A3 Window – preparation: the brief and initial thoughts


This assignment presents a choice of perspectives on a group or community – either as a ‘mirror’ in a community that one is already part of or as a ‘window’ to a community that one doesn’t know much about. There are common criteria:

  • The need to spend significant amount of time with the community
  • The need to tell a story about either how the community reflects you (mirror) or about the community itself (as a window onto it).
  • One can use as many photographs as one wishes, but they should be edited well and the process should be described in the assignment write-up. The brief suggests that research is done how to edit photos – this is the first assignment without a photo count limit.
Practical considerations

In choosing my perspective, I face some practical constraints:

  1. Because of work commitments that involve frequent foreign travel the only real communities I spend time with as member are my family and my work colleagues. My multinational colleagues would make an interesting topic, but as I am also their boss I am not comfortable with the ethics of asking them to participate in a project when they may feel uncomfortable refusing to join in. My family is an option, but I would prefer the challenge of dealing with people who are not quite so close.
  2. Living in a rural area, I have found there are surprisingly few communities or groups that meet weekly during evenings or weekends (when I have time for photography); many groups meet monthly, which makes spending significant amounts of time with them in a reasonable time-frame for an assignment impracticable. However, there are some options.
Subjects considered (for windows perspective)

As well as internet searches (including the useful meetup.com website) for local groups of interest, I visited Skipton Town Hall and tourist information office to check for any groups without a web presence. The following groups were considered:

  • Skipton Street Market Traders – Skipton market has operated since the 15th century and runs three times weekly, including Saturdays. In my mind this seemed to be the perfect community. I even packed my camera and drove into Skipton ready to make some introductions and find willing participants. However, I realised when walking around the street market that there was not really a feeling of community – more like a disparate bunch of traders each working in isolation. Perhaps because it is not a permanent market (eg an indoor market) there is not the same connection. My main idea gone.
  • Skipton Rotary Club – meet weekly but in a pub over a meal and discussions afterwards. Practical / etiquette difficulties in photographing people when they are eating.
  • Keighley Blues Club – a favourite (as I also enjoy guitar) but they unfortunately meet only monthly, so not realistic in the timeframe of the assignment.
  • Steeton Male Voice Choir – a group of 75 singers who are famous in their field and meet weekly for rehearsals. This would be my new target group after the disappointment of Skipton Market. Separate research post is here.

I acknowledge here the support and encouragement from the OCA 1 Facebook group with ideas (after the failure of my market idea). Discussion thread below:

RT We’re a group! How many of us are reasonable travelling distance away? We could use it as an excuse to start a Northern Student Meetup 🙂
RT (or does it have to be a group that you’re not currently a member of yourself?)
Andrew Fitzgibbon Can be a ‘window’ into a group you are not part of, or a ‘mirror’ of yourself in a group to which you belong.
MG You could look at people who support you in travelling rap hotels. There are always people and circumstances that happen that you can represent.
HW You could try your local community centre. There must be a wide variety of groups who meet there.
LK Where are you going in South Africa? Might be able to introduce you to a group there 🙂
AF Cape Town – but arriving Mon and leaving Wed. Otherwise would have been great 🙂
LK If you are staying in the city itself, try and get to Wale Street. The Cape Malay community is in this area, very colourful houses, great for photography, always people on the street. There is a museum too – also search for images for “Bo Kaap”. One of my 12 images was taken there – the one of the man in the orange overall against the turquoise wall. http://www.iziko.org.za/museums/bo-kaap-museum
AON If it’s a ‘window’ and you’re a constant travelling perhaps you could take a position as an ‘outsider’ / observer- along the lines of what rob said? Like a sort of Robert frank – Or do you have to ‘get to know them’.
AF That’s the difficulty – have to get to know them, spending a significant amount of time with them. So become like an insider.
AON What about your family then?
JN Try a sports club or a camera club x
DP You could checkout local clubs and societies where you live: football teams, model railway clubs, the WI, cycling clubs, the roundtable, etc etc. They’ll meet regularly so you could visit them whenever your home.
RT Is there a ParkRun near you? They always have a run on a Saturday morning. You could volunteer to be a steward for a few weeks. One of the roles needed each week is to photograph the event…
RON Why don’t you advertise stick up some notices – I’m sure some club or group would like some free photographs for their website?! That’s what I was thinking of doing as I am in pretty much the same situation. Living and working in two locations which makes joining groups etc difficult.
KA Church activity of some sort comes to mind – perhaps bell-ringers?
LK I think I’m going to go for the other option for Assignment 3. Most of my time is taken up with work and studies and a camera club thrown into the mix, so I’m doing to do something on my work place.
AF I would have really liked to do my work environment as it has some really interesting multi-national interplays. But unfortunately, as I’m the boss of the people I spend most of my time with it causes ethical challenges, as some from hierarchal cultures would find it difficult to decline involvement.
AF Thank you so much all for bouncing ideas at me. It’s really helped my energy and enthusiasm after my aborted idea of market traders. On reflection, this would be a great project to do over 6 months (but I don’t have that kind of time in context of the …See more