Brief 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. Think of this assignment as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor.There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter. Try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.
Having lived in the same city suburb and house most of my life, I was excited for this assignment. My first two ideas – a series of environmental portraits of local people, or exploring the area with my son who is now the same age I was when I moved to the area – were both scuppered by the outbreak of Covid-19.
During the global pandemic we became mostly housebound and so I observed my immediate surroundings, showing my everyday family life during this period of history.
I wanted each frame to tell a story and collectively show a true portrayal of our lockdown experience when combined as a series.
I found truthfully documenting moments surprisingly hard to execute; feeling I was exposing our flaws in the images. Escaping society’s carefully orchestrated social media photos showing ‘perfect lives’ was challenging, I wanted to either discard photos not showing us at our best, or move subjects to create a more favourable composition.
When Martin Parr mentioned how fashion often now substitutes glamour for authenticity (1854 Presents: Martin Parr, s.d.) it resonated with me, and it felt more comfortable to approach my images with a sense of authenticity over perfection.
The varying light sources within my home proved challenging, often resulting in underexposed photos from exposing to the highlights. Sometimes, in the example of the image of my husband watching TV, this worked well and created a dark, ominous feel to the photograph while highlighting the bright and intense eye contact. In other images like that showing our two weeks worth of quarantine grocery shopping, the bright lights meant the cupboards were very dark and I had to pull them up during post processing. But without being able to see the cupboard contents the image context would be lost.
Having only two prime lenses, 35mm and 24mm, I was restricted when I wanted a wider lens to capture more of a scene, or in the case the pool image, a telephoto to get closer without risking getting wet! These framing difficulties, alongside shooting with the camera in full manual mode, meant I sometimes missed getting the image I envisioned in the moment whilst I was occupied with getting the composition and settings correct in camera.
I was inspired by Karen Knorr’s ‘Belgravia’ to add text in the form of a quote to each of my images. Although I would like to explore this idea further, in doing so I felt it confused the meaning in the series by adding an unnecessary narrative, so I omitted these.
Overall I felt the series came together well with the images different, yet having a similar feel, even with a mix of monochrome and colour images. I wanted to capture some of the different moods of lockdown with an overall comforting feeling of family, and I feel this series achieves this.