Assignment 1

Assignment 1 – The Square Mile. Updated following Tutor’s comments

29 November 2017.  Amendment to Assignment 1.

Following a discussion with my tutor, Les Monaghan, I revisited the photographs selected for the assignment.  I realised I had posted a series of photographs as a record of the area rather than telling a story.  My original purpose was to photograph 2 sites in the area with the juxtaposition of the new hi-tec and the old.  What I missed was the one key point which linked them both: prohibition and security.  The earth satellite dishes are surrounded by security guards, chain link fencing and barbed wire.  The ruins of the manor house are also surrounded by fencing and a sign stating: Danger Keep Out.  As there was no Private sign or a padlock on the gate, I concluded that this was just because the ruins are unsafe. However, as I had no intention of going into the ruins and risking my safety I went through the unlocked gate to get a closer look. And then I was shouted at by a walker to keep to the footpath, and that I was on private property. It seems to me that as a photographer we are conceived as being guilty before we can prove our innocence. What harm was I doing photographing a few satellite dishes, for their beauty as they reflected the sunshine, and some ruins, which I had no intention of approaching and risking my own safety.

I have removed some and added other photographs as suggested by Les.  Also I revisited the ruins and photographed the Keep Out sign.  It was a sunny day but slightly later in the season, so the foliage is not quite as shown previously.  But I felt it was an important part of the series of photographs, and I should have picked up on this link at the time I took the original photographs.



Assignment One: The Square Mile

For the past 15 years I have lived on a narrowboat on the Oxford Canal, 9 miles north of Oxford. Initially when I read through the brief I thought of the obvious: I’ll photograph the canal. But then I felt this would not truly reflect the overall landscape. The canal does dominate the landscape but there is much more within the square mile than just the canal, in particular a 14th century derelict manor house, and an earth satellite monitoring station. I decided to photograph both these items to create a series of pictures showing the juxtaposition of ultra-modern and ancient within a small area of rural Oxfordshire.
I took my inspiration from Keith Arnatt. I was fascinated at how he could take an ordinary subject – for example a rubbish tip – and create art. I have always felt that the satellite dishes have personalities and look as if they are about to escape their compound. I hope these photographs reflect that feeling. The ruins of the manor house, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. They have been there since the 14th century and are not going anywhere!
I chose to photograph the satellite dishes on a bright sunny day so that I could capture the way they rise up out of the surrounding trees, majestically reflecting the sunshine, gleaming bright white. The site is well guarded and as can be seen in some of the photographs, they are surrounded by chain link fencing and barbed wire. To me this makes the dishes more entrancing, as though the fencing is there to keep them in, rather than to keep intruders out. I took some of the photographs using a 250mm zoom lens, but would have loved to have been able to take those photographs with a longer lens (if I had one). I didn’t want to get too near as I was being closely observed by a security guard!
The photographs of the derelict manor house were also taken on a sunny day, and I think this gives greater definition to the brickwork, creating more shadows than if they had been taken on a cloudy day. I was unable to get any closer to the ruin because of safety warning signs, but nonetheless was able to take photographs from several angles. I would have liked to have been able to go into the ruin and photograph the walls from the base pointing upwards into the sky.
Overall, I was pleased with the selection of photographs. I would like to develop this project further by returning to the same sites at different times of the year and in different weather conditions to compare the difference that lighting and seasons make to the landscape.

Contact Sheet

Contact Sheet assignment 1