Tag Archives: Metaphor

Exercise 5.3

For this exercise I decided to photograph the journey of my local bus service, called the ‘Amberline’.  It takes a 6.5 mile route between my local pub in a sleepy village and Derby City Centre.  I decided to walk the route, taking a photograph at each and every bus stop along the way.

I selected a 43mm f1.9 prime lens on a full frame body.  This allowed me to travel light and keep to a single focal length for consistency.  The 43mm lens was chosen as it provides a very natural field of view.

The time of year fitted the ‘amber’ theme very well and so I sought to include as many autumn leaves as possible in the shots.  I also toned the images with a warm effect, heightening the autumnal tones / amber theme further and looking like a 1980’s ‘Instamatic’ camera style.  I took time to explore each bus stop looking for interesting facets – some are bent, some shelters have interesting community notices pinned inside them, giant Remembrance Day poppies and laylandii conifers squeezing against the glass in their quest to grow.

The initial image contained an image of a but for context along with the single word ‘Amberline’ as a title in the same font as the bus itself.  Images titles were all taken from the timetable, quoting the minutes past the hour that the bus arrives (it is an hourly service).  The last image shows the gps points for the images plotted on a map.

Starting out in the centre of the city, the route takes us past urban parks and Derby’s industrial centre – Smith’s clocks being world famous at one time.  It is interesting to note the transition into rural countryside before the traces of people begin again in the outlying villages.  But stops now seem less frequent and linked to pubs, churches and doctors’ surgeries, indicating the changing role of the bus service from leisure time, urban work transport, recreation and finally as a rural lifeline for outlying communities.

1_Corporation St 35 mins past the hour

35 mins past the hour


2_St Pauls Church 36 mins past the hour

36 mins past the hour


3_Chester Park 38 mins past the hour

38 mins past the hour


4_Alfreton Rd 38 mins past the hour

38 mins past the hour


5_Haslams Lane 39 mins past the hour

39 mins past the hour


6_Pektron 42 mins past the hour

42 mins past the hour


7_Croft Lane 44 mins past the hour

44 mins past the hour


8_A38 Island 45 mins past the hour

45 mins past the hour


9_Derby Garden Centre 45 mins past the hour

45 mins past the hour


10_Duffield Road 46 mins past the hour

46 mins past the hour


11_Queens Head 47 mins past the hour

47 mins past the hour


12_Morley Lane 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


13_Alfreton Road Windy Lane 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


14_Bottle Brook 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


15_Westley Crescent 48 mins past the hour

48 mins past the hour


16_The Chase (opposite) 49 mins past the hour

49 mins past the hour


17_Armoury Cottage 49 mins past the hour

49 mins past the hour


18_Fox and Hounds 50 mins past the hour

50 mins past the hour


19_Fox and Hounds (opposite) 50 mins past the hour

50 mins past the hour


20_Sunnymeade 51 mins past the hour

51 mins past the hour


21_Coxbench Keepers Cottage 52 mins past the hour

52 mins past the hour


22_Sandy Lane 52 mins past the hour

52 mins past the hour


23_Smalley Mill Road 53 mins past the hour

53 mins past the hour


24_Church St Coach and Horses 53 mins past the hour

53 mins past the hour


25_Horsley Churches (Opposite) 54 mins past the hour

54 mins past the hour


26_Horsley Churches 54 mins past the hour

54 mins past the hour


27_Horsley Road 90 55 mins past the hour

56 mins past the hour


28_Woodhouse Road 56 mins past the hour

56 mins past the hour


29_Hunters Arms 57 mins past the hour

57 mins past the hour


30_Highfield Road 58 mins past the hour

58 mins past the hour


31_Alfred Road 58 mins past the hour

58 mins past the hour


32_Meadow Court 59 mins past the hour

59 mins past the hour


33_Windmill Avenue on the hour

on the hour


34_Arthur Medical Centre 1 min past the hour

1 min past there hour


35_Old Oak Inn 2 mins past the hour

2 mins past the hour


36_Amberline route

route map


Final thought: it was quite easy to feel rather silly and self conscious taking photos of bus stops! But once I’d decided on a clear idea it was easier to be ‘on a mission’ and focus on the job at hand.  Something to think about the next time I feel awkward photographing strangers.

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Research Point 1

Read Chapter 4 ‘Something and Nothing’ in Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) London: Thames & Hudson. You will find this on the student website named PH4IAP_Something and Nothing.


To what extent do you think the strategy of using objects or environments as metaphor is a useful tool in photography?

When might it fall down?

Write some reflective notes on these points in your learning log.

———


 

This strategy provides the photographer with virtually endless scope to use everyday items from the world around us and make them represent something else that is perhaps less readily available or harder to photograph (either in a person or elsewhere).  So the first thing to say is that this type of metaphor has very practical use where photographing the ‘real thing’ would be difficult or dangerous.  Of course this comes with a warning that it can be used lazily where better results could be had by seeking out the subject.


Because the subject matter is often banal, Cotton warns against making the assumption that the subject matter is what would otherwise be ‘without visual symbolism. In truth, there is no such thing as an unphotographed or unphotographable subject‘.  The job of the viewer is to seek to find out what meaning the phorographer identified in it, knowing that there must be one.


As with Orozco’s ‘Breath on a piano’, mundane objects in combination allow us to see things in a new and perhaps subversive way – Just who was it that dare breathe on the prefectly polished piano? Who used scrap car doors in a doorway (Wentworth, 1999) and who balanced a courgette and carrot on a cheese grater (Fischili and Weiss)?  This quirk is what piques the interest for me, stops me and motivates me to explore the image in more detail (Barthes’ concept of Punctum raises this phenomena in Camera Lucida).  We know that any photograph is a moment in time that actually existed once (maybe constructed sculpture from the parallel art movement in the 1960’s exploring minimalism), but it wouldn’t normally look like that.


I can see how this is a tremendous tool for drawing the viewer’s attention to an attribute that the phorographer seeks to highlight.  It is as though the photographer presents a riddle to be solved, ‘drawing on our natural inquisitiveness‘ (Cotton), the reward being to gain an insight into the subject.  A ‘portrait’ of someone characterised by a love of food and a very large, pointy nose might unkindly have a wedge of cheese in the image instead, as a crude example.


The risk is thst cetrain aspects are accentuated by this strategy at the expense of others giving an incomplete view of the subject, or misunderstood (the puzzle too cryptic) and getting it entirely wrong.  This feels more serious when we are talking about people – at least with a straightforward portrait the viewer can rely on his own senses, not just curious items thst the photographer substitutes for the original. Rather than a complex and intriguing image it may descend into stereotype and crude characature.


But for me thats the whole point.  Sculpture is never the original, it is an interpretation.  So is painting.  Minimalism is accepted as an artistic style across mediums.  Why should photography be any different, shackled in creativity by its ability to faithfully reproduce?  The responsibility of the photographer therefore is to remain alert to this risk of over-simplification for an image to be persuasive and rich in meaning.


However, James Melling challenges even this with his exploration of lighting a single subject.  At first sight his work resembles an early Cokin Filter catalogue, with images of the same glass house through various coloured filters and graduated filters, solarisation and other vivid colour techniques.  What might be dismissed as crude and amateurish is visually engaging and exploratory, showing diversity while only changing the light that falls upon a fixed subject.