Assignment 5 notes
In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’.
What is it about?
The answer to this question leads me again to the context and is also ever changing if I look at the journey I went through with this project. It took me a little while to select the subject matter for this final project. My other two possibilities were the Victorian Gardens close to my house, or selective images of my son. I settled on shooting Carlton Mansions in Brixton for several reasons. Partly because it is a building that I have been fascinated with purely on aesthetics alone, and I am a believer in ‘Shoot what you love.’ Also because I have been looking for an opportunity to find out more about the building’s history. The other main reason was to attempt to improve my skills in photographing architecture.
So in terms of Barratt’s contexts it is clear that my original shot of the whole building, and the images picking out the decorative aspects of the facade, have a very strong link to the ‘internal context’ (Terry Barrett – Photography and Context 1985). These images are very much about the information within the frame. In these instances it is the aesthetic aspects of the structure itself that initially appealed to my photographers eye.
There is a contextual shift within the set in the inclusion of information surrounding the picture ie ‘the external context’ where additions have been made to the building through the years. Here we see the purpose, or function, of the image change. The influence of the residents is clearer in their adornments, they have left their ‘stamp’ on the structure. This does become multi layered through research. There are simplistic affectations in terms of stencilling and spray can work, but the ripples of political passion have echoed through the years with the hugely iconic mural ‘Nuclear Dawn’ (Brian Barnes and Dale McCrea – 1981).
This inclusion of original context, information surrounding the picture, is also illuminated with the plaques on the wall – one of which captions the building with ‘Housing the Homeless and many cats’ – this is one of my trial shots and not in the final ten. My chosen plaque relates to the anniversary of the Nuclear Dawn mural – a more politically significant adornment.
A little research into the recent history of the building also builds on this context. My first ‘google’ led me to a local newspaper article on the 2014 eviction of the ‘creative community’ that had set up home in the building (Brixton Blog – 2014). Brixton Blog on Carlton Mansions This gives an interesting insight into the community that helped to shape the more recent features of the building eg murals, colourful script, plaques etc. The article also demonstrates the political and social repercussions linked to new housing law reform of 2014.
I also enjoyed the insight given into the lives of those who lived in the building just prior to the eviction in another local newspaper article (Brixton Buzz – 2014). Living in Carlton Mansions
The final two images that I chose to include are a little more ambiguous. I like the presence of closed curtains, suggesting there is more to find out and how well that links to the slightly cryptic yet transparent ‘Brixton Bizness Centre’.
Another element that I enjoyed including within the frames was the foliage. This building is situated within a very urban environment, placed between the regenerated, hipster influenced Brixton Village and the highly residential social housing side of town. Seeing the weeds and overgrown flora creeping its way into the building in images introduces another level of contradiction in terms of energy and aesthetics.
In exploring my skills, and the purpose behind my choice of a ‘decaying’ building, I also found myself questioning what it is that draws photographers to such subject matters.
Looking at the work of Christian Richter there is an attraction to the contradiction between a grand piece of architectural design and the complexity of destruction that time effects upon it (dezeen – 2016). Christian Richter – Abandoned Empty Buildings
Architectural photography has many functions of course and for me it tends to be the image that represents a familiar scene in an unexpected way that is appealing. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to a genre that has been dubbed (The Guardian – 2016) ruin porn by the media. I do feel uncomfortable with photographs that depict the difficult situations and suffering that others go through. This can be images of poverty, post natural disaster, war torn environments etc. In capturing aspects of a decaying building it is the aesthetic qualities that both people, the elements and time have had in effecting change that appeals to me.
This particular building does now have another chapter in its life. The most current article talks about continuing the regeneration of the area and linking the art community history to future plans for the space to house local creative businesses (Future Brixton – 2016). The future for Carlton Mansions
Final Set – Post Production Edits
In presenting my final images I have reselected and edited in reference to tutorial feedback. Some images were over exposed and required post production work.
In analysing my own skill progress in working with architecture I did find it easier to work in my comfort zone of using the 85mm prime lens and picking out abstracted elements, rather than framing the whole building. There were problematic areas in shooting the whole building. It was in a narrow street with no access to a second storey as a vantage point for the photo. Hence the difficulty in fitting the building symmetrically and balanced within the shot. I tried to use this to my advantage in the hope that the building would ‘loom’ over the viewer, but geometry hasn’t quite worked.
I also explored the changing the contrast and framing of the main building picture. This was a difficult one to frame due to the height of the building and narrowness of the street.