WiP #8

I produced another composite with the same framing, based on an original composite of the same location. I happen to feel this particular location is quite strong in terms of juxtaposing the old and the new. In my mind this is a way of symbolising change is taking place within an area. The sleek, modern aesthetics of the block of flats on the left of the frame show they can’t have been there too long, while the disused, dilapidated pub in the centre/right of the frame is clinging on to existence in its present state.

I suppose it could be argued that change isn’t shown explicitly within one frame but that’s where the diptychs/grids I am proposing to utilise come in. Here, gradual or drastic change can be shown, depending on the rate of change and the duration of the project. It’s true enough that the modern flats on the left probably won’t change much in a long time but they act as a good contrast to what was a pub and any developments that may occur there. For example in this image, more graffiti has appeared since the last time I photographed it, which adds to the sense of neglect. As well as this the shrubbery surrounding the right of the pub has been left to grow further, hiding some of the pub’s old sign. For me this signifies abandonment and makes the pub look older.

WiP - 51º28'55.294"N 0º0'52.564"W, January 2020 - Version 1
WiP – 51º28’55.294″N 0º0’52.564″W, January 2020 – Version 1

Incidentally I am not sure which of the two versions of this composite I am showing works best. In the second version a person in a red jacket riding a bike is present while in the first, she is omitted. My reasoning for including the bicyclist in the second version was to complement the red graffiti present on the top of the old pub. Now I’m not so sure this figure is necessary.

WiP - 51º28'55.294"N 0º0'52.564"W, January 2020 - Version 2
WiP – 51º28’55.294″N 0º0’52.564″W, January 2020 – Version 2

A big question I’ve been asking myself recently is: do the people that make up the composite add anything to the locations I’ve chosen? In some cases I can’t see they show change other than there being different people within each composite. However, on some occasions they add character and on rare occasions they add to the sense of change. For example in this composite the three people carrying paint buckets in each hand are strong indicators of change; with the implication being that something is about to be painted! The pub above them probably isn’t what they are going to paint/change but the visual juxtaposition could hint at this for viewers of the composite. I think I was lucky to achieve this juxtaposition and in my opinion it was characterful that the three of them were walking in a line with the paint buckets in each hand; it looked quite staged but in fact was a happy accident.

Therefore I feel my composite approach to photographing people in scenes is vindicated sometimes; it would be more useful if I am somehow overlooking a way where the composite approach would add something consistently. I did experiment with arranging people in the composites differently in Assignment 3 and the work leading up to it. I still see the composites as a way of constructing the image but I am finding it difficult to incorporate them as a symbol of change rather than just adding to the social ambience or character of the image. One of my tutors did make me think quite hard about what constructing the image by arranging people within the composite said about my attitude to Deptford/its regeneration or change in general. Was I trying subconsciously to construct an idealised world of Deptford through composites and in turn did this mean I felt that its change was a good thing?

I had to think hard about my response to this incisive question and look at what I had produced so far for the project repeatedly. The spacing of the people (there is no criss-crossing of figures in the street) along with generally catching people as they are walking on their split-step does indicate an idealised world visually. There are practical reasons for both these compositional strategies including easier to produce composite images and the split-step ‘decisive moment’ trope actually being quite practical in requiring lower shutter speeds while also appearing visually pleasing. However the case remains, my research conducted in my literature review contradicts what my images seem to be symbolising. While reading Minton’s Ground Control (2012), I analysed ‘secured by design’ and ‘defensible space’ concepts and drew a conclusion that it created disharmony between the rich and the poor in gated communities evident in places like Deptford. My images (so far) seem to contradict this particular bit of research which could be problematic for the consistency of the body of work and the contextual studies moving forwards.

WiP - Diptych of 51º28'55.294"N 0º0'52.564"W
WiP – Diptych of 51º28’55.294″N 0º0’52.564″W

Two potential solutions to this problem occurred to me as I looked at the photographs. One remedy is to make the compositions uneasy through the arrangement and spacing of the people – at least with some of the locations which show evidence of gated communities. I did think as I was making a few of the composites that they appeared too balanced and almost picturesque. I already can see that adopting a composition where the people are centred in the middle of the frame and close together generates some uneasiness (as can be seen in WiP #4 and WiP #7). Not only does this strategy make the balance of the people within the scene look less harmonious, the surrounding buildings are given greater importance. An alternative to this strategy might be simply photographing some people as they are looking down to the ground as a sign of disenchantment with the changes taking place.

Of course the first solution is taking for granted that my position on the changes occurring in Deptford are largely negative. I am of the opinion currently that certain changes have been negative (see Research into Deptford’s Regeneration post) while other changes (both past and current) are largely positive. The other solution (which incorporates the first solution) consists of listening to my own personal feelings about any change in Deptford (which is the changes are both negative and positive) and revising the project to reflect that. This would mean making only some of the composite locations appear unbalanced, reflecting negativity and keeping other locations appearing harmonious, reflecting positivity. The literature review and extended essay could also talk both negatively and positively abut change in response to this.

I would say WiP #8 did produce another strong composite, although perhaps quite a balanced one. The composite did make me think about how I incorporate people and the composite approach into the images. I do think I rambled a bit on a divergent theme to how the post started. However, I feel it was important to do this as I can now see potential solutions to incorporating people into the landscape images, without opposing the theories I am developing for Contextual Studies.

References:

Minton, A. (2012) Ground Control. (2nd ed.) London: Penguin Books Ltd.

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