Experimenting with photographing community

A need for a new Rectangle

A number of developments occurred during the break between modules leading me to consider how to approach and begin to be more experimental. 

The shift into looking into my local area has also coincided with my landlady taking the decision to sell my rented home here in Watford spurred on by the recent general election and final push on Brexit, not including the litany of issues with the house that she felt could no longer support fixing (there are a lot!), when every time we asked to be fixed, feared a push on the rental cost each month. 

I have found it interesting that as I turn my camera onto my local community, it could inherently change as we decide whether we will need to move out of the area to find affordable rental prices, or make the jump to buy, meaning an even further move. The community that I described during the last module is in question again. As a renter, I find myself never truly connected to place, with the constant fear of upheaval.

Figure 1. Pentax 645 with mounted light.
Figure 2. Ilford HP5 pushed to 800.

As a way to explore this, I am going to create a smaller body of work alongside the psychogeography approach I outlined for my first shoot plan and document the condition of my rented home with a forensic approach. I intend to use a medium format film camera with a top mounted video light (Fig. 1) and Ilford HP5 film (Fig. 2) for this approach, which represents a complete departure from the images that I was shooting during the last module. 

My idea is to play with the narrative of my home, which was never truly my home. There is the space that I occupy and have lived in for the past 5 years and the areas of the house that have been neglected due to the nature of it being a rental property. These initial images could be compared to the narrative that will be presented by the estate agent once they come into the space and take their own images, which will need to be sympathetic to the true owner of the house, this will be mirrored by the description of the house used to sell it. My black and white medium format images will be in complete opposition to the digital compact images taken by the estate agent and could play with the notion of photographic truth in a similar way to how Jack Latham used police archive images as part of his ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ series (Latham, 2016).

I am also interested to explore the notion of the rectangle as the most basic form of power, outlined by Roland Barthes (Barthes, 2012, p.114). The exchange of such rectangles, in the form of the most ubiquitous, our homes, could be a way of framing the current housing crisis for example. By focussing on my own space of rectangles (or what I thought was mine, in the lived sense), I hope to start considering the community that happens from within the home. One of the outlined aims in my project proposal was to look at the environment and typology of community, and these typologies could also be found within this realm, which again Barthes used in his analysis of the rectangle through the language of beds (Barthes, 2012, p114), this is where I can start to explore these concepts.

Collaborating with others

As a way to investigate a more collaborative approach to my work, I have also asked 3 work colleagues who live in the local area, and who are all artists, to take a small film camera that I have provided and take some images of the local area. My intention is to start extending my approach to the initial psychogeography and explore ways that I can respond to these images.


Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces. Translation Edition ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Latham, J., Gudjonsson, G. and Russell, R. (2016). Sugar paper theories. 2nd ed. London: Here Press.

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