Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A sense of place on my hard drive

Another trip into my archive – this time to practise some editing skills ahead of Assignment 4 – A Sense of Place.

I have thousands of photos of my hard-drive and one of the biggest sources is holiday photos – since 2004 I have seldom taken fewer than 500 photos in a one/two week break (these days it’s closer to 1000) and while they serve as a happy memory of those holidays I’ve never really tried to construct a meaningful mini-portfolio from any of them.

I sense that Assignments 4 and 5 will provide a large number of images and I thought it would be helpful to get a feel for the mental mechanics of assembling a ‘sense of place’ from a group of photos which were, often as not, an immediate reaction to my surroundings. The two sets I chose were of holidays in Ibiza and Fuerteventura – but what to say about them? – that’s the first question. They are both Spanish speaking/culture islands, in hot climates, with a lot of tourist activity, so how do I recall the differences?

In my memory Fuerteventura was very – and I mean very – hot. Some days with the breeze blowing it was like standing in a blast from a giant hairdryer. This was reflected in the landscape – lots of sand, barren rocks, limited vegetation and the occasional shadier village location providing fairly dramatic contrast to the general feel. Where we stayed there were also a number of fairly brash tourist strips.

Ibiza was also hot, but not as hot – there was more vegetation, the coastline was gentler and less barren, the colours richer. There were also more towns, and more people and busy market places. Although we travelled inland my lasting memories are of the coast and markets.

To me this is the key to the edit – starting with a clear idea of what I wanted to say about each place. This was especially important when it came to deciding whether or not to include my favourite holiday shots, because although they leap out at me as being worth including they aren’t about sense of place, they’re more about us as a family enjoying ourselves which is a different subject.

Initially I started with the formal first selects, second selects approach that  we developed in DPP but as I had already culled the technical failures and the majority of duplicates and I found very rapidly that I could reduce the list to 20 or so shots from each collection which stood out as matching the ideas I outlined above.

I struggled for people shots from the Fuerteventura set, simply because I didn’t take many and I also struggled to capture some of the barrenness of the interior because again I hadn’t taken many shots of the areas that looked like the surface of the moon – it was so hot I simply couldn’t be bothered to leave the comfort of the air conditioning in the hire car. Had I specifically been tasked to take these shots this would, of course, have been a different issue.

In the end I settled for the following 12 of Fuerteventura. They seem to me at least capture the sense of heat and the emptiness of the landscape, while at the same time showing some of the marked contrasts provided by the odd patch of vegetation and tourist activity.

Ibiza provided a different challenge as we spent rather more time in towns – so shots including people were not an issue whereas shots of the countryside/coast were a bit more sparse. In the end I went with a series which I think captures warmth , colour and liveliness which is a bit different from my initial recollections but seems to represent the place fairly well.

Concluding thoughts

It’s clearly important – faced with a collection of several hundred photos – to have an idea of what you hope to portray at the end of the edit. Equally, you have to be sensitive to what the photos are telling you where that differs from your memory. In assignments 4/5 this should be less of an issue as the idea and the execution are much closer together

No comments: