Y Filltir Swgar – The Square Mile – Learning Log

This is my first assignment for my BA Photography Degree

THE BRIEF

In our earliest years we know a patch of ground in a detail we will never know anywhere again – site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes.

(The Square Mile), described above by Professor Mike Pearson. It is the intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings.

Make series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’.

NARRATIVE and IMAGES

Preface

I live part of my time in Pembrokeshire and was there when I received this assignment. On reading the brief I realised that I must shoot the images in this location, but I was leaving in a few days, the weather was extremely variable and I currently had a house full of visitors…

I immediately interpreted the brief as a sharing of my passion about a place and knew instinctively what I wanted to include. I had limited time to capture the images, “I shot from the hip” and ultimately nearly “shot myself in the foot” (more in my reflections). Later when I drew breath back in Hampshire, reviewed my images, viewed others’ learning logs and researched more widely, I felt that I had let enthusiasm carry me away and that my images did not reflect my best technical work; however they do convey my passion for Y Filltir Sgwar, which is Trefdraeth Pembrokeshire and hopefully a sense of my place.

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Hiraeth

Hiraeth is Welsh word which has no direct English translation, however it could be described as a deep longing for home (Tim Davis 2007). I am only a quarter Welsh and not originally from Trefdraeth (the English translation is, town by the beach), nevertheless I have spent much of my time here in recent years and the place fills me with a deep longing and beckons my soul when I am not there. With this first image I set the context and begin at my favourite spot, the sand dunes between Big Beach and the Nevern Estuary, with my favourite view, the little town nestling below Carningli mountain. I attempted to use the light and the wind from the side to add depth to the foreground and to bring this shot to life.

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Tide up

Like many of these images, the caption I have chosen carries more than one meaning. I am fascinated by the ropes, knots, ties, lines and fittings on the boats and enjoy photographing them in various ways. I have included one as an image to symbolise how the tide governs our lives here, high tide, low tide, tide depth…this dictates the when, where and how we may row, sail, kayak, run, walk or relax, “ Time and tide waits for no man”. I deliberately cropped the image close to enhance the feeling of zooming in.

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Boat club or social Hubbub

I didn’t intend originally to include this location in My Square Mile images and only took a couple of quick shots as I was on route to another location. However having reflected on my images and the brief that they should sit together as a series I felt that the Boat Club was important to include as it is so central to nautical life here. I have many better shots of the Boat Club taken previously, however I do feel this image reflects the Club as a magnet for people, often despite the weather, which this image portrays.

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The Moorings Committee

I came across this arrangement of buoys as I was photographing other shots and strangely the first thought that entered my mind was that the “old buoys” could serve as a symbol of the Moorings Committee. Anyone who lives amongst a community of sailors and fishermen knows the importance of such a committee and the power that they wield in a community – Say no more! I particularly like the colours and textures of the grim and slime and the wetness and smell of seaweed that it evokes.

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Team effort

It was vital to represent my passion for Celtic Longboat Rowing, but time was short. I decided that the shot to get was the longboat being pulled up the slipway after a row, as the exertion is immense, especially with depleted energy reserves – everyone must truly pull together. There were a couple of occasions when I planned to shoot but due to bad weather, rowing was cancelled. Then twice I unexpectedly caught rowers returning and had to work fast, this was one of them. The light was very poor, I had my camera but no tripod, and in any case needed to move up the slipway with them for the shot I wanted. I chose this image as I like the contrast in size between the coach and the junior rowers and there is a sense of the lateness in the day and of the effort involved; I would have preferred to use an image from the top of the slipway, to convey it’s gradient and narrowness but unfortunately a white launch boat had been left by the wall and was a distraction in those images. I shot from below the subject to portray the size of the boat and the incline although it doesn’t have the effect in this image (as it was on level ground) that it does in the ones taken at the top of the slipway.

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River crossing at low tide

At low tide the river estuary becomes a pathway from the Town, and Boatclub to the sand dunes and Big Beach. I use this crossing a lot and know the timing and height of the tides which will allow me safe passage. Tourists are never quite sure how deep the channel will be, so knew that I would get some good shots at low tide and was patient, lurking behind boats, mainly with my telephoto lens to catch splashes and wobbles. Unfortunately this did not yield any particularly interesting images that day. I ultimately chose an image taken with my wide angle lens to include plenty of foreground to detail the muddy estuary and to convey the expanse of the estuary at low tide, instead of the shots I took which focused on people and their dogs crossing. It was also nice to include an image when there was a window in the weather and good cloud formations, although I wish that the two people were a little more off centre in the image.

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Busy

My walk from the estuary to home takes me up Long Street towards the town. During August as I approach Market Street there is usually a bustling mayhem of pedestrians, cars and lorries below the Norman Castle, as visitors move between the butchers and fishmongers, the bistros and gastro pubs, and the Post office. I had missed my best photo opportunity on Market day that week, however this is a typical scene as people pause to talk in the middle of the road and no one is hurried by the through traffic. I could have cropped more the right side of the image, but chose to use the double yellow lines to frame the shot.

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Neighbourly Rubbish

Whilst out running, I noticed rubbish awaiting collection which inspired me to add another image; we had unfortunately had a disagreement with our neighbours. Just as I had the thought, I saw the waste disposal lorry approaching. I ran home fast and collected my camera. Our collective rubbish (a colourful mixture of black and orange bags with green bottle and food bins) was still intact, perfect…however I then made the mistake of rushing to capture the rubbish sitting in line uphill which had first inspired me, to ensure I beat the waste lorry approaching it. I then returned to “our rubbish” to find alas I had been beaten by another waste lorry which had approached from the other direction…all that was left were the empty green bins. I took some shots but decided that the bulging bags of rubbish from round the corner, were more symbolic of the way I was feeling about our neighbours at that point. I found the line of rubbish disappearing in the distance pleasing.

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Fronds

I included this image at this point in the series to balance the toxicity of the previous image, it also serves several purposes. I have an absolute passion for ferns which grow in abundance here, their lushness and prehistoric nature fascinates me. I nearly entitled this image “firm fronds”, as for me these fronds also symbolise my local friends. I intended to experiment with more close up photography; however I found lots of ferns and very few emerging fronds. To capture this frond I had to stand in a stream with a steady hand as it was too high for my tripod. I spent a long time experimenting with the changing light conditions and my focus point and depth.

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Fixtures

I planned to shoot images tennis being played as it is an integral part of my sporting and social life, and I thought I would capture some good shots; however most of the tennis was rained off that week. Undeterred I headed to the courts to experiment, they were empty but I found the patterns and relationships created by the fences and lines of the court interesting. I have included a shot that required some experimenting on the focusing element and contained some pleasing patterns. When shooting, both the wind and sun were creating ever changing effects on this subject, especially the net and its shadow.

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Secret places

I run and walk along the local ancient pathways and use many that seem undiscovered. I felt I was spoilt for choice when selecting an image from this shoot. I was particularly pleased with the capture of the dappling light, my son says this image should be called, light at the end of the tunnel! It was a challenge to wait for the right balance of light and shadow in the composition.

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Boundaries

My subject here was the life guard sign, which is meaningful to me as I use it as a marker when I am running around the edge of the dunes. I was however particularly attracted to this shot as I like the way the buggy tracks run alongside it, bring more meaning to the caption “boundaries” as there are “lines drawn”. In this shot I also return to the starting location of my series, the sand dunes.

TECHNICAL APPROACH

I used a range of subjects, settings and images with a variety of focal lengths and depths of field. On reviewing my images and researching more widely I realised some images don’t reflect my best technical work. This is mainly because in my short capture window I was at the mercy of the weather and light in particular and I didn’t plan adequately for this. All of my shots were hand held, some would have benefited from a tripod and a couple from a graduated filter.

RESEARCH

I first looked at suggested practitioners who have worked within their locality, to help generate my ideas:

Venetia Dearden: Somerset Stories Five Penny Dreams www.venetiadearden.com/en/somerset_stories_fivepenny_dreams.html accessed 24.8.15. I particularly like the way she reflects on the sense of belonging and her identity.

The review of OCA student Peter Mansell’s work for Photography2: landscape http://weareoca.com/photography/peter-mansell/ accessed 24.8.15. I was inspired by the way that he looks differently at a landscape, with a variety of close up and landscape images, the thoughtful way that he frames each shot for effect, for example square crops, as well as his use of captions.

Roni Horn’s Iceland exhibition: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn/roni-horn-aka-roni-horn-explore-exhibitio-10 accessed 24.8.15. I found her accompanying narrative about the landscape exhibition interesting “Iceland taught me to taste experience”. I can relate to the way that she talks about the relationship between identity and place.

http://www.purdyhicks.com/display.php?aID=10 accessed 25.8.15. This is a resume of photographer Tom Hunter who explores themes of his local area East London. I also particularly liked his images of stones in the landscape, such as Chun Quiot 2013 and Nine Maidens 2013; perhaps I could develop something similar in Pembrokeshire.

http://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/ Belgravia series (1979-81) accessed 25.8.15. I found it interesting the way the people/subjects are kept anonymous, so that they are not photographs about individuals, but about a group of people and their context. Her use of text causes the reader to slow down their viewing and then return to the image to re-evaluate in the light of what is read. I would like to try something like this in the future. I am inspired by the manner in which “she uses visual and textual strategies to explore her chosen subject matter”.

http://weareoca.com/photography/photography-and-nostalgia/ Jodie Taylor’s Memories of Childhood accessed 22.8.15. Although I accessed this before starting my assignment I found her Tutor’s commentary on her work most useful when reflecting on my images, “sentimentalising a captured memory and the sometimes powerful urge to bring that moment back or forget it forever become a part and parcel of looking at photographs”… “I began to wonder what happened in those places in Jodie’s life and as I blended my own past with my imagination of what hers might have been, a narrative emerged”. I would hope in the future that my photographs would have such an impact on my readers.

Additional research:

http://faculty.cse.tamu.edu/davis/Poetry/hiraeth.html accessed 28.9.15. Tim Davies explanation of Hiraeth and his poem about going home to Hiraeth.

http://www.anniecholewa.com/2014/04/home-ground.html accessed 11.9.15. In Annie Cholewa’s discourse on “Home ground” I particularly like the way she describes Y Filltir Sgwar as a place which you own through familiarity and that ultimately owns you.

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