So, here I am, back at college trying to get myself into a business that I might actually enjoy working in and I have my first assignment already (we’re not even properly enrolled yet, either).

Margins

This assignment is titled, “Margins” and varies slightly from the task outline and scenario that is printed on the sheet above. The variations are that we don’t have to work with anyone else (I didn’t as I just wanted to crack on) and we could also choose where we wanted to go in order to take our shots instead of being given a certain area of the city/county. So long as we took ourselves out of our comfort zones to get our shots, it was all good.

The first consideration I had was trying to figure out what exactly Dave was after within the 2 A3 images we had to produce for assessment. I wasn’t sure if we needed to have a physical margin within each shot, each shot had to represent either side of a margin I was thinking of or whether each shot could be a completely separate entity within its own right and not have a physical margin within it.

Planning 

After reading the same line of the assessment sheet over and over (highlighted in blue above), I finally put it down and started to make a list of ideas. 

All I could think of was ‘opposites’ (either side of a margin). 

  • Hot / Cold 
  • Wet / Dry 
  • Tall / Short 
  • Fat / Thin 
  • Old / Young 
  • Old / New 
  • Big / Small 
  • Male / Female 
  • Haves / Have Nots 
  • Light / Dark 
  • Day / Night 

I also planned to take myself out of my comfort zone and go into the centre of Leicester with my camera. I even planned to photograph people I didn’t know, which I’ve never done so far.

I also used Google Maps to have a look around the city centre for possible subjects to shoot that would satisfy one or more of the ‘opposites’ list I’s created earlier in the process.

This worked well as I already had some ideas spring to mind and using the Google Maps idea helped me to plan the route I would take as I went out on my journey around the centre of Leicester the following day.

Putting the little man on the map and moving around the location not only solidified the ideas I already had but also allowed me to find other possibilities as well.

IDEAS 

Once the list had started, I began to come up with a few ideas. My favourites were the ‘Haves/Have Nots’, ‘Big/Small’ and ‘Old/New’. It was a couple of these that I finally decided to go with.

As can be seen from my contact sheet, I was thinking along the lines of architecture within the centre of Leicester for the old/new and big/small. I also had the idea of a homeless person looking longingly at all the people walking past carrying bags full of goodies and treats for themselves that had been bought with their disposable incomes (I may have let the cat out of the bag at our DMU induction day that this was an idea I liked and would do, considering other assignments within the group).

Click on the images below for a larger version of that part of my contact sheet:

GETTING THE SHOTS 

On the first Wednesday after the assignment was given, I decided to go into Leicester and get my shots. I’d decided on photographing a homeless person as well as some buildings within the city. One of my favourite old buildings within the city is the now Athena building in the cultural quarter. This would be perfect as the futuristic-looking Curve theatre was right next door and would afford me the perfect shot that I had in my head.

I also had the idea of The Magazine building and DMU Business Studies buildings in the same shot as they also convey the margins of old/new and big/small, just the same as the Curve/Athena buildings do. 

I was pretty sure these were the buildings I’d end up using but knew I had to produce a contact sheet of other considerations, so I went walking around the city centre and got more shots.

PHOTOS I USED 

I did indeed end up using the Curve/Athena buildings as one of my final images as I just couldn’t get them out of my head as the best example of old/new and big/small margins. I was also pleased with the perspective I’d achieved in the final shot as I’d managed to get the Curve looking massive (too big to fit in the frame) as well as it looks like some kind of alien spaceship that had landed next to the old Athena building. 

I did a bit of research into the buildings and discovered that I could also use the 72 years difference in opening dates as yet another margin contained within my image. 

I called this image, “Big Small Old New”.

The second image I used was the homeless guy sitting on the ground next to a phone box with his sad looking dog as a woman walks past looking straight ahead whilst dressed in work clothes and carrying, what looks to me like, a small bag of treats she’s picked up during her work’s lunch break. In the background, I also have lots of other people going about their daily business of shopping and getting to-and-from places they need to be. This is also another margin within the image as the homeless guy has nowhere to be on any given day. I gave this image the title, “Money Margins”.

Paul Sutcliffe: Big Small Old New
Paul Sutcliffe: Money Margins

EVALUATION 

I’m used to having more guidance in things I have to do and as a result, I struggled, to start with, in figuring out what was required of me from this assignment. Once I’d read the sheet many times, I decided to say “Bollocks to it, this is how I see the brief and this is what I’m going to do!”. Making that move was a big step for me even though I knew deep down that whatever I did would be OK as it was an assignment to see how we think and act as individuals.

I also felt awkward at the start of my walk around the city centre with my camera, pointing it at people and buildings, but eventually got used to it as people didn’t really seem to care. I had people look at me but no one actually challenged me or gave disgruntled looks in my direction. The only interaction I had was people ducking out of the way and apologising when they thought they’d got in the shot.

One thing that became apparent to me towards the end of the assignment (once all shots had been taken and decided on, and we were ready to get them printed) was that the images were supposed to relate to each other with their style so that it could be seen who had taken both images without actually knowing who had taken them. All part of us developing our own style on this course, I guess. 

I started out having the homeless guy image in black and white as I think it suited it better, but the Curve/Athena image was in colour. After realising what was required of us, I had to make a decision…both in black and white or both in colour? 

I decided on the easier route and went with both in black and white as I didn’t think it took anything away from the Curve image whereas putting the homeless guy image in colour would have. 

I didn’t see until after both images were printed that the sky in the Curve image had pixelated now that it was in black and white (it looked nice and unpixelated in the colour version) but I didn’t have time to correct it; I’d definitely have corrected it if this was anything other than an induction formative assignment, though. Gotta make the time in those summatives, right?

All in all, I was pleased with the images I produced for this assignment, but I have a long way to go in deciding what kind of photographer I am and what kind of subjects I like to shoot. I also need to work towards developing a style for my images. 

I did enjoy going out of my comfort zone and into the centre of Leicester to photograph things and people I’ve never photographed before. This could be regarded as the first step on my journey into the art form.

TECH STUFF 

What I learned when it came to printing out my A3 images and the contact sheet was: 

  • Print images at 300ppi as the eye can’t see more than that so would be a waste to print at higher amount. 
  • If I want an A3 image, make sure it is A3 within Photoshop before printing! Same goes for whatever size I might be printing my final image(s) at. 
  • Contact sheets can be printed at 150ppi as they aren’t going to be large enough to warrant more. They are just thumbnail size.
  • To do a contact sheet in Photoshop: File -> Automate 

Final Grade: 60%

That scrapes me into the 2.1 category which I’m quite pleased about considering I’ve never studied at this level before and this was my first assignment. I also take confidence in the fact that I was marked down because my two images didn’t relate. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t even know they had to relate to each other. If I’d known that, I’m very confident I’d have scored better, possibly up towards a high end 2.1 grade.