The first assignment in context and narrative, as with the art of photography course is designed to give my tutor a feel for my work and also act as a gauge from which my progress can be measured. This assignment requires me to create two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story.
Following a couple of ideas that when tested proved weak to say the very least, the idea I finally brought to fruition began life one afternoon while walking around the River Shannon in Limerick City. Council workers were installing temporary flood barriers ahead of a severe weather warning. Sandbags had also been dropped in areas where residents could take what they required to aid their home defence.
On 1st February 2014 much of the low-lying areas of Limerick City were hit by severe flooding, resulting in residential evacuations and millions of euros worth of damage. Such flooding has left behind a legacy of fear and apprehension around times when bad weather is combined with high tides. I’ve walked this stretch of the Shannon thousands of times, but only recently realized the love/hate relationship that people repeatedly affected by flooding have with the river. The River Shannon is integral to the history, development and culture of the city, yet every once in awhile the river shows its true power. My intention is to show the River Shannon in both a positive and negative light.
For the positive side of this story, I decided to draw on the research I carried out on photographer Eugéne Atget. His photographs of the River Seine, although taken over a hundred years ago, look as though they could have been taken very recently. Black and white was my choice to portray the River Shannon’s timeless beauty. While I know that buildings, vehicles and street furniture date my images, I feel that reducing the human presence within the frame counters this.
I decided to continue the reduced human presence into the negative side of this story, favouring a late, or aftermath, approach to the series (although, prelude is probably a more appropriate word). I found great insight from my research of Jeff Rich’s series, Watershed: The French Broad River. The angles and elements of design Jeff Rich uses in his composition are very appealing, and definitely influenced my approach to this series. For the rivers negative side, I used flood defences as a means of demonstrating the potential destructive threat that the River poses.
The Broad Majestic Shannon
It’s taken twice as long as I had hoped to complete this assignment, thanks to various unavoidable interruptions. However, I’m back on track now, and hope to keep up the momentum. Overall, I’m happy with this assignment, and I feel that I managed to create two distinct and coherent sets of images. I believe both sets successfully communicate the positive/negative side of the River Shannon. The high contrast black and white works well in allowing the scenes to jump out at the viewer, while the cool tones of the colour set allow the images a more somber and subdued feel.
I found the Context and Narrative Course to be a natural progression from the Art of Photography, with a strong focus on developing my ability to communicate with the viewer. While the work load, particularly photographic critical theory, is at time quite heavy going, there is great satisfaction in the realization that I’m slowly broadening my knowledge and understanding of the medium that is photography.
Update 30 July 2015
While working on Assignment Two, I spent some time walking The Grand Canal, photographing my journey. This journey helped me to resolve the lingered question from this feedback, with regard to finding my own idea of The River Shannon’s beauty.
Below I’ve included eight of the 100+ images edited from my Grand Canal walk.
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FlakPhoto.com (2012) ‘Watershed: The French Broad River’ [online], available: http://flakphoto.com/content/watershed-the-french-broad-river-jeff-rich-rod-slemmons#photo-1 [accessed 28 Feb 2015].
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