Stephen Hird – Critical Rationale
My project began as an exploration into my association with Coventry, with the intention to create a piece of work that sums up my time here, my current feelings and something that the audience can relate to. After creating a highly negative project in my previous module, I decided to avoid negative connotations and produce a body of work that celebrated my time in the city, and embraced change and progression. With this in mind, I felt it was important to avoid creating work solely on an emotional and personal level, as the work needed to be an artifact that represents my progression as a photographer over the past four years of study, and demonstrates my ability to create work of a professional standard.
I looked at photographers that had cultivated their own personal style, and researched classic photographers such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, alongside more contemporary photographers including Hin Chua and Simon Roberts. This enabled me to understand how to develop my own personal visual style. I researched into art and photography exhibitions and how different bodies of work were displayed in a gallery context. Ai Wei Wei’s exhibition in London gave me an insight into alternative methods of presentation, and the exhibition of a recent Nottingham University graduate Thomas Illsley demonstrated how simple framed photographs with careful attention to sequencing and layout could benefit the work greatly. As a result of this, I chose to have custom frames built by a professional framing company, so that I could ensure the final exhibited pieces were high quality, looked consistent and flowed as a complete piece.
After experimenting with film of different formats, I found that I could achieve a much more nostalgic feel, and produce images of a higher quality than that of digital images. The vast printable size of medium and large format photographs gave me more options when producing large-scale prints, with a minimal loss of detail. The use of film meant that I often had to re-visit locations and be much more thorough with my shooting plans, having only a limited number of shots per roll. This meant that I paid more attention to composition and framing of each image, and ultimately gave me better images as a result. I chose subjects that were both personal and impersonal to me, in order to capture a complete representation of The Spring Valley Estate. These included areas were I used to visit as a teenager, and also other distinctive locations that were unique to the area itself.
The old archive images of my friends living and growing up in the area gives context to the large scale, contemporary images, and perfectly represent the feelings I intended to portray from the outset, which is a sense of loss and nostalgia, but also one of progression. Using the original archive prints wherever possible was much more beneficial than having the images re-printed, as they are the original artifacts of my childhood and teenage years, and as a result compliment the contemporary images perfectly. The layout of the images is key in telling a subtle visual story, yet doesn’t force the audience to view the work in a typical linear style, allowing the images to be viewed individually and as a collective.