I started thinking about Assignment 2 before I’d finished the exercises. I read ahead to the end of the section to see what the assignment was about so that I could put some thought to it. When I discovered it was about ‘People and Activity’, it first of all made me think of its similarities with some exercises and assignments I’d already done:
- The final assignment on Art of Photography was a photo-essay that (certainly in the way I interpreted it) covered people engaging in an activity
- An exercise in the People Aware section of this course entitled ‘An active portrait‘ which was somewhere in between posed portrait and candid photography, in as much as the subject knew I was there but I was keeping out of his way
In revisiting these previous experiences in my head I made a mental list of how this assignment needs to be similar and how it needs to be different. Some of this is in the brief, some of it is implied, some of it is me imposing my own structure on the assignment to better help me deliver it.
- The obvious, from the section title: the pictures must be of People, and they must be Unaware of being photographed!
- This seems self-evident, but I have seen other students flex the definition of ‘unaware’ significantly in their assignments, and I don’t want to fall into that trap
- They need to be engaged in some kind of activity
- This rules out general ‘street photography’ without a clear thread of activity tying the images together in a cohesive way
- (from the brief) Concentrate especially on two aspects: on telling moments, and on ‘explaining’ the activity (which means choosing viewpoint, framing and timing to make the actions as intelligible as possible)
- So I need to choose an activity that has such ‘telling moments’, and where it will be possible for me to see/shoot the kind of images that ‘explain’ what is going on
- The brief suggests example activities such as: work, sport, a stage performance or a social event
- I ruled out sport as (a) I’m not interested in it and would find it hard to get across any enthusiasm in the pictures, and (b) technical challenges of capturing the moments / explaining pics with potentially fast-moving subjects
- I ruled out a stage performance due to lack of the right subjects happening in the timeframe I have for the assignment (although there is a Sixties Music Festival in my town in mid-June, it would be leaving it too late I think)
- I ruled out a social event as I couldn’t think of an interesting enough one happening in the timeframe! Also most social events that might have been interesting would be most likely indoors/evenings, and that would lead to lighting challenges
- So that left ‘work’… which did end up being the area I chose, kind of (explained below)
- I specifically want the activity being depicted to be inherently interesting, out of the ordinary in some way
- The pictures themselves should be interesting to look at, individually and as a set, and if the activity was very everyday (say, stall-holders at a market) then the challenge to find the interest is that much harder
- Last but not least, based on my experience on the photo-essay assignment on AOP, I decided it would be very beneficial if I could shoot on more than once occasion
- To allow me to review contact sheets, identify gaps, opportunities for reshoots, alternative angles etc
- And it reduces the risk significantly – getting all the shots needed at a single one-off event is inherently trickier
With all of the above in mind, after a week or two of thinking about it I landed on what I believe is a good subject for the assignment:
- The changeover of steam trains at Pickering station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
- It’s an interesting visual spectacle that not many people would be familiar with
- The people who do it are mostly volunteers, passionate about what they do, and dressed in a distinctive way – all of which I think lends character and interest to the subject matter
- We live in Pickering so I could shoot over a few consecutive weekends to build up a decent library of shots to choose from
So that’s how I got to the choice of subject matter.
The next prep post will be more about the more specific planning and shooting at the station to build up the library of images for the assignment.