Documentary Research Journal

I didn’t have a lot of ideas for the documentary photography assignment at first, nothing really gauged my interest and whenever anything was suggested to me I just couldn’t envision it. Although I often enjoy the documentary side of photography its often difficult to find a good topic to focus on.

My idea is to take photos in one location at various times of day to document the movement and change of a place at certain times and how quiet and busy it can get. I have chosen to photograph Piccadilly Circus in London, this area is always busy and thriving so will make an interesting scene.

To consider the audience, this subject is likely to appeal to older generations, those that have a penchant for scenery and documentary. The images will have an aesthetic look that aims to represent the liveliness and movement in London, which could appeal to young adults also.

During one of the lectures we were introduced to the “new topographics” which are a collection of images of landscapes or objects that are the same type or subject. Although it may seem rather boring, it’s quite interesting to see all the images together.

Topographic photographer Nicholas Nixon took photographs of four sisters once a year, every year, for forty years.  Nixon collated the images of the Brown sisters to create an image that displayed the ageing process over the years. nicholas nixon

This style of photography is similar to my idea as I will be taking the images over a series of days or weeks, as to get a good representation of the area it is better to repeat the process and look at the outcome as a comparison. Taking photos over a period of time allows you to see change, how things develop and evolve, like the sisters, Piccadilly Circus is always changing, there are always different things happening, especially during holidays.

Other photographers from the New Topographics era I researched were Bernd and Hilla Becher, who were German conceptual artists and photographers. “They are best known for their extensive series of photographic images, or typologies, of industrial buildings and structures, often organised in grids”.

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The images pictured are so similar, that the framing and subjects look as though they are of the same object, when that is not true – they are just similar. Using images of one topic in different locations is not unlike my idea, to create a piece of art that is simple but beautiful to look at of something so plain. Using one topic or location can have more of an impact overall.

I will probably take a lot of photos and experiment with shutter speed also, the more photos I take the more choice I have for the final selection.

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All the images shown here show a comparison of time in a certain location, be it a cityscape or landscape. They show and arrange their photos to depict the place over a certain period of time. Most of the images taken over a few hours in one day. I particularly like the colours of the sun setting in a few of the images. the change of light and reflection. These images are all linked to my idea and are an example of what I intend to achieve.



I found this image on google also, though it was linked to a website where someone in America had an assignment to photograph a location 10 or more times on different days at different times of day. Though my photos are probably going to be shot in a few days or weeks rather than spanning a few seasons, I like how it is collated and how the images are all so unique, it almost doesn’t look like the same location.

Lighting is important and must be taken into account, the lighting can change rather quickly and dramatically alter the image, even in two minutes the shadows will have moved and certain parts will be illuminated or covered at different times of day. I will not be using any artificial lighting for the shoots as this will remove the fluidity of the scene, it if better to use all natural lighting.

In terms of post production, I am likely to only alter the brightness of the images, making them darker or lighter to show more of the scene. Though I may retouch them slightly I intend not to adjust the majority of the images to keep them as real as possible.

The equipment I will use is simply my Nikon D3300 camera, 18-105mm lens and a tripod. I won’t use any filters or extra equipment, just simply capture what is there. I aim to use the same exact spot, possibly marking where the tripod needs to be and also use the same settings for all photos, only tweaking it to get slow shutter or let in a bit more light.

To get the images as accurate as possible in terms of framing I had to check an old image and adjust the framing until it looked right, this often took a while but the outcome was very good. Settings used ranged between:

Normal Shutter
f/5.6 – 1/100sec – ISO 800
f/7.1 – 1/100sec – ISO 100
f/8 – 1/80sec – ISO 1600
f/9 – 1/160sec – ISO 100

Slow Shutter

f/20 – 0.6sec – ISO 800
f/22 – 1/3 sec – ISO 100
f/22 – 4sec – ISO 100
f/9 – 2.5sec – ISO 200

I had aimed to use the same settings for all photos except for slow shutter but this proved to create images that were under or over exposed so I had to tweak the settings to cooperate with the lighting of the day.

The images in the contact sheets are a selection of the best images I took, as I would take hundreds of photos at a time, there were around 1000 to go through.

To narrow it down to the final 10 images I took to social media to decide. I wanted people to choose the most aesthetically pleasing images, the ones that best represented London. It was far too difficult to make this decision myself. I posted the images online and got my friends to choose their favourites, and after a day I had managed to find the images that were best.

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The images would be best displayed either as individual large posters, or as smaller images in a grid. I believe they would be nice to display – either in a gallery or in someone’s home. They work well as individual images as well as a collective.

Documentary Research Journal

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