Category Archives: Learning Log

Reflections on people and Place

It was with some trepidation that I started out on this course because I have never enjoyed taking formal portraits. At the start of the course I let this irrational dislike almost overwhelm me and I struggled to get started. However, having finished the course I feel that I have learnt a lot. I even to started to like enjoy taking portraits although I accept that this never be my favourite photographic Genre.

Throughout the course I have include reflections on my work and lessons learned in my assignment submissions and post I wrote on my tutor’s feedback. In addition to this the remainder of this post revisits each section of the course and summarises my thoughts and lessons learned.

Part 1 – People aware

.I learnt from the people aware section of the course was that I could take reasonable portraits something I had little confidence in doing previously. In his first feedback my tutor also pointed out that I could improve the compositions in my work by cropping. As someone who started photography using slide film I had always felt it was important to capture the image in the camera and not rely on post processing while I have done more cropping and other post processing since I switched to digital but after this comment  I started think more more about this aspect of my work. As a first step after receiving this feedback I went back and updated my assignment one submission spending more time on post-processing.

While I was working on part one I researched the classic portrait photographers Horst P Horst, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. I also looked at the work less well-known artists like John Hedgecoe, Jane Bown and Guy Bourdain. I think I learn about the range of different portrait styles and approaches from this research. It certainly made me appreciate portrait photography more but I am not sure that it really impacted the work I did for part 1.

When I saw the the exhibition of work by Gillian Waring and Claude Cahun at the National Portrait Gallery towards the end of my work on this course I realised that I could have done so much more in this section of the course but I felt it was too late to go back and change everything.

Part 2 – People unaware

I started the people unaware section with a more confidence than the previous part because street photography had been a genre that I had enjoyed working on over the years. I was lucky that as I worked through this section I had the opportunity to see and exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Sainsbury Centre. I have long admired Cartier-Bresson’s work and seeing his actual prints rather than looking at reproductions in books and on the internet, was a revelation. In retrospect I believe I could have thought more about how my work in this section could have been more influenced by Cartier-Bresson perhaps I should have gone out with the idea of creating a Cartier-Bresson style pictures something I probably would not have achieved but which could have given my work another dimension.

Looking back, I can see that the work I submitted for the second assignment, was not my best there were some strong images from what was a very colourful event. However, as my tutor pointed out in his feedback I really hadn’t thought about a narrative when creating and selecting the work instead I had picked my favourite images and tried to write a narrative around them. Effectively, I had tried to force the pictures to fit a narrative I had in my mind, but which was not at all obvious to anyone else. Looking back at this submission now I am disappointed with it, I didn’t really prepare enough for the shoot and go looking for pictures that fitted a theme and that really shows.

I continued to peruse a wide range of research looking at artists mention by my tutor is his feedback eg Cartier-Bresson and Philip-Lorca di Corcia as well as vising a number of exhibitions eg the exhibition of Oshiuchi Miyako’s work at the Getty Center.

To characterise the work I did while working on this section I have  submitted for assessment four pictures of commuters that I took for one of the exercises  .  I feel this set of pictures are stronger than those I took for the assignment and capture the quiet desperation felt by many people travelling to and from work by train. A big lesson for me from these pictures that good work can be done in a familiar location and a distant location like New York does that I used in assignment 2 does not necessarily result in good work.

Part 3 – Buildings and Spaces

During part three “Buildings and Spaces”  I wanted to explore taking pictures of many different types of space and while working on assignment three I deliberately choose a  wide range of different types of location. I wanted some spaces that were bright and colourful and others that were dark and more uniform in colour. Looking back at some of the work from a technical perspective I believe I should have not be afraid to use higher ISOs and accept a higher level of noise, for example some of the series in the Guggenheim museum would have benefited from this. Despite this some of my favourite pictures from this course were taken as I worked on this section.

My tutor again pointed out the need to be more aggressive in cropping and post processing, for example the picture on the left below was the version I included in my submission and the one on the right I reworked after reading his comments by creating a tighter crop to put the group I wanted the viewer to focus on more towards the bottom right and cloning out a number of distracting parts of people.

I have included the reworked picture above and  some others from this part of the course in the prints I submitted for assessment.

When I was working on this section of the course I continued to visit exhibitions and research photographers. During this time, I made the first of two visits the Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern. I really enjoyed this exhibition because it gave me the chance to see actual prints of the work of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn that I had previously only seen in books. I also liked the examples of Paul Strand’s work in the exhibition and went on to do a deeper study of his work.

During this part of the course I believe my technical ability in low light photography improved and learnt to not be afraid of taking pictures where some areas were blurred. From a general workflow perspective, it re-enforced the need to plan shots in advance, the locations (The Guggenheim, Tate Modern and Waterloo station) where I had visualised images before visiting them worked better than those that I visited without a clear plan.

Part 4 – People interacting with place

When first  received my tutors feedback for my fourth assignment, I felt my he had been quite harsh in his comments although looking back having finished the course I  have more sympathy with his views. I believe there were some strong pictures in the assignment but there really isn’t an overall narrative about borough Market, some wider-angle shots showing more context could have anchored the idea the location being Borough Market rather than any random market.

Again my tutor raised the issue of cropping and I have reworked two of my favourite pictures from this assignment and submitted them as prints for assessment. For example, in the revised image on the right below I have cropped out some unnecessary detail on the right, particularly the person in the very pink jacket. To keep the aspect ration the same I also cropped off the top which added little to the original image. Finally I increased the overall brightness of the image to make the green pillar on the  left more than the foreboding dark space it was in the  original.

In retrospect I don’t think Borough Market was an ideal subject for this assignment, I took the pictures in winter and it was very dark which forced a combination of high iso and low shutter speeds resulting in many pictures not sharp enough to include. I think I learnt an important lesson here. I either need to choose subjects for work like this more carefully or alternatively I could have pushed the iso much higher and gone for a retro noisy and high contrast black and white presentation.

Part 5 – On Assignment

Before starting work on this assignment, I studied the work of Vanessa Püntener and Martin Parr as suggested by my tutor. The work of Püntener really made the idea of a creating a narrative about a place through a set of pictures much clearer to me. I had previously researched the work of Marin Parr but going back and working through the images from his book the Last Resort again helped me understand how the capture the essence of a place through a series of pictures.

For this final assignment I did more preparation and planning than for any of the previous ones. However, I did not end up the set of pictures that I had originally planned showing happy families enjoying their holidays. Rather I created a set of pictures that show misery and even disappointment at the reality of an English holiday. Perhaps what I have captured here is the reaction of people trying to recapture happy times in their past but time has moved on and neither the location or peoples reaction to was the same as when they were younger.

I did study Martin’s Parr’s book “The Last Resort” before embarking on this assignment and although I started with the intention of not creating a similar vision when I look at my pictures there is a somewhat surreal almost Parr like quality to some of them so subconsciously I could have been more influenced by his work than I realised at the time.

My tutor did point out some issues with some of the pictures in my original submission and I have revisited the pictures I took and made some substitutions in the set I have submitted as hard copies for this assessment. I Believe that the new set of images I put together after this feedback (here) has a stronger more consistent narrative and looking back I am not sure why I selected some of the pictures in the original set. I can only think that I still felt the need to force a narrative that really wasn’t supported by the best pictures that I had taken. I think a big lesson I can take away from this assignment and indeed my work through the entire course is that the preparation and planning pay off.

I think the lesson I can take away from this assignment is that the preparation and planning paid off resulting in what I believe is some of the best work I did during this course.


Assignment 5: Tutor Feedback

I think the feedback from my tutor for assignment 5 was very helpful, it certainly made me look at the series of pictures that I submitted again. Generally, I agree with his comments and have gone back and updated the series of pictures. I have made the following changes

  • Picture 1 – Chalet life – I have substituted a picture that includes more of the context of the chalets, I struggle to think of a building like this at the edge of a car park as beach huts although they do serve a similar purpose.
  • Picture 4 – Before the rain – I have substituted a picture that is more focused on a food stall and people considering making a purchase which I have called “The snack” because of the expression of happiness on the face of the woman carrying her food over to where her partner and child are waiting.
  • Pictures 6,7 I replaced with another beach scene entitled “Time to relax” and two scenes of people in the town “tea with mother” and “When is my next pint coming?”
  • Finally, I replaced Picture 10 with the one called “A memory of a good time”
  • I also changed the title of picture 11 to arcade because although the idea of a woman bring her dog to the arcade to play bingo I agree with my tutors comments that in the picture the dog is just too small to feature in the title.

The new set of pictures are shown below:

Changing half the pictures in this series may seem excessive but having read my tutors comments I realised that I had again tried to find pictures to tell the story in my mind rather than let the pictures tell their own story and this had caused me to include two poor pictures 8 & 10 that were no sharp enough and two pictures 6 & 7 that were just out of place in this context.

I tried to look at the website of Ville Lenkkeri’s that my tutor referred me to but all I got was an error implying that the website was not working, this may be a temporary glitch and I will go back and try again another day.

I did look at the work of David Spero that was also referred to in my tutor’s comments and found this particularly his set of images of churches which featured a wide range of buildings that had been converted into places of worship. The series featured, houses, shops, industrial buildings, offices a cinema and flats above shops. I also liked his pictures of parks some of which are reminiscent of pictures I have taken in the past. The settlements series that my tutor referred to shows buildings that self-sufficient families and groups have built in woodlands. I can see the a parallel with my work in that the pictures show a reality that probably does not live up to the original dreams that lead to the creation of these communities.

I believe from this assignment I have learnt finally that cropping pictures to get the best possible image is something that I really need to focus on. I also spent more time post processing these images than in many previous assignments.

The other big lesson has been however much planning I do, in a situation like this I will not get all of the pictures I imagine, and I need to let the pictures tell their story and not try to force them to tell my preconceived story.

The full set of my tutor’s comments are available here.

Assignment 5: People and Place on Assignment

For the fifth assignment, I had to select my own project with the proviso that the subject should be related to the material in the People and place module. I started out with some grandiose ideas but then common sense prevailed and I realised that I would need to choose a topic that could be developed around a location that was close to where I live so that I could easily visit it enough times to obtain a satisfactory set of pictures. As I live in an area that is popular tourist destination in summer I decided to work around the idea of people holidaying in Britain or taking a staycation as the popular press likes to say today.

Within ten to twenty miles of my home there are many different types of holiday destinations, firstly there is Burnham Market or “Chelsea-on-Sea” as many locals refer to it which is dominated by affluent second home owners mainly from London.  Then there are coastal towns being rapidly gentrified like Wells-next-the-Sea, several wild life sanctuaries visited by keen bid watchers and finally Hunstanton a traditional British seaside resort.

In some ways Burnham Market would have been an interesting topic showing how the upmarket shops and restaurants and often ostentatious displays of wealth make it very different to other surrounding towns and villages. However, in the end I decide to focus on Hunstanton and try to show what a holiday at a traditional British resort is like in 2017.

Client Brief

I wrote my self the following brief for this project:

Deliver 8-12 photographs that document what people could expect from a holiday in Hunstanton in 2017. To illustrate one of a series of magazine article about the different types of holiday destinations in East Anglia. This is not intended to be a series of articles marketing resorts by glossing over the realities of life with dramatic sunsets etc but rather a true picture of what each these resorts are like. Neither should the pictures resemble those used in marketing brochures or on postcards.


Following the feedback from my tutor on my last assignment I looked the work of Vanessa Puntener a Swiss photographer who has produced several projects around life in the Alps and Martin Parr’s famous work “The Last Resort”. It was not my intention to try and create a vision of Hunstanton that was as bleak as Parr’s vision of New Brighton. Although for many years Hunstanton has always been a little shabby and in places a little run down it has never had the piles of litter in the streets that Parr shows in New Brighton. Hunstanton is a small resort town and over the years it has largely survived on day trippers and caravaners it has never suffered the level of depravation that has been seen in larger resorts.

My original intention was to create a set of pictures of people obviously enjoying themselves on the beach, the promenade and around the town. I didn’t wat to take pictures of the sunsets the area is famous for or the gardens along the cliff tops that appear in every brochure published by the local tourist board.

When planning the shoots for this project I started off by writing lists:

What makes a good holiday, eg

  • Sun, sea and sand, pony rides, fun fair, amusement arcades, entertainment, food

Key places in Hunstanton, eg

  • Beach, promenade, gardens, stripped cliffs, beach huts, golf, crazy golf, bowling green, sailing club

What do we associate with seaside resorts, eg

  • Fish and chips, café’s, ice cream parlours, souvenir shops, rock, colourful buckets and spades, nets for rock pooling

Merging items from the different lists I ended up with about 50 ideas of shots I could try and capture: eg

  • Families on the beach
  • Eating take away on the promenade
  • Colourful displays in shops
  • Looking out from pub or café
  • Panic in beach hut
  • Water sports eg Sailing, kite surfers

I spent a lot more time preparing for this assignment that I have done in the past and while I did not end up capturing pictures that fulfilled many of my initial ideas having a list of potential subjects did help me focus on areas and not wander around just looking for a shot aimlessly.

Taking the Pictures

I visited Hunstanton six times and took more than a thousand pictures while working this assignment, I was there in bright sunshine, cloudy conditions, rain, high winds all the kinds of weather you get at an east coast resort in summer. What became increasing clear to me over the first two shots is that whatever the weather few people seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were many more miserable people than happy people. Initially I went out looking for happy scenes but it increasingly became clear that the more interesting picture were those of people who were not obviously enjoying themselves and gradually my theme moved to the grim reality of seaside holidays and far away from my initial concept.

My final selection of twelve photographs is show below followed by my reflections on this work.


The twelve pictures below capture a view of a holiday in Hunstanton, they portray it as quite a grim experience in doing this I am not trying to be disrespectful to the people in the pictures or to the town rather I hope I have captured the experience for some people that is very different from that pictured in tourist publications.


Chalet Life



True Grit



Is that rain?



Before the rain






Wishful Thinking



Why isn’t it like yesterday?






Why am I here?



Even the dog is suffering



I take my dog everywhere



Time to go home?



I tried in this series of photographs to capture a vision of the reality behind the glossy picture people often have of seaside holidays. I have shown these pictures to several people and the overwhelming response I get is how grim and depressing they make Hunstanton and its holiday makers look. I have not captured what I had in mind when I wrote the original brief but I believe that I have created a set of pictures that capture the experiences some people get from a day by the sea.

If these were to be used to illustrate a magazine article it could not be one that was promoting the pleasures of a holiday in Britain. Perhaps they could illustrate an article charting the gradual re-emergence of British resorts as they pick themselves up from what were much worse times twenty or thirty years ago.

One of the difficult decisions I had was whether to select these pictures or a set that showed a more positive side of Hunstanton. In the more than 1000 pictures I took during my visit to Hunstanton there are a lot of happy people enjoying themselves. However, the more times I visited the more I was struck by the number of miserable people and eventually I concluded that this had to be my theme.

As I said in the introductory text above I did a lot more planning for this assignment than I have done in the past. As I knew the town from many visits in the past I could plan several locations for shoots along with the pictures I hope that I would get in each one. In general, I believe that this really helped although in many cases I never got the pictures I had visualised as I was creating my plans. However, I do think that during this assignment I have learnt the value of planning and returning to a location several times. In many of the earlier exercises on this course I just walked the streets with some vague ideas of what I wanted to shoot and while I got some good shots it did take much longer than the more focused approach I used here. Making several visits enabled me to review the work I had and identify gaps that I needed to fill in a narrative and to be able to reshoot ideas that had not quite worked.

Thoughts on the pictures

In “Chalet Life” and “True Grit” I was trying to capture the determination people have to enjoy themselves on a seaside holiday. Perhaps “True Grit” is really about the determination to redo things that the woman had done in the past?

Rain is an ever-present feature in a British holiday, “Is that Rain” and “Before the rain” try to show how people try and work around rain.

“Inclusion”, today the seaside is a very inclusive place; young, old many people from different ethnic background and to me this picture really captures this theme. Whoever you, whatever your problems you can come to the seaside

“Wishful thinking” and “Why isn’t it like yesterday?”, some days the traders along the promenade have bad days either the weather is bad of perhaps it is just that no one shows up. Years ago, the beach would have been packed every day in the summer and café’s full but those days have ling gone.

“Resting”, “Why and I here” and “Even the dog is suffering” are trying to question why people come to Hunstanton when apparently, they hate either the seaside or the people they are with. Do they have some sense of duty that causes them to visit or are they just trying to relive happy childhood memories? With resting I did consider cropping out the child on the right hand side but in the end I preferred the picture with the child there

“I take my dog everywhere”, I couldn’t resist this shot, why take your dog in a push chair to play bingo? The inside of the arcade also really reflects the faded glory of many of our seaside resorts.

“Time to go home”, I think this picture sums up the thoughts of many people who visit seaside resorts when the weather is less than perfect.

As I said at the start of this post I did look at the work of Martin Parr and Vanessa Puntener at the time I was starting on the assignment. While I did not go out and try reproduce the style of either of there artists work Puntener’s work did encourage me to include some wider shots to give context to the my images and show that these are photographs of a seaside resort. As I said previously I really did not want to create a Parr like vision of Hunstanton but perhaps there is more Parr influence here that I was consciously looking to include. The amusement arcade picture and the couple ignoring each other outside the Chalet have some echos of picture included in the last Resort but I was not thinking about this when I took them.


Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

In places, I thought the feedback from my tutor of this assignment was a little harsh although in retrospect I accept that many of the points he makes particularly those about shallow depth of field and too much blur is correct. I was a little concerned about this when I was taking the pictures but was concerned about introducing too much noise much noise.  Looking back given the subject matter I think I could have go away with a higher ISO.

I also appreciate the comments on needing to include at least some shots with a wider perspective to give more of a context to the activities I have capture in the more tightly framed shots. this is something I will  focus on doing better in my final assignment.

My tutor raise the issue of cropping and shows some example of how pictures could be improved by different crops and I agree that individually his crops are better than mine. However, perhaps wrongly I always try to keep the aspect ratio the same for all the pictures in a set. Maybe I should change this approach?

If I was doing this assignment again I not sure that I would choose a subject like Borough market again? Probably, not my work suffered from the poor light in many areas and as the feedback points out it is hard to create pictures that depict Borough Market and not any random market. I tried to emphasise the location by including the Borough Market name that is on most stalls but this doesn’t really stand out in many of the shots.

Before I started work on my final assignment I did some research on Vanessa Puntener and Martin Parr as suggested by my tutor.

The full set of my tutors comments are available here

Assignment 4 – A Sense of Place

I selected Borough Market as the theme for this assignment and I have tried to capture the essence of the market by including pictures of the stalls, stall holders, cafés and the public who visit the market to buy or just to eat at the numerous cafes, street food vendors and the increasing number of up market restaurants. I took these pictures during two visits to the market once at the end of January and the other in early April. When I planned this assignment, I had in mind producing a set of images for an article about Borough market in a foodie magazine. As I wanted to take picture with something of a street feel I was not thinking of a high end very glossy magazine that would typically use artificially lit posed pictures but rather one of the increasingly common regional free food and lifestyle magazines. Where I live there is a magazine called Feast which is printed on relatively low quality paper and often features pictures similar to those I had in mind.

When I was planning the pictures I wanted for this assignment I thought about capturing the number of people who visit the market, the crush of people at popular times and the characters who work on the stalls. I decided to take hand held pictures using a high ISO. In some cases this meant relatively low shutter speeds so there is some motion blur to capture a sense of the bustling crowds and the expansive gestures of the stall holders.

When I first saw this picture, I had a thought that it could be called the face of Borough Market with the stallholder gazing intently out of the frame over her cakes towards a potential customer apparently unaware of the two policemen rushing past the other side of her stall. I could also image the possibility of positioning the title of the article over the area where the two policemen are walking.

This picture focuses on the products on sale, in this case artisan bread. People come to Borough Market to buy food stuffs that are not available in the typical supermarket. This stall had a great display of breads and I like the way the people in the background recede into the distance giving some idea of the size of the market.


The best fishmonger of 2016! This picture really capture the character that you see in many of the stall holders. In this case, the fishmonger is deep conversation with a customers who is only partially visible as a black blur in the bottom right of the frame. Perhaps this would have been a better picture without the blurred figure in the foreground but I liked the combination of the certificate, the fishmonger and the sign for the next-door stall and if I had waited for the scene to clear I would have lost the fishmonger’s expression which I think is a key feature of the picture. I could also have used more depth of field to sharpen the image of the certificate and sign but that would have meant the central figure would not have so obviously stood out.

I like the activity in the picture, the stallholder packing something, the woman in the background opening her handbag. I also like the colours of the goods in the foreground. The triangle formed by the woman in blue, the stall holder and the couple apparently about to buy something also give a sense of depth and draw the viewer eye towards the people and other stalls in the background.

I think of this picture as “making a choice” I like the expressions of the two women on the right who seem to be agonising over what to buy (this was a stall selling cupcakes). The girl on the foreground on the left is perhaps a little too much out of focus but in a way that just adds emphasis to the other figures.


Borough Market is not just about stalls selling gourmet food there are many cafes, restaurants and street food stalls. Maria’ café is one of the most central and well known. I like the way the woman in the foreground seems to be passing on a secret to her partner, perhaps a derogatory comment about the food?

I think these are six strong pictures but do they fulfil the brief of the assignment? I believe that they capture the character of Borough Market, they feature a variety of subject matter, food, traders and customers but perhaps there were opportunities that I missed. I have discussed some of these below when commenting on some of the pictures I chose not to include in my final six. The assignment talks about variety of scale and I have that to a degree; some tightly cropped portraits and some views that show stalls in a context but the location of the market under railway arches made getting a very expansive view difficult.

As well as the top six pictures above I also selected six reserves shown below, I am a little concerned that these are just ‘more of the same’ although I have included one or two that are quite different

I took several pictures like this, people staring longingly at the food on sale with crowds and the colourful canopies over the stalls receding into the background. This one has colour, great expression and a clear view of the products on sale but I feel the stall holders back in the foreground makes it not good enough to be in my top six.


I also tried a lot of shots like this showing the magnificent displays of food on sale. This would be a great picture to accompany the right article but I am concerned that there is nothing that really ties this to Borough Market it could be a scene almost anywhere in the country.


I wanted to include picture of people visiting the market and this one showing a man wearing two pairs of glasses really stood out. This was taken on a very cold overcast day at the end of January and it is hard to see why anyone would need sun glasses. I think the impact of this picture is a little diluted by the expression on the face of the woman in blue, she really doesn’t look like she is enjoying her food.

This is some ways a classic market scene, the stallholder looking happy having made a sale and the customer happily discussing his purchase. I feel it is a little let down by the labels on the cupcakes in the foreground being a little out of focus. This is a case where more depth of field or perhaps moving the plane of focus forward a little could have improved the picture

This another picture of the same group I included above selecting the cupcakes they want to buy. However, I find the woman’s face and teeth in the middle of the frame a little distracting. I did burn in this area a little during post processing to make the face less distracting but it still isn’t quite right.


This one is like several of the other images as it captures a stall holder serving a customer. It is a little different in that the structure of the building is visible in the background rather than the crowds and other stalls. I also like the way that the second stall holder appears to be looking out for new customers.


As with all shoots there were several ideas that I have thought about in advance that didn’t work out on the day. I think with more visits to the market I could make these ideas work and probably produce a series of photographs with a better narrative. I believe that with any project it is worth analysing what didn’t work as well as documenting things that did. I have four example images below that illustrate themes I wanted to include but which just didn’t work out.

I really wanted to capture an image that emphasised the street food on sale at Borough Market. However, in practice this proved difficult, the vendors were often in very dark areas and the customers in full light so it was hard to faces of both the vendor and customers. In this example, the vendor was in deep shadow but the customers were in an open bright area. Perhaps I could have used flash here but I don’t really like doing that in street photography and in this case bright reflections off the metal pans would probably have overpowered the image. I have thought about actually darkening the vendor to almost be a silhouette and just have the picture focus on the food and customers. That might be an interesting exercise but I don’t think it would fit with the other pictures in this assignment.

People eating street food was another idea I had, I quite liked this image it gives a good idea of the surroundings. However, the way the couple are frozen in the image eating their fish and chips is just not attractive. Perhaps if I was taking pictures that comment on British life I would use it but in this context, it just seems wrong.

I also wanted to be able to capture a contrast between the bustle of the market and the street food vendors with the high-end restaurants that surround it. While this is a nice through the window shot of people enjoying a restaurant I couldn’t get the reflection of the market in the glass that I had wanted.

I also did get a picture I really like that showed the surroundings of the market. It is located in and around railway arches and wide angle shots usually suffer from the very variable lighting, often images have large dark area with a very bright area where there is an entrance. I took this picture in one of the entrances to the market which is one of the few areas where there is a glass roof and hence more uniform lighting. However, it is a very busy thoroughfare and despite returning several time I could not get a grouping of people in the frame that I really liked.

Looking back over this assignment I now wonder if I have chosen the six best pictures or whether I would have been better to have a more focused theme. Perhaps I should have just included pictures of stall holders and other people working at the market to produce a submission based on ‘characters’ of Borough market. In the end, I am happy that the broader theme works in this case.

Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback

I much appreciate the comments that were written about my submission and I generally agree with all the points that were raised on specific pictures. I know that I perhaps do not spend enough time “finishing and polishing” my pictures and I have tried to spend more time on this in my fourth assignment. I really need to get away from a naive idea idea that real photographers make the picture in the camera and not during post processing.

The full set of tutors comments are included here.

Assignment 3 – Buildings In Use

I am not sure why but I have been looking forward to this assignment since I first read the course notes. As I have travelled with my camera I have taken pictures in many buildings with the idea that I might include them in this assignment.  I must admit not all my attempts at capture the interaction of people and buildings were as successful as I would have liked and in many cases I felt I could do better on a second visit but often my schedule did not allow me this luxury. I have included a range of different types of buildings; some well-known, some less well-known and one that is not generally accessible.

The Guggenheim Museum – New York

The building that Frank Lloyd-Wright created for the Guggenheim museum in New York has become of that that city’s iconic landmarks. Many people know the exterior of the building on 5th Avenue across the road from Central Park and whatever exhibition is showing a visit is often on a tourist’s itinerary. Like all the buildings in the assignment I have not included pictures of the outside but instead have focused on the interior.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, to give it its full name, was conceived to be a “temple to the Spirit” a building that itself was a work of art and one that would inspire and perhaps provoke visitors. Externally the building has a circular shape that is larger at the top than the bottom giving a very organic appearance in contrast to the tall rectangular buildings that surround it. Internally the main gallery space is a continuous helical ramp from the top to bottom. In 1992 the building was extended through the construction of a rectangular tower that stands behind the main building and provides additional gallery space.  However, in the pictures below I have focused on the interior of the original round structure. Frank Lloyd Wright’s original idea was that people would arrive, take the lift to the top floor and then walk slowly down the spiral viewing the exhibits. However, as the museum has become a very popular tourist destination exhibitions now start at the bottom of the building and visitors are thus encouraged to walk from bottom to top and avoid huge queues forming for the relatively small number of lifts.

The first picture is taken from the second or third floor looking up atrium of the building to the stunning domed roof light. With this picture, I wanted to capture the scale and beauty of the interior of the building while including people viewing the exhibition. I could have taken this from the ground floor capturing the vision people see as they enter the building but I didn’t think the shots I took of this worked so well because the first part of the spiral does not have any exhibition space next to it so the idea of people interactioning with the art works is not so visible.


The second picture shows part of three levels of the spiral to show people proceeding up and down the spiral as they view the exhibits.


One of the original goals of the design was to facilitate a new way of looking at the pieces in the Guggenheim collection by enabling people to look across the atrium and see several groups of work on different levels simultaneously. The next picture looks down one level in the spiral and captures a woman looking across at other work or perhaps even up to the domed sky light while other people just rush by. I would like to think that this illustrates the difference between visitors who are interested in the art and those who are just ticking off a site on their New York bucket list.


The final picture of the Guggenheim is looking down the atrium to the ground floor and captures the patterns formed by people who are waiting to enter the exhibition, queuing to buy tickets, standing in a group around a tour guide or just waiting for friends. I like the way the curves of the building contrast with the straight lines of the area to queue to buy tickets and it is also interesting how the groups of people tend to form up in circles echoing their surrondings.


I always think of the Guggenheim as a great gallery space although perhaps at times it can overpower works due to its spectacular architecture. The relatively low gallery bays off the spiral walkway which can also seem to hem in larger works. However, overall it is such a unique space that I am sure it attracts more visitors than would go to see the same exhibitions in a more conventional space.

The Tanks at the Tate Modern

I chose the Tank space at the Tate Modern in London as my second building because I wanted the opportunity to compare two buildings with similar functions but very different histories. The Guggenheim was conceived as a gallery whereas the Tate Modern shows how an industrial building can be repurposed. The Tate modern was originally the Bankside PowerStation, the first oil fired PowerStation in Britain which was built in 1948. When the Tate Modern was opened in 2000 the central turbine hall the area to the north of that which was originally the boiler house formed the gallery. The area to the Southside of the Turbine hall including the tanks continued to be used as an electrical substation. In 2006 the substation was decommissioned and plans to extend the Gallery into the space were developed. The first phase of the extension was the conversion of the three huge tanks into an exhibition space for installations and performance art. The tank space opened briefly in 2012 before being closed while the new switch house building was constructed above it. The tank space reopened in June 2016 when the new Switch house galleries above them were also opened. The Tank space remains an area for exhibiting performance art and installations but it is also now a major through way between the original and the new switch house galleries.

When photographing the tank space, I focused on the space as a through way rather than as exhibition. This focus allowed me to capture the industrial materials in the space and the way people moved through it. As an aside when I took these pictures the galleries in this area were showing large video installations which were very dark and it proved difficult to capture pictures of these exhibits I felt were strong enough to include.

The first picture below shows the staircase leading up from the tank space to the new switch house building above in this picture I want to capture the contrast between the straight edges of the original industrial building with the new curved staircase and show the idea of people moving through the space. I like the way the concreate walls and beams still show the marks of the wood formwork used for casting them while the floor is now highly polished. There is also a sense of scale from the small figures who are moving and slightly blurred against the large pillars. The depth in the image introduce by the brightly lit shop on the far side of the turbine hall which also adds to the sense of scale.


In the next picture, I wanted to again emphasise the size of the space and the contrast between the rough industrial materials and the new highly polished floor. On the pillar on the right-hand side you can also see where alterations have been made to the original structure where a horizontal beam appears to have been removed to make space for the new staircase. I also like the blue and red posters which provide interest in what might otherwise be a uniformly grey image.


The final picture in this group is looking into the old industrial space from the turbine hall showing the vertical and angles pillars that support the building above, the very dark exhibition spaces to the left and the lighter spaces on the right which form a through way to other areas of the building. I also liked the humour in this picture where the motion blur shows the idea of lots of people rushing around when perhaps they could be walking more calmly had they picked up a map.


Waterloo Station

London Waterloo Station or more correctly Waterloo Main is the London terminus for train services towards the south coast and south west of England. Compared to the other London terminuses Waterloo has a very high percentage of suburban services and every year sees more than 100 million passengers. Many of these passengers transfer from over ground services to the London Underground.

Waterloo station has been regularly extended and modified since it was opened in 1848 the last major changes having been made in 2012 when a new retail balcony was built overlooking most of the width of the concourse.

In the first picture below I wanted to capture the influx of people arriving at the station on an over ground train with most rushing towards the underground entrance on the right of the frame. Like all the other pictures in this section I used a slow an exposure as I dared to capture the movement of the people. I like the departure board in the background because it hints at the volume of people who will be passing through this space.


Meet me under the clock at Waterloo is a traditional phase used to setup assignations, I have a vague memory of this phrase being used in a film but perhaps that referred to the clock at Grand Central in New York? To me this picture captures the idea of the meeting or just waiting under the clock. In the background of the picture there are examples of other activities at the station namely buying tickets, stopping off at fast food joints or just doing some shopping.


The third picture is another view of the idea of meeting at the station, here there is a group of people carrying what looks like badminton equipment who are standing relatively still, perhaps waiting for other players while most of the rest of the people in the frame are rushing one way or another.


The pictures of Waterloo station were taken late of a Sunday Morning which I suspect is a relatively quiet. On a Sunday morning, the station seems to work very effectively, the signage is good and people appear to find their trains. There is also enough space so people trying to meet each other can relatively easily see each other. However, I wonder if it works so well and the height of the morning or evening rush hours.

The Tube

This set of pictures stretches the definition of this assignment, I started off with the idea of taking a set of picture of people waiting for trains and moving through underground stations and although I collected a reasonable set of potential pictures to use I could help but think that the pictures I took of people on the trains as I travelled between stations were much better. In my mind a train carriage is really the same as a room in a building the only real difference is that it moves.

The London Underground often referred to as simply the underground or the tube has its roots in the world’s oldest underground railway which now forms part of the circle line. The tube is the world’s eleventh busiest metro system carrying approximately 1.34 billion passengers a year or about 5 million a day. I remember years ago, when I commuted into the west end every day during the peak rush hour I complained, like most other regular commuters, that the system was not fit for purpose. Despite the overcrowding at peak hours the system generally works well considering the number of people who move around London every day. However, this does not stop many passengers regarding riding the tube as a simply miserable experience. To me the picture below captures the essence of a tube journey as I usually stand or sit in the train wondering how they can be some many miserable people in London.


What I particularly like about the picture above is the woman about a third into the frame from the right-hand side who has an amazingly infectious smile that is completely at odds with the other people around her.

My second picture again concentrates on the theme of miserable people, I don’t know what this woman is seeing on her phone but it doesn’t seem to be making her happy.


This picture also shows how people try to establish a private space around themselves, it was taken mid-morning when there were plenty of empty seats but this person apparently just wanted space. It is a shame that I couldn’t get a picture of her standing like this with empty seats in the background.

People are not always unhappy on the tube; this woman may be hanging onto the pole for dear life but at the same time she is gazing longingly at her boyfriend who is just out of shot lounging against a glass partition.


These tube pictures were taken with a mobile phone which has a different image shape than the SLR I used for the other subjects in this assignment. This is perhaps a little jarring as you read through assignment. I did try to crop these to the same shape but to me they didn’t work so well so I decided to keep the original shape.


The Business Centre

This Business Centre hires out office space, meeting and conference rooms by the day or half day. It is housed in a Victorian building that in living memory has been a school, bank and solicitors’ office before it current role as a business centre. Being such an old building it does not have as good an internal layout as a modern office block but it tries attract business by creating rooms with character.

The brief for this assignment states that “You can choose to include people in the images, or not” so in these pictures I wanted to show the rooms set up ready for lets to give the viewer the ability to visualise how they might interact with the space.

The first picture is a large meeting room setup in boardroom style with the table dressed ready for a meeting. Like many pictures of interiors, the wide-angle lens makes this room look larger than it is. There would not usually be flowers in a room let for a meeting but I wanted something to add interest and I think the vase of flowers worked better than just having a person standing at the end of the table.


The second picture is taken from a user’s view point in a smaller, six people, meeting room and captures the facilities in a room without making it look larger than it really is. Indeed, this picture makes the room look more cramped than it is. Again, the flowers are there to add interest to what otherwise would be a much blander image.


Overall I think the pictures should help viewers imagine themselves working in one of these rooms and I hope they capture the space in a way that is different than pictures that would be included in an estate agent’s brochure.

Reflections on Assignment 3

Looking back through my work after writing up this assignment I must admit I have mixed feelings about some of the work. I am very happy with the pictures of the Guggenheim because I believe they capture the style of the architecture and really show people interacting with the space. The exhibition that was showing when I took these pictures was predominantly sculpture and in some area the pieces were small. I think my second picture would have been stronger if there had been larger colourful work to emphasis the different levels.

I found the tank space at the Tate a challenging subject and perhaps I should have not had such a narrow focus when photographing this building. I selected this space because I believe it is the area where the industrial heritage is most obvious. Looking back at the pictures I wonder if they are a little too dark and perhaps too samey. Maybe I should have only included two of them?

I really like the Waterloo station pictures and I do believe they capture the way people interact with the monumental scale of the building and. I took all these pictures standing on the retail balcony looking down onto the concourse and while I think this view works well perhaps I should have taken some from the concourse level which might have enabled me to create more of a sense of the crowding in some areas?

I think the tube pictures are good and they do show people interacting with a man-made space but perhaps the subject matter is stretching the definition of the assignment too far. Looking through the pictures I still cannot decide which is my favourite, I think the first picture of the crowded carriage is made by the woman smiling in the background. I also like the picture of the girl hanging on to the pole gazing at someone out of the frame.

The business centre pictures were in many ways the most challenging to take because I was trying to capture the essence of how people could interact with the space without any people in the frame. In retrospect, I think these are the least successful of the pictures but I wanted to include the idea that it was possible to illustrate how people interact with space without including people. Perhaps it would have been more successful to shoot the debris in these rooms after a let but I haven’t had that opportunity.