My Associate Journey

20 March 2014

SIG: Digital Imaging Eastern

This is the hanging plan for my submission which was successful on 24th April 2013

First catch your Hare.

It matters not that Mrs Beeton did not write this phrase but it still serves well as one of the best opening lines. As far as I know it has absolutely nothing to do with photography but the idea it expresses has a lot to do with planning.

But what, I hear you ask, has that to do with getting your Associateship? Well it starts with planning and getting a clear idea of what you want to photograph. Following on from obtaining my Licentiateship I went through a number of photographic ideas of what I might do to achieve my Associateship. And from talking to many other people in the same situation it seems to be a common occurrence. Most of my photography is done for fun and not to please some judge or to put it up for public scrutiny. However, I recalled a conversation I had with a friend some time before this all started. He had said then; “why don’t you concentrate on photographs of the people? Because that’s what you are good at”. Without knowing it he had found the spark that would really fire me up and as Mrs Beeton would say, I had caught my hare.

I have always had a Love Affair with London, although having visited many other cities; none have the same appeal for me as London. It almost goes without saying that, if one enjoys London, the fun of being in amongst large numbers of people naturally follows. And so when finally choosing a subject for my Associate submission; London was, for me, an obvious place to choose. But London is city that is so vast, and full of contrasts that trying to condense it down to 15 photographs seemed an impossible task. More by luck than judgement 2013 was the year that the London Underground is celebrating its 150th anniversary. This gave me the idea of recording some of the diverse use of the Underground system in this very memorable year.

So now having some idea of my subject and the location, the next issue was my statement of intent. There seem to be basically two schools of thought in regard to your statement. The first is to take and collect loads of pictures and then try to write a statement to match your photographs. Whereas the second is to get your idea written down as a draft statement and then take the photographs that in some way match that statement. That way it almost becomes a mission statement and gives a clear and positive framework to work to. This second method was the one I chose to work with and for me it worked well.

And so it was on a cold January day that I started my journey, it also happened to be the day after the actual anniversary date. As the first underground journey had been from Paddington to Farringdon, I thought it would be a good idea to get some pictures that matched that journey. I was in for a big disappointment, when I got to Paddington the station was not at all photogenic. I asked one of the staff about the anniversary celebrations and he told me take there had been some stuff put up yesterday but it was all gone now.

It seemed as if a big re-think was in order but not too disillusioned I decided to continue my search. Back on the ‘tube’ I started taking pictures of the carriages, the stations, the escalators and the passengers. I travelled the whole length of the Central Line from Epping to West Ruislip and ended up with about 300 photographs. When I got home and started to go through them, and at the same time re-read my statement, I began to realise that not only had I taken the wrong photographs but that my statement needed to be revised. In reality from the 300 or so photographs from my initial journey about 40% were of people travelling on the ‘Tube’ and in fact one of them did end up in the final panel of 15 photographs submitted.

So there I was having spent one whole day in London and with the possibility of just one photograph to show for it, obviously not good enough. At this rate it would take me another 14 trips and some 4,200 photographs to get my panel completed, so some serious planning was called for. At that stage I had not rejected the idea of getting one or two photographs of the stations, including Farringdon, into the final selection.

One of the photographs that did not make it to my final panel.

My next journey into London was better planned and I did concentrate much more on the people who were sharing my journey. At first I was a little apprehensive about photographing people without asking permission but I quickly settled into a comfortable position and was just taking pictures of whatever took my eye. Not once did I get stopped, questioned or did anybody object, although some people did turn away. This second trip was much more productive producing another three or four possible pictures which may be of an acceptable standard. Once again these came from a high number of pictures taken, on this occasion I took another 325 pictures.

One of the problems when filming on the Underground is the very low light levels; you are not allowed to use flash or tripods on any of the stations or platforms. This meant using much higher ISO values than one would normally use; on one or two occasions I was up to 3,200. Even with some very careful post processing most of these were virtually unusable due the high noise levels. The other major issue I encountered when taking pictures on the train, was the motion, especially when not able to get a seat.

By the time I got to my third trip, I was feeling much more confident and at ease with taking photographs of my fellow travellers and I was also better prepared for the low lighting conditions. By this I mean that I was thinking more about what I could use as some sort of support for the relatively slow shutter speeds in use; some times down to 1/20th of a second. At the same time, I was getting very good feedback from the people I was photographing, some of whom reacted very favourably, and where almost posing for me, not something I wanted, but it was nice just the same.

All in all I ended up doing six day trips to London in order to get the photographs that I felt I needed. I had been up and down many escalators and on and off many trains and had accumulated more photographs than I could ever use. Most of the images I took were the one I had planned to take. By this, I mean that I knew the type of shot I wanted, however some were just fortuitous, and I managed to catch that moment of serendipity. It had been a time consuming process knowing the picture I wanted and then having the patience to wait for someone to come into frame and match my vision.

The challenge now was to get them into the final selection process and this proved harder than I had imagined. After all; all I had to do was choose 15 photographs that told that my story, easy really?

Having too many photographs to choose from is quite difficult, there were many that could have fitted into the panel; but on scrutiny, they did not quite tell the story the way I wanted it to be. This process also took more time than I had planned for but I managed to get this down to 25 pictures. After a number of different layouts, I had this down to the final 15; they were all of people going about their normal daily journey.

All I had to do now was to choose of image size and which paper to print on. I had been given some good advice about not making the prints too big, as often smaller is better, so I settled on an A4 image printed on A3 paper. Again following a recommendation my choice of paper was Permajet Smooth Art Silk 300, an absolutely beautiful paper that brought out all the colours in perfect detail. In my opinion, both bits of advice were very good and something that I would pass on to others who are venturing along the path towards their Associateship.

My statement had emphasised the 3.5 million people who daily use the London Underground system and how, for me, they make the story come alive.

I wanted the viewers of my work to able to empathise with me and for them to somehow feel engaged with the people whose images they were viewing, I hope that I have been successful in achieving my objective?

I have now setup an RPS album with my full panel together with my Statement of Intent. The slide show displays the images in the correct sequence to match the hanging plan.

To view this 'Album' please click on the link HERE

Comments (1)

Colin Foster
30 January 2015

Really like what you have done, so different and light challenging.
Did you use a fast wide prime lens?
Great job.

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