Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you. You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further (Welsh cultural concept translated as “The Square Mile” meaning an intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings).
You’ll need to shoot more than 12 photographs from which to make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively comminicate your idea.
You may wish to title your photograps or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.
However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.
Think of it as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor.
There is no ‘right or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in term of subject matter. Try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you are most successful at.
Moping around the house doing household chores, struck me as a ridiculously bland idea to try and capture. However, on second thoughts, it seems like a perfect introduction to me, myself and my photography, apart from the fact that it fits the criteria of “trying something new” and not “sticking with what you think you are most successful at” too, as well as being something with which the viewer (at least from a western perspective) should hopefully be able to feel involved in, and relate to on a personal level. I used prime lenses with this as I wanted an intimate shallow DoF to focus on the subject selected in each photo: I want the subject to emphasize itself (and its presupposed intimacy with the viewer) as the stroyteller within each photo working simultaneously within the narrative of the images I have chosen. My aim with this is to create a sequential representation of the parts of one of my days within the criteria of the brief.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 (MkI)
Olympus Zuiko 50mm F/1.8 (with OM-M4/3 adaptor; Eq 100m)
Olympus 14-42mm (28-85mm Eq) and 40-150mm zooms (80-300mm Eq)
Fujian 25mm F/1.4 with C-mount to M4/3 adaptor
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4
A Day in The Life (as told by 10 photos)
Toast at 08.03. (1/80 sec at F/1.8, ISO 250, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)
Nice morning light on the kitchen table, thought that it would look good through the Olympus 50mm (100mm on the E-M10), thanks to the shallow DoF. I think it does.
Shaver (1/13 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 1000, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)
Nice tidy shot of the lead hanging down from the plug in the socket: practical, slightly rigid (tight?) framing. Didn’t really like the wonkier (more natural?) version as it seemed too sloppy on my part (and was underexposed – see contact sheets below)
Dustpan and Brush (1/25sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)
Did a couple of shots of this one; firstly focused on the handle, but found it to be too lost in the bokeh, so to speak; preferred the shot focused on the base of the pan (and broom head) as it captures the whole point of the shot which, for me, was showing that I was routinely cleaning up as part of the theme I had selected. Liked the broom head angle bringing some dynamics into the shot, and challenging the strong curve of the blue pan; decided to leave the blurred handle in the shot as it adds a little splash of blur to spoil the red and blue dominance here.
Mouse (1/6 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm F/2.8 with Raynox 250
With the Raynox handheld in front of the 50mm Olympus (stopped down slightly to compensate for the Raynox which adds more than enough DoF/blur) we can obtain a nice crisp macro. By leaning the camera on some book and clothes to stabilize it I then positioned the macro lens in front of the camera and hoped for the best.
Clean up followed by a browse. A beautifully curvaceous everyday object. One of our many modern day Gods. Also like the gunk build up inside the mouse grip.
Had wanted to choose a wide angle lens for this one as I wanted to get more contextual information within the shot. However, I did not and preferred to kep the shallow depth of field once again. I find this shot different to those I usually do (therefore challenging and new), as it seems – what I would call – dull. That is surely something I need to understand better: what constitutes a “dull” photo? Dull compared to what? Does it communicate what I was trying to communicate anyway whether it fits my aesthetic criteria or not?
However sad this may actually sound, I do find some great shots when on the balcony with the clothes horse. This shot seemed to line up nicely while I was putting the washing away. The text, the lines, the peg, the red, and that gorgeous sun. Not sure about the sickly red though…
What am I trying to say here (or with any of my more abstract square crops)? I like the way the arrows almost contradict each other by my zooming in and cropping out any other contextual clues; also think that the two coloured segments add structure to the shot too (and support to the arrows?). I’ve done pictures like this for years, and I still haven’t got bored of doing them yet. And why should I? With these shots I seem to find them everywhere but often don’t always have a camera with me to snap them up. But I do try to make a mental note or jot down in my notebooks (or in a book cover which is so much harder to relocate later!) and then go back to try and capture it. The harsh Mediterranean light works so well for these shots (although this particular part of the morning the light was softer thanks to cloud cover). Possibly for a future revisit to this theme, I could try a bright crisp morning shot with the long shadows that could also be a welcome addition to this shot.
I have seen this zooming in effect on Flickr but had never tried it until now. To be honest it took a a few attempts to get the shot stable and reasonably balanced in terms of lines. I think it works. Something I definitely would like to try out again (My subconscious need to read quickly, (poorly) seeping out into my photography with this shot?) I brought the ISO down as I used the flash and wanted detail in amongst the blur.
I tried to get a candid shot of my students at work, although that really wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I had tried with different lenses, but again went for the isolating power of the prime lens at a wide aperture.
My idea was to shoot things I usually see on my walk home after work. using a longer shutter time again here and a little bit of luck, I got the disired, tired, falling, and going home mood that I had wanted. I stopped down with the 25mm to try and get some sharper detail, and lowered the ISO to 400 to help with that.
I think this project has helped me hone some observational skills that I may have taken for granted in the past. Instead of just snapping up a shot thanks to some kinesthetic cross-wiring or whatever, I feel that actually thinking about why and what I am doing by composing these shots, and what I understand to be my message and the consequences/effects that this will have on the viewers, has really opened my eyes to the hidden beauty of vision; the ever so complex phenomenon of perception that we use daily so seemingly flippantly and apparently without awareness, really is the very essence of just about everything we do with photography.
Furthermore, by attempting some new techniques, such as zooming in with a slower shutter speed (Zooming Through Some Books), and less dynamic abstract shots (Studying, and Shaver), and semi improvised and spontaneous shots (Hanging Out, and Shopping), I feel that I have reminded myself to rethink the easy instant click of just pressing down the shutter release; there’s always more to everything when you look below the surface (and I don’t believe, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, that we do so at our own peril).
Kev Byrne, early March 2016
Contact sheets 112 photos