The idea for this project arose because of a recent house move to a small hamlet in West Dorset. The new house is less than a mile from the village of Nettlecombe where two of my childhood holidays were spent at the local pub, the Marquis of Lorne. I was aged ten then; it was fifty years ago. In the intervening years I have changed a great deal but the area itself is little altered. Looking through my Mother’s assiduously albumed enprints from the time, I see many of the features of the area remain identifiable. The child in the images though, is gone forever. My memories of those times are fragmented now, some of them are probably even acquired memories from my sister and parents and it is this notion of fragments I wanted to express in the photographs for this assignment.
A simple straight image wouldn’t convey the ten-year-old’s fascination for the place. My home at the time was in the outskirts of Manchester and in Dorset I found surprises round every winding green corner. I recall the importance of the weather and how it was a subject of considerable concern for my parents, who were probably banking on a relaxing beach holiday with my sister and I playing, just in sight, in the ankle-high waves. It rained. A lot. This aspect is not a ‘live’ part of my memory but I have heard the tales of the weather repeated over the years.
I wanted to encapsulate these memory fragments as representative images rather than capturing the actual sites themselves. At the same time I wanted the general content to be identifiable but through some obscuring device, rather like the passage of time itself. I also wanted the images themselves to have some internal harmony and be pleasing images. No pressure, then.
I decided that the ‘safari’ approach would be likely to result in a hotch-potch of disparate images so I set myself the task of identifying a number of likely subjects. I thought about how I would approach each image, with varying degrees of exactitude. I waited for the right weather and time of day. Some of the ideas presented greater problems than others but I ended up with a dozen or so ideas to select from.
I was pleased with the pre-planned approach. In the past, on other photo excursions, I have often found myself wandering around losing heart quite quickly; this at least gave me a direction and framework to work to. I felt that it nurtured creativity rather than stifling it. This also helped in ordering and simplifying the elements available as Stephen Shore remarked:
Photography is inherently an analytic discipline. Where a painter starts with a blank canvas and builds a picture, a photographer starts with the messiness of the world and selects a picture. A photographer standing before houses and streets and people and trees and artifacts of a culture imposes an order on the scene – simplifies the jumble by giving it structure. He or she imposes this order by choosing a vantage point, choosing a frame, choosing a moment of exposure, and by selecting a plane of focus.
Shore, S. (2010) The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. 2nd ed. New York: Phaidon Press.
In narrowing down my intentions I was able to remove a lot of ‘noise’ at the outset and concentrate on my ideas.
All the photographs were made with an Olympus OM-D M-1. Most of them utilised an old Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens intended for a 35mm film camera; this gives an effective 100mm view on the smaller OM-D sensor along with paper-thin depth of field, a useful selecting/obscuring device as mentioned above. Some were taken with the rather more modern M-Zuiko Pro 24-80mm. All were exposed using aperture priority and exposure compensation where required.
All are presented in a square format – it looks a bit like the format of the old chemist-produced images in our family albums. I added a soft black border because….. well, I just think it looks better on the screen. I worked on the RAW files a tiny bit in ACR and added a little screen sharpening in CS6, resized to 1500px and converted to the preferred Adobe 1998. I consider them to be acceptably unadulterated images, although I’m not yet entirely sure why this should be important.