SDA Shoot 4 + 5: St Ives & Kennel Vale

As I scanned my negatives for these two shoots at the same time I thought I would discuss my final two SDA shoots together. For the first shoot I went to St Ives to photograph Porthminster beach and for the second I went over to Kennel Vale in Posanooth.

Although it was a cloudy day which was ideal I really struggled to photograph the beach. However in the end I am most pleased with this very simple shot above that has this haziness in the background. I said I didn't want to make my photographs look overly spooky but this is just the weather especially at this time of year in Cornwall, and I like that the shot is very forward facing and you have this leading line taking you into the water and eventually this hazy horizon.

Kennel Vale I found a really difficult shoot because there are so many little buildings that remain of the gun powder works and I really wasn't sure where to start or what would look best. Which is why I have so many different photographs of this location to choose from. After discussing these photographs with Mal I have come to like the photograph above best. As I think this really shows what people are familiar with of this place and has a sense of intrigue about it that I have similarly created in my chosen photographs from other shoots.  


Monday 13th Crit

For our March crit I brought in all my favourite photographs that I have shot for my SDA project so far. To get some advice on editing, and critique on my current approach to the subject matter. Currently my lecturers and peers agree with me on my current favourites from each shoot except for the Bodmin Jail photographs. A lot of them really liked the top photograph in the image above which I also like and think has a certain distance and expanse however I am still not sure whether I will use any of these photographs or not in my final edit. 

It was really interesting to see what everyone else has been working on and also to get some feedback on work that I have been doing in a very isolated way. Visiting these locations alone and learning about these hauntings through hours of research. It has definitely made me realise that I need to share my work and ideas more in order to help me develop them further. 

London Ideas + Research


The London Coffee Festival

At the beginning of March I decided to start researching into potential subject matter for my 24hour shoot in London. My initial ideas were to look into food festivals and unique food and drink businesses in central London such as Sketch. I found out that The London coffee Festival is taking place on the day of the shoot in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Which I may use as a back up plan if I don't like the results of the recce that I will do earlier that week for my new idea that I have been researching.

I have decided that instead of focusing on businesses like I did for the Plymouth shoot that I want to research and tell a story for a more documentary style project. After lots of reading into the history of East London where we will be based for the talks and exhibition that week, I was reminded that Joseph Merrick's story mostly took place there. After watching a documentary about his story it is one I think would be really powerful to tell if executed well with strong captioning and well thought out images. As Merrick's story is one that illustrates the effects of stigma; a subject that is still relevant today.

Like in my SDA project this subject matter is not one I can directly photograph. Therefore I will be making use of what I have learnt through my contextual research of photographers such as Joel Sternfeld and Mark Power, to inform the kinds of photographs I will take for this assignment. However this time it is unlikely that I will get shots devoid of people in London and I will be telling one story with my five photographs rather than individual ones.

One thing that I learnt early on in my research is that Joseph Merrick's skeleton is still stored in The Royal London Hospital's Medical School. However it isn't open to the public so I decided to email the medical school's media team to see if I could get access to photograph the skeleton on the day of the shoot.

My email to the media team 
Their response
Unfortunately I was declined access to photograph the skeleton however in thinking more about how I want my photographs to look overall the skeleton doesn't necessarily fit what I want anyway. It just happens to be evidence of Merrick and his condition that would have been a really powerful thing to record. There is a replica in the Royal London Hospital Museum, however I have been thinking that if I want my images to focus more on the experience of living with stigma, that they should show what Merrick saw of the world through his eyes. With captions that describe how his perspective was different because of the way he was treated.

SDA Shoot 3: Bodmin Jail + Lanhydrock House

For my next shoot I planned to visit two places in Bodmin. The first being Bodmin Jail; built in the late 18th century and a hot spot for hangings, the jail has an abundance of haunting stories and reports of deceased prisoners returning to haunt the jail. The second location I visited was Lanhydrock house; a stately home supposedly haunted by a grey lady who haunts the only two rooms that remained after a fire, and also a man who was hanged by royalists during the Civil War. 

Photographing Bodmin Jail was initially a struggle as there is a lot of building work happening on the exterior which I obviously did not want to photograph. Eventually I found a route to walk around the outside on the jail that led me to this view looking up into the old cells. It was difficult because I had to photograph through a big gate but I think I got a nice variety of shots. My only concern is that there isn't as much distance between me and the subject as I want to maintain in this series. But I will have to see how these photographs look with my other shots. The photograph above is one of my personal favourites because of the way these leading lines lead somewhere that appears hazy and I also like the detail to begin with of the overgrown ivy on the walls. 

The photograph above is my favourite that I took of Lanhydrock house because there is a mysterious feeling to it created by this distance and I like the symmetry and the tilting of the trees in the frame. I am not so keen on my closer shots of the building because I feel that they show too much of the newer parts of the building and also signposts and fencing etc that has been put there by the National Trust. 

Overall I am pretty pleased with my photographs from this shoot and I definitely want to use the Lanhydrock photograph. I am definitely getting more comfortable with shooting this kind of film and using the Minnolta camera so will feel much more confident using it for my next shoot for this project.

SDA Shoot 2: Penryn, Penmere Railway Station + Pendennis

For my second SDA shoot I decided to commit to colour film in the form of Fujifilm SUPERIA X-TRA 400 and have decided to use the Minnolta again with the 24mm lens as I really liked the landscape shots I took with it for my five picture story and the expanse and distance it creates between the photographer and subject matter in photographs. As I want there to be a feeling of distance as the actually subject matter is not so much the places but their stories. 

The first place I visited was Pendennis Castle in Falmouth which is said to be haunted by a screaming kitchen maid who can be heard in the basement. I did consider photographing the basement however this shot really wouldn't have informed the viewer that it is a Cornish location which I would like it to. In the end I am most happy with the exterior shot of the circular castle above. As I think there is something rather sinister about this cold looking building sat on top of this hill. I had to wait a while for people to move out of the shot but I think it was worth it. I did take this just after midday but it was cloudy which I don't mind as much as it's given the building and grass more texture. 

For my second location I revisited Penmere train station and this time I am much happier with my shots. In the end I prefer this shot above as I like the victorian looking sign as it references the haunting which is supposedly the spirit of a victorian girl who walks the platform. I also like this leading line creates by the railway which gives this small station much more expanse.

My favourite photograph from this shoot is this photograph of St Gluvias church in Penryn. I decided to take this shot from further away in order to focus more on the bell tower which the spirit of a captain that supposedly haunts this location is said to on occasion ring the bells here at early hours in the morning. I also took this photograph from further away so that when you do read the caption you can almost imagine the bells echoing down this graveyard.

Finally on this long day shoot I took some photographs of the streets of Penryn. As during the Christmas festive period there is said to be a spirit who rides a horse and carriage down the streets and disappears. I was really just experimenting with this subject matter but I definitely won't be using these shots as I want my series to be made up of more well known and visited locations that people who know Cornwall are more familiar with visually. 

Crit Notes: 21st February

  • Edits can be fluid and change between a magazine and portfolio
  • 5 picture stories don't have to be shot at the same time, it's more about a theme than going to one place to do a shoot on one day
  • Think more about cropping! Use pieces of card to make it easier to see the cropped image without being distracted from the outside of the crop
  • Dodging and burning on the Predannack pictures should be done to get more detail from the sky and inside the plane. But also keep the contrast in that interior image
  • Better shapes in the detail shot of the controls of the plane than the seating. The shapes work well with those created by the watch tower as well
  • Interesting discussion also about how we are now thinking about our series of images in terms of an editorial workspace which is fine, but also your edit and eye for shooting for a magazine will be different than a long term documentary project for example. You don't need to think about double page spreads and space for text for example
For this crit I brought some of the Predannack photographs I was still deciding between and through discussing my images with the group I have come to an edit of five photographs for my five picture story. Here are my final five photographs with their captions. 
Exterior of a a retired RAF Harrier GR3 at Predannack Airfield, Helston, Cornwall, UK, 15th February 2017

Predannack has a varied history and opened in May 1941 as a satellite base for RAF Portreath. Today it is the satellite airfield for RNAS Culdrose, a restricted Ministry of Defence site and an active airfield used for flight deck training by the Royal Navy.

Remains of the Barnes Wallis Ramp at Predannack Airfield, Helston, Cornwall, UK, 2017

Predannack Air Field was used by aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis during the 1950s in his development of the supersonic swing-wing Swallow and Goose aircraft projects. This long ramp was used to launch radio controlled scale models, proving his concept of a 'Variable Swing-Wing' aeroplane.

Interior of a retired Jetstream T2 at Predennack Airfield, Helston, Cornwall, UK, 15th February 2017

Predannack Airfield is home to many retired aircrafts and has what is referred to as an aircraft graveyard. Which retired airframes of varying levels of damage are used for rescue and crash training by the Royal Navy.
Exterior of the Predannack Airfield Air Traffic Control Tower, Helston, Cornwall, UK, 15th February 2017

The Air Traffic Control Tower at Predannack is operated by the Royal Navy who use the runways as a satellite airfield and a relief landing ground for RNAS Culdrose. The tower also houses aircraft fire fighting facilities for the Royal Navy School of Flightdeck Training.

The Royal Navy School of Flight Deck Operations performs a fire fighting test at Predannack Airfield, Helston, Cornwall, UK, 2017

Today Predannack is used as a practise base for the Royal Navy School of Flight Deck operations. Who use dummy aircraft  frames on the site for fire extinguishing practise.

To produce my captions I asked lots of questions on the tour and did some research online to find out more about the history of the site. I formulated the order for my series by writing the captions as they began to tell a story about Predannack from the beginning of its history towards what it is used for today. Overall I feel that considering this is my first serious use of film photography that there is a consistency to my images and that they are visually effective in illustrating my chosen subject matter. The photographs allow you to see that today Predannack is a much quieter expanse of land however still is in use and has a great deal of history. 

SDA Shoot 1: Penmere Railway Station

To begin experimenting with 35mm film for my SDA subject matter I decided to try using some Ilford HP5 to photograph Penmere station. I chose Penmere train station because I read on a paranormal database online the story of the spirit of a victorian girl who has been seen to walk the platform. As it is close to campus I thought this would be a good place to start with playing around with different kinds of film, lenses and compositions. I used a 50mm lens on my Olympus OM10 for these shots and although I really like the first photograph of the shelter I think there is something missing in terms of atmosphere from these photographs. 

I think using this black and white film has just confirmed to me that I won't be using it to shoot this self directed assignment work. As I want there to be more a sense of familiarity to my images for people as well as a strange feeling, and I think they need to see these places in colour in order to feel this. 

I also want to try taking my photographs with a wider lens like I did for my Predannack photographs. As I really liked how expansive the images were and they let you see something more similar to how you would with your own eyes. As the human eye's focal length is around 17mm.

Predannack Shoot

For my five picture story project I visited Predannack Airfield for a guided tour of the place and to witness some of the work that still is in operation there. I took my 5D so that I would have digital photographs as backups but to take my five picture story images I brought along a Minnolta SLR camera and a 24mm lens. So that I could take the wide shots of the landscape with black and white 35mm film that I intended to for my project. 

Above are some of the digital shots I took during the day as backups. I am happy with a few of them however I don't think they can give the same sense of history and consistency that I was able to achieve with my analogue photographs.

In the end I used one roll of HP5 for this shoot and really considered the photographs I was taking as I wouldn't have been able to change the roll of film during the day as we were walking around the location in the bright sunlight. Overall I am pretty pleased with my photographs considering I have very little experience with film photography. I also think I have taken photographs that encompass what happens at Predannack today and what is still there. 

The only issue I am having now is the editing of my photographs down to five pictures. I definitely think I want one shot of the flight deck training fire test, an interior and exterior of a retired aircraft and I definitely want a shot of the Barnes Wallis ramp and the air control tower. So I will be taking my favourite photographs that I am deciding between to the next crit, to discuss them with tutors and other students. 

Edward Thompson: The Village

As most of my research so far has led me towards documentary projects that use landscapes to tell different stories, I decided to look for a project that has a haunted subject matter similar to the kind of subject matter I will be exploring with my SDA work. This led me to Edward Thompson’s The Village.

Edward Thompson is a British documentary photographer and his The Village series is part of a larger body of work that makes up the content for his The Unseen book. In which all the series of images in the book were photographed using the last 52 rolls of Kodak Aerochrome Infrared film in locations across the world. Thompson used this to capture subject matters that are said to contain things that infrared film could possibly capture such as drought and radiation. 

The Village became a project for Thompson when he learnt that the village of Pluckley in Kent is the most haunted village in the U.K and that infrared film could possibly capture the kinds of apparitions that were said to haunt this village. What is interesting about this series of landscapes of this village is that even though we do not see any apparitions in the images themselves the blood red foliage created by the colour shift of infrared film is particularly sinister in itself. It changes the green landscape we know of British rural areas into a sea of red texture. 

These landscape photographs provide a surreal view of rural Kent. Referred to as the garden of England the infrared film juxtaposes this by showing us a very sinister version of this place. The images look so otherworldly as though they are from science fiction stories such as H.G Wells War of the Worlds. 

What interests me about the use of infrared film to photograph these landscapes is the way it makes you question the subject matter. Knowing that this is supposedly the most haunted place in Britain, having Pluckley presented in this way makes us question the boundaries of our own senses, and whether there are things we do not notice due to boundaries in how much we can perceive in the landscapes surrounding us. 

The photograph of a horse shown above refers to one of the stories of hauntings about a tale of a phantom horse and coach passing through the village. This photograph shows just how powerful this infrared film is in making such an innocent subject matter appear so menacing. I think this aesthetic decision by Thompson is really powerful especially in the way it looks to be so natural of the landscape in this photograph. Although no actual ghosts were revealed through the film the calmness of these landscapes juxtaposed with the brooding feel of this deep blood like red, suggests very much the context of these landscapes. I cannot find captioning for this series and do not have access to The Unseen book therefore I do not know if captions are use to extend the meaning of these photographs. However I do think the use of infrared film alone is powerful enough in making the subject matter of these landscapes clear for a viewer.  

Looking at this series has made me consider more about what I can illustrate as a documentary photographer in revisiting places where a story has already been said to have occurred. I am not intending to go to these places to photograph ghosts therefore thinking about representing these places has been the biggest decision for me and is something I now need to experiment with. Which I will do by visiting some of these locations and experimenting with different film, lenses and other ways I can approach photographing these places.