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This blog entry is a continuation of blog entry ‘Assignment 1’ Tuesday 19th August 2014 at https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/assignment-1/

In considering this Assignment I’m aware that it possesses a strong documentary element i.e. to show or ‘document’ a particular street as a place where people go to enjoy the leisure activity of shopping, and the alternative viewpoint of the street used as a place of work. If the aim was to produce a ‘purely documentary’ record then it would be a matter of pre visualising a number of ‘scenes’ and photographing them (see cormac513273 (2014a) for such a list). An example of ‘pure’ documentary is Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs documenting the manner in which a horse’s legs moved while it galloped – there is no need for narrative, merely seeing is enough (Travis 2003:88). What is absent is subjective expression (the aesthetic). City streets may be photographed with no documentary intent but purely for the aesthetics of the image (see fig.1.). In producing work for this Assignment I wish to combine the ‘documentary’ with the ‘aesthetic’ – the latter term is difficult to define but in this context includes photographic composition.

Many documentary photographers have successfully negotiated the demands of ‘documentary’ and ‘aesthetics’ in the same image (see for example fig.2.). Perhaps more relevant to my Assignment is the work of photographers such a Polly Braden (cormac513273, 2014b) or David Levene (cormac513273, 2014c) who each have done work in a modern city. For example Figure 3 is a photograph by Polly Braden that would fit with the aims of my project in that it is an image of people working in a city, and in my opinion it successfully combines the documentary with the aesthetic.

In producing the final two sets of images for this Assignment I’m mindful that each set must form a separate and distinct narrative. In this regard the Assignment’s  preliminary set of nine images (cormac513273, 2014d) relate to the ‘working’ aspect of the street and includes, in four of the nine images, an image of a person using a mobile phone (a flower seller, a workman, a sign holder, a sandwich board holder). In the context of the street the phone implies (or connotes) ‘work’ and reinforces the idea that the person is ‘at work’ (although on the street). Similarly, I intend shopping bags with department store logos to imply ‘shopping’. But this is to consider only the ‘documentary’ aspect, to achieve a visual narrative (i.e. images that will at some level engage the viewer) there are many more elements to consider.

The aim therefore is to produce both individually well composed images that collectively form (within each set) a harmonious whole. There is no formula to apply that can produce this. For example the preliminary set of images (above) was taken on an overcast day with few shadows. On another day I hope to use shadow and shade as a compositional element. If this proves successful I will consider photographing (perhaps one of the two sets) in black and white where this element has its strength. Such elements will present and reveal themselves in the course of photographing the Assignment. Here it is worth recalling Edward Weston on the subject of composition:

Good composition is only the strongest way of seeing the subject. It cannot be taught because, like all creative effort, it is a matter of personal growth. In common with other artists the photographer wants his finished print to convey to others his own response to his subject (Weston, 1965:175).

While acquiring the preliminary set of images (above) for this Assignment I walked up and down the street (a street that is familiar to me) attempting to ‘see’ it anew with my photographic aims in mind. My intention is to repeat this process, each time returning with a set of images for consideration and analysis.


cormac513273 (2014a)  Assignment 1 [online] OCA Learning Blog. Available at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/assignment-1/ (Accessed on: 04.10.14)

cormac513273 (2014b) Assignment 1 — other photographers — Polly Braden [online] OCA Learning Blog. Available at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/assignment-1-other-photographers-polly-braden/ (Accessed on: 04.10.14)

cormac513273 (2014c) Assignment 1 — other photographers  — David Levene [online] OCA Learning Blog. Available at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/assignment-1-other-photographers-david-levene/ (Accessed on: 04.10.14)

cormac513273 (2014d) Assignment 1 – photos #1 [online] OCA Learning Blog. Available at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/assignment-1-photos-1/ (Accessed on: 04.10.14)

Travis, David (2003) At the edge of the light. Thoughts on Photography and Photographers, on Talent and Genius. New Hampshire: David R Godine

Weston, Edward (1965) ‘Seeing Photographically’ In: Trachtenberg, R. (ed.) Classic Essays on Photography. Sedgwick ME: Leete’s Island Books pp. 169-175

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. cormac513273 (2014)  08140261 At: https://cormac513273.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/08140261-small.jpg (Accessed: 04.10.14)

Figure 2. Smith, W. Eugene (1951) His wife, daughter, granddaughter and friends have their last earthly visit with a villager. At: http://timelifeblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/17_00108813.jpg?w=720  (Accessed on: 01.10.14)

Figure 3. Braden, Polly (2007) Staff at a seafood restaurant gathering for a pep talk, 2007 At: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02167/Staff-gather-for-a_2167431k.jpg (Accessed on: 01.10.14)