Choosing a topic for Assignment 2 Collections

“Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing: • Crowds • Views • Heads”

I had a few choices for this assignment and took some time to consider them.

Collection – Elliotts shop, Saltash Cornwall. This was a local shop that closed in the 70s due to a combination of local business rates changing and the owner’s resistance to metrification and decimalisation. The shop closed, with the stated intention of leaving all stock as it was to be eventually gifted to the town as a museum. This approach minimised the owner’s tax liabilities. The owner then carefully worked his way through pretty much all the shop stock except for the jams, replacing the cleaned empties on the shop shelves. Cans, bottles, packets were all carefully opened and their contents either consumed or sold on the black market. The deception was only noticed when a visiting official became suspicious by the hollow sound that a tin made when it fell from the shelf and hit the floor. I didn’t shoot here because of limited time and light. I do plan to return to shoot an assignment later on in the course though, possibly for C&N. These are hand-held test shots in a dark interior and are not sharply focused, I would need a tripod to shoot there.


Carnival – I considered shooting at Devizes Carnival, I liked the idea of finding an entry where everyone was dressed as the same character and photographing individuals from that group. I decided against as there was no opportunity for reshooting and it felt as if it was one of the least creative options for me.

Heads or tails -I very much like Moira Davey’s work Copperheads, where she photographed the heads side of 100 coins and presented the work as a grid. The macro detail turned what should have been 100 identical portraits into a variety of almost landscapes, with each coin showing different wear according to the path and pockets that it had taken. I like the idea of doing a similar project with counterfeit pound coins, which seem to be a regular occurrence in my purse. I don’t have anywhere near enough though, so I’m going to start collecting them and revisit this idea later in my studies. I think it would be interesting to document the variety of differences in the reproduction of the “heads” side of the coin, coupled with the inevitable wear. I would include one genuine coin as well. I think this is a project that will happen for me, it feels as if it’s the right time as the current pound coin will cease to be legal tender in 2017. However there’s not really enough time to collect enough coins for when A2 is due.

Smiles – I am intrigued by passport photographs. We all have them, and most of us have memories of the original selfies, jammed into a photobooth with friends. My parents used to keep a row of the passport images that we normally throw out – tucked into the frame of a picture. My favourite was of my Grandma, just the top of her head and the top edge of her spectacles visible as she chose that moment to look for something in her handbag. We’re not supposed to smile in passport photographs however. Yet most women and children are frequently asked to smile in everyday life, more often than not by complete strangers who seem to think that it’s ok to demand an emotion from us. After working the school fete photobooth last summer I got to thinking that it would be interesting to photograph a series of women and children in photobooths, all unsmiling but holding a smile prop.

I went with Smiles in the end, after discussing the idea at a study visit and with my tutor by email. I like that it offers multiple layers to explore – portraiture, the history of smiles in portraiture and current social and cultural mores around smiles, expressions and social media. There is a lot of work to explore around photobooth images. I am also intrigued and amused in equal measure that every woman I mention this proposal to “gets” it immediately, whereas every man says “oh, I didn’t realise that happened so often”.



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