People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log

Assignment 4: first thoughts

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I admit that I’ve actually taken the pictures for the assignment! I did however do lots of thinking, reading, researching, note-writing and shot-planning before I took them. I am now very belatedly typing up all this preparation before getting on with the challenges of editing, processing and sequencing.

Choice of place

Before I took any pictures at all, I had a shortlist of places that I could have used. The brief asks for the following:

Decide on a place that you know well, or are prepared to take the time to know well, and have sufficient access to in order to complete a strong selection of a dozen images. It could be a town, a village, the borough of a city, or any area that you can define well enough. Aim to show the character of the place and of the people who live there with as much visual variety as possible. ‘Variety’ should include a variety of subject matter and of scale.

Pulling out the key criteria here, and adding a few of my own, I realised that I needed to find a place that had most or all of the following features:

  • Accessible: for long enough to take photos, on different days, at different times, busy and quiet
  • Distinctive: has a character of its own that can be depicted or implied photographically
  • Attractive: visually interesting in its own right (individual photos need to be engaging, as well as the cohesive set)
  • Variety: provides the diversity of subject matter and scale – buildings, spaces, architectural features, close-up/detail, people aware/unaware
  • Populated: has points of interest that involve people engaging with the place

There were three very different places that sprang to mind: where I live, where I work and where I holiday.

1. Pickering



I live in Pickering, a smallish market town in North Yorkshire. We’ve lived here for six years and although we have settled here very well (we love it), to a certain degree we can still see it through the eyes of an outsider – in a good way. It’s a place with a low level of tourism all year round, with attractions such as the steam railway station, the castle and a number of annual festivities such as the Sixties Festival and the Wartime Weekend.

  • It’s definitely accessible at least three days per week including weekends
  • It’s reasonably distinctive, but in a way that might be very difficult to pin down visually; it’s more to do with the people themselves and their traditional values, and I’m not sure how to best depict that
  • It has some very attractive features such as the aforementioned steam railway station and castle
  • The visual variety is pretty good
  • I’m not wholly certain that there are a lot of situations where you would see people interacting with the place?

2. Richmond Riverside

Richmond Riverside

Richmond Riverside

At the moment I’m working Monday to Thursday in Richmond-upon-Thames, in an office right on the river’s edge. There is a stretch of river path centred around an area branded as ‘Richmond Riverside’ that is potentially a good subject.

  • It’s accessible for the next couple of months at least, albeit in the mornings, lunchtimes and evenings only, which limits the lighting conditions a bit
  • Taking the Riverside locale rather then the whole town, I do consider it to have its own distinctive character
  • Visually very interesting and attractive, with boats, bridges, parkland etc
  • A reasonable amount of variety but inherently constrained to the corridor of the river so maybe a little limiting
  • Lots of people-interaction possibilities – walkers, cyclists, rowers, boatbuilders, cafe patrons and so on

3. Vieux Nice

Vieux Nice

Vieux Nice

For the last 12 years my wife and I have had a flat in the old town in Nice, France (known locally as Vieux Nice). We go there 6-7 times a year for up to a fortnight at a time and have got to know the place very well. Although in one sense we’re really just very frequent visitors, in a way we can experience the place as a resident does.

  • It’s accessible for about a week at a time, given our holiday schedule for this year – but once there, no limitations on timings
  • It’s very distinctive in both its architecture and its ambience; it does feel quite different to the rest of the city
  • In purely visual terms it’s by far the most interesting of the three
  • There’s enough variety in the subject matter – people, architecture, colours, shops, cafes, public squares etc
  • The people interactions are there, although there may be a little repetition in the nature of the depictions


Having gone through the thought process and judging the three against the criteria, I came down firmly on the idea of using Vieux Nice!

The next prep blog post will be about how I decided what aspects of Vieux Nice to focus on, and how I planned out (most of) the types of shot I sought.

One thought on “Assignment 4: first thoughts

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4: prep – finding the character of the place | People & Place

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