Initially I wondered how to make this different to my initial work (and rework) to the same brief as part of the Foundations course. I decided to document my 8 year-old daughter’s square mile rather than doing mine again. We collaborated on a list of her favourite places, and agreed that I would photograph her at each one. I secured permissions where needed.
I reviewed the practitioners recommended in both the Foundation and EYV courses as well as those I had encountered independently. I had read Family Photography Now (Howarth and McLaren, 2016) which helped via the diversity of families and photographic approaches included. The ones that influenced me the most were Penny Watson, Charlie Murrell, Mini Mollica (erratum – Mimi Mollica), Sian Davey and Evgenia Arbugaeva (the rather more extensive research post is here). I was interested in images that showed the character of the children, and that showed a balance or a tension between the child and their surroundings. I didn’t want a “background” so much as a context that added information to the photograph. I also wanted to convey how she physically interacted with the places, influenced by the works of Tom Hunter and Venetia Dearden.
My technical approach was hand-held (largely due to non-tripod-friendly environments), as low an ISO as I could work with, manual mode. Most images are taken with a 50mm prime lens, a couple with a 24mm prime where I needed a wider view, and one with a 100mm macro which I have found to work well for photographing children at a distance. I worked with as wide an aperture as possible, in the interest of minimising the shutter speed. For post-processing I applied lens correction to all images and corrected for shadows and highlights. I did not use any cloning or magic brush but have cropped a few images following peer feedback that several images tended towards a central positioning of my daughter. Final processing includes sharpening and adjusting clarity.
I feel rather close to the work to be making objective comments. I would like to improve the after-concert image, it is hampered by the lack of light but I wanted to convey the idea of her isolation, as the set was dismantled around her; I would also like more depth of field on the shop and You-tube images. I want to learn how to improve portraits where the person is at a much smaller scale than their surroundings. I like the sense of disconnect, of tension, between people and places (eg Rineke Dijsksta’s beach portraits and Mimi Mollica’s Norah There), but my composition isn’t there yet. Peer feedback was generally positive and I have changed the selection/the crop on some images as a result as well as noting suggestions for further work.
Going forward, I have these ideas for developing this series;
- A series emphasising how her hands and feet interact with her spaces
- A series where she is at a smaller scale, possibly all with her centre image
- Contrasting her square mile photographs with my square mile photographs
- Contrasting another aspect of her childhood – the fairies, princesses, media influences; possibly via collage/mixed media album.
- Exploring the domestic textures and artefacts of her childhood (see Marc Rees)
A short postscript – I asked my daughter to choose her favourites. The set was identical, except for an uncropped version of the comic shop shot.
Howarth, S. and McLaren, S. (2016) Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.