Evaluation

My work in this project so far has been quite good. I started research early, from a variety of sources and had a general idea of what I wanted to document. This was further refined through group and individual tutorials as well as through research. I used a variety of sources – more than I have ever used for any one given project. This included a range of photojournalistic/narrative photography sources, where historical and contemporary practices are implemented. In addition, TEDx talks, videos/documentaries, Magnum Contact Sheets, traditional photography, books, Professional Photography magazines, the BJP, art based multi-media practitioners as well as material from exhibitions (for example Photo London) informed my research and practise.

I found it quite difficult to get a balance between commuting to attend so many lectures and finding time to take new material. It is common that final year students only attend taught sessions for 2 days a week in order to allow time for creative processes but our course is different from that approach. Whilst we are creative practitioners in training and still developing our own styles, it has been argued that trying to emulate other established photographers work can help discover techniques faster. Conversely, photographers such as Peter Marlow highlighted (in the November 2016 issue of Professional Photography) that his style began to develop when he stopped trying to copy Henri Cartier-Bresson and did his own thing. Balancing all of this industry advice as well as more traditional tutor advice was a little difficult. Lastly, in the same magazine, an art director anonymously cited the gender imbalance in industry photographers being on agents lists for representation and how the emerging photography style of today is too homogenised – “we need creative and fresh thinkers”.

Documentary projects of this nature, are at best, very time consuming and are rarely completed in a year. Some of the photographers I have analysed have spent up to 8/9 years on a personal documentary project whilst I barely have 9 months to realise and execute mine. One must also consider the ethics of the research I am doing and the type of photographs being taken, potential and past eviction experiences related to gentrification are not topics in a petri-dish, they are real, and those who experienced it will naturally have feelings about it.

Living in London (born & bred), in particular, the borough I am in, engenders interest and a reputability more than living where my University (Hertfordshire) would have. The project has developed quite nicely, considering all of the above factors, and I will capitalise on making further contact with the relevant potential subjects before everything slows down for the Christmas holidays. This will be with a range of people gentrification affects/involves and not just ‘victims’ will help to widen the story a bit more, an provide access to more people. Lastly to continue developing the story, shoots need to be occurring more regularly so that I can have more material to refine the ‘final story’ – especially continuing my spatial arrangements of printed photographs.

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Test Images 2

Below is a combination of some test images I have been able to use to refine my approach and practice over the past couple of months. (These are not the same images that were physically submitted).

Please note, there are some photographs which are ‘perfect’ in their edit and how they were captured but they have not been included here as they give me nothing to talk about and improve for the next few months.

Points of improvement

  • Image 1 – will have to be replaced with a ‘straighter’ architectural photograph, the clouds in the background produce a nice moody effect and the contrast is quite nice. Possibly brighten up the area at the bottom a little bit.
  • Image 2 (top right hand side) – the lamp post and the building behind have been aligned, the bottom of the picture has too much cropped out of it. Try re-shooting with more ‘grounding’.
  • Image 3 (right, middle) – this image is quite powerful on its own, possibly re-shoot with bars in focus to imply the feeling of being locked out, or not supposed to be there.
  • Image 4 (right bottom) – brilliant use of natural light in this portrait, as well as showing the environment (kitchen), possibly get in closer to the subject.

Overall, these images go well together, and even without the above advised improvements, go well visually as a series. A building connected to a person/people is being suggested here through these photographs. To refine my work visually, I will be/have taken on board the above criticisms and will be posting ‘finished work’ from the middle of next month.

 

Artist Study – Laetitia Vancon

Laetitia Vancon was born in Toulouse, France, 1979. From an early age, due to her father’s service in the French Air Force, she led the restless childhood life of an “army brat”.
In 2003, after completing her studies as a Chemical Engineer she spent 6 years working within France and South Africa in a chemical firm manufacturing artificial flavor enhancers. The pressure, the feeling of insignificance convinced her to leave this life for something more unconventional. In 2009, she gave up her career, and while travelling throughout Australia and South East Asia, used photography to help her reconnect with herself and her environment.

In 2014, Vancon completed studies at the Danish Photojournalism School in Aarhus, specialising in Visual Storytelling. In November 2012, she received an award in Creative Journalism for her project “The Time goes by, Bruno stays” by Emaho Magazine.“The Top will Fall” was selected for the Sony World Photography Awards 2014, and she was short-listed for the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) International Print Exhibition. Her latest documentary “My Home, My Prison” was selected as favorite by l’ANI, at VISA POUR L’IMAGE September, 2014.

nyttearsheetmontage07
NYT tearsheet, 2015, Vancon

Vancon has further developed and defined her distinctive, interactive approach to Documentary Photography. She places importance on connecting with her projects not to search for the latest scoop or hot news but to undertake them based on necessity. Adapting to more extensive, long term projects helps her create a more honest method of respectfully documenting peoples thoughts, emotions and place within society. By using this precise approach towards storytelling. Vancon hopes to confirm her values and belief in the importance of morality within today’s journalism.

She is relevant to contemporary documentary photojournalism and documentary debates. In addition, she moves fluidly between commercial, editorial and journalistic practice with a distinct style. She works well with natural light and has covered a range of issues I am interested in which is why I have chosen her for my study. She covers gentrification in Turkey in Life Carries On, as a personal project.

Below are my 3 key images for visual analysis.

fatos9bis
Fatos 9, Vancon, 2013

Image 1

  • The lighting in this image focuses on the child in the foreground as well as the 2 children in the background, these subjects work well together and do not detract from each other.
  • The main focal point is the child and her environment. The child, the graffiti’d wall behind her, the children behind her , help tell the story which is probably a justification for not blurring out the child’s background.
  • The light in this image appears to be artificial – there is a difference in the light distribution between the girl in the pink t shirt and her surroundings. This could however, be a result of the girl sitting where the sun was. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach to photojournalism/using photography as a tool for societal change.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (a child, surrounded by children and the architectural environment).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the slanted angle of the pavement and the children in the background the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus and the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is stronger as a series.
fatos10bis
Vancon, 2013

Image 2

  • The lighting in this image is quite dramatic. The lighting on the lower left hand sides adds more of a dynamic than an evenly lit photography would. The subject matter is clear – residential building demolition.
  • The main focal point is the shadow. The whole picture (the parts of the building still standing and the people in it), are part of this urban environment and this is justification for not blurring out the background.
  • The light in this image appears to be natural – there is a difference in the light distribution between the foreground and background but this is a result of the shadow the sunlight was casting. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach to photojournalism.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (changes to an architectural environment – a building being demolished).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting. Without the shadow of the building in the foreground as opposed to background the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus with the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is strong as a series and on its own.
fatos2
Vancon, 2013

Image 3

  • This is my favourite image. I took an image similar to this one before I had discovered Vancon.
  • The lighting in this image is quite beautiful. The lighting in the centre frames the child beautifully more so than an evenly lit photography would. The subject matter is clear -a child’s sense of wander as all she has ever known comes into question.
  • The main focal point is the girl. The whole picture (the details of the sofa) plus the little girl, form part of this her familial environment and this is justification for not blurring out the background.
  • The light in this image appears to be natural – coming straight from the window. The light enhances the message this photograph is sending.
  • This is a typical image by the photographer and lends itself heavily to her creative approach to photojournalism.
  • I think it is a successful image with the subject matter clearly indicated by what is in the image (a child trying to process what sudden changes mean – where will she live, what is happening to her friends, can she look out of this window or sit in this sofa anymore?).
  • The composition of this image is quite interesting – an off centre rule of thirds approach has been taken. Without the light illuminating the girl, the message of this image would not be as strong.
  • In addition, the whole image in focus with the foreground and background being filled adds to the narrative. These composition choices appear to be intentional.
  • This image tells a story, the story is strong as a series and on its own.

Artist materials and processes

Vancon works both in black and white and in colour. Based on some of her work, I can assume that she uses a Canon DSLR or digital medium format for her work. Connection to her subjects is the priority which implies that she can live in places where she is working for extensive periods of time. Her photographs were taken in 2013 but the reportage was realised 2 years later. She is also aware of producing photographs for a variety of mediums. For example, newspapers (broadsheets), books and magazines.

Long term documentary photography projects where one is required to live in an environment other than their own, means a change in access to amenities such as electricity (important for photography battery charging). This implies, that it is more practical to complete such a project on film photography. Vancon has however, gone against this norm. She also combines interviews and collaborates with writers to add text to the online galleries where her personal projects are held. This adds context and an extra dynamic.

fatos6
Vancon, 2013

Key elements taken for my own practise

As a result of looking at Life Carries On, I will:

  • Become a bit more creative in the edit I produce of analogue styled black and white work which contains portraits with detail of the subject’s environment
  • Combine other elements into the final story besides photographs – such as statistics/text which can be used to represent the societal issue in question
  • Consider which other publications – besides a book, can used to present the story of the people represented and initiate a positive change

BIOGRAPHY (no date) Available at: http://www.vanconlaetitia.com/biography/ (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

PERSONAL PROJECTS (no date) Available at: http://www.vanconlaetitia.com/#/lifecarrieson/ (Accessed: 10 December 2016).

Draft Proposal

(further development of my post on this same topic a couple months back), it includes points of improvement from my tutors.

Idea and subject area

I am working in the area of documentary photography and my idea is to photograph gentrification in London. I will be doing this by capturing buildings in areas it is affecting (so far, places like Southwark and Camden have been covered). This ranges from demolished buildings, buildings currently in question for demolition and new structures or construction sites. In addition, portraits of people who will be or are affected. There is a wider age range between people whose portraits have been taken than there was initially.

My research methodology

This long term personal project is linked to my dissertation (public architecture and its effects on inequality) and I aim to utilise a variety of sociological research methods. Most of these research based findings are based on secondary sources (books, journals, short films, other photographic and sociological studies and even national statistics). These have been compiled by other individuals with their own agenda. I have tried to reach out to individuals affected by gentrification directly – i.e. residents/ex-residents and people who sit on housing associations or who are on social policy think tanks. Given the raw emotion felt by many of these individuals, gaining the primary research I would like, has proven to be a lengthy and difficult process.

How I plan to realise my project

I was getting a little stuck portraying my ideas visually and had to return to basics. I brainstormed (see previous post) what I could physically photograph and went through my archives of photographs taken in the past 2 years. This gave me an idea of what I had and what was missing from my story. I then reached out to various associations that were remaining in Southwark after the forced exodus in 2013. There is no longer contact between ex residents due to a ‘wanting to put the experience behind them’ which is totally understandable, which meant finding people would have to be approached differently. I have since had arranged/am arranging portrait sessions with other people that have been willing to get involved.

Timescales and production plans

The time frame for the photographs to be completed has now been shifted from December 2016 to March 2017. This is because finding participants, in any documentary project, is the longest and hardest part. The photographs will be printed/edited in April 2017 to prepare for the exhibition in May. The other publications that will follow in conjunction with this project are going to be realised around that time as well. The printing will be self managed as far as possible, instead of being taken to an external lab.

Intended audience

Broadsheet newspapers covering these stories – in particular The Guardian. The TIME/Financial Times magazines and papers may cover this story in the next two years, depending on what is the most pressing issue and which stories are being circulated in the media at the time. The residents and project participants are welcome to all exhibitions and will be informed of where the photographs are published next (i.e. book and magazine). Lastly, some of the images will be used in an attempt to get the ‘powers that be’ to reconsider some of their development policies in light of the people they are negatively affecting.


Bibliography

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Delaney, B. (2016) Neoliberalism through a dreamcatcher: Five signs your town has gentrified. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/24/neoliberalism-through-a-dream-catcher-five-signs-your-town-has-gentrified (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Gorton, T. and Dazed (2015) This map marks all of London’s anti-gentrification campaigns. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/24336/1/this-map-marks-all-of-londons-anti-gentrification-campaigns (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
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Magazine, F.-S. and contributors, its (2010) Contemporary photography: An informal movement. Available at: http://www.fstopmagazine.com/pastissues/43/milbrath.html (Accessed: 8 December 2016).
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Pritchard, S. (2016) Hipsters and artists are the gentrifying foot soldiers of capitalism. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/hipsters-artists-gentrifying-capitalism (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
Wainwright, O. (2016) Gentrification is a global problem. It’s time we found a better solution. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/sep/29/gentrification-global-problem-better-solution-oliver-wainwright (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
What is gentrification? Definition and meaning (2016) in Business Dictionary. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/gentrification.html (Accessed: 28 November 2016).
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Yip, J. (2015) I watched the anti-gentrification protest in brick lane from my shop window – here’s why I won’t move out. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/i-watched-the-anti-gentrification-protest-in-brick-lane-from-my-shop-window-heres-why-i-wont-move-a6670146.html (Accessed: 1 December 2016).
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