I have today completed my Documentary Photography Feature on the regeneration of the Anfield area of Liverpool. I spent two afternoons wandering the almost abandoned streets and came accross some interesting people and places. You can see the images I chose to submit here. In addition to these, I decided to create a short slideshow video showcasing a selection of images from the assignment and have set these to a backdrop of the sounds of the area, which I recorded whilst there. Check out that video here below.
The Anfield area of Liverpool is famed for being the home of one of the world’s most successful football clubs – Liverpool FC. In the shadow of the club’s iconic stadium, plans to regenerate are now finally under way. Around 1800 properties are to be demolished in total, with brand new homes, schools and business properties being constructed in their place. Sadly, the community has been pulled apart over the past decade and the streets, for now, are an otherworldly ghost town. Fences have been erected to cut off areas to the public and slowly houses are coming down brick by brick. The set of images I have created are a documentary on the closure of the area, its disrepair, demolition, and finally, its resurrection. The images have been created with inspiration from photographers Len Grant, Robert Polidori and Don McPhee, with the aim of publication in national newspaper The Guardian and local regional newspapers The Liverpool Echo and the Liverpool Daily Post.
When thinking about how to document my subject, I took into consideration the look and feel of the typical photographs featured in The Guardian, both online and in print. Looking at the typical photographs showcased in a Guardian article the images tend to be creative and artistic. They pay attention to traditional artistic rules, such as the rule of thirds and the golden number. Block colour also tends to feature heavily, where the subject allows. The resulting images therefore appear more attractive to the human eye and somewhat more commercial. The subject comes first, however, and the accuracy of documenting what the scene portrays is vital in capturing an accurate image with historical value. Typically, the images are used as an illustration of a story, and so the the main subject of the article is not always the main focus of the image. This is useful when creating an attractive and interesting image and I utilised this technique in creating my photographs.
The set of images I have created document the cycle of construction and destruction present in Anfield at this point in time. This cycle begins with an introduction to the area and the clear dilapidation signified by the graffiti. Immediately we are shown signs that the area is run down signified by closed down businesses and their burnt out premises. One could easily walk with eyes on the pavement and ignore the destruction within. Only when we bring our eyes above the level of the first floor do we see that many of the buildings are in a clear state of disrepair. This brings us to the second stage of the apparent cycle – closure and disrepair. The houses in the area are almost all exclusively boarded up and have been vandalised and abused before being demolished. Visible signs of this are the graffiti, left items and damage signifying the awful state of the area. The following stage is demolition, which is shown by the image of the inside of what used to be someone’s home. We are looking at the remains of the front of the house with no surrounding walls. The shear destruction is apparent and we can see the crumbled bricks lying on top of an old mattress in what would’ve been the front room. In the next stage rebuilding starts to take place, we see the grounds of an old school and its colourful fence, which now surrounds a construction compound housing building materials. We leave the sad scenes of the derelict streets and begin to see signs of a revival. We see builders putting the finishing touches to a series of new houses and the story seems to be concluding with a somewhat happy ending. We can see Christmas decorations lighting up the windows of someone’s brand new home. They signify the warmth of their new life in a new community.
The angle I wanted to portray was the angle which I heard from local business owners and residents. They feel that the regeneration has taken far too long and that there have been several injustices in the entire process. I heard how a local business owner believed that construction companies employed in the area to complete demolition and building work were lining the pockets of politicians. A young couple who still remain in one of the largely abandoned streets said that they were quite happy with having to wait until April 2012 for their brand new home up the street. Despite being somewhat lonely, as the only occupied house on their street, they were looking to the future.
I feel that the set of images I have created portray accurately what I experienced and heard in Anfield. I captured the empty streets, which go unnoticed on a match day at Anfield and the slow collapse of what used to be a healthy community. I decided to keep my images in colour, despite being tempted to add the atmosphere by changing the photographs to black and white. I felt that by leaving them in colour they would fit better into my target publications. If I were to return and add to this series, I would like to shoot portraits of some of the residents with their old and new homes. Overall, I feel this task went well, and if anything I came away with too many images which I would’ve liked to include.
I have formulated two ideas upto this point. The first deals with the global issue of mass food production in the modern day. I would photograph mass farming (crop and livestock), factory production and meat preparation for human consumption. The second idea looks at the revival of the river Mersey and how it is returning from a putrid, almost lifeless state to a clean, healthy bed of life.
After looking into my two concepts in more detail I have arrived at a number of problems. Due to the time of year I am unable to find farming subjects of a quality and feel that I can return to this subject during the warmer months to create the article as I envision it.
I turned to the second concept and through my research have found that the sea life centre, which used to house all sorts of life from the mersey, along with tons of information, has closed its doors. Due to this, I have decided to create an entirely new concept. I still want to work within the merseyside area and have arrived at the issue of the regeneration of Anfield – a place I spend most Saturdays watching Liverpool FC.
My aim is to document the urban decay, demolition and re-construction – the revival of Anfield. I will talk to residents, business owners and the builders working in the area and try to photograph what they tell me.
Since arriving at my final concept, I have been researching similar photo stories and articles. Surprisingly I have found very few sets of images like this, which actually tell the full story from closure to rebuilding. National newspaper The Guardian appears to be the most active in publishing stories on issues like these. I came across a set of photos in their gallery by photographer Len Grant on the community of East Manchester. The Guardian is a publication, which I admire for publishing accurate images, which remain creative and eye-catching. I will aim my article at this publication considering their typical approach and aesthetic.
Two other publications I will also be taking into consideration when creating my piece are the Liverpool Echo and Liverpool Daily Post. These are regional newspapers, which regularly feature stories and galleries of Liverpool and its issues.
I have spent some time in the Anfield area, and regularly visit to watch the football, but I have never really taken into consideration what is actually going on in the area. Clearly it is in a state of disrepair, but it wasn’t until I investigated the regeneration plans that I realised the extent of what is going on. Plans to revive the area have been on the table for the best part of a decade, but largely nothing has really happened. Slowly streets have been emptied of their inhabitants and all houses boarded and gutted. Around 1800 properties will be flattened in seven phases, clearing space for a whole new community to be built.
After researching on the Internet, the general feel I have come across is that things aren’t moving quick enough and that residents feelings aren’t being held high enough in the list of priorities. I’ll be interested to see how this unfolds when I spend time talking to people around the area. In addition, it seems as though the current dilapidation is creating a more dangerous environment for remaining citizens with crime and dangerous refuse having risen greatly.
Similar Projects & Relative Photographers
As I have already mentioned, Len Grant is one photographer who works in the area of urban regeneration and community. He has made an entire career out of photographing the issues faced by smaller communities, specifically in Manchester.
During today’s workshop we worked outside with some portable Bowens 500R Gemini flash heads and reflective umbrellas. Whilst on my way to University I was slightly concerned that we would not be able to get outside to use the equipment as it was raining. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time we started the workshop and we found a fantastic location at the Headingley campus in a small wooded area. The recent rain gave the surrounding autumn trees a pleasing shine and the early morning ambient light brought out the fantastic greens, yellows, oranges and reds in the leaves.
We set-up the equipment very similarly to the studio lighting workshop, except for a few minor changes. To power the flash heads we were using a Bowens Travelpak battery pack and to direct the flash we used reflective umbrellas instead of soft boxes, which gave a slightly harsher light. As for camera settings, I decided to meter for ambient background light to include the surrounding environment, instead of creating an unnatural, very dark background. The ideal camera settings were ISO 200, aperture f4.0 and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. I wasn’t concerned about using a fairly slow shutter speed as my 24-105mm L lens has a good IS (image stabalisation) system and the strong flash would ‘freeze’ the subject sufficiently.
For my hidden place task I chose to visit a recording studio and show the inner workings of what recording music actually looks like. I imagine that many assume recording music is as glamorous as the end product and performance, but I found it to be much more humble. A small studio close to central London was the venue and the artist was Tom Moon, a singer/songwriter recording his first EP.
I found that after a while, once everyone was used to the camera that it was much easier to take natural, candid shots of the artist and producer at work. I’m glad that I wasn’t on a rushed schedule, as I’m sure this would’ve impacted on the type of shots I was able to achieve. One problem I did encounter was the lack of light. The studio was literally two small rooms with no natural light, just several artificial lights of varying colour temperatures, which made things quite difficult. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the images I have come out with, and with a touch of post processing they came out very well. In future I’d be sure to take a wider lens as my 24-105mm was still not quite wide enough on my aps-c sensor Canon 40d.
Barcelona was my destination for a spot of street photography. I lived in the city for a year prior to beginning this year of University and thought that whilst back visiting I would make use of the time and capture some photos that were a little different to what you might see in a British city.
As I hadn’t taken my DSLR, I was relying on my IPhone to be up to the task. Initially I found it difficult with trying to frame what I wanted, manage exposure (with a touch screen) and get a good documentation of the real Barcelona that I know. I missed not being able to use full manual settings as I normally do with my cameras and I think a lot of the time I was banking on getting lucky instead of achieving what I wanted.
I was aiming to show the little pieces that make up Barcelona from the perspective of a citizen and not a tourist, so I stayed away from the typical hotspots. I’m fairly pleased with the images I managed to create, but don’t think they are my best work. Blaming my equipment may be an easy excuse, but I really do think I could’ve achieved more with my 40d or Powershot S90. I did find it hard to be discreet as I didn’t feel confident enough to be very blatant about taking pictures of people – something I definitely to work on, or just get over.
During todays class we finally got to use the University’s new Metz flash guns. Unfortunately, as we didn’t realise that we would be using the flash guns only a few of us had our cameras. I went out with Phill Brown, Lauren Myers and Emily Cressey with two cameras, a Metz flash gun and a small reflective umbrella. I concentrated mainly on working with the set-up and let the girls get on with photographing Phill, who was our stand-in model. Getting to use the reflective umbrella was interesting as I’ve not had much opportunity to work with different reflectors. I have my own flash gun at home, so was happy that I understood enough about lighting and bouncing flash to create decent results.
The images I have created are of the new Liverpool Museum located at the Liverpool waterfront, which aims to educate about, and showcase Liverpool as a city and culture.
I feel that these images are a very close representation of what I saw at the time and are what potential visitors to the museum and waterfront could expect to see were they to visit.
I wanted to present an overall idea of how the museum looks and of what it has to offer, without revealing too much of the content of the museum. I also wanted to present how the redevelopment of Liverpool’s waterfront and pier-head has improved, countering critics who have been largely unimpressed.
My target audience would be fairly intellectual, aged 25-60 and primarily local residents and visitors to Liverpool looking to learn more about the museum before visiting.
Therefore, I feel these images would fit well into the guardian or it’s weekend magazine as a feature in the culture/leisure section, accompanied by a review of the museum.
I am very happy with what I have accomplished during this task, especially seeing as though this is my first task since beginning BSc Photojournalism. I am extremely proud of the images I have come out with and feel that they would fit well into my chosen publication – The Guardian. I have been able to test my creative and landscape techniques, bettering my skills in the process.
This morning we had our indoor lighting workshop were we used several different pieces of equipment. We used two Bowens 500R Gemini heads (one as the master, which was connected to the camera, and one as the slave, which detected the flash of the master and fired its own flash almost instantaneously) with soft boxes attached, as well as a smooth grey background. We gained experience in setting-up, taking-down and operating all the necessary equipment. I used a light meter for the first time to measure the strength of the flash and calculate our ideal aperture (f number), which tended to be between f8 and f16 dependent on the strength we had the flash heads set to. I set the ISO on my camera to 100 (for the least amount of noise) and shutter speed to 1/125th of a second, which is the ideal for the best results when using off-camera flash. I connected the sync cable directly to my camera and began to try different positions and angles with the flash heads. I found that the lighting was most pleasing to the eye when I fired a stronger flash from one side and a more subdued flash from the other. You can see a quick sketch of the lay-out below. I managed to experiment with two lenses, a 50mm f1.4 prime and a 100mm f2.8 macro prime. The macro lens was used to achieve the close-up image of Phill Brown’s face giving a lot of detail, the rest of the images were taken using the 50mm.
The results were very pleasing and I am happy with what I managed to achieve during my first session with studio lighting equipment. I now feel confident in experimenting further with such equipment and models in a studio. I would like to play around with aperture a little more in my next studio flash session to see if I can isolate, and therefore give emphasis to, the eyes of the model. Overall I am very happy with what I have learned and the images I have produced, some of which you can see below.