Sunday, 22 May 2011


This work was perhaps one of the most challenging things I have ever had to produce, not for its technical requirements but for the physical hurdels that I had to overcome.

Whilst some people may not beleive it, I am quite a shy person and find it difficult to approach others, especially strangers, so I decided to push myself to photograph people on Beech Street because I needed to overcome this fear of asking people if i could photograph them, if I am to be sucessful in a career in Photojournalism.

One problem was that I had torn ligaments in my foot meaning I had to walk with crutches, this made things very difficult both practically and because not being able to walk has knocked my confidence so much.

After discussing my intentions and deciding what I would say to people I went to Beech street with the company of my mum as I couldnt carry everything whilst walking on crutches.

The first few houses i went to said no, even after I explained that I lived around the corner, and was producing photographs for a project at University, to show a positive view of life in the north west. I told people it was to celebrate the multicultural society that we live in, as I felt that Beech street was a great example of how it can work, I said i wanted to photograph the people that live here.

I knew that if I could just get one person to allow me to photograph them, I would gain confidence in this and they may know their neighbors and help me to get more people to pose for me. I was right, I knocked on the door of number 25 and explained to Manir what I was doing, he invited me into his home and I told him more about South Africa and how I had been to Peru, he was more than happy to allow me to photograph him.

I used my Canon 5D Mark 2 and a 50mm 1.8 lens. I took a few frames of him sat on the sofa but the house was very dark and I didnt want to have to use high ISO's so asked him if he would stand on the doorstep where there was more light. The weather that day was very sunny but cloudy so I struggled with the sun going behind the clouds then coming out again and had to constantly keep changing my camera settings. I asked him if he knew any of his neighbors and he shouted his friend over and encouraged him to have his photograph taken, he had already said no when I knocked on his door but agreed to let me, and I also photographed his son a few weeks later.

I knocked on every door on Beech Street, there are about 30 houses, and each one after either said no or didnt answer the door. People were very suspicious and many said that I could have annonymous details from them but no photographs, or asked me if I was from the council and assumed that my presence was negative. I found it difficult when so many people said they wouldn't allow me to photograph them, as I wasnt asking for anything obscene and it started to knock my confidence in what I was trying to achieve.

I went back to Beech street and spent 6 half says walking up and down asking people for their permission, or going back to the ones I had photographed and asking for their help. I gradually built up more images of people that allowed to to take their picture:

I decided not to use this image because it was very slightly blurry and i wanted the images to all be of maximum quality and perfectly focused on the face.

Next door to Manir lived a family of which two brothers allowed me to photograph them, they asked very few questions and were happy for me to do it. In fact they didnt say much at all.

The 2nd image is cropped square as I tried out different crops when thinking about framing and layouts for my exhibition.

This is another shot I took of the brothers. I decided not to use this image because I wanted all of the photographs to be portrait format. Because the South Africa brief runs beyond the FMP i may go back and re-shoot them to be used in the SA exhibition.

I photographed a couple from number 19, unfortunately the light was very contrasty as it was another sunny day, so i struggled to get a useable image from them. I went back to re-shoot them as I arranged it with them but there was no answer both times and they work long hours during the week so its been impossible to get hold of them.

As my confidence grew after numerous days spent on Beech street, people seemed more relaxed about me photographing them and I was gradually catching more people in and they were agreeing to be photographed.

There were a few more people that I photographed but the images didnt make the final chosen set, mainly because the lighting wasnt right, because for most of the days i spent on Beech Street it was too sunny and constrasty or raining so badly and dark that it was too wet outside or too dark inside peoples houses.

I dont like the shadows on this ladys face so decided not to use this image, she was very reluctant to allow me to photograph her and said I had to be very quick, so I dont think there would be much chance of getting her to do it again.

Over- all I am pleased with the result, but I feel that had I more time, this could have been an amazing piece of photography. A combination of the wrong weather, my foot and lack of time have made it very difficult to achieve my best work. I look at my work from Peru in comparison and feel that this just isnt good enough. It is possible that I am being too hard on myself but I know that this isnt the best work I have produced in the last 2 years.

I think that this work required relentless shooting and going back more and more to make myself more familiar and approachable to the people on Beech street. But I didnt have the timescale for this and given all of the other briefs at the same time it wasnt possible.

I am disappointed in some respects because I feel that this work has such potential to be a powerful and interesting photo essay.

Friday, 20 May 2011

South Africa Exhibition

My FMP is being used for South Africa so I needed to think about how I would exhibit my work over there.
All plans are just initial ideas at this stage as the planning for South Africa will run beyond this brief.

I have shown an example of how I might set out my work, which can be found in my FMP box file, and i will show the final images here also.

The below images are the final edited images, they may not all be included in the exhibition in Cape Town as space couldnt be limited.

The first images are contextual shots to show the street itself and to help the viewer visualise the homes and lives of the people in the photographs.

It may not be clear on this shot but there is a security camera above the Beech Street sign that has been placed there by one of the residents. Whilst this set is intended to show a positive glimpse of life in the north west, this adds depth. It made me think about why the camera is there, is it the neighbors they dont trust or people walking through the street? The street isnt far from town and could mean that drunken people walk back from the pub or anyone causing trouble, but whatever the reason, these people feel the need to have a camera on their house.

After photographing the people of Beech Street i decided to add some depth and a glimpse into their lives, i didnt want to ask too many personal questions because many people were suspicious about the use of these images and i decided instead to ask them all the same question: "What does happiness mean to you or what makes you happy?" each persons answer seems to tell us a little more about who they are as a person. The answers are shown beneath each portrait.

"A nice cold can of beer"


"Our grandchildren, they are coming here any minute"

"Friends, family and plenty of money"

"Being healthy would make me happy"


"Security and my children's happiness"

"Im not paying for this am I?"