Project 4: Look, Listen Luton

For my project this week, I am exploring the culture and history of my town in which I shall use colour film to present a series of images that relate to the local community.   To do this, I have experimented with colour film to develop my practice in creating enlarged images from a small negative size.

Following my recent explorations of photographers Ellen Kooi and Richard Renaldi, I have decided to create a series that focuses purely on people and place in a similar fashion.  The series presents a collection of local spots in my town presenting the ordinary ‘small town girl’ as the featured subject matter.  I chose to photograph locations that I am personally familiar with because I intend to show the viewer the town that I have come to know from my own experience living here.    The town itself has a rather negative reputation and this has influenced my idea in how I can show the viewer the town in a way that gives a more truthful outlook that is neither positive or negative.  Every town has its bad and good areas and my goal is to express how this is common in any place in any country.  The places I have chosen relate to my own upbringing but are also places that many of Luton’s townspeople know of; the primary school, the cricket field and the ordinary suburban street are all familiar places featured.  Upon revisiting some of these places, I feel the series takes a ‘trip down memory lane’ approach as there is a definite sense of familiarity between the subject and the place.

I chose to have the subject remain anonymous to the viewer because I intend for the viewer to question who the person is.  Luton is one of many towns where everyone knows each other and I find by not revealing the subjects face, this allows the viewer to create an idea of the towns people without having to identify a face.  By looking at the images, I have kept the same pose throughout where the subject wears ordinary clothing; the viewer can see that the subject is english, middle class and female.  By having the subject directly facing away from the viewer and towards her surroundings, the image allows us to see what the subject is seeing.  I find there is a narrow depth in the images as ahead of the subject,  there is a distant view of the place which is another intentional aspect when making the series.

Final Images Development: 

Photo Contact Sheet

I firstly scanned my negatives directly to Photoshop and from then made various adjustments to the images.  I firstly cropped each image as a panoramic; I decided to do this as I wanted to emphasise on the broad space of each image and I have found this has created even more depth when considering the distance of the given location.

As the images appeared incorrect in colour from the scan, I used curves on a separate layer to balance the RGB channel.  The images appeared cold upon the first look in photoshop and so I mainly adjusted the red and green channel to make them appear warmer and fuller in colour.

I also used the shadow/highlights tool to adjust the light areas of some of the images as some parts appeared overexposed.

Final Images ‘Look, Listen’

Fig 1: School. 2015

This image presents a view of the subject standing in front of my old primary school.  The pathway leading to the distance gives a strong sense of depth and gives clues as to what lies ahead in the distance.  I find this image works well in particular as there is a strong contrast in colour between the subjects and the surroundings.  I chose to experiment by having the subject wear something bright in colour as aspects of the surroundings such as the pavement appear quite dull.  I find the vibrant hue of the subjects jumper really makes the subject more dominant and this gives a nice balance to the image.

Fig 2: Bradgers Hill. 2015

This image presents the subject standing upon a short woodland pathway leading towards a part of Luton on higher ground.  I chose this location as this path has been walked by high school students probably for some generations and this is a path that I myself have walked.  I feel the colours may clash slightly in this image as the surroundings are very green and there is not as much contrast in colour between this and the subject,  however I feel the theme still works well.

Fig 3: Bushmead. 2015

This image presents the subject standing in a suburban street close to where I live.  I chose this location as it is reflects the genuine, local area of luton where I live which is in the Bushmead.  This image appears more vibrant in colour, however I still wanted to maintain the dull background vs bright subject idea in this image.  When editing in Photoshop, I used the curves tool to adjust the amount of red (RGB) in the image so that it did not appear too warm.

Fig 4: Popes Meadow. 2015

This image places the subject in an open field that is known as Popes Meadow.  I chose this location as it is a location where leisurely events often take place annually such as fireworks displays and occasional concerts; it is a very community based location.  Once again, there is a clash of green and blue colours so this needed adjusting using the curves (RGB) tool, however I find it brings a nice contrast between the subject and the background and the wider view of the location brings a nice balance against the other images in the series.

Fig 5: Iron Fence. 2015

This image places the subject standing in front of an iron gate in a more quiet location in the local area.  I find this image is particularly unique compared to the other images of the series as there is a sense of curiosity and ambiguity.  We are halted with the subject as the path ahead is blocked and this may have the viewer feel limited as to what they can learn of the location.  This is another warmer image due to the surroundings and so this was adjusted slightly using the curves tool.

Fig 6: Cricket Field. 2015

This final image presents a cricket field location with the subject standing at a raised height above lower ground.  This image gives slight fault as the subject appears slightly too close to us which does not sit well with the other images.  Despite this, it presents another open view of the location and the height gives the viewer a wider perspective.

Conclusion

To conclude this project, I find the final series presents an interesting variety of locations in my town and I think the concept of just focusing on a figure and their surroundings was the most simple and strong method of showing the area of Luton as well as giving an idea of the towns people too.  I find the series gives a very clear basis of my childhood home and reflects my experiences in a way where the subject is somewhat ‘standing in’ for me.  I did consider using myself as the subject, however,  I feel this may have worked out very differently.  My intention was to use someone who is of English heritage with a middle class background and I think if I used myself, this would have changed the cultural purpose of the series that I am intending to show.

I believe the images are quite wholesome, raw and there is also a genuine honesty that speaks to the viewer where ‘what you see is what you get’.   I do feel there is some neglection towards the audience as the subject is not fully revealed as a person but the series is devoid from this aspect anyway as the purpose is to reveal the town,  not the subject.

I did find the process of scanning the images straight into Photoshop a new challenge for me and this process has revealed to me more options when using film and it has also made me more aware of the tools available to me in Photoshop upon adjusting certain elements in an image.  For example, when scanning the images,  they appeared an offset tone and so I adjusted this using the offset tool in adjustments tool section.

From this project, I feel I have mostly learned more about my town by actually exploring it, however, I have found the project has opened new alternatives as to how I can photograph in public.  In this case, I have focused on a single subject set within a wide,  panoramic frame and I have enjoyed using this method of photographing a place and a person in a simple but broad way.

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