Category Archives: Assignment 2

Response to Tutor Feedback on Assignment 2

Response to Tutor formative feedback on Assignment 2 and the progress of my ongoing Assignment 6

 I had a comprehensive feedback Skype session with my tutor on the 21stFebruary from which, as previously, I wrote detailed notes which my tutor then ‘edited’ and added her own comments.  Report PDF attached.

CBanks_LDS_A2 Feedback

and below is the summary table of Strengths and areas for development.

 

Further thoughts

I will focus here on feedback for Assignment 2 and write a separate blog post on our discussion of ongoing work for Assignment 6.

I really appreciated and learned so much from her detailed analysis of my ‘final’ Assignment images and it was reassuring to know that seven of them were ‘strong’ as regards composition, viewpoint and colour (1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10)

I need to have another look at 12, 13 and 14

to see if there are similar alternatives bearing in mind that my tutor said eight images would be sufficient rather than twelve.  There’s that slightly obsessive part of me that thought I should begin with an image from the beginning of the walk (1) and end with one from the end (15) however, Helen said I don’t need it.  I will write further when I have taken another look at potential replacements/additions.

I discussed the process of editing here but one of the areas for development is to evidence the creative sequencing and choices in more detail using the approach modelled by Helen in our Skype discussion. Her overall advice to keep looking for strong frames, especially with complex landscapes, and utilise different standing points can be applied to all Assignments I think.

Another of the strengths I have shown relates to contextual research, yet my tutor did remark on the fact that visual/photographic research specifically informing my work was lacking. I was taken aback by this because I did refer to several artists when discussing context (as here) . Perhaps this was because I was thinking more about the approach of the photographers than choices of viewpoints or methods, although I had written about Paul Gaffney – not only in relation to pathways but also the way in which he uses just spaces and no people – and my tutor commented on this in her feedback in relation to image No. 7 with its two paths and people emerging from both.  I had also used Simon Roberts’ strategy of photographing from above, doing this from one of the bridges over the canal, although I didn’t specifically link this.  I’ve taken on board that I do need to be more specific in linking my own work with that of well-known photographers; even to the extent of occasions when I have chosen not to use a similar approach.

Further posts to come regarding  feedback on progress with Assignment 6 and also initial discussion on Assignment 3.

 

Reflection on Assignment 2

 

 Overall, this part of the Module has been a good experience for me and realising how much the projects and exercises feed into the Assignments has mitigated my weariness sometimes at the time it takes to record them. This period during Part Two has been a busy time for me as I’ve also attended Exhibitions, spent a weekend at the Brighton Photo Festival and been involved in the organisation of the OCA Thames Valley Group Exhibition at the Lightbox Gallery and Museum in Woking.

I’ve also been experimenting with cyanotypes and anthotypes and recently went to a half-day session on hand-weaving where I began to create a representation of the canal.  All this is waiting to be written about.

So far as Assignment Two is concerned this is now complete and my self-assessment is below.

 Technical and visual skills

I think I did reasonably well with the challenge of dynamic range on a bright, Autumn day when the sun is low in the sky. The editing process itself was quite lengthy, mainly because I had a lot of photographs to choose from, although I’m aware that some people might think I should have taken a lot more photographs.   Once I’d made the ‘final’ selection I converted to jpeg reasonably quickly but I intend to re-visit these conversions when I’ve decided how I will eventually present them for Assessment.

I’m still pondering on my exclusion of graffiti and litter on the basis that ‘there wasn’t a lot of it”. Was I unconsciously aiming to provide the best possible view of a public leisure amenity?  I’ve acknowledged that I was caught by the ripples and reflection in the water and note this is reflected in the photographs I’ve chosen.

Quality of outcome

That fits in with the above really.  It was hard to avoid taking a pleasing image on that particular day. ’Change of use’ is something that came into mind early in Part Two during the first exercise and the canal as it is now certainly fits that. My final question in writing about the final selection was whether the canal has been too sanitised.  The word simulacrum comes to mind – a prettified version of something meant for hard work, alternative transport and to make a profit.  If I’d thought about that earlier I might have done an entirely different kind of project – layering old photographs of working boats on the canal over the present day for example.

Comments on my first idea for the Assignment – the video of journey by bus and train –  lead me to think that, maybe, I should have used some video for my eventual choice of using the canal. The problem there is that the towpath is narrow so, apart from being obvious I would also be an obstacle if I stood in one place for too long. One thing I forgot to mention was that apart people walking their dogs it was obvious that most were either using it for exercise or to get to one place from another. In this sense that moves away from the leisure aspect to the towpath having a functional practical use.  I did photograph people, but that was mainly from a distance, either appearing from or into it.  Also, I found it difficult to contemplate the idea of standing on the narrow towpath and shoving a camera in someone’s face, especially when they were going about their business as opposed to ambling along. Then again, when I go on the boat ride when the season starts I could video from there.

Different weather, less-used stretches and a different time of year could also have produced a different outcome and certainly the canal would be a good subject for Assignment 6.

Demonstration of creativity

I aimed to approach the project with an open mind, which meant taking the photographs before I read up on the historical context.  Having written that; I was probably fooling myself somewhat because I have previously studied social and economic history.  That was a long time ago now but I’m aware how much I’ve absorbed this into my way of thinking and articles I read.  I think that undercurrent has always been there in my photography work, but I was aware I was using this more consciously in this Assignment in acknowledging and challenging my views on local government – of which I’m usually quite critical amongst friends, relatives and neighbours but not in print.

Context

I was sparing in respect of the historical context,  but providing a PDF of my notes which could be accessed separately seemed a good way of demonstrating my knowledge of the history. Regarding artistic influences – I haven’t cited that many but those I have were influential in my thinking and approach.  I am constantly viewing the work of others and, at times, my head feels swamped with images, so I’m learning to go with what comes into my head as I’m thinking of a project whilst attempting to ensure that this isn’t just the last artist I looked at!

Researching Mark Titchner’s work brought my personal context more into focus for me. Firstly, I acknowledged to myself that my experience of living somewhere influences how I think about myself and, secondly, this highlighted my continually growing awareness of myself as an observer.  I am a participant-observer in my environment; partly through nature and also through having moved homes reasonably often.  I know I’ve referred to this before and I think it’s probably going to become more apparent as I voyage through this Module

 

 

 

Assignment 2 : The Final Selection

Assignment 2: A Journey: A walk along the Basingstoke Canal from Woking to St. Johns in November 2018

 Introduction

I actually made several journeys interwoven between past and present just like the ribbon of the Basingstoke Canal as it wends its way through the landscape. In addition to the two walks, I journeyed into the past through reading and imagination and both explored and challenged some of my own opinions about some of the ways in which Woking manages its environment and amenities.

I lived in the Woking Borough area from 1986 to 2013, albeit in different locations but then moved only a few minutes down the road into another Borough which is different in ‘character’ and government – although not hugely. Whereas as previously I experienced Woking as a resident I now do this as a visitor.  My opinion of Woking has always been that, if it was a person, it would be continually trying to improve itself but not always successfully, especially in relation to the Town Centre.  I’ve always thought it more drab and less sophisticated than its more glamorous nearby neighbour Guildford which has its Cathedral, University, old buildings and cobbled Centre shopping street with more high-end department stores and shops/boutiques.

When I first decided to walk along the Basingstoke Canal from Woking, I decided I would approach this with as open a mind as I could, saving the historical research and reading until afterwards.  I’m pleased I did.  My later reading of the earlier history of the Basingstoke Canal tended to prove my opinion about the negative aspects of capitalism – the looking for a profit for self-gain, lack of awareness of the impact of decisions and carrying on regardless with a project despite evidence that it wasn’t working. However, this was tempered by my deeper understanding of all the work, effort, determination and financial contribution made by two County Councils, local Councils and voluntary bodies to reinvigorate, indeed rescue the Canal from its slow dissolution back into the earth and turn it into an amenity that could be freely used and enjoyed.

Of course, my walks were out of season and seasons change behaviours.  I’ve already decided to take a boat journey to see the canal that way. It could even be turned into a longer-term project through travelling further along it.  There’s lots of scope there.

I seemed to have a lot of images to choose from which was good.  My major concern is that they could seem too ‘pretty’ and travel poster-ish, although as I wrote in an earlier post it’s hard to avoid that on that particular stretch.  Some people might say the canal is too sanitised and unreal now. I’ll have to see if that fits if I explore further.

I have written previously on:

Planning 

and

Process:

  (i) the walk itself

 (ii) the editing process 

 (iii) context (historical and artistic) 

 

Final Selection

The Assignment brief suggests about 12 images to be submitted.  In fact I’ve left it at 15 in the final selection as it was so hard, including leaving out some of my own favourites. As I’ve written previously, I decided to exclude graffiti and litter – not because I didn’t want to spoil the view but because there was hardly any of it at all.

 

 

 

A Reflection post will follow.

iii.Context

 

Historical context

Although I’d read around this topic quite a long time ago I waited until until I’d finished the photography sessions to read again and further as I wanted my mind to be clear to the present moment.

_____________________

During the late 18thCentury the growing industrial revolution was beginning to transform people’s lives. Steam engines were beginning to transform industry. Britain had built up-a large overseas empire. Owning land was the main form of wealth and groups of rich men had already formed turnpike trusts to improve and maintain certain roads – tolls having to be paid to use them.  There was money to be made and, of course, wasted as The South Sea Bubble had already shown early in the century http://www.thebubblebubble.com/south-sea-bubble/  – an early version of the technology shares crash in the early 2000s.

The first canal had been dug in the north of England and many more began to be dug throughout the country to make it cheaper to transport goods. In the late 1770s a group of Hampshire landowners promoted a new canal scheme to link Basingstoke with the Thames via the Wey Navigation at Byfleet in the borough of Woking.  Below is a PDf of notes made from my reading of several sources looking at the history of the Canal and its relationship with Woking:

History of Basingstoke Canal

 

To cut a long story short, the Basingstoke Canal Navigation Company went bankrupt in 1866, with seven owners during the next fifty years each finding the canal to be nothing but a financial liability – factors being the eclipse of most of the national waterways system as a result of the development of road and rail transport; the decline of both industries and the importance of agriculture in the South and larger /cities such as London and Bristol bringing in produce from other parts of England or abroad rather than from neighbouring counties. Commercial traffic on the Basingstoke Canal gradually dwindled – the last load of timber delivered on its route being in 1949.

By the 1960s the Canal, closed completely, had become weed-choked and silted, with crumbling locks and an overgrown towpath. Work began, in 1973, to totally restore the canal, after years of campaigning and lobbying by those determined to give new life to it. Hampshire County Council bought one stretch in 1970 and, in 1976, Surrey County Council purchased the rest of the canal between Woking and Frimley. The work took 15 years to complete, was supported by armies of volunteer labourers and publicised by boat rallies and events.  It was formally reopened in May 1991.

Between 2008 and 2011 a sustainable cycling town project was delivered within Woking, with the emphasis on connecting people with places, using sustainable modes of travel in walking and cycling and connecting to public transport for longer journeys. 26.31km of new off-road cycle network was constructed, with 12.9km along the Basingstoke Canal (The Saturn Trail) being ‘the jewel in the crown’.

Artistic Context

Even though I found the note recording tedious at the time I realise I gained a great deal of inspiration from the Projects/Exercises in Part 2. Throughout the process of the Assignment I had in mind those words of Mark Titchner  (see here) about gathering ideas together on how a City (or Town in my case) brands itself and how that can reflect on me as a resident; to source background material; see how historical areas have changed, and view the City as a non-static evolving place.  Titchner also uses as few words as possible to allow space for the viewer to insert their own meaning. His other sentence that really impacted on me was “The World isn’t working” – against something that someone else had said “Every problem has a solution”. The latter sentence is quite often used in business, but it had much force when said to me by a tour guide in Canada who was a member of its First Nations people and very much involved as a mediator between them and the Canadian Government.

I recognised the thought again during one of my walks

(grafitti on a wall under one of the Canal bridges)

When I did the reading for the Edgelands Exercise (2:6) (see here)  I also looked at Farley and Roberts chapter on Canals (2011: 117) and how canals are uniquely “able to offer a portrait of the decline in manufacturing, and the shift of power from water and rail to road” and how they now lead a double life, being adopted as natural features in the countryside, being associated with tranquillity and leisure, whereas in urban areas they are often ‘wet skips’. Therefore, I was alerted to seeing such changes on my walk.

(Grafitti seen on one of my canal walks 2017)

On the short stretch I walked there wasn’t much opportunity for creating any ‘land art’ in the sense that, for example,  there were no flowers to gather/arrange and, to my pleased surprise, hardly any litter to portray as a blot on the landscape.  Also, there was nowhere to sit apart from at the Woking junction with the path.  What I’d had in mind was the work of Stephen Turner which I’d looked at during my previous Module, having seen work at the Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, which he’d produced whilst  travelling with the Exbury Egg (see here) .  What I did do was to create a cyanotype from a digital photograph of one of the buildings.  I was quite pleased with the result, especially having exposed the cyanotype in natural, albeit not very strong, sunlight. The exposure took about an hour and a half. Unfortunately, it was only when I looked closely that I realised I had forgotten to flip the negative which meant the building was the wrong way round.  I did have another go a few days later having remedied the problem but, unfortunately, it was a poor exposure.

On the topic of alternative photography, I had also had pinhole photography in mind for some time, and using an empty drink can, but seeing such a lack of litter along that stretch of the canal has made me think that it might not be a good idea to attempt there.

Throughout, I had the work of Simon Roberts, his views of the British at rest in “Merrie Albion”, “We English”  and National Property: The Picturesque Imperfect  https://www.simoncroberts.com/work/national-property/  and his concept of the landscape as a stage on which people enact their lives and this is something I know I will carry forward in future assignments.

Amongst others my tutor pointed me towards Michal Iwanowski’s work Go Home, Polish which ponders on where home is and geopolitical agendas from the perspective of each individual.  On a smaller scale both these topics are very relevant to me, given that I have moved house and place quite often.  There is something within me felt as ‘home’ and this does link for me with Mark Titchner’s thoughts on how the way a City brands itself reflects on me as a resident together with how, in many respects, I become an observer of ways in which a community is affected by political choices.  My tutor also referred to Paul Gaffney  whose work I have seen beautifully presented in its soft-covered book. He chose his path, whereas mine on the canal was pretty much laid out in front of me, although I did have a look up some of the paths to the road. The most important aspect though is that Gaffney’s work has a slow, visually lyrical effect for me with no people and just the spaces, which I could equate with slow art and slow walking.

In terms of eventual presentation of the Assignment my first thought was a concertina book as this mirrors the ‘ribbon’ of the canal within the landscape.  I also appreciate the work No Sign of Canals on Mars: The Illustrated Travel Diaries of Eileen Burke by Tim Daly  (Fugitive Press) .   The work includes wool, postcards, a diary, various ephemera and c-type prints in a wallet. All placed in a small archive clamshell box.   A wonderful illustration of how ‘souvenirs’ can be put together to create a whole.  Again, probably not practicable from a short walk but that approach is on my presentation ideas list.

 

 

 

ii. The editing process: Assignment 2

ii The Editing Process

On the first walk I took 105 photographs and on the second 111.  On an initial look-through I realised (well re-realised) that I’m not very skilled at taking photographs of ducks.  I also felt concerned that I might have taken too many pastoral/pretty photographs.

First edit:  76 images from Session 1 and 79 from Session 2 chosen to process in Camera RAW.  (PDF available if my tutor wishes to look at them)

Second edit:  Total of 117 chosen

Third edit:  Total reduced to 89 but this was slow progress.  To begin with I was looking for the best of the photographs,  but I knew that some had been duplicated, in terms of the same view from different directions or a detail of a view and I decided this was the time to do more analysis. Analysis Table PDF below (numbers not an exact match due to cross-referencing)

Analysis of Photographs that made it to the third edit

Fourth edit:   Total reduced to 66. Contact sheet PDF:

Edit.4.ContactSheets.

I printed the contact sheets and after looking through decided I would keep the ones of litter in case I decided to do something with them at a later time, but not to include them in the final edit as this would give a disproportionate view of the walk.

Fifth edit: Reduced to 46 images in total. Created contact sheets which I printed and then sorted manually. Contact sheet PDF:-

Edit.5.ContactSheets

6th edit:  Total reduced to 30 images and this was a difficult process. Looking for a representative flavour without the series appearing too touristy/glamorized – not an easy task given the combination of water, Autumn greenery and reflections.  Also representative of what – objective in terms of how a walk on the canal might appear to be most people or subjective in terms of what I noticed but, then, I chose which scenes to photograph and now I’m editing them.  JPEG Contact sheets below:-

 

Penultimate choice:16 images which, at the moment I can’t seem to reduce to 12.

 

The next steps are to attempt to reduce to twelve for feedback, write about artistic influences/reading and then reflect on the whole process.

 

 

i.The walk along the Canal – Autumn 2018

Journeying along the Basingstoke Canal from Woking to St. Johns: Autumn 2018

 This wasn’t my first experience of walking along the canal. I sometimes walk over it to get to The Lightbox and the town centre if I decide to park in the nearby Brewery car park rather than in the Town Centre. In walks along the separate Wey canal I’ve walked to where it joins with the Basingstoke Canal in Byfleet.

This is just a brief flavour of the walk before I move on to another post on the editing process for the photographs:

I knew that the canal had fallen into disrepair and disuse over time; that it had been re-invigorated and re-born as a leisure area with the help of financial sponsorship and volunteer labour, having continuing improvements, including the creating of a ‘proper’ cycle path.  A new footbridge was built over the canal in Woking when the World Wildlife Fund in the UK built new offices on the Brewery Road car park. There were some protests about that – loss of parking spaces; it would tower over the canal; mask/spoil the view of it and digging might cause flooding. However, the building has melded in well, with its green ethos and following land contours. The new footbridge has statues at each end of the two famous, Woking born and bred cricketers, the identical twins Eric (1918-2006) and Alec (1918-2010) Bedser – both of whom lived in Woking all their lives, never married and always lived with each other.

I had two separate sessions of walks along the canal stretch on the 14thand 26 November 2018. On the first day I went in the afternoon.  It was a sunny, bright Autumn day and I quickly decided that the sun was on the wrong side of the Canal – especially being lower this time of year – shining in my eyes and also causing too much contrast, although the positive was that the ripples and reflections in the water were lovely to see.  On the second day I went in the morning.  The sun was in a slightly different place but, of course, I realised that as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west it will always be in the wrong place on that side of the canal!  There are paths on the other, town side, which are reached by occasional footbridges, but these are not continuous along the route.  didn’t walk all the way to St. Johns so didn’t reach the locks on this session and there were no boats travelling on the water, it being out of season, although a (very) few were moored. I didn’t give myself any strict rules as to what and when to take a photograph (channelling Stephen Shore maybe, who I wrote about here.  I realised that, apart from the ripples and reflections I was also attracted to ducks and the paths leading off the canal onto the road on my righ, t and a couple of times I did walk over a footbridge to the opposite side to see how the view differed. There was only very occasional litter – the odd empty drink can – and occasional graffiti which was interesting rather than annoying.

I came across people running or walking along, with or without dogs and babies in prams and soon learned to get a sense of when a cyclist was looming speedily and silently behind me. The path isn’t that wide and the water in the canal looked quite deep.

I was aware of the noise of the traffic speeding by on the main road into town on my left but it was screened enough by trees/shrubs for me to enjoy the quietness of the canal at that time of year, protected as it is from the roads either side.   I felt slightly suspended in time and decided in it’s a very pleasant way to get somewhere else, especially on a relatively warm, bright and dry day.  I wouldn’t be too keen to walk there at night though, especially going through the tunnels under the road bridges. The other aspect was my view of Woking as a town from a distance – the large buildings at the start; a couple of large, empty building plots and then the houses by the side of the canal. On the first session, if I looked back, I was very aware of the towering apartment blocks being built in the Town Centre, with their even higher cranes. The Council are very proud to boast that they have made the decision to do this rather than take up green belt to build housing – positive in one respect but, then tower blocks have their own problems and possible dangers, in addition to which some of them are going to be built over new shops at a time when present ones are being left empty as businesses fail.

On the second session when I walked further there was an obvious change as density of houses lessened on the opposite side. I was surprised at the number of locks (five on that stretch) which seemed very close together and made me realise how much the land rises and falls in this area when there I was walking along and feeling ‘on the flat’ with easy walking.

Next for the editing process and further thoughts after re-reading and research.

 

 

 

Planning for Assignment 2: A Journey

I prepared a mind-map to begin with, starting with ‘The Road – as a vehicle – branching out into different directions and means of travel, inward and outward – see below..

the road

8thOctober 2019. To begin with I decided to make a journey to London but using the bus to get to the station rather than having a lift in the car.  This was the first time I travelled by bus which only calls in the village once an hour so got to the stop early ‘just in case’. I decided to video using my phone camera every few minutes. Quite a pleasant journey really – half-listening to conversations, wondering which route would be taken, wondering what large houses were hiding away there beyond the hedges on the main road. I videoed similarly on the train – again every few minutes and then whilst I was walking from Waterloo to Tate Modern where I was to meet Sarah-Jane and Gesa two of my fellow students to see some of the Exhibitions there. I did photograph on the way and also in the Tate (my post about the visit is here .  I also did some occasional videos on the train back and, whilst walking to the bus stop, videoed a bus which turned out to be mine so I’d missed it!  With an hour to wait for a bus on a cold late afternoon I decided to get a taxi!

All the videos have been waiting patiently to be joined together so I’ve spent a few hours doing that and reduced it all down to around six minutes – probably too long really for viewers’ patience although, of course, the journey itself took much longer. Here’s the video which I decided to end at my arrival at Waterloo and not to include still images.

What struck me most was the amount of time spent waiting for a bus and what it must be like not having a car even though I use mine as little as possible.  There was also the marked change on the train to London travelling from fairly leafy gardened suburbs through more built-up areas and so many tower blocks, stacked like dominoes, with building cranes in the background.  I was lucky I was travelling into London later in the morning because I’ve often had to stand on the train all the way there.

I decided in the end that I wouldn’t use the video for the Assignment and would do a walking journey instead. So – back to look at the mind-map for inspiration.  I’ve visited The Lightbox on several occasions during the latter part of 2018.  It’s a gallery and museum and has a shop and a café and is also the venue for the the February Exhibition of the Open Art Collective  (formed by members of OCA Thames Valley Group) of which I’m a member. The Lightbox stands right beside the Basingstoke Canal. We’d been having quite a pleasant late Autumn and so I thought it would be a nice idea to walk the canal from Woking to St John’s Village there and back. I already had a book on the history of Woking and acquired a couple of booklets from the Basingstoke Canal Society.