Assignment 2 – Photographing the Unseen

Assignment 2 had two options: Photographing the unseen or using props. I chose not to take the option of a named prop and photograph it throughout a created narrative but to consider the photographing of the unseen or ‘un-photographable’. Notes were made, (Photographing the Unseen), as to the type of subject matter that might be considered un-photographable – the ideas that emerged were the stuff of life that is non-literal, emotional, of the past or of hopes for the future; it was of what is often ephemeral and difficult to frame and capture in a photograph without any planning.

The chosen idea of the considerations noted was that of photographing some disturbing events of the past. Recent reading has included Ulrich Baer‘s Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma, and particular interest was found in Baer’s considerations of the Levins’ projects fifty years apart. I read how Meyer Levin took a journey through trauma during 1946 in order to witness the effects of the Second World War in Europe, including making witness of the extermination camps and of how his son Mikael Levin traced this journey 50 years afterward viewing the erasure of the past in its lack of presence within landscapes in our contemporary Europe where living had, in most cases superseded all that had gone before in the photographing of his project War Story.

Notes of Further Considerations – Here

Research: Research – Assignment 2 – Photographing the Unseen, The Photography of Trauma and Part 2, Assignment, Research – Sally Mann

Summary: Research looks at the photographic possibility of ante-trauma. The difficulty of the avoidance of what Campany refers to as aftermath is noted and the necessity to make photographs that ask for a durational viewing that the flaws of what Barthes might call stadium are noted even if there is an absence of obvious punctum in the photograph alone.

Assignment Notes

My photographs consider the told memory of several traumas suffered by an outsider in several locations within two local geographical areas. These traumas have been described to me as something that should be expected, accepted, not retold and considered fortunate as they were survivable.

Having read Ulrich Baer and viewed Michal Levin’s photographs online I determined that it was possible to tell a small amount of the story of an unwelcome Romany man whose traumas are dismissed by most everyone. It is accepted that the landscape changes over a period of time, through man-made alterations, natural erosion perhaps caused by flooding or the growth of crops, plants and trees. We also accept that when somebody heals from their injuries, we see what happened to them less than we might have done just after their assault. Scars can still be present, be that in the landscape or upon somebody’s face but quite often scars fade significantly over a few years. And yet the psychological reality and the memory reality is that even though the physical has been healing, the incident hasn’t been erased.

Erasure is a term often associated with crimes of significant hate. In the photographs below there is no trace of the incidents that took place. We have a stadium without punctum. Or do we? Because in this instance the stadium and punctum aren’t quite so obvious as a general view of cultural, political or social meaning interrupted by the punctum that disrupts the rest of the narrative. Here I am stating that the stadium allows the assaults and determines that they will be erased from the balance when any weighing of wrongs takes place – it was always deserved. Though in the stadium, if we really choose to look are there not signs that not all is utopian?

(Word count – 299)

(Reflection as per learning outcomes – Here)


Final Images

The intention would be for the final images to be shown with accompanying text that allows for the relay of information of both image and text that the viewer might have the image contextualised moderately but not be strongly persuaded of a particular viewpoint.
Image 1 – Skiers Hall – (20mm, 1/4second, f11, ISO100)

Text to accompany the image:  This is a public right of way that runs from Armroyd Lane toward Skier’s Hall and past toward Burying Lane. This is a place where the teller of the stories had been chased. The chase commenced well before this point and continued beyond the mid-ground of the image. It is a place that for whomever lives there is the non-adopted road the allows them to gain entrance to their home. Though for the outsider, who used to live in this area and had lived here for all of their life is a place where fear and adrenaline were a mix that allowed for continued efforts to escape the chasers. The chasers were those who felt they were exempt from usual societal standards and common law that would indicate that chasing with the intent of making a co-joined attempt on an individual’s life was not acceptable.

Analysis:  Vertical format had been chosen as one of the consistent themes of the narrative. The format consistency helps the images to keep as sense of cohesion and works well to connote the narrow channel of opportunity the teller of the stories had for survival. The vertical format also allows for compositional framing of pathways, church spires that reach into the zones of collaborative power and stormy skies that can take up half of a print. The telegraph wires were aligned to create a sense of recession to the image, along with the uneven, un-adopted road. The initial sense of the image however may be that it is a ‘pretty’ footpath or bridleway past a farm house and the colouration of the highlights in the sky and on the greenery has been enhanced slightly to allow for this first impression. The image is intended to be an image that can be viewed for some time whereby the darker possibilities of the place can be found.

Image 2 – Elsecar Holy Trinity Church – (20mm, 13seconds, f11, ISO100)

Text to accompany the image:  This is of a church in Elsecar. It is the church where a community held a service, necessary for the community’s grief, I am told. The grief was related to the presumed death of a female who’d been living, not in Elsecar but in another local parish. The remaining family member of the female was unwelcome at the service as the community felt he was to be blamed for the circumstances of her having gone missing. The service did not mention the disappearance of the female’s husband some time before and did not attribute any guilt to any community members for their continued aggressive harassment of this family at a level that included many offences that could attract a substantial sentence.

Analysis:  The composition leaves space for the spire of the church, representative of a channel to God. It also includes the sloping downward lines of the base of the churchyard wall and the pavement’s kerbing stones. This deliberate inclusion of a slope is meant to provide a contrast to the ‘channel to God’ that has perhaps been used as a defence of institutional racism being practised at a local level. Tonal corrections have been made and as before some colour work to add to the in-camera captured possibility of a viewer sensing at first impression a ‘pretty’ landscape.

Image 3 – Copse near Skiers Spring Wood – (20mm, 30seconds, f3.5, ISO200)3_Copse_near_Skiers_Spring_Wood

Text to accompany the image:  Here is of a wooded area where the remaining family member, the teen who had been chased, much more than once, lived for a time. He told me he feared returning to the house he and his parents had lived in. He feared many members of the community he had lived amongst were likely to re-group and again try to hunt him down. He was dying emotionally in respect of his mother and he lived here, in the deepest dark that was possible in these woods. The area at that time was still muddy from the rainfall of the late winter. At night in the woods nothing at all could be seen. It could be possible to not know if he still had his sight. When dawn broke it didn’t become lighter in the woods for some substantial time; dusk had a similar yet reversed reality.

Analysis:  None of the image is in focus. The long exposure was taken at the end of the blue hour. Post processing was not used to lighten the image just to try and balance the sense of the environment for the viewer by removing a particular natural darkened area that drew attention. Shadows were not removed to gain detail but to allow for the bands of area to be delivered to the viewer, as the out of focus blue toned and slightly hypnotic environment that they were to the teller of the stories.

Image 4 – The Beeches / Smithy Bridge – (20mm, 1/30second, f10, ISO100)

Text to accompany the image:  This is the location of the end of another chase that was perpetrated. It is the location of a multi-assailant assault – they all were.

Analysis:  The framing of the image is to include a sense of the sum of the large tree. The bridge was included in the composition and the gateway to the field. The vertical format was continued here as in all shots to help create the desired sense of a continued story being developed within a cohesive style of communication. Whilst my shadow wasn’t in shot by usage of a delayed exposure, the tripod shadow had to be removed from the image. Some feedback I received on this particular shot was that perhaps I could remove the road sign, however I have chosen not to remove this object even though some cloning had already taken place to remove the shadow of the photographic equipment. The photographic document includes the signage and it seems to fit the storytelling. If the storyteller had had any chance of making it over a tiny bridge and beyond maybe he could have outrun his assailants. It was a narrow prospect of escape, toward what is now a low weight holding bridge, but obstructed because as he tried to progress through the field beyond the gate towards us as the viewer after a substantial time, the group split, some following him and one or more proceeding round the alternative route to block his escape over the gate and away.

Image 5 – Wentworth Mill / Mill Lane – (60mm, 1/8second, f16, ISO100)

Text to accompany the image:  Mill Lane – this location is also the scene of a crime. Mill lane is now a moderately remote residential location near to Wentworth Village. The former windmill has been converted to a residential roundhouse. The cottage and the farm are also private residences.

Analysis:  The photograph was captured on a windy day and shows the movement of the tree that stands over the scene of what happened during the 1970’s. An image with more light and shadow on the lane was rejected in favour of this selection that has a more pleasing demonstration of the tree shape in the wind arching over the location of the assault.

Image 6 – The White House / Linthwaite Lane – (35mm, 1/5second, f16, ISO50)

Text to accompany the image:  This is Linthwaite Lane. The scene of another incident.  The assault that happened here was to do with a ‘conflict’ between the assailant and my storyteller.

Analysis:  The image was captured at a time when the weather was changing and some stormy clouds came from the south to cover the skyline. Several different neutral density gradient filters were tested against the sky and shots exposed for the foreground and mid-ground were captured for easier post processing. The vertical format is maintained and the composition includes some of the far verge of the lane, the house at a reasonable distance and the flattened grass as an area of foreground interest. The palette is minimal but not particularly muted, including greens, pale browns and greys.

Image 7 – The Wharfe / Wharfemeadows / After the Weir – (55mm, 1/50second, f11, ISO500)

Text to accompany the image:  This is the River Wharfe, Otley. The area of the river is downstream of the weir and is where an individual was removed from the water having entered the river against his will from the road bridge upstream. He had passed over the weir to come to a place of rest in the area where the willow overhangs the water. He was initially thought to be deceased.

Analysis:  The photograph was captured from a concreted walkway where the supported camera lens had to be placed through the railing of a safety fence. The neutral density filter was added digitally at a reduced opacity to the sky area of the image after post processing to minimise the blown highlight effect that can come from non-filtered skies. The selection choice was of the particular shot where the leaves of the willow and the natural light were most pleasing and the sharpness of the appearance of the ducks on the river was checked. Some of the splashes in the water were removed as the specular blown out appearance was displeasing and a possible distraction to the viewer.

Image 8 – Wharfemeadows / Scaffold / Gallows – (30mm, 0.4second, f7.1, ISO200)8_Wharfemeadows_Scaffold_Gallows

Text to accompany the image:  Taken on the path near Wharfemeadows Park / Farnley Lane, Otley, the trees in the area form a natural scaffold from which there was a hanging. The victim of the assault survived without many lasting physical issues though he had to be ‘rescued’ from the natural scaffold the men had used to trap him with the intent of possible death.

Analysis:  The photograph was taken with consideration of the composition of the branches of the tree being outstretched toward the corners and top of frame, looking much like a cross that might be a symbol of religious relevance to Christians albeit one that has been shifted from the centre of the image to work with the rule of thirds. The leading lines of the fencing rails and the kerb edging and road also point to the tree at the edge of shot. I do not know which tree is the tree from the time when I was present. My sense is that the central subject tree is most certainly not the correct tree. But it happened, it was some tree that was used. These events continued to happen – there is always a ‘tree’ close by, always a chance of yet another act of serious harm.

Image 9 – Fitzwilliam / Woodhouse Estate Working Teams – (300mm, 1/30second, f16, ISO200)

Text to accompany the image:  The location is the vehicular access road near the arboretum in Wentworth. The photograph represents several incidences but particularly one extreme incidence of my narrator’s difficulties with Estate staff in the 1970s.

Analysis:  The photograph was captured with a telephoto lens supported as throughout on a tripod. There was no use of filters just small adjustments in composition to get the required image framed as preferred. The mid-tones were warmed slightly when post processing and cleaning and sharpening as with all images. The slightly warmed image was of an improved colour balance to hold the red tones of the machinery. Correction of tones were made to counter the possible distraction of some of the light reflection on some of the large leaves at the top of the frame in particular. The vehicular access to the land on the estate moves through the photograph from the foreground back, showing some parked machinery and the background where there is a view of distant land through the arched meeting of the trees that frame the private lane. The shadows and light that pattern the lane caused by the late sun and mature trees help create the depth of the view perceived by a viewer who is led through the channel of scenery to the machinery and beyond.

Reflection as per learning outcomes  – Here