Assignment Five – Photography is simple
Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.
Assignment 5 – Fatal Consequences
This project documents the routine journey along the A2 between Faversham and Teynham, Kent.
The A2 varies from National Speed limits to 30 mph zones with numerous junctions to small hamlets. In total 6 fatal accidents have claimed the lives of 8 people since 2004. However, thousands of people travel this route daily without incident and I have documented the uneventful sections as well as the locations of the fatalities.
Why this project and why the interest in Traffic Collisions? I gradually started to notice the number of ‘roadside shrines’ that had appeared along the stretch of the A2 between my home and Teynham including other surrounding roads.
As I researched this project I was shocked by the amount of fatal collisions in a relatively short stretch of the A2. I started this story at my home, where the first fatal collision occurred in 2004 where the driver lost control of his vehicle, collided with a pole and finally demolishing my neighbour’s wall. Sadly, both driver and passenger were killed.
I retired as a Police Constable in 2014 from the Metropolitan Police Service. I witnessed many road traffic collisions both on and off duty, some fatal. I was unable to recreate the exact conditions e.g. light, traffic conditions, viewpoints for all of the scenes. Referring to archive newspapers’ I attempted to take photographs from the same perspectives’ and viewpoints’ much in the same way Mark Klett approached the Third View, Re-photographic Survey Project.
I have encompassed the whole route from the first fatal scene to the last scene to tell the whole story with or without incident
When I really stopped though, looked closely and examined each scene I found evidence of tiny objects’ left behind some to remember those who had died or previous skid marks and impressions on the road surface.
The objects had weathered, faded or some almost disintegrated, other sites were well-tended, elaborate and adorned. But their mark has been left long after those fatal decisions were made with fatal consequences.
I found researching the accidents in this assignment quite a task as I needed to search through archive newspapers and cross-reference collison data. My research can be found here.
Electronic PDF Book
BBC News(2013) ‘Driver jailed over cyclist death’, 27 February. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-21609292(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Car crash leaves man fighting for life(2009) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/car-crash-leaves-man-fighting-fo-a49001/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Cyclist dies after lorry accident(2016) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sittingbourne/news/breaking-serious-accident-closes-a2-90921/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Ghostbikes(2014) Ghostbikes. Available at: http://www.http://ghostbikes.org(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
‘Ghost bike’ shrine to cyclist killed in crash(2014) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/deal/news/ghost-bike-shrine-to-cyclist-26899/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Graeme Weston — Photojournalist – Mostly left turns(no date) Graeme Weston — Photojournalist. Available at: https://www.graemeweston.uk/mostly-left-turns(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Halloween bike crash victim named(2014) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/faversham/news/familys-tribute-to-beloved-son-26576/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Lupton, E. and Maryland Institute, College of Art (eds) (2008) Indie publishing: how to design and produce your own book. 1st ed. New York : Baltimore: Princeton Architectural Press ; Maryland Institute College of Art (Design briefs).
Kyle Coen death(2013) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sittingbourne/news/kyle-coen-death-in-bapchild-was–a53286/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
‘Mostly Left turns’ (2017), 157(1).
Press & Commentary(no date) Joel Sternfeld. Available at: https://www.joelsternfeld.net/press/(Accessed: 29 July 2018).
Two die in A2 horror crash(2004) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/faversham/news/two-die-in-a2-horror-crash-a12743/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Tributes to loving family man who died in crash(2015) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sittingbourne/news/motorcyclist-badly-hurt-in-a2-42781/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
Rephotographic Survey Project(no date) MARK KLETT. Available at: http://www.markklettphotography.com/rephotographic-survey-project/(Accessed: 17 July 2018).
Sea Lemon (no date) DIY Japanese Bookbinding Tutorial | 4-Hole | Sea Lemon. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-r6c_trSxY(Accessed: 17 July 2018).
Seven years for driver who killed his two friends(2016) Kent Online. Available at: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/sittingbourne/news/seven-years-for-driver-who-117575/(Accessed: 10 July 2018).
alan sillitoe, black and white, country park, external context, Fay Godwin, Landscape, mans influence, nick ut, north kent, original context, reculver roman fort, robert doisneau, terry barrett, the saxon shore way
Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.
I researched as part of the exercise the PDF essay ‘Photographs and Context’ written by Terry Barrett.
In essence he explains that there are three contexts’. The Internal, External and Original Context.
The Internal context is evident within the photograph and therefore should not really need any explanation. The example used for this is a photograph for an advert where the ingredients to create and Italian dish and Italian wording against the backdrop imply that it has “Italianicity.” The connotation that the ingredients would be fresh sealed in packaging be that glass or a can.
The External context I thought was rather interesting. I learnt that in 1958, Robert Doisneau took a photograph in a café entitled ‘At the Café, Chez Fraysse, Rue de Seine, Paris’. The couple consented to being photographed and the photograph was later published in a magazine devoted to cafes. However, sometime later the same photograph was published without permission demonising alcohol abuse.
Again, the photograph was published for a third time but without permission and appeared in a French scandal sheet entitled, “Prostitution in the Champs-Elyees”. Needless to say that the male in the photograph successfully sued the publication.
So, without knowing the first two versions and publications you could be forgiven that this was the first publication and had been taken totally out of context. Needless to say, the male in the photograph successfully sued and was awarded compensation. It has since appeared at the MOAM.
It has gained a place in the history of art and has been presented, received and interpreted in many ways by others. Therefore, the context in which it appears defines the meaning of the photograph itself.
Original context has to contain something which was present either physically or psychologically at the time the photographer intended to take the photograph.
The key here is that firstly the photographer intended to take the photograph in the first place and that the second ingredient has to be present e.g. a something physically present. Without either of these then the definition of an Original context doesn’t apply.
Barrett talks about Nick Ut’s example photograph of a young naked Vietnamese girl running away from the fields set ablaze by napalm with American soldiers in the background. It is without a doubt a haunting and harrowing photograph and we can only imagine how the child felt. I know what war and conflict feel like I have been there in Kuwait and Iraq. It is neither pleasant or welcoming. The images I have seen will never be erased from my mind and in a way neither can you do it when you have seen Ut’s photograph. Whilst we do not know the circumstances that surround the photograph it has become a synonymous with the Vietnam conflict. (Nick Ut, no date). If you have the knowledge and history that appertains to this photograph, like many other examples then it makes more sense and is more than just a photograph of war involving children.
I chose to pay ‘homage’ to Fay Godwin. Godwin, documented the changing landscape and how inaccessible the land had become to the general public. She was a self taught photographer, who started her career taking portraits but quickly moved into the countryside. She wrote several books ‘Our Forbidden Land’, Land and many others but by far a personal favourite a signed copy and first edition of The Saxon Shoreway From Gravesend to Rye written by Alan Sillitoe. Godwin accompanied him photographing the 140 mile walk.
The chapter Along the Wantsum and in particular Reculver appealed immediately to me. I have a love hate relationship with Reculver. It is of historic national and local importance and in my opinion an ancient monument and should be treated as such by the general public, but I find it heart-breaking to see children climbing over the ruins with little or no respect. I love that we are able to get up close and appreciate it but with that comes the price of commercialism
Reculver Roman Ruins and Towers are a short 20 minute drive from my home. Reculver is now a country park managed by Canterbury City Council. A great deal has changed since Godwin and Sillitoes walked past and if Godwin was to re-visit today she would be horrified to not only see the expanded caravan parks but the visitor centre, play area and pay and display car parks encouraging coach loads of visitors to a fragile part of the North Kent Coast.
Sillitoe described it (Reculver) as “Reculver is surrounded by caravan parks – Caranville with a vegenance.” I fear that it was too late then as he goes onto to explain, “I hope no calor-gas bottle outside each tethered living van will explode, because if one does, so will the next, and I will clearly regret not being alive by the end to have witnessed a spectacular example of the domino theory in practice.” (Sillitoe and Godwin, 1983)
Godwin photographed the expanse of the caravan park surrounding the Roman towers, which resonated with my recent visit in my specially adapted wheelchair vehicle. The recent installation of a height barrier to the old car park and creation of a new open car park, with restrictions was the idea and inspiration for this exercise. Often Godwin photographs signs, which are direct in their message or show man’s interference on the landscape usually to its detriment and contain ‘Original context’. Her use of monochrome is appealing and removes the distraction for me and focuses the viewers’ attention to the important parts of the photograph. Although Godwin did later use colour film and a flatbed scanner for me the early work is by far her strongest photography.
I took a walk around the site from the entrance searching for a viewpoint that echoed the caravan park and the negative impact it had on the landscape; but because the place has changed so much I was unable to replicate the viewpoint and had to work back from the entrance to the more public areas searching for an original context photograph.
The entrance to the Country Park now has rather posh wooden sleeper sign mounted with metallic letter, which lit up when the sunset hits it and creates low shadows across the car park. The sign welcomes visitors but juxtaposed is the formal sign erected adjacent and three times the size outlining the pay and display rules and policies apply. Rather interesting for me is the disabled rules and regulations are so extensive that they are condensed in size and make rather difficult reading from a distance and inaccessible as the sign is mounted in the verge facing the entrance rather than the car park. Are we really welcome???
The next layer is the new welcome centre and café and further into the distance the towers and Roman ruins the commercialism spreads like a disease from the old photograph taken by Godwin.
The North Kent Coast has become something of a wind farm mecca and the increase to harness wind power is now more important than ever. I came across a sign containing information about the wind farm, which can be seen in the distance on the horizon from the edge of Reculver.
I selected the final image – “Welcome?” as my photograph in homage to Godwin’s photograph of Reculver.
Perhaps and just perhaps nature will reclaim it all as it did with the village that is now submerged in the sea who knows?
Nick Ut(no date) World Press Photo. Available at: https://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/nick-ut(Accessed: 3 July 2018).
Sillitoe, A. and Godwin, F. (1983) The Saxon shore way: from Gravesend to Rye. London: Hutchinson.
Ut, N. (2017) ‘Nick Ut: a career in photography – in pictures’, The Guardian, 30 March. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/mar/30/nick-ut-a-career-in-photography-in-pictures(Accessed: 5 July 2018).
Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.
I examined the wording of this task perhaps too closely. I googled the definition of empathy as defined the Oxford English Dictionary. It states, ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ (as in both authors have the skill to make you feel empathy with their heroines),’
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.
I prefer the second definition as being more relevant from a photographic point of view. Whilst the exercise seems to be straight forward for most finding my subject took a little more thought and ‘the distance between us’ I have empathy with my bees, but practically photographing beekeeping just isn’t feasible. My pets, which include dogs and cats are usually spread around the home and beyond and with limited mobility this was impractical. I also have a bond with my animals and to some extent my bees so I ruled this out.
I asked myself what do I have empathy with around my home? What do I have a distance from? Since my retirement four years ago I am still surrounded by reminders of my past and my old careers with the RAF, Police Service and Prison Service. In fact, as I write the exercise I am looking at my old police whistle hanging around the desk lamp. In my hallway a certificate of service and memorabilia adorn the walls. I am proud to have served not just my country but the public and feel quite privileged to have done so. Life didn’t turn out the way I hoped, and I found myself quite isolated because of the MND.
The front of my home is surrounded by poppies at the moment, which fronts a very busy ‘A’ road. A road that has seen tragic accidents over the years including two fatalities in our own garden when a car lost control and the occupants were killed. I look at the road from my lounge but I am somehow detached from it yet I engage with it everyday.
This gave me the idea of how to approach this exercise.
The humble poppy was written in a poem by Major John McCrae.
‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I have a huge connection to the poppy and all it represents. So, using a combination of viewpoints from both the front garden looking out to the road and from the road looking back towards my home I took a sequence of photographs. Some were timed and others unplanned and as it turned out the most fortunate accident happened.
I didn’t particularly worry about the traffic as it is such a busy road that I would spend all day and even then, not eliminate the traffic from the shot. So, I used this to my advantage to create a sense of movement that time does not stand still. I did not want a static look to the final images. In the wall of our home we have a red post box and this I felt had a connection to the poppy that they communicate so much to so many people. The passing red car was a bonus in one of the photographs.
My first set of shots I stood at the pathway leading to the front gate and framed the poppy quite low in the frame. I waited until traffic started to pass to encourage a breeze and make the poppy drift in the wind. The flower blurred as did the traffic behind. (Image 1 &2)
A bus passed and filled the frame. The shutter speed was fairly quick, and I tried to maintain the same perspective as the first few shots with the poppy in the lower left-hand corner. The lavender plants and the hard wall fill the first third of the frame and although the brown fence sits on the periphery of the left I don’t find it particularly distracting if anything it’s as if it represents soil. (Image 3) I feel that the quote, ‘Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.’
My fortunate accident was that the bus has a poster with the words, ‘June 6 – LIFE FINDS A WAY’. Although slightly blurry its legible. The bus fills the second part of the frame within the framing and beyond is the impression of a landscape beyond.
D-Day is the June 6thand significant to the poppy remembering those who have fallen. The wording ‘Life finds a way’. The poppy always seems to find a way to grow no matter how poor the soil or how tough the conditions. Like myself I find a way in my life to succeed and overcome obstacles with my condition.
The poppy, grows, blooms and sets seed in a very short space of time and is very fragile. Life is fragile, and we grow into our lives before we die and pass away but we are never truly forgotten until the last person who remembers you has gone. The bus is on a journey and taking its passengers to a destination along a route.
I looked away from my garden gate towards the distance and as a passing car left the frame and took a few shots. When I reviewed them, I noticed how the two poppies echoed the rear red lights of the cars. (Image 4 & 5)
The intention of filling a frame with seed heads and pink poppies against the brown fence was to represent the soil. I realised that to give this more depth I had to cross the road and take a sequence of shots. I think this is the weakest image but tells part of the sequence and therefore I have included it. (Image 6)
This is quite scary for me as I don’t walk and the speed of the traffic was unnerving. Once I reached the other side I fitted a 24-85mm lens giving me the ability to take a wide angle or zoom shot. The balance of Image 7 was another fortunate accident as the red car entered the frame almost immediately. The eye is led from the left along the wall and the red poppies almost follow the contours of the car until they reach the pink petals of the tall poppies sandwiched between that the brown fence, green cabin and brown tiles. A patchwork quilt of landscape colours blending into the grey sky unlike the day before with the bright sunshine. The far right of the frame is the red post box in the brick wall. (Image 7)
A rare moment that there was not a single vehicle and I used the widest focal length to capture the entire frontage. When I really looked at the photograph I noticed the ‘2A’ on the telegraph pole. I have never taken notice of it until looking at the image. I must have driven past the pole countless times. (Image 8)
I walked back to the safety of the front garden and the formidable solid 9” reinforced wall. I wanted to place the poppy by including the road sign, however, I didn’t want to dominate the frame with sign rather it be out of focus. The poppy head sits waiting to emerge with a seed head developing and a bloom just off centre. The cap stone tells me that this is the border and leads into a public space. This is my space and I am defending it something which the poppy is associated with the Armed Forces and defending a country, a place and people. (Image 9)
The final shot demonstrates that I will grow anywhere no matter how inhospitable. The telephone wires lead in both directions, but I cannot help thinking that the horizontal feels like it represents the horizon and both sky and land merge into one. The vertical leads to heaven. (Image 10)
Image 3 – ‘June 6 – LIFE FINDS A WAY’
This photograph was taken in the decisive moment as I saw the bus fill the frame. At the time I didn’t know there was a poster was on the side. However, I feel that this photograph really encapsulates everything I feel about the humble poppy and my empathy with it. I am distant from the road that I view daily and the life that I had symbolic of the poppy. Life does go on in rather a blur continuing headlong into the unknown.