The brief for assignment 3 is specific about a number of requirements – the project should convey a narrative using visual variety, sequencing and conceptual theme, engage with the local area, and, be completed in colour. One of the unexpected effects of Assignment 1 was that it made me consider the contradictions and prejudices I feel for the place I live – how I can feel both proud and ashamed simultaneously. I also began to think closely about memory and the relationship of this with photography – for example, does a photograph aid or obscure the way we view the past? The brief for this project has the potential for me to explore how my feelings for my area may have changed since the completion of the first assignment.
I have become increasingly interested in the idea of psychogeography, the Situationists and the work of Guy Debord and realised that notions of detournement and the dérive have driven my photography for some time – when I am lacking inspiration I often wander with the camera, taking images of anything that peaks my interest without preconception. This felt like a potential strategy for this assignment and also a way of tackling the mixed feelings I mention above. A common thread that keeps appearing through my research into the working methods of photographers is the willingness to experiment – to follow an idea or concept with an open mind and see what comes out of this. Perhaps using memories as a guide to my wandering could be a strategy worth employing – I could attempt to photograph without preconception and see what narratives appear in the edit.
Unexpectedly, another idea came to me as I engaged in taking these photographs. I was asked by my mother to arrange for the sale of my grandparents’ house which has been empty for over a decade. When my grandfather passed away, we talked about what to do with the property and the feeling between my father and brother was that it should be renovated and rented out. I felt strongly that the pressures of time would mean this would not happen and that the house should be sold – ten years later my prediction has sadly come true which has led to the decision to sell. As I waited at the house for the estate agent, my mother’s statement that she felt no emotional tie to the place sat strongly with me – if this was true then the renovations would have been completed or the property sold, clearly this was not the case. It was a strange experience being in the place, virtually all furniture had been removed so there were no direct reminders of my grandparents. Some aspects of renovation had been started, for example, new windows and walls plastered, however, the house was in a totally unliveable condition with no kitchen and various tools littered around. Some aspects of the old property remained – wallpaper at the back of the kitchen, parts of old lino flooring and the bathroom was untouched but in very bad condition. I felt suddenly compelled to take photographs, and I moved from room to room picking out details as I went. After returning a number of times and experimenting with different approaches, I amassed a large number of images and began to think about what to do with them – experiments with this I will discuss in a separate post.
I have many reservations about presenting this project as an assignment – is it both too personal or even self-indulgent? I have attempted to push these
thoughts from my mind in order to continue however, potentially I will decide at the end that both of these concerns are valid, but it is important to follow it through to reach this point and evaluate both the strength and weaknesses. Discussing the idea with fellow students and my tutor I have been surprised by the positive reaction and encouragement, the fact that this is something I have a strong personal attachment to and also that my compulsion to take the images is something I should not ignore and hopefully something that will manifest itself in the work.