Assignment 4: A Sense of Place

For this fourth assignment in the People and Place course I am to produce around 24 sufficiently publishable images for a considered, intelligent and thoughtful travel publication that s the title suggests shows a sense of the place chosen, be it as small as a room or as large as a city. I have considered a number of local areas and places that I know well, allow me good access and are inspiring and with much consideration I choose to focus on Winchester Cathedral, the cathedral itself and the immediate grounds surrounding it. I have aimed to capture not only a sense of the place within itself, but also the interaction of the local people, the staff and the tourist.

I chose to photography Winchester Cathedral and its grounds because it’s a substantial building, steeped in history, religion, emotion and beauty. It evokes feelings of contemplation, respect and awe while also giving a place for reflection and contemplation. Winchester Cathedral has been at the center of life for the city for almost 1000 years, its architectural elements of being both of norman and gothic styles only adds to its beauty, uniqueness and attraction. The Very Reverend James Atwell in the 2012 edition of the ‘Guidebook Winchester Cathedral’ writes,

“the Crown of Wessex that first united the English people in a single identity”

Which only adds to the interest and beauty of such an important building in a city that at the time was capital of the nation.

As briefly mentioned above, my aim for this assignment was to photography people amongst the cathedral, be it in the immediate grounds or inside. I want to not only give a sense of the place itself, the size, scale, or beauty but also the relationship of the people around it and who visit it. I wish to focus on the relationship between the people and the place, what the building gives the people and what the people do for the building.

In this first image of the ten final images I have focused on the exterior of the Cathedral in one of its many gardens and open spaces. I initially noticed the information board, giving an array of information on the architectural, historical and structural elements in view I thought this would make a very good image depicting the education available on the Cathedral and the interest taken by the visitors. I therefore waited a few moments for the person who was already in the garden to hopefully take a moment to read the board and once she did I took a number of frames only for her to then place her arms behind her back like that, which I felt added an extra element into the pose and the image which focuses more attention onto her, just like the triangle of blue, from the scaffolding, the sky, and the subjects jumper around the waist and a aesthetically pleasing contrast in colour against the warmer tones of the cathedral.

In this next image, taken in front of the main entrance (west entrance) of the Cathedral in the grounds giving the most picturesque  and awe inspiring view. Although this was a relatively warm day for the time of the year, in the summer months the grounds are littered with a varied cross section of society picnicking, having lunch, gathering with friends and sunbathing. Here I managed to capture an elderly lady taking a moment to sit on one of the many benches placed to give a wonderful view of the cathedral. I focused on aiming to depict the vastness in size of the cathedral, its architectural features that contrast with the horizontal lines of the bench set in the foreground to give contextual awareness and an understanding on the area the cathedral sits and its uses in a style used by photographer John Gay in his work on the Blackpool Seaside.

Similar in style to the previous image, by placing a foreground element to draw the viewers eye this image perhaps gives us a more intimate composition with the darker elements of the immediate foreground and over hanging branches that also draw us further into the image. In the middle distance is the war memorial, that pulls the viewers eye onto the facade of the cathedral, this closer variety of scale adds to the more intimate element of the image while also improves our understanding on scale, placement and the further understanding of the relationship between the people and the site. I also like the way the hat matches the colour of the doors, I find this pulls the two together further enhancing the relationship of the person and the Cathedral in this image.

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In this image I have photographed a local worker in the courtyard of the Cathedral having his lunch, I have used a wider focal length to ensure he remains smaller in the frame, I did this because I wanted to emphasise in this image the scale of the building, the flying buttresses that he is sat between and the size of him and the bench give the viewer further understanding on not only the integrated use of the space but also of its size and proportion. I like this image because of the placement of the person, I think by being off center here it not only helps with the interest in the image but also draws your eye along both the verticals and horizontals of the architecture.

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In this first image depicting the interior of the Cathedral I have photographed and focused on a member of the public standing on the spot in a moment of reflection and awe, these expressions are shown in the placement of her head, the slight gaze skyward along with the standing still give me this impression. I have taken this shot with my 50mm prime lens to enable me to use a larger aperture to allow more light in to ensure the images I capture are sharp. I feel I have achieved this here however due to the use of an f1.8 the back of her head is less sharp than the coat and bag, I’m disappointed with this and feel perhaps at f2.5 it would have been better. I still feel this is a strong image, the repetition on the columns and the continued pathway, archway and person in the distance certainly draw the eye but still bring you back to the focal point.

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In this photograph I have captured a member of staff, on the left waiting at the entrance to greet visitors, it was the balance of light and dark that interested me in this frame and the gentle light that lit the back of his head. I found this difficult to balance the exposure considering the sunshine outside and lower level of light indoors while also ensuring the stained glass windows are exposed correctly. After a few exposures, bring the shutter time down each attempt I finally found on my third attempt that the balance was correct and also the light along the floor from the door was rather interesting also. I like the placement of the man on the left, the gentle light along his shoulder and head and the silhouette of his body legs against the floor pick him out interestingly, similarly to the lady on the right, her hair draws a slight interest to her but I feel its the well lit woodwork in the center that encompasses the door that draws the eye, its back lit well from windows that pick up the lighter tones of it compared to the masonry around it.

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I initially photographed this gentleman from the opposite, capturing him more in the window light, this image can be seen amongst the others below. I moved around him 180 degrees hoping he wouldn’t move and photographed him again from this direction. My aim was to ensure I used the rows of seating to add depth and draw focus to the man in the image, the way the light is gently illuminating the chairs and especially the highlights on the top of the backs of the chairs adds to the use of drawing the viewer in. I really like the control of light in this frame, the edge lighting on the man gives us enough detail on his posture and that he’s is relaxing, possibly asleep even. I like the foreground of the image, I feel the light is controlled well with the right amount of detail in the mid tones while the shadows and highlights work well to add depth and interest to the frame however I feel the background does slightly draw the eye, the two lighter memorial stones either side of the focal points head pull the eye slightly.

I have here focused on portraying the feeling of awe, of grandeur and its effect on the individual. As noted in the course guide this was a ‘reaction photograph’, noting beforehand this was an image I had hoped I’d have the opportunity to capture if this occasion presented itself to me. I attempted to give the feeling of depth with a slightly shallower depth of field drawing the viewer to the focal point and also with the intention that it would make the verticals feel more extensive. The figure himself is mainly silhouetted only with slight detail along the right hand side of his body, I have done this to emphasise the anonymity, the semiotics of this are the fact that this is just one person of thousands over hundreds of years who have stood and taken in there surroundings, gazed up and around at the historic Cathedral.

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This penultimate photograph, taken from the Cathedral Treasury on the first floor corner by the west window looks down here onto the main nave. I had ventured up here to photograph down one of the side aisles but noticed this person sat alone with not a person around them, initially I liked the solitude of the single figure amongst the repetition and pattern of the chairs but also the perfect integration of not only the person interacting in a moment of reflection in the space but also the perfect integration of light and dark, the placement of the figure within the window light reinforces the interaction between people and place in a visual element. I think I have controlled the highlights well, I have obviously exposed for them, aware of the underexposed areas but feel they still maintain a slight detail but more importantly visually this image is meant to be of high tonal range that focused the viewer onto the highlight and used the shadow for context on space and scale. IMG_9638-Edit

This final image of the six is perhaps the strongest, its complex relationship between a single person and the vast amount of space emits volumes of connotations on the immensity of space in general, the immensity of ones love for god in this particular scenario, and the solitude of one person, there presence being so minuscule in the greater scheme of life. I have attempted to work compose this image to as much as possible and in this case perhaps the more sizeable lines and shapes in symmetry which I feel has aided the idea of space and more of a sense of place. I feel the control of light here is good, the green of the subjects jacket is picked out well against a dark velvet curtain that helps to stand her out in the frame. Having the major focal point of the image in the center is generally an odd occurrence, however in this case and similarly with photographer David Carol who shoots for Getty Images is a consistent user of this composition and I still find his work to by dynamic and impressive which I think works because as in this case he uses the environment and surroundings of the central focal point to give further meaning both semiotically and visually.

Below is a slideshow of the 17 other images I chose these images from:

My reasons for the selection I choose was that although I felt all the image are as needed publishable quality the first 10 selection show a variety of what the cathedral is, not only a house of worship and a beautiful building but also a place for relaxation, contemplation both outside as within. I feel the ten images represent this and my overall understanding of the Cathedral area and its character of being a central focus point of the city, an area for all that gives peace and solitude while also being a great meeting point for friends, couples and families to spend time together in a beautiful setting. Its an area covered in history where ever you look and that adds to the character, the sense of place that comes across in the images of history coupled with modern day interest and appreciation.

Considering the brief set in the assignment and my own personal parameters that I wished to work to I feel I have been relatively successful in this assignment in both portraying the people, the place and in each case a relationship between the two, for example the eight image of the final ten is an interesting view of not only the relationship physically between person and the place, but also our shared view of what has him stood still taking in the stained glass window and its surroundings, this draws the viewer of the image closer to the subject, understanding his reason for being there and what he must be thinking. However considering this image technically I feel it could be improved with a slightly wider angle lens to take in the archway of the pillars, this would have perhaps framed the image in a more conventional way, however due to lack of time or space I was unable to move into a position to enable this. I feel overall the images, predominately the exterior images could have been improved with a more interesting sky, I feel the overcast impression the images give don’t do justice my ideas on the character of the building and environment being somewhere to enjoy both indoors and outdoors, however this is more a realistic representation on the area due to the climate we live within and perhaps a more idyllic sky would give the images a more tourism promotion feel which was not within the assignment.

Considering this as an assignment and focusing on a specific element and outcome of showing a sense of place has enabled me to produce a selection of images that are different to if I was going to photograph merely as a visitor, here I looked specifically at the people and the place within a single exposure whereas with no outcome I would have focused on the architecture specifically due to personal interest in that style. While still photographing people within the building or its surroundings I may have worked on more of a candid portraiture as this is also a style that interest me. So therefore this assignment has really added to my learning and understanding of photography, the process of combining a specific element to capture in a place so familiar enabled you to capture images that previously you may not have seen or appreciated as potential photographs. Also I feel that when focusing on a end product with a brief in mind it enables you to produce a group of images with a stronger narrative, an obvious style and strong connection image by image to produce a strong body of work which I hope I have done here.

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