Personal Projects : 1. People and Landscape – Leaving Traces

 Personal Projects :

People and Landscape : 1. Leaving Traces

O where is it, the wilderness’

 O where is it, the wilderness

The wildness of the wilderness?

Where is it, the wilderness?


And wander in the wilderness;

In the weedy wilderness,

Wander in the wilderness

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

There are times I go on the Common when it seems as if it’s all mine and no other people are there.  I am surrounded by greenness and tall pines sky-reaching. All is still and quiet. It comes as a surprise to suddenly see someone else amongst the trees .

People leave signs and traces of themselves though even when they’re not there and I’ve noticed this more during the past few months. A small pile of pebbles suddenly appeared by the path one day that now keeps being added to as if it’s a shrine – yet it isn’t. My grandsons were very interested in them, firstly wanting to take one away as a souvenir and then wanting to add one instead. “Is someone dead under there?” they wanted to know. I doubt it though. I’m not talking of litter, but I wonder what it is within us that wants to leave some kind of mark on the landscape which somehow means we take possession of it. When I had this notion of ‘leaving traces” I noticed more. The Common is left in as much of a natural state as possible but there is some tidying going on.

Some trees (seeds blown in by the wind as years go by) have been chopped down to allow the natural heathland to spread. The wind whistling through the pines often blows down the more fragile branches (or even whole trees).  I’ve often seen children playing with the branches to make teepees – temporary installations. However, this year there has been a change.  The structures have become more elaborate and I’ve imagined adults joining in, even taking over maybe.  It got to the stage where I almost decided to start awarding prizes and leave rosettes!  One of the stronger trees has been used as a temporary swing for years  with a strong twig and old bits of rope. This summer a more sophisticated swing appeared – it’s now disappeared.

I decided to make a series of these temporary installations which continue to fascinate me and here are some of them.
























I’m going to continue with this theme on how we interact with the landscape and nature.

28th October 2012


Phillips, C (Ed) (1986), Gerard Manley Hopkins : The Major Works , Oxford University Press (2002)


Assignment 2 : People and Activity – Response to tutor Feedback

People & Place

Assignment 2 : Response to tutor feedback

This is one comment I’m definitely going to hold on to, to keep me motivated :

 Overall this has been a successful assignment” ….I’m pleased with you getting out there with your camera and focusing on groups of people whom you don’t know.

Other positives were that there were some good prints of my final edit and the skin tones look much more natural than in Assignment 1. It was good to go through my editing process in the write-up. From the work shown in the assignment I’m likely to be successful in the formal assessment.

Suggestions on achieving a collaborative focus

I had been chatting with subjects, striking up a rapport, letting them know my motives and evincing trust so that they allow me to go about making  something interesting. However, I had commented on lack of head and shoulder shots in this series (as opposed to my alternative series at the station in Wirksworth) and the series could have benefited from a good character portrait. “…….the full-length shots suffer a little from seemingly not knowing what they want to be, action or posed”. My tutor suggests two very accurate reasons for this – not taking enough time when making them, plus a desire not to inconvenience them too much.  The suggestion here is that once I’ve got them chatting I should ask them to stand where I want, pose them slightly and then make the picture, which should only take 30 seconds to a minute and so not inconvenience them to much.

Number of images

Taking 137 photographs over the weekend is not enough given that I was shooting in reportage style. More, possibly double this would allow more choices.  I think what’s happening here is that I’ve been influenced by all those articles/comments which say that if you’re making good photographs you shouldn’t need to take a lot.  I realise I’m really putting the cart before the horse here because my photographs aren’t good enough for that attitude yet so I’ll just have to keep on taking lots of them!

My editing process

The editing lets me down a bit from a professional standpoint. Two of the photographs are basically repeats. The young man on the shed is in the group photograph and then I have two close-ups of him doing the same activity (laying the roof). It would have been better to have left the first one in my contact sheets (where he semi-posed and smiled).  In fact, I was going to leave it and only included it at the end because I had to exclude one of another subject wasn’t good enough.   What I could have done was to wait until later and take a shot of the young man when he was used to my presence and doing something else.

Another man in the group shot is hoeing and then I have him doing the same thing in an individual shot. My tutor doesn’t see that as a problem as they are very different photographs but  he comments that if I was doing a piece for a local magazine or paper then they wouldn’t want to run two pictures the same, but would want both to be shot so they could choose one of them.  Do you know that’s something I was thinking during the editing process – “If only I could just give the contact sheets over to someone and then they could choose what they want – like the way people choose their wedding photographs!” I enjoyed the editing process but it was fraught.  Of course, if I’d taken more photographs then at least I would have had more to choose from that were, hopefully, ‘good enough’.

My learning log/blog

Excellent overall. My write-up of the alternative assignment shows I’m going the extra mile. Suggestion that I include more links to what I’m reading and viewing.  I’m aware that I hadn’t been doing as much  reading (due to my sinking into gloom at the beginning) but that has increased in past weeks. In fact I’m beginning to lose track slightly on recent books I’ve bought and ordered from the library so the pile is growing.  Also I had been in the habit of doing hyperlinks and references within the body of the write-ups and then listing all the references again at the end.  I’d stopped doing the latter but will go back and amend that.  I also have a separate ‘page’  which for some reason appears at the bottom right of my blog which is “Bibliography and References” so I can keep overall track of reading etc.  Having read my tutor’s feedback I realise I haven’t updated it at all so that will have to be done. I’m not too sure about including all the website links I’ve followed for posts there though. I think I’ll ask a tutor question on the OCA site.

Suggested reading/viewing

Lots of suggestions here on ‘People at Work’ ; “People and Gardens” and “People in Buildings”( remembering the next assignment). These are  – Keith Arnatt,; Lee Friedlander; Fay Godwin; John Darwell and  Stephen Gill. I’ve accessed all of sites once already – now need to go back and look in more depth.

Also suggestion to look at Magnum Contact Sheets, Thames & Hudson to look at how the best photographers ‘work’ a scene. This is on order from the library, in view of the high cost of buying. If I like it sufficiently it can always go on my Christmas present list!

Action points

  • Continue to work on my collaborative process
  • Take more time to set things up
  • Take more photographs overall for a series
  • Remember to get variety of activity in photographs – as in the case of a group shot followed by an individual one.
  • Make some notes for my paper log on the photographer series I’ve been linked to – plus I can safely download examples without breaching copyright.
  • Update my ‘Bibliography and references” list on Pages in my blog.

2nd October 2012