances and the more modern architecture as well as showing the area in use.

I do feel that my approach to this assignment has been perhaps a little predictable rather than inventive, however, I have attempted different viewpoints and contrasting messages and hope to have shown how the same ‘thing’ can be presented in such different ways as to manipulate the viewer. Interestingly, I do actually feel that I have started ‘thinking in pictures’ a bit more.

In the first set, I took the images from a viewpoint that could suggest that someone was covertly watching someone or waiting for someone. The images with walls in the foreground and those with railings close to the camera gave a sinister edge. In the second set I have used leading lines to drawn the viewer in to the image,  used colour to give a vibrancy to the area and included people and activity to show the area as safe and popular.

Context

My images were taken in the context of persuading a viewer to see the Arches in a particular way and of presenting different versions of the truth. My images tell conflicting stories about the area but both sets  are ‘real’. In reality, for every person that loves the Arches for their quirky uniqueness and social setting, there will be another who daren’t go there alone. My images reflect this difference in viewpoints; for a stranger to the City though, how would s/he decide whether to visit or not?

I feel that my learning in respect of documentary photography, manipulation and reality and truth has shown how it is possible for a photographer to really influence a viewer’s response by the choices that s/he make in camera and post production. Both my image sets are ‘true’ but they are so different from each other yet both equally convincing.

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