Assignment 4 feedback

This assignment was something that I struggled to really get a grasp of. Capturing a sense of place involves just the right balance of people and place, and I got it wrong this time. 

I had around 50 images of Bergen to choose from, but with it being my first time there I was caught up photographing as a tourist, instead of a photographer solely meeting an editor's brief. On reflection my photographs capture all the elements of Bergen, but as my tutor said, they miss the mark. I decided to review the other photographs that I took during my time in Norway and realised that I probably had better images from other places. I had taken a lot of photographs in Flam, which has managed to retain it's character, despite the commercial pressures of it's popularity as a cruise destination.

Below are the images I would have used for my fourth assignment.

I have also created an alternative assignment 4 that I would have submitted with these images.

In preparation for my fifth assignment I need to consider the images I will submit much more carefully. I also need to take more photographs so that I can have a wider variety of images to choose from.

Assignment 4: A sense of place

Click for Tutor Report

Brief: This assignment will consider the underlying appreciation of what spaces and buildings mean for the people who live in among them. Imagine you are on assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. Aim to produce sufficient images (about 6) on a specific location.

Bergen, Norway

Founded in around 1070 AD, Bergen has developed to become the second largest city in Norway. The city centre is located on the shore of Byfjorden, which is where I have decided to use for this assignment.

 

The location for this assignment has been one of the hardest things to decide upon. I really enjoy using my photography as an opportunity to explore and document new places. This has meant that I have had a wide range of places to choose from, before I even attempt to select my final set of images which I feel represent the historic, commercial and geographic sense of place. 

Whilst the 12 images (above) offered a variety of scale and visual variety, the tricky part was then deciding which to keep and which to exclude. With so many aspects to Bergen in was going to be difficult to whittle them down to just about 6. I suppose this is where my previous DPP course experience kicks in and helps me to decide on my final selection. 

I kept on referring back to the brief to maintain a focus. When reviewing the 12 images I realised that some were of a similar subject, for example the fish market and the statues. Having a limit of around 6 photographs, it didn't seem wise to use similar images. I found it worthwhile leaving the assignment for a few days and revisiting it fresh. Below are my final set of images

 f/11   ISO 200   90mm   1/180

1. The crane created a much more striking image than the photograph of the container terminal. Located on the western coast of Norway, Bergen is a centre for aquaculture and marine research.

 f/5.6   85mm   ISO 100   1/90

2. A seven meter high monument located at Torgallmenningen. Made by Dyre Vaa (1903-1980) in 1950. Consists of 12 statues. The monument celebrates Norway's contribution to the ocean since the Vikings. The photograph above is the statue of a merchant, with St. Johannes church just visible in the background. My original set of 12 photographs included an image of the statues reflected in a puddle. I was trying something creative, but when deciding on the final selects that it didn't show enough information about the place. 

f/8   ISO 100   135mm   1/45

3. Situated among the Seven Mountains, a lack of suitable space to build on means that Bergen has a mix of old and modern buildings packed closely together. I captured this street scene because I was fascinated by how so much could be seen in such a small area. 

4.    f/3.5   ISO 400   28mm   1/180

Bergen's fish market has a long history as the centre for the fishing trade. I did have a photograph that showed a man preparing a lobster at the market, but I felt that it didn't really reflect the place. The image above has much more information to see, with tourists looking at various products, including tubes of caviar in the foreground. I also preferred this image due to it mainly consisting of red, white and blue, the colours of the Norwegian flag. 

f/3.5   ISO 400   30mm   1/750

5. In today's hi-tech world of smart phones, it was a novelty to find a phone box. It was unused , so I waited until I could capture two people in the window, albeit outside opposite. For me it signifies the remoteness of Bergen. 

f/9.5   ISO 200   32mm   1/60

6. Due to Bergen being tucked high up, close to the northern sea, and surrounded by mountains, unique weather conditions occur, which results in approximately 240 days of rain and a mean temperature of 7.6 °C. Therefore, even in the summer time, market stalls of woolly hats and gloves are very popular! 

f/11   ISO 100   28mm   1/30

7. I chose this image of pedestrians waiting to cross the road, because the girl looking back towards the camera draws the viewer back into the photograph, as if to ask what's next for Bergen. 

Conclusion

During this assignment I attempted to illustrate what Bergen has to offer without photographing typical scenes favoured by tourists. If I had longer in Bergen I could have focused on a particular industry or activity within Bergen, for example the workers in the fish market. However the danger with that is that I might restrict the variety of photographs I could take. Through concentrating on Bergen I have come to understand the city more. Knowing that the physical geography limits the availability of suitable land to build on, I could investigate this further, looking for examples of how the Norwegians have, or have not, adapted to the environment they live in, such as the style of accommodation and structure of buildings. 

Overall I think I have achieved my aim of providing an overview of Bergen. Completing this assignment has enabled me to consider how I can communicate visually and being selective with my choice of subject and composition. 

An alternative fourth assignment

This is an alternative fourth assignment which I didn't submit to my tutor. I created it after the feedback my tutor had given for my assignment submission.

Brief: This assignment will consider the underlying appreciation of what spaces and buildings mean for the people who live in among them. Imagine you are on assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. Aim to produce sufficient images (about 6) on a specific location.


Whilst on holiday in Norway I had the opportunity to visit the small picturesque village of Flåm, which is situated innermost in the Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the 204-km long and up to 1308-metre-deep Sognefjord. Flåm is the end station of the popular Flåm Railway and a popular location for cruise ships to dock whilst navigating the fjords. 

English tourists visited Flåm as early as the 19th century, when "salmon lords" came to fish in the Flåm river. Fortunately this steady stream of tourism has not had a great impact on the Flåm. I was surprised at how little the village had been commercialised.

Whilst I was there I noticed how the misty, green environment of the fjords exist harmoniously with people. The purpose of this assignment was to illustrate how both the human and physical geography of Flåm create a pleasant, peaceful environment. 

The 12 photographs that I need to make my final selection from can be seen below.

tried to include a mixture of buildings, transport links and physical environment features such as the steep hillsides and waterfalls.

My final selection.

1. Small wooden cabins line the shore of the Aurlandsfjorden, dominated by the steep forested mountains in the background. The water is still, with very little activity.

2. Flam is derived from the Old Norse word flá, which means a plain between steep mountains. The image above shows the flat land of the flood plains of the Flåm River. Empty ferries are docked, the car parks are quiet around the retail outlets towards the centre of the image. In the background waterfalls can be seen flowing towards the left of the frame.

3. The Fretheim Hotel is the large white building in the foreground with fjord mist circling overhead. The steep, rugged slopes in the background are also enveloped in mist.

4. Walkers can be seen following the winding road up towards the steep mountain slope with the railway safety barriers opened up. Again the characteristic mist covers the trees in the upper-most part of the image. 

5. The timber Norwegian houses are paired in muted colours which enable them to 'fit' into the surrounding scenery without being unsightly. 

6. This is my favourite image of the set. The wooden frame of a fourth house appears to being constructed very subtly, with little impact to the surrounding environment. Very different to England where roads would be coned off and heavy machinery brought in. Also, in the foreground,  some old timber has been neatly tied up beside the river. 

7. This final image is a reference to how tourism could damage Flam's sense of place. A bright red pad train transports sightseeing tourists to the next photo opportunity. The colour of the train dominates the photograph. By following its movement, whilst pressing the shutter button, I have blurred the scenery in the background, making it appear less significant. This is a reference to how tourism threats to harm Flam's unique, picturesque sense of place.

Conclusion

When photographing such a unique place it is difficult to avoid getting caught up with the tourist style photography. Every place will have a different feel and character. I hope I've done justice to Flam's natural beauty and showed how the local residents have adapted to what can be a harsh environment to live in. 

This quaint village has no 'larger than life' characters or iconic buildings to photograph. It tries to be as private and remote as it can be in the face of the tourism industry. By choosing Flam as the subject of this assignment I feel I may have limited myself to the variety of images I could take, but it was such a different place for me to experience. With more ease of access and time I could have revisited Flam and photographed it in the winter, as a comparison between the different seasons. 

However, by choosing a small defined area I was able to photograph a lot of different viewpoints in the time I had. The geographical restriction of the terrain also enabled me to focus on a small area. 

If I hadn't been focussed on this assignment I may have found my self on the tourist train in photograph 7! Having a whistle stop tour of the area with only opportunities to take photographs of the identical things that everyone else would be photographing. By following my own path, I was able to shoot scenes, such as photograph 6, which say much more about the area and the people who live there.

 

Martin Parr

One of the most popular street photographers is Martin Parr, who creates thought-provoking images. Instead of focusing on each individual image in isolation, he considers them to be part of sets, or projects, to present a stronger message or statement.

Whilst watching Parr's Tate Shots interview (above) I was surprised to hear that a lot of his work is 'constructed' and that it is fictional. I had always thought, perhaps naively, that Martin Parr looked to capture the 'decisive moment' in his images. Maybe this makes images even more intriguing to the viewer who perceives them as reality. Photographers allure to achieving a 'style' of photography, a type of image that can be assigned to them. Parr has achieved this, not through technique, but through the messages he wants to convey about how he perceives society. Parr's photographic projects can be easily recognised for their humour, and colour. They contain larger than life characters locations that we can associate with.

© Martin Parr 1990 Small World: The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy (Permission granted). Tourists pose as if holding the famous tower. 

© Martin Parr 1990 Small World: The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy (Permission granted). Tourists pose as if holding the famous tower. 

Parr's career began at the Butlins holiday resort in Filey, where he made his name documenting a particular kind of Englishness. 

Martin Parr's work has got me thinking about how my assignments should link together with an underlying message or statement. When planning my next assignment I should be thinking of the overall theme rather than 12 individual images. During DPP my assignments were very clearly thought out, but I realise that this shouldn't always be the case. You can go out with the aim of capturing a particular type of shot, but not at the expense of missing something better.