I had a great discussion with my tutor and feel very excited about the possibilities for this project. Wendy said I have made a good start and shared her thoughts on how best to move forward.
- The time of day/ light is not quite right for this project – Wendy thinks it needs to be dusk not full sun to convey time running out. [As I don’t want the images to be too dark, this narrowing my windows for shooting quite considerably. Needs further thought and exploration.]
- Be careful of it being “too happy clappy” – it is a community on the edge and is about to tip over. [I think this can be achieved with a range of subject matter and an over-emphasis on the non-utopian images.]
- Avoid too much street art/graffiti – boring and commercialised. Lazy, shorthand for something else. [This may be difficult as the street art is a big part of the overall aesthetic of the gardens and provides some rich colour which I love. It will be interesting to explore and experiment here to test how much can be removed without losing a key part of the character of the place.]
- Portraits could be the anchor for the rest of the work – telling stories about individuals. Experiment with staged portraiture – a neutral backdrop, using a reflector to set up a mini-studio – uniformity will help tie the series together and provide a contrast to the busy shots. [I had already planned to make staged portraits although not with a white paper backdrop as Wendy suggested. I like the idea of the uniformity and a relatively neutral background but not sure about white paper. Definitely needs some exploring.]
- Wendy agreed that it is good to have a goal and potential exhibition space in mind from the outset as this helps to visualise outcomes. [For me this is Rich Mix arts centre on Bethnal Green Road and/or Allen Gardens or the NCG itself. An inside show would allow for the rich content I envisage – maps, found objects, layers of imagery; an outside show would need to be extremely robust to withstand ‘vandalism’, ironically.]
- Looking at different ways of capturing communities will be key to my visual research. [This is already happening but needs ramping up.]
- Aim to frequently distill what I am trying to do down into 300 words – what do I really want to say? Keep reminding myself what I want to express about the NCG. [This is key as I still have not distilled this. Am keeping an open mind as I know it will come but may require some structured analysis/introspection to get to this.]
- Clarity over what is my subject (the meta subject)?
- Research: Edmund Clark, Chloe Dewi Matthews, Clare Richardson, Lucas Foglia (and other documentary photographers using innovative strategies to tell stories, esp using time of day and colour temperature to create mood; also photographers looking at ‘utopian’ communities and those on the edges)
- Research: Guy Martin, The Parallel State (find the book, if possible – v expensive!)
- Research: other ‘meanwhile’ places; community gardens/allotments that have closed (e.g when the Olympic village was built) – campaigns and protests; Wendy’s cookbook?
- Research: London being so focused on capitalism and commerce resulting in the dispersal of those outside that sphere
- Research: Rudolph Steiner/Camphill movement
- Photograph from a more distant perspective – from a higher vantage point ideally to help visualize the whole structure [ask on the Next Door site or on FB if anyone knows anyone in the flats overlooking the NCG; try to use the cherry picker when the street art festivals happen]
- Start to group the printed images to identify what is missing and how better to tell the stories with a blend of portraiture, landscape and still life
- For consideration: would it be too heavy-handed to have clusters of images at three different times of day to support the narrative – sunshine, dusk, darkness?
- Experiment more with using colour to convey mood
- Interview some of the key staff/volunteers at the gardens
- Print some images and model release forms to have ready when approaching potential sitters for the portraiture
- Get business cards made up with images of the gardens and my Instagram url
My excitement following a great tutorial and positive feedback was tempered slightly by a difficult encounter with someone reacting badly to me taking their photograph in the NCG on Sunday. I like to think that my ethics are sound but in reality, I still do sometimes (often!) take photos of people without asking their permission. This is mostly for practical reasons and I don’t want to change the dynamic by making anyone feel self-conscious or under pressure to look a certain way. But sometimes it is because they look scary and/or I don’t want to risk them saying no.
More on this when I have had chance to collect my thoughts.
All in all, I feel like I am in a good place and I am looking forward to progressing this body of work. Probably ought to start reading some books now too….