People & Place Assignment 5: Response to Tutor feedback

I was pleased to have the usual quick feedback from my tutor, especially as this is the final Assignment for the module. His overall comments were brief but positive so good to start with:-

Overall this has been another good assignment. I was impressed with the lengths you went to find an interesting subject and explore it in an interesting way. I thought you hit upon something interesting by finding a long term resident and this may have been the best avenue to explore –a series influenced by Geoffrey’s memories of a life spent in this place. If you could fit in another trip then this would be a very interesting avenue to pursue –speak to Geoffrey whilst showing him your photographs and see what memories they conjure. If you record this session then you could use this information as the basis for captions for the photographs. This would form a fascinating link between the photographs of Geoffrey and his home and the photographs of the wider space. This is certainly not a requirement for level one though and may be just something to consider in later modules.

  • Re my query regarding different sizes of prints:  a  mock-up of a magazine article can dictate how the work is viewed and relative sizes of each photo.  I can still present prints of different sizes but this works better on a wall than submitting a portfolio of loose prints.
  • Agreement that this could be a very interesting multimedia project – with video and audio interviews alongside still photographs of the landscape.
  • I should have held out for the ultra-modern interior, ultra-wide lens shot from same viewpoint, as an interesting counterpoint.  Certainly ,Geoffrey and I had talked about how this type of house can adapt itself to different ages and types of furniture etc and this idea is something I can always return to in the future.
  • Portrait submitted of Geoffrey not the strongest and suggestion that 5579 is a more natural composition.  I had thought of that one but hadn’t been sure because of the angle that had been necessary due to the small amount of space for manoeuvring with my camera.
  • A portrait of Geoffrey is important to avoid interior shots becoming a bit “’Through the Keyhole-esque’”.   Also a detail shot does give the sense of the house being a lived-in space and my tutor liked the idea of 5722 which shows the built-in cupboard between kitchen and dining area.  Suggestions made re the crop and straightening but I’d already done that – I hadn’t included this in my final 12 because it was portrait orientation and I’d thought this would make it ‘stick-out’ and lead to a comment about it.
  • My overall edit is interesting – particularly those showing the close relationship between the estate and the landscape. On that point I may need to open the series a little differently – showing the houses within their setting.  5722 suggested but without the car. I had used that image in my write-up when discussing my visits to Templemere.   An initial attempt at ‘removing’ the car hadn’t worked. Also a suggestion that, (although I have already done it this way),  I more definitely divide  the series into 3 ‘Acts’  – houses in their setting, residents and interiors, wider forest setting.
  • With Geoffrey as the only person I need captions relating to how he sees the place. Suggestion of visit to him with my final pictures so that he can relate his memories of living in this place. This would tie the work together and make the series about his life within this space.
  • As I’d expected, my tutor also did a slightly different rough edit

Here is my original edit:

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 14.38.46

Here is my tutor’s edit:

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 14.35.24

My tutor has chosen the more contextual portrait of Geoffrey, and replaced the shot of the two chairs with a wider view of the living area that also shows his original room heater.  The closer shot giving more prominence to the room heater is replaced by the cupboard detail. I had originally thought of  5471 for one view of the houses but had decided against that because the grass had turned brown due to the prevailing hot, sunny weather without rain.

  • My tutor noted also that it might be useful to have a view out of a window that, ‘could serve to tie the forest and estate images together’.  Geoffrey has nets at his window which was why I hadn’t done that.
  • So far as technical details were concerned my tutor had noticed I was getting some chromatic aberration where the sky comes through the trees and suggested the fix. This was because of my attempts to reduce the extremes between almost white skies at times and dark greenery. Prints generally acceptable although some a little cool looking and one print (No. 12) was a bit green. Fix suggested.  I’ll do a re-check when the prints have been returned to me.
  • A wider reading list of blogs suggested. In fact I do have a long list of blogs I follow which also include art; creative writing and design. Some I follow through WordPress but others from different hosts are followed via Bloglovin. I hadn’t entered links onto my blog because it is such a long list. In fact I’ve decided that for my next blog (DPP) I won’t include a blog roll unless there’s a different way of doing this.

Action taken

I arranged another visit to Geoffrey. I intended to show him contact sheets of my edit, my tutor’s edit and the set of 6×4 prints of my second selection and then, after discussing them, to suggest he might choose his own 12. I also wanted to see if I could get another view of the houses in context, without cars, and maybe another with greener grass.

I had a really pleasant two hours with Geoffrey who was very interested in all the photographs (although not enthused about the portraits of himself that I’d  posted to him some time ago, thinking that he looked ‘so old’.) I recorded most of our conversation on my iPhone as well. After discussing both edits and  going through all the 6×4 prints Geoffrey then chose his own twelve. I must admit to maybe being over-encouraging that he should choose one of himself. I also mentioned about a shot from the window and he was all for that, although it would have to be through the net curtain downstairs as the rail was in a flimsy state for moving it.  I also had a tour upstairs and was able to photograph through an open window there. On the way back to my car I took more photographs of houses in context. Cars were still there and to cut them out gave a narrower view.  Here are the best of some of the photographs I took.

Templemere retakes ContactSheet-001 low resTemplemere retake ContactSheet-002 low res

I now had decisions to make about my own ‘final’ edit based on my tutor’s feedback, Geoffrey’s own views and the new images.  The ‘dialogue with Geoffrey has been very important to me in understanding the underlying approaches to the creation of Templemere and its continuing effect on its residents. I think I’ve been very fortunate in being able to engage in such a positive collaboration and with such an interesting and welcoming person. Not forgetting Bill and Brenda Boyd as well who facilitated my project so smoothly. I therefore want my final choice to embody something of their  attachment to Templemere,  whilst including my tutor’s suggestions but still being ‘mine’.

I chose my ‘final’ 12 but then got to wondering about differences between an original more spontaneous edit and then a subsequent one through the filter of other people’s feedback. There have been crossovers of course but any edits are the outcome of individual viewers’ perspectives. How much might I have lost my original response to Templemere? I decided to allow a night’s sleep to process everything. Woke up thinking about the woods and that I could do a ‘side’ series on them. I’ve done my own printing so far but it might be worth ordering a trial print on aluminium.  I put out a query on OCA Flickr and, having considered suggestions/advice I’ve went ahead and ordered one print on metallic paper. I actually like the effect but have heeded warnings on it not being a good idea to submit shiny prints for Assessment. I’ve now ordered a different type of ‘metallic’ photopaper from Permajet and will experiment with that in due course. This is a side series though so I must return to my Templemere edit which I decided not to change from the previous night.

Here are my final 12.

Captions

I decided that, here, it would be most useful for me to produce a book to contain captions and also a small amount of narrative. I prepared a proof copy and got some feedback and then re-edited a final copy. Here is a PDF (open it up in two page view)

Templemere final version reduced pdf

and here is the book on the Blurb site.

The book should arrive in time for me to send with assessment material as ‘supplementary’ work. I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative and I hope that the book can be understood in it’s own right.

Conclusion and thoughts for some continuing work

I enjoyed working on all aspects of the project.  I’ve been pleased as well that I have enough reasonable images to enable different edits. I had thought of recording an interview but that was more in passing, as in something to do for a future project, as I knew that I would have to do some concentrated learning on this.  I’m pleased though that my tutor’s feedback actually gave me the necessary push to go along with the recording and to talk more with Geoffrey about the photographs. I intend to create a book just for him as well, with his favourite images included and also to do one which will be just about Templemere itself.  This will enable me to include images I had to omit for the final 12 re-edit.  It really was hard to choose just 12! I have endeavoured to take into account my tutor’s comments on processing/colour whilst printing the definitive final 12, particularly with the colour green.

I still have the recording and will experiment with ways of linking it with some of the photographs in a video format.  I’ll add it here if I have time before assessment.  Now onward to getting everything ready to send off for Assessment and completing Study Visit write-ups etc before Assessment day..

30th September 2013

Advertisements

Assignment 5 : People and Place on Assignment

A Design for Living

1: The Brief

I have my first commission. My ‘client’ is a Lifestyle Magazine called Designs for Living.  The Magazine editor is interested in the way that housing developments designed in the 1960s have survived (or not) over time.  The whole series will cover post-war housing developments from brutalist/high rise to neo-Georgian and all in between. I have been asked to :-

  • Photograph and research ‘Templemere’ a private housing estate designed by the architect Eric Lyons and built by Span Developments in 1965 in Surrey. It was considered avant garde at the time and has just celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
  • Visit at a time when the celebrations have ceased and the estate is functioning on an everyday basis.
  • Provide photographs of the exterior and interior of one of more of the houses and the grounds of the estate.
  • Interview and photograph one of the original residents and gain their view on how the original design has met its purpose.
  • Obtain the views of other residents who moved in more recently.
  • Provide contact sheets of at least 50 jpegs processed from RAW and suggest the twelve that I consider best reflect the brief and show how far the development has provided A Design for Living.

2: Planning

  1. Do background reading/research before the first visit to gain a sense of the intended ethos of  Templemere.
  2. Check whether there were any original plans, older photographs or previous magazine articles about the Templemere and Span.
  3. Check whether Templemere has its own website as this provides another view on how the residents perceive the development.
  4. Contact one of the residents who is/has been very active in the Residents Society and arrange an initial visit to gain a sense of the environment.
  5. Ask for an introduction to a resident who has lived there since the houses were new; arrange an interview and gain permission to photograph the house interior.
  6. Interview any other resident available and ascertain their views on the estate.
  7. Photograph the interior of a house that has been updated as this might reflect any improvements considered necessary on the original building design.
  8. Photograph the grounds of Templemere.
  9. Ensure that I visit more than once so that I can photograph at different times of day.

3: Background Information

I did considerable reading around Eric Lyons, Span and Templemere and a fuller PDF summary of my notes can be accessed from the reference list . Eric Lyons was a visionary architect and a disciple of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany in 1919, who came to England in 1934 .

Eric Lyons eventually joined forces as architect with Span Developments, created by Geoffrey Townsend. Their concept was to place people in communities with landscaped parkland that provided open spaces for community living. It was also intended that residents should take an active interest in the management of the estates through Residents Societies, “to make sure that the principles driving the project were propagated, and that distracting personalisations of shared space were prevented”.  Amongst other developments Lyons, with Span, created and began building a village, New Ash Green,  Kent that was  subsequently sold and completed by Bovis when Span ran into financial difficulties. There certainly wasn’t unanimous approval of  the new styles of modern building in the 1960s, with their large picture windows

 Kenneth Mahood cartoons from Punch magazine Design and architecture cartoons from Punch magazine by Ken Mahood
Reproduced with permission of Punch Limited., www.punch.co.uk

The house style is reminiscent of the ones created at Templemere and this cartoon appeared in a series by Ken Mahmoud in 1963 in Punch Magazine 

4: Templemere

_MG_5720

Templemere has its own website here  that provides a wealth of information. The new estate was built within an C18th landscape that had been created by the Duke of Newcastle. It included a small wood and access to Broadwater Lake – also created by the Duke to mimic a river.

Previous Span developments had utilized courtyard gardens but it was realised that this would not work here as the houses had to match the C18th landscape. A new house type, L1, was created with an octagonal shape and linked/attached houses were staggered in outward facing groups with a central green area. 65 houses were built in 1963 and the estate won a Civic Trust award in 1964.

Eric Lyons gave a lecture to RIBA in 1968 where he explained that:-

It was not until we moved on to a beautiful site at Weybridge that we started having enough confidence to move away from the kind of external spaces we have been creating. Because of the enormous scale of some splendid cedar trees on the site I attempted to approach the problems of spatial organisation quite differently, to try and create less defined space. The space flows on like a water course and loses itself in all directions bubbling around the trees and clusters, going down into the wood and disappearing:

5: Meeting some of the Residents

I visited Templemere five times. I was concerned that this spread over in the school holidays and was worried that I may encounter problems if children were out playing, in terms of objections to photography etc. However this problem did not arise fortunately.

Two of the residents, Bill and Benda Boyd, spent some time with me on my initial visit, walking me round the estate and pointing out features of the grounds and house exteriors.  They drew my attention to the many old trees with a feature point being a 400 year old Cedar tree.

_MG_5722

The wooded area by Broadwater Lake had been let go over the years but, 4/5 years ago, some of the younger residents got together and, with assistance from a specialist contractor, opened up the views. A special fund being created to pay for the work. They explained how the Residents Society operates. The management fee includes landscape maintenance of communal areas and painting of house exteriors on a rotational basis and the Residents Society organise several annual events as can be seen from their newsletter  when the  grassed community area in the centre becomes alive when residents gather. In the recent Queen’s Jubilee celebrations a walkway was built down to the woods by some of the men and opened with a ribbon. I was shown their names carved at the back of the post.

A few residents have made changes to exteriors, such as painting doors a different colour and the occasional installation of conservatories has created some controversy but, overall, I gained an impression of a very active Residents Society that is committed to maintaining a strong community spirit and upholding the original ethos of the development. I’m writing this advisedly because there will always people who want to make their own mark so there’s likely to be a continual process of discussion, negotiation and majority consensus. An Application is going to be made to have the estate deemed a conservation area and this should further protect the environment of the estate

I was told that the interiors of some houses have changed over the years apart from re-decorating. Some ground floors have become open plan; central heating has often been installed to replace the original more electrical underfloor heating and room has sometimes been found for a downstairs toilet. The houses seem to lend themselves well to this kind of adaptation and change.

Bill and Brenda enjoy living in Templemere. Bill likes their house for the large windows and light and Brenda likes the community feel – like a small village. She told me that 170 people came to the 50th Anniversary celebration earlier this year, including 30 former residents, which shows the hold that Templemere has over people.

b). Geoffrey Kemp

Bill and Brenda introduced me to Geoffrey and I had two visits with him. It was a real pleasure to talk with him, not to mention being introduced to a new delicacy – clotted cream and tawny orange marmalade on toast which was his late breakfast. He is very proud of his house and happy for me to have a look round and take photographs. He and his wife moved into Templemere as a newly married couple. He has been widowed for several years now but, at the age of 85,  wants to stay where he is for as long as possible. Geoffrey considers this estate to be one of only a few examples of 1960s domestic architecture that’s any good. – “I think he’s [Eric Lyons] the greatest domestic architect since the war”.

He said:

I like the house for its tremendous sense of space, plus the grounds, lakes and woods and I have lots of friends here who are very supportive and keep an eye on me.

At his age one snag is the lack of a downstairs loo, but he likes the original concept so much that nothing has been changed and he still uses the original underfloor heating. It’s rather expensive – he sometimes uses the convection from a 1964 floor heater – but he likes it. His house also retains much of the original furniture, including the original two-way unit constructed between the kitchen and dining area “which obviates the need for a sideboard” (from original specification sheet).

There was also a possibility to talk with another newer resident who has modernized and converted his downstairs area to fully open plan but the timing was tight so this did not happen. Still, the possibility is there if I return to do more photography at some point.

A fuller account of my talks with residents can be accessed in the reference list.

The Photographs

85 of the original RAW images were converted to jpegs.  From these I did an initial selection of 62 which I reduced to 34.

These fell into four approximate sets, Geoffrey’s house; residents; the houses/estate; the woodland.  I shared these (at 6×4 size) with the OCA Thames Valley group and it was really interesting to see how they started to put them together. Another advantage of doing this was that I could see from 6×4 prints images that would require some colour adjustment. My tutor will have access via Dropbox to digital contact sheets of all RAW files and the initial selection of 62 and I will send him printed contact sheets of the selection of 34 and A4 prints of my final 12.

I found it hard to pare it all down to 12. I wanted to avoid the look of an estate agent’s brochure and to bring Templemere to life somehow. I was drawn to the greenness of the woodland but then everything would probably have been too similar.  Some people might say that one piece of woodland is the same as another but there was a difference for me.  I experienced the woodland at Templemere as being a deeper green than my local Common – smaller and more intimate. Looking at my images I was reminded of Jem Southam’s work – see here and here   The wildness contrasted with the more careful organisation of the houses within their immediate environment, although the houses themselves were also shrouded in the landscape as they flowed along together in their groups – just as Eric Lyons described in his lecture in 1968.

I could have chosen just to concentrate on Geoffrey but then I wouldn’t be showing the environment he loves and has lived in for so many years.  He can no longer walk down into the woodland but I can show it to him. There were so many different edits I could do. I also started to wonder about sizes. For my tutor I’m preparing A4 prints with a border for handling. If I were to do it a different way – say for a small book then should the woodland be, say, full bleed so that the woodland flows off the page? Would it be better to have smaller images of Geoffrey and the interior of his house to show the scale of size compared with the buildings? It was certainly good to be aware of all those different possibilities but then I had to make a choice.

What came together for me was how the original concept has worked for 50 years and, in this particular instance fulfilled the vision of Eric Lyons and Span who aimed to create a particular kind of environment. Not a garden town, village or suburb but much smaller.  Facilities such as shops etc might not be included but they lie close by. Residents live close to their neighbours (indeed are linked with them in groups) However, they live in a house that, although not large in space, is filled with light. They have a small garden to enjoy with privacy,  yet are able to breathe and enjoy the environment around them as they step outside their front door. This small, self-organised community has the ability to support and offer friendship to its members as they grow older. Children can experience the magic of the woods relatively safely. I’m aware that all this might seem too fulsome but it works at Templemere because the residents, on the whole, are committed to such a concept.

I’ve been reading Yi-Fu Tuan’s book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977) as I’ve been pondering about sense of place for some time – see here .  There were two sentences that struck me as I thought about Templemere

Compared to space, place is a calm center of established values (p. 54)

When space feels thoroughly familiar to us it has become place (p. 73)

And, with this in mind, these are the 12 I have chosen.

Summary

The plan worked except for photographing the ultra-modernized interior of one of the houses, although that possibility is still available for me.  The variation in sunlight on different days meant sometimes the sky was blue and sometimes white. Is it best to have uniform skies or not?

I enjoyed the researching and tried very hard not to research too much at the expense of taking photographs. My research notes will be in my paper log, together with copies of the emails with Punch magazine and the signed permission note from Geoffrey. It was good to meet and talk with the Boyds and with Geoffrey Kemp. If I was going to do it all again then I would have experimented with video and/or audio work, but will come as I plan to learn this during my next Module.

I’m looking forward to my tutor’s feedback – guessing that he might do a re-edit again. I wish I could be sitting there whilst he’s doing it so he could talk to me about it. That’s one of the aspects that I’ve gained so much from with the OCA Thames Valley Group and it would be good to do it with my own tutor.

3rd September 2013

References

Books

Barrett, C (2005) Spanning the Years in Grand Designs Magazine, March 2005.

Evans, P (2012) The 1960s Home, Shire Publications Ltd, Oxford

Harbison, R (2006) Exhibition, Architects Journal 30/11/2006

Simms, B (Ed) (2006) Eric Lyons & Span

Strike, J (2012)The Spirit of Span Housing, Strike Print, (Kindle ed)

Yi-Fu Tuan, (1977) Space and Place : The Perspective of Experience, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Fuller PDV versions of Research notes

Summary background of influences on Eric Lyons and Span Developments and Templemere

Talking with some of the Templemere residents v1

Websites

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Spirit-Span-Housing-ebook/dp/B0090L9BJ6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

http://www.architecture.com/Home.aspx

http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk

http://www.fonagvc.co.uk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Span_Developments

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Gropius

http://punch.photoshelter.com/image/I0000LdxLj3EF7QI

http://www.ribabookshops.com/item/eric-lyons-and-span/58648/

http://www.ribapix.com/index.php?a=wordsearch&s=gallery&w=Templemere&go.x=0&go.y=0&go=Go

http://www.seesawmagazine.com/southam_pages/southam_interview.html

http://www.span-kent.co.uk/about_span.html

http://www.templemere.co.uk

http://www.thenbs.com/topics/designspecification/videos/eric_lyons_and_span.asp

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/l/landscape-photography-jem-southam/

http://www.weymede.co.uk/index.htm