For this exercise I decided to explore the territorial aspects of the local pub and aim to portray the concept of someone’s favourite place within this micro-environment.
My local pub is full of characters and it has always interested me how people often choose to stit in the same place, even when the pub is nearly empty We have all been in even more territorial establishments where a local would be affronted if a passing traveller happened to inadvertently sit in their place at the bar.
The subjects were already known to me as acquaintances so it was quite easy to open up a conversation about it. I explained that I was collecting photographs as part of a university course. However I used an iPhone rather than a proper camera because I wanted the shoot to be impromptu and quick. In an environment where people have come out for a quiet pint I reasoned that a large camera might be intimidating.
Roger and Sue. Roger moved from Wales to the local area when he met Sue. He is an avid CAMRA member and quizmaster. They visit at quiet times armed with a collection of newspapers then proceed to work through them while sampling each of the ciders and beers on offer. They always head for the large table in the corner so that they can lay out their paraphernalia and puzzle in peace while their dog sleeps peacefully under the table.
Ron is a jolly practical joker who has lived in the village all his life and knows everybody. Keith is another local who insists on having his favourite chair and so Ron tries to thwart him for amusement. This stool affords a clear view of Keith’s chair in the other room. When poor Keith gets up to go to the bar, Ron will dash through, sit in his chair and await his return with a cheeky smile, refusing to budge.
Roger (second from the left in hat and red braces) is the owner of the pub. But his favourite place is not behind the bar as we might expect. He is a fan of English folk music and spent months organising an ensemble of nine musicians from around the UK to perform a 1977 classic work called The Tale of Ale by the late Willie Rushden. Knowing in advance that he was planning this show over the Christmas period I asked in if he would mind my taking a photograph.
Following on from Assignment 1, this exercise reaffirmed in my mind that I can come up with ideas for portraits more easily that I am able to execute them. Time is short due to a busy period in a full time job and Identity & Place is making it clear to me that the logistics around photographing people are more complex than inanimate objects (not because I spend all my time in the pub…).
Regarding the exercise itself, I am intrigued by the idea of favourite places within a small shared environment. This is an idea I’d like to return to explore further in the future – maybe libraries, cafés. How many people have a favourite tree they sit under or hilltop to contemplate life? A familiar armchair can be as precious as a trip to see the Taj Mahal after a busy day…
Key Takeaways from the exercise:
- Don’t get caught up in the idea that an assignment idea has to be grand and impressive. The smaller aspects of life can be just as interesting and, arguably, more endearing and personal.
- Get to know your subjects beforehand then the photography becomes an act of recording what you have in your mind already. I’m more focused on what I want to achieve.