This assignment presented two options. The first proposed a reflection on subjects that might be seen as un-photographable and questions how one might go about portraying them using photography. The second option is about choosing one of two objects to suggest a narrative. The objects suggested are a white shirt or a handkerchief. The challenge of the assignment is to develop the selected option into a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7-10 images.
I began, as requested, to make a list of subjects which might be seen as un-photographable.
Some Ideas for the un-photographable option.
1. Emotions – joy, sadness, anger etc… An obvious option here would be to use an event or occasion such as a wedding or funeral to demonstrate the relevant emotions.
2. Dreams – Interpretation of a dream/nightmare. Something in work or personal life causing anxiety and stress might be a possibility.
3. Boredom – Monday to Friday 9 to 5 jobs. Repetition, monotony and routine.
4. Human senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) – Demonstrate the relationship between the senses through the day to day of a blind person. Loss of sight may mean an increased reliance on other senses. Braille, routine, guide dog, equipment and cane.
5. Isolation and loneliness – Empty spaces, bleak or stark scenes. Run down apartment.
6. Past, present and future – The relationship between them. Using a journey to demonstrate the passage of time. Footprints, evidence, receipts. etc…
7. Hatred – Maybe show hatred though racial or religious prejudice. Protest, banners, graffiti etc…
First attempt at the assignment
For a number of years, I’ve wanted to walk the length of The Grand Canal. The Grand Canal links Dublin and The Irish Sea with The River Shannon, a distance of 132km. In the past the canal had been a major route for the transportation of goods, generally by horse drawn barges. Now the canal hosts a way-marked walking route and the waterway is used mainly by pleasure boats.
My intention was to walk the length of the canal, recording the journey from the planning stage right through to it’s execution. I was toying with the idea that something un-photographable, i.e. the future passes through the present as it is carried out and then becomes the past. This is actually true of everything we do, every photograph we take. I enjoyed photographing the planning of the journey, but at some point I realised that the idea was a little daft and not going to work. With only three free days available to cover as much as we could, my girlfriend and I decided to spend them walking the canal, regardless of the assignment shortcomings. We covered a distance in excess of 90km and I photographed much of the journey. There was a great sense of freedom placing one foot in front of the other, noting and photographing the bridges, lock gates and wider vistas (which changed rather slowly) as we progressed. It was a fantastic way to spend three days.
The canal journey didn’t yield an assignment, however I did manage to deal with a lingering issue. In Assignment One, I used black and white postcard type scenes to demonstrate the beauty of The River Shannon. My tutor challenged my approach, asking that I try to discover my own idea of the river’s beauty. I feel that my journey along the canal afforded me the opportunity to explore the subject of beauty through my camera without the time pressures that I often place upon myself. The way in which the landscape gradually changed with my progress, provided me with an abundance of time to access, understand and appreciate what I was looking at.
I used my Fujifilm X100s with 23mm lens (approximately 35mm equivalent) for the canal walk, a camera I’ve been using for some time. There was probably a time when I was concerned with wanting the best of photographic equipment, putting a full frame camera and expensive lenses on my wishlist. However, while my Fujifilm x100s is by no means a simple or indeed cheap camera, I feel that it has definitely simplified my approach to photography and I’ve rediscovered how extremely liberating and joyful it is to use a fixed lens.
Below I’ve included eight of the 100+ images edited from my Grand Canal walk.
With the canal walk a non-runner for this assignment, I eventually decided upon a theme based around the routine, repetition and boredom of getting up and out to a 9 to 5 job.
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