Assignment 1: decisions to make

As noted in my first assignment 1 prep post, I believe I’ve settled on a subject for the assignment, namely the perception of older people in UK society.

Right now I have a few open questions I need to ponder on – and drop my tutor a line about.

1. Viewpoint: premeditated or observed

  • Do I take a ‘point of view’ stance upfront and seek out images to match my intent/hypothesis? (more subjective)
  • Or do I take a series of initial shots with an open mind and look for a theme or angle to naturally emerge? (more objective)

The former might help in terms of bring out a successful and clear message; the latter seems to be more in keeping with purist ‘documentary values’ though. Unless I’m being naive…

2. Consent: authorised or unauthorised

  • Do I gain permission to shoot in a particular place/event with the right kind of subjects?
  • Or do I go renegade and just shoot on the street whenever I get the opportunity?

The former feels more honest and less exploitative, and has the further advantage of getting the subjects in the same place at the same time; the latter feels more scattergun and might take a lot longer to get the good shots.

Note: I have asked for permission from a local charity to shoot at their day centre, but have so far struggled to get any kind of response.

3. Subject engagement: posed or candid

  • Do I ensure all subjects are aware per shot of why I’m shooting that particular image and ask them to act in a particular way?
  • Or do I  just gain general approval to shoot (e.g. at an event or venue) and take each image in a candid, natural way?

The former doesn’t feel totally appropriate to ‘documentary values’ but I know that many so-called documentary photographers do this (to illustrate a generalised rather than a specific truth; the latter feels more ‘honest’ but may lead to missed opportunities.

4. Shooting style: straight or stylised

  • Do I shoot in a classic documentary style e.g. clear, sharp, deadpan, unpretentious (no photographic ‘tricks’)
  • Or do I take a more stylised approach and e.g. shoot at very specific angles, focal lengths, creatively use blur or out of focus areas, manipulate light and shade, obscure framing etc?

The former feels more ‘honest’ but might be more difficult for a message to break through; the latter suits the ‘premeditated’ approach message-wise (I have a specific idea I will summarise below).

Current concept

The specific idea at the front of my mind would answer the above questions as follows:

  1. Premeditated
  2. Authorised [subject to getting approval!]
  3. Candid
  4. Stylised [mostly]

The concept is: a two-part series of images of older people:

  • in the context of everyday life – being ignored in society at large – depicted by photographic techniques such as the subject being out of focus, being in shade, being cropped off at the edge, being obscured by other people/objects, being desaturated etc
  • in the context of their own social circle – being active, being part of a group, being happy and accepted

However: I’d appreciate some advice on whether this idea sounds workable, or whether there are aspects I haven’t considered yet.

I’ll drop my tutor a note now…

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