Two points are at the forefront of my mind in this revised version of the selection:
- Does the subject meet the criteria I set myself? (criteria stated in the brief and other criteria that I’ve added in my interpretation of the brief)
- Is the image successful at implying my intended message? (meaning, context, narrative, juxtaposition)
1. The criteria
The brief I set myself was as follows:
Provide 8-10 images (4-5 will be selected) that meet the following criteria:
- Common 10-20 years ago, rare now
- Particular (though not necessarily unique) to Britain
- Reason for obsolescence is one of following factors:
- Technological progress (engineering, IT etc)
- Economic progress (capitalism, globalisation, infrastructural etc)
- Social progress (behavioural norms, demographic shifts etc)
- A combination of subject types, such as (not limited to):
- Public objects
- Private objects
Produce images that are creative and visually engaging in composition and style – otherwise we could just go to a stock library! The article is as much about the images as the words.
To this I have been adding more layers of suitability; subconsciously at first, based on looking at objects and images and deciding which were ‘right’ and which were ‘wrong’. I began to form these judgements into the additional parameters I was giving myself for the subjects:
- Recognisable by any British adult
- Evoke some kind of response – whether that be missing it, glad to see the back of it, pondering the reasons for its obsolescence etc
This was a very useful filter – it made me ditch a few images I’d shortlisted. For example, I had a (photographically) good image of a concrete GPO post, but who remembers / misses / thinks fondly of a GPO post?! Similarly the coal bunker had to go as it also failed both the above tests.
2. The message
The main insight from engaging with a few people on the OCA Flickr forum was that to be successful the images will need to evoke some kind of response from the viewer. Plain close-ups of the objects in question are unlikely to do that. My original thinking was a little purist with regard to the fictional brief: that the images could be quite close-up, almost bordering on abstract in some cases, as the words would provide the context. However, I must remember above all else that this is a photography assignment! The brief is simply the construct. I must produce images that stand alone without the context of the hypothetical magazine feature.
The ‘message’ (or meaning, or emotion) I wish to impart is simply: for the viewer to consider the subject and how/why it became obsolete. I want people to think about ‘the unstoppable march of progress’.
With this new-found enlightenment I came to realise that I need to think much more about what else is in the frame in each shot. What is the context? Are there other elements I can include in the shot that:
- Show it in use by people?
- Show it in its current state of disuse?
- Juxtapose it with its ‘successor’?
One commenter used the phrase ‘mise-en scene’ and this stuck with me. Can I arrange a ‘tableau’ that carries the context and maybe even has some inherent narrative about the relationship between elements? Obviously this is easier with still life / posed setups than with found objects in public (I’m not about to move around the milk bottle I see on someone’s doorstep. for example).
So here’s a partial list of subjects and how I think I can treat them to get across the context and relationships better:
- Old Mini: pic of owner polishing it (not got)
- Milk bottle: on doorstep of run-down house (got)
- Milk float: abandoned in yard (got)
- Phone box: either: an abandoned one (got), or juxtapose one with person using a mobile phone
- Hats: men wearing old-fashioned hats (got)
- Guide dog charity collection box: juxtaposed with real dog (got)
- Rotary dial phone: being used by someone (not got)
- Old barrel pint pot: someone drinking out of (not got)
- Bingo hall: with customers (not got)
- Cobbles: with people (got)
- Sweet jars: ideally with someone’s hand in shot (not got; got one with just sweet jars, might have to fall back on that)
So I need to do 5-6 more based on the above shooting plan.
I think with the above framing / staging decisions I will be able to better get across the context/meaning of each object in the way I want. Just need to get the total of good images up to ten…