14 April: Final Thoughts and Influences.

VIDEO SUBMISSION

Having had the experience of making the initial proposal I found this a most helpful and informative exercise and it enabled me in turn to investigate changes which needed to be made for the final submission.  After spending time looking closely at the films of a very diverse range of filmmakers from Jean Cocteau, through to Terence Davies, Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji, it made me analyse and focus more closely on exactly what I wanted to achieve through my own video.

I found scenes that did not involve any human presence particularly thought-provoking and created for me personally a greater involvement with the chosen subject. However, I soon realised that it would be virtually impossible to avoid a human presence due to the subject matter I had chosen. As the video concentrates on people begging and living on the streets, a human presence is in fact pivotal to my video.  So my challenge was to try to find a common ground, to relate what I wanted to show and not merely depict people and scenes in a purely documentary way.  I also wanted to use other influences to guide my own practice but still use my own voice.  So the work particularly of Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji influenced the  way I had previously thought about the importance of the speed, and the flow of one scene to another; the mix of incremental sound and audio and to create a general pace for the work as a whole .

As a first attempt at making a video it brought the need for technical expertise into play and also emphasised the importance of smooth panning shots, and the ability to create different levels of focus, through such things as zooming in on a subject.  The ability to be able to use my Canon 5D MKII to do the filming was a great asset, although I soon realised that the audio capabilities of the camera were somewhat limited, so in turn I used a Zoom H1 hand-held  recorder when I was undertaking the interviews. This also made it easier in the editing process when I wanted to treat the audio aspects separately from the visual recordings.

As a photographer such things as composition become almost automatic over time and filming itself was an exciting experience.  The general public seemed almost to disregard me and seemed less suspicious than if I was out taking pictures with my camera. It also highlighted the need for the necessary equipment, such as filming on a tripod or monopod and the ability to film on the move whilst holding a heavy camera.  This is something that I need to prefect with the acquisition of the correct equipment.

As a result of the initial proposal it was also it was also necessary to reduce the amount of content as the resulting work would have been too long, so this in turn made me look more closely as what was important to include and in turn what to remove.  For example,  I did not finally include any of the interviews I had recorded with members of the public but merely included those taken with people who had experience of begging and living on the streets.

The editing process, whilst time-consuming I found was personally challenging, exciting and  a very creative process.  It highlighted the importance of audio as an instrument to create atmosphere to the visual element of the film.  Initially I had intended to  include music appropriate to the subject matter, such as Tom Jones’ ‘I want to go home’, but realised that it is preferable to have instrumental tracks only, so as not to create any influence on the viewer, whether intentional or otherwise.  I was also interesting in being able to mix in different layers of audio and in turn fine tune such things as when sound fades in and out on a scene, and to lead in to the next scene.

WRITTEN ELEMENT

The word count limit for the written element of the submission meant that whilst initially I had intended to compare a film by Zineb Sedira with one by Zarina Bhimji, I could realistically only focus on one film.  So I chose Yellow Patch  by Zarian Bhimji, which had made a lasting impression on me having first seen her work in December 2012.    The written element of this submission can be seen via the following link:

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Personally I have greatly enjoyed discovering the work of people I may have come into contact with before but not looked at so closely.  As a result I now find that I particularly view film footage in a different way after having made the video.  With everything that one does we become more critical of our own work, or find ways that it could be improved if we were repeating the exercise.  In this respect learning in turn enables one to gain expertise and together with it the confidence to progress in the future.

15 March: Catching Lives Abseil

In my capacity as Volunteer Coordinator and CL photographer, I was asked if I would cover the fund-raising abseil event in Maidstone.  My husband Tim had also agreed to take part so needed some moral support.  After having recently finished my previous video, this was an opportunity to film the event rather than just record through images.  The ambient sounds of the crowd of spectators I felt would be more apparent through the medium of film.

This turned out to be one of my less successful ventures but at the same time a good learning curve.  The first thing against me was the weather conditions which were cold, dull and overcast so the resulting film came out darker than I would have wished, but at the same time I felt it important to depict things as they actually were.

We were one of twenty teams taking part in the event so although I was able to gain access to the starting and finishing area at the base of the building, it was very cramped and it was difficult to film when the people were continually moving around and the organisers were mainly concerned to keep the proceedings moving along as quickly as possible.  I also realised that to do this again I need to have a shoulder rig, as to hold my heavy camera upwards to film from the top of the building was a great strain on my neck and arms.  So as a result the film is not as smooth as I had hoped to produce.

Apart from that the event raised considerable funds for the charity although I am not sure if my husband would repeat the exercise again!  The film was put on YouTube to enable Catching Lives in turn to put on the website and hopefully generate some more contributions.

5 Nov: Homeless Film Festival

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This was held at the main campus and I was particularly interested as it links in with my volunteering work with Catching Lives, in Canterbury.  I also wanted to see how the subject had been treated by other people and how the films themselves had been constructed from a technical point of view.  This was the programme that was shown:

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There was a great diversity in approach to the subject, and it was evident where a more professional approach had been adopted by the film makers.  The ‘White Roses’ film did not seem to bear any relationship to the subject of homelessness and depicted two women with roses in their hair, one being white and one red.  The only comparison is in the meaning associated with the different colours.  White – purity, innocence, silence, secrecy, reverence, humility, youthfulness and beauty and Red – love, beauty, courage, respect, congratulations, courage and passion.  So there is a contrast of sorts.  We were told that the films were available to be downloaded

Whilst there I met Eddie McMillan, who is the Senior Lecturer for the School of Media, Art and Design at CCCU.  He seemed very interested in what I am doing as regards my film and offered help from his students if I wanted it.  However I did tell him that my assignment was not a collaborative piece of work.   He also said if I needed any technical advice to contact him.  I was very pleased that he was interested enough to offer.

The experience was also valuable, as there was a piece of music that I had not heard before in one of the films, that would be suitable as part of the background audio to my video.

21 Oct: Brighton Trip

Trip to the 2014 Brighton Photo Fringe

This university trip was an ideal opportunity to see an exhibition of the work by Anthony Luvera, which formed part of the Brighton Photo Fringe.   He has produced a project entitled’ Assembly’, which was created over a 12 month period where he worked together with homeless people.  This consists of Assisted self- portraits created by the participants and sound recordings together with an installation about homeless support services across the UK.  The following images are taken from his project:

Anthony Luvera - Brighton

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This image is an Assisted Self-Portrait of Sheila Clarke from Belongings 2011 by Anthony Luvera

The assisted self-portraits was also an idea I worked on last year, with some of my images being shown at the 2014 Graduate Show at the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury.  So in some respects I seem to be working in almost parallel lines to what he has been doing, particularly as I am about to do some sound recording and produce a video.  However as we are told, even if we choose a topic which has been covered elsewhere we will always produce something different with our own particular influence on the work.

Unfortunately this exhibit was closed on the day that we visited Brighton,  but the visit also gave me an opportunity to see some evidence of how Brighton tackles the problems of homelessness and begging.  On walking around the town I took the following images of people begging and was interested is seeing the response of the public, who almost treated them as if they were invisible.

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I also passed a  church hall which is used as a drop-in centre for homeless people, so was able to speak to staff to see how they organise things on a daily basis.

19 Oct: Catch up with ‘Willow’

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En route to ‘Catching Lives’ where I am the Volunteer Co-ordinator, I met Willow again. He is a homeless person who I first met earlier in the year  and generally sells beaded bracelets he has made, whilst sitting on the bridge over Rheims Way in Canterbury, near to Canterbury East Station.  I have previously found him most approachable, so once again it was an opportunity to talk to him and take some more pictures.

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As background to my video I was interested to  know why he was not there very often, at which he replied that he only did it when he needed some money.  He was not merely begging but offering items to sell, so perhaps he receives a more sympathetic response from the passing members of the public.

I have never seen him at Catching Lives so I would suspect that as he looked clean and reasonably dressed, that he may not be as destitute as he likes to make out.  He had previously told me that he was sleeping in a tent in Sturry woods as it was safer that being nearer Canterbury, but his circumstances may now have improved.

13 October: Project Ideas

Initially I had envisaged embarking on a completely new area of exploration as regards subject matter, having worked with Catching Lives and their homeless clients on several projects to date.  However on further reflection I now feel that there are still many areas still left to explore and ‘Mixed Media’ will give me the platform to take my exploration still further.

I have looked at the premises and how the organisation operates, together with portraits and the possessions of the clients who visit the Day Centre.  To take this further I would like to investigate the related ideas of exclusion / otherness  and the invisibility of the clients whilst they are in the local community.

  • Are they excluded out of choice?
  • Are they really excluded – as some seem to exist within their own peer groups?
  • Are they bothered about this?
  • Are they truly excluded?
  • Has society turned their back on them – through budget cuts etc?
  • Human desire for community – is it a general thing?
  • The number of people who carry on and ignore the person begging.  Do they hear them but do not wish to engage with them and why?

The project affords me the opportunity of learning a new skill and facing an exciting new challenge.  With the suggested modes of carrying out the project I would like to make a video, using my DSLR camera (Canon 5D MkII) together with recorded interviews of the views of the clients, added to the video.  As I have never used my camera in this way before let alone made a video it will be  a real challenge.

I am uncertain at this stage as to whether or not to film the clients whilst I am interviewing them, as some may not want to be identified as I have experienced in the past. So I either blur out their faces or merely include the voices as part of the soundtrack to the video.

5 April: Final Statement & Evaluation of MPP Project – Living on the Edge

Final Statement

Whenever I am asked what I like to take pictures of, I hesitate.  To be out taking images wherever I happen to be is a most exhilarating experience.  Initially my work with the Catching Lives Open Day Centre in Canterbury started as a documentary of their activities, but has since developed into looking at the lives of some of the clients who are helped there.  Through photography, I have heard their stories, learned about some of the challenges they face, together with their aspirations for the future.

The images were mainly taken during three ‘Photo Days’ held at the Centre and were an opportunity to interact and develop my relationships with people I might not otherwise have come into contact with; even if at times this contact was brief.  They are mainly taken using ambient light inside the building, although the interior fluorescent lighting itself presented a great challenge at times.  However to be with and photograph people is the most challenging but the most rewarding experience,  as can be seen particularly by the images taken during the portraits ‘Photo Day’.  I have also endeavoured to tell their stories factually and without sentiment, but also to treat them sympathetically.

It has also felt a privilege to be allowed a glimpse into their lives, and in turn experience the enjoyment they felt at seeing the work they had helped to produce emerge as a final print.  It has also allowed my photographs to bring attention to things that people often overlook.

Evaluation of the project

Looking back over the past six months since the project began in earnest, I have learned a great deal  and my reflective thoughts are as follows:

  • I chose to continue my work with Catching Lives as I had built up a good working relationship over the 18 months and they were receptive to my carrying out the project with them.  It was also an opportunity to develop this link and find out more about a subject which is of interest to me.
  • I learnt more about my strengths and weaknesses through a period of extended study and investigations.  This helped me to focus on what I needed to do to succeed and in turn to question as to whether or not I was achieving the results I had hoped for. If I had gone off at a tangent was it worthwhile to explore further or did I need to rethink about how the project was progressing?
  • It was vital to never place any limitations on time that was needed to be put in and to be prepared to drop everything at a moments notice if the project required me to do so.
  • Although the project was my first priority I also felt that I was in return contributing something back for the benefit of both the clients and Catching Lives.
  • It was a valuable experience as regards developing further my visual communication skills and to speak photographically to the viewer.
  • Although documenting the lives of the homeless has been tacked by many others, I have also endeavoured to produce something that had not been done before at Catching Lives. Initial planning to ascertain if the project was feasible and any financial constraints involved needed to be taken into consideration.
  • One important outcome of the project was developing contact with the clients, finding out about their stories and some of the challenges that they are facing. This in turn was helped by my own interpersonal skills and experience.

The main pages in the blog:

These show the developing project, the successes and set backs as follows:

15 October: Initial thoughts

16 October: Further thoughts

6 November: Meeting at Catching Lives

18 December: Catching Lives ‘Photo Day 1’

13 January: Pre ‘Photo Day 2’ visit to Catching Lives  

12 February: ‘Photo Day 2’ at Catching Lives

14 February: Follow up at Catching Lives

28 February: Thinking about the project so far

11 March: Update on the project

19 March: ‘Photo Day 3’ & Bishop Trevor

20/21 March: Follow up visits

The images that were chosen: 

As the project developed in differing directions following on from my ‘Photo Days’, it seemed a logical progression to put the images together into a photo book which consists of 38 images in total.  I have also submitted the five main portraits as separate prints to accompany the book.  These were amongst those taken on the first ‘Photo Day’ and appear in the ‘Portraits’ section of my book Living On The Edge. These images are as follows:

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The following images are taken from each of the main sections in the photo book:

CLIENTS & STAFF:

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POSSESSIONS:

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THOUGHTS:

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OWN WORK by KEVIN:

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My photo book entitled ‘Living On The Edge’ can be seen by clicking the title or go direct to my Book Page.

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Future Challenges

This is a project that still feels almost as if it is in its infancy.  One challenge will be to find innovative ideas for future Photo Days which will involve minimal financial outlay, as the days are self funded and to date I have purchased 40 disposable cameras with only two having been returned to be developed.

They also need to be low-key, so that the clients do not feel under any pressure to take part; and they will feel that they have achieved something through the experience. Perhaps macro photography is something that could be looked at.  It also needs to be something that can be carried out within the safety of the Centre environment.

2 April: Assignment for Catching Lives

This training day was held to provide information about drugs and alcohol abuse and my involvement was to document the session.  I had already attended one of the previous sessions in November last year, so the actual content was familiar to me and it also meant that I could concentrate solely on taking pictures.

There was a good mix of ages within the group of participants and I had previously met some already, so there was no one who was not happy with my taking the pictures. These are some of the images I took on the day:

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