I met a couple of fellow course mates and we headed on the journey to Bradford. Bright and early from Headingley train station changing at Leeds and then directly to Bradford station. Arriving in Bradford, I was surprised by the development of the old de-industrialised North-West town, how they had modernised and re-created the area of the city centre in which the Impressions Gallery stood, a sight distance away from the National Media Museum.
Inside the Impressions Gallery, we wandered up the stairs to meet on sofas to wait for latecomers, surrounded by an exhibit in a large white room of their 40 year anniversary. The exhibit displayed several different posters from over the years of their openings all displayed in this one white room, I quite liked the design style this gave the room overall. We congregated around course leader Karl and he gave us each an A4 piece of paper with 2 research task- the main one being Task 1: Choose an image from the exhibition “The Road to Wigan Pier”… based at the Impressions Gallery and the second at The National Media Museum. He introduced us to the Curator and then set us off to do the tasks.
A4 RESEARCH TASK SHEETS: PHOTOGRAPHS I TOOK TO DOCUMENT THE VISIT: The Road to Wigan Pier The room was filled with various black and white photographs, a collaboration of different photographers all with the same subject matter and focussing on, what I could make of it- different feelings and documentation of towns (both landscapes and portraits) during de-industrilastion of working class societies work places.
These images all created a melancholy feel to me- I think this was enhanced by the power and number of of black and white imagery. These images really provoked thought of how it affected these peoples lives, this made me think it was documentary photography sparking political views. I was really impressed by most of the imagery within the exhibit, and as a whole they made a powerful and intense impact on me. This being an interest to me, documentary photography made me think of the work by Chris Killip, whom I have researched also during this project due to his very similar subjects and meanings.
Research Task 1 questions:
What is the name of the work and who is the photographer?
Describe what you can see.
Do you like the image? Explain your answer
Consider the composition – where are things placed within the image? What effect does this have?
What is the point of view – where was the camer positioned? Close up or far away? What does this imply?
What has been included and what has been left out of the image?
What type of light is present within the image? Is it natural or artificial? What atmosphere / mood does this create?
Are any relationships formed between the image and other works in the exhibition?
Is it part of a series? How does this effect its meaning? What associations does this work have for you?
Chosen work: “Tina’s House” – Russell Boyce
11 rectangular black and white photographs each encased in a wooden black frame and laid out as a series. I see these photographs documenting the poverty stricken landscapes, public and households but mainly focus on the life of a woman, documented portraits of her combined with text giving information of the series and more in-depth information into this woman’s private life, quotes of hers from what she has said to the photographer. From reading the text, I soon learn that this series is based on the de-industralisation of the town Hull and how this caused breakdown in homes and their society due to the decline of employment.
At first glance, I can see 3 people within the photograph- a young child, an anonymous woman with no view of her face and this woman I now know as Tina, all sat in the living room with a television on, surrounded by strong patterned decor of that era. Tina is yawning and looking off in a different direction, showing blatant boredom in her body language.
I both like the image and dislike the image. I like the visual aspects but I feel in a way sympathetic of the content. I can’t help but be drawn to this style of documentary photography and the aesthetics I get from this kind of raw, grainy black and white image but from her expressions and other information within the series, I can’t help but feel sorry for Tina and her life. This image is very strong and controversial even without the background story.
The young child just off centre to the right, woman on the arm of the chair with her head in hand- no face, no identity. Tina looking off daydreaming yawning- tired of her life. This image gives further effect as 2 out of 3 characters are anonymous compared to Tina but play important parts when coming to analyse the photograph. The television on the far left is on but without anyone watching it or acknowledging it. All subjects are crammed to this seat in which Tina sits on, giving the feel of lack of room domestically but some obvious social closeness between them.
The photograph is taken from a documentary point of view. Perhaps the photographer is sat on chair opposite them. Boyce is maybe a metre or two away from the subjects and is separated by the objects within the room which makes me think he is further away than first thought but the room is just small. From this it made me concentrate on all the image shows, I saw the suggestion of feet, implying there is another person present in the room perhaps sat to the right of Boyce. This implies both a kind of closeness to the subject Tina but also a professional divide between them.
Natural light of the sun emerges from the almost central net curtains beaming into the room. Combined with the artificial light of the television creates a depressing feel of feeling constrained and draws attention to the awe of boredom that can be seen on Tina’s face. Tina’s personal relationships are shown in the image and also within text in the series, we are given insight into her family, marriage, divorce, to boyfriend. This information shows breakdown of social structure due to financial depression.
All images within the series link together and connect creating them into one powerful, eye-catching, thought-provoking set of documentary photography. You can see obvious decay of society and families and households, along with the landscape of the town they live in. Viewing the single image is powerful enough as when analysed further gives off several different messages but looking at all images and text as a whole it creates a massive impact on me and strengthens the series massively.
The combination of text and imagery works brilliantly as you’re informed further and given more insight into the truth behind the photographs. This particular series and style of documentary photography, to me, shares a huge likeness to that of photographer Chris Killip whom I have also researched into before within this project. Killips book In Flagrante captures the feelings of North-west England during the years of Margaret Thatchers power.
It also shows the breakdown of society and poverty creating a direct link to Boyce’s work. I’m very interested in sociological links to documentary photography and how it can trigger thought-provoking political statements. ‘Real’ photographs such as these make me feel a lot more passionate about documentary photography as the content within them rather than a set-up photograph in an artificial studio. These photographers have dedicated themselves to documenting what’s really going on and how the lower classes feel, which I think is commendable and inspiring.
Research Task 2:
The trip to Bradford I thought was beneficial to us as Photographic Journalism students and also for our course uniting as a group. The Impressions Gallery was a big bright gallery and The Road to Wigan Pier exhibit was personally very interesting. I found the collaboration of all photographers and there work documenting the same goings on in life powerful and thought-provoking.
The task and image analysis gave me chance to use some previous knowledge from studying AS level Photography and also the social side of it interested me from studying Sociology. I found it particularly interesting and stood admiring and taking in the series for a long time whilst jotting down some analysis in my notepad. When it came to writing the task up I found I had a lot to say all relating to the same concepts:- society, poverty, de-industralisation. So didn’t want to ramble on too much about each of them but it was crucial to my task writing that I made those points clear.
The documentary photography from the exhibit and informative text and descriptions gave me inspiration and ideas as a practising Photojournalist and Photographer to maybe lead some of my future work.
The second task was mainly to explore, find the places and take photographs.The National Media Museum was also a very large building with 9 floors, with some great visuals and very informative, interacting things within it. I found my experience there to be extremely informative and interesting due to past lectures and seminars we’ve had on some of the same things. I was impressed by both venues being free entry and would definitely return back in the future.