People & Place- Assignment 3- Buildings in use

This assignment required us to choose between 5 and 6 buildings and take photographs to effectively show their use. We also had to compile some research on each building and give an opinion on how well it uses the space.

For the assignment I wanted to try to use a mixture of purpose-built and older buildings so I could explore how things have, potentially, been adapted for its new use.

I began by brainstorming potential buildings that I could use. From this I choose the following buildings

  • The Shire Hall Gallery
  • The Post House
  • Stafford Leisure Centre
  • Hanley bus station

I then created a mood board with photos showings buildings and spaces then used the ideas I had for photos and photographers’ work that I had looked at.

As my tutor has suggested I take more risks and try something a little more creative, for each building I wanted to create a Hockney style photo montage by taking around 12 photos and stitching them together in Photoshop. I had done this on a photography workshop during the summer and loved the look it gave. From this I became interested in Hockney’s work and enjoy trying to replicate it myself.

The Post House

The Post House was opened by its current owners on 8th December 2011. Before this It housed the town’s General Post Office from 1914 to 2008. It was built around 1746 by William Chetwynd and was named Chetwynd House after him. In the 1780 it was then brought by William Horton, a shoe manufacturer.

I chose to use this building as although it has been renovated into a bar and restaurant it still retains some of the original features. The renovation has transformed the building and the owners have carefully thought about how to integrate some of the original features into their design and layout.

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For this image I wanted to show the whole of the main entrance with the bar, stairs to the restaurant and some tables and chairs. As can be seen the owners have created quite a modern bar but the furnishings compliment the original wood panelling. The space is used throughout the day for breakfasts, lunches and as a more relaxed seating area in the evening as they play music more quietly in this area. I think that by placing the tables and chairs around the edge of the room helps to make the area not too crowded especially in the evening when people are coming in and going straight to the bar.

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For this image I wanted to show the remnants of people having used the space. I framed the shot so the tea-cup was close to the edge of the screen and all the tea items in the foreground so the room behind could be defocussed in the background. I think by doing this the image is well-balanced and not too cluttered. When editing the image I cropped out a wooden panel which was to the right of the menu as I felt it wasn’t necessary and distracting. I also removed the teabag string from the teapot handle as it was not immediately obvious what it was and I found it distracted the viewer from the overall image. There was also a very bright ceiling light which I had not noticed when photographing that I removed.

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This image is of the cocktail bar and I really love the pink carpet and furnishings against the teal light running along the top. This is quite a sophisticated area and usually only open in the evening. Again this is quite a relaxed area and away from the nightclub side of the building. It is quite small with only a little seating, which prevents the room from becoming too crowded. For the shot, I decided to try to retain as much of the colour and ambiance of the room. I achieved this by setting the shutter speed quite low (1/30) and resting the camera on a shelf to avoid camera shake. I used the autofocus set to 12 point focus so I could capture as much detail as I could.

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This image was taken in the upstairs restaurant. I wanted to show a table layout in the foreground with the kitchen defocussed in the background. At the time of shooting it was not long after opening so there was little activity, although one of the chefs can been seen to a slight extent in the kitchen.

The Shire Hall Gallery

The second building I chose to photograph was the Shire Hall Gallery. I had previously been in touch with them to discuss coming in and they were very happy for me to take photos. Their only proviso was that I didn’t include any children (there have been children included within these images, however they are my own children so there is no breach of data protection).

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With the above image I wanted to recreate a fish-eye image which I had seen on the Shire Hall Gallery’s Facebook page. I do not have a fish eye lens however. I took around 12 photos and stitched them together in Photoshop using the cylindrical panoramic setting. I felt that by using the cylindrical setting it would help to create the fish eye look that I wanted. The curved edge and leading lines on the gallery dividing walls also help to draw the viewers’ attention to the middle of the image and the people show how accessible the gallery is to members of the public while they are out and about in the town centre. I kept the slight yellow/orange cast as I felt it gave a warmer feel to the image which was a lot more inviting. When I experimented with changing the white balance from auto to tungsten I found that the whiteness made the image quite cold and clinical. By choosing to take the image at this angle, I was able to get a unique viewpoint and show the whole room and the different spaces that people can explore when they come in. There are also chairs dotted around the space for people to sit and take in some of the work which is being exhibited.

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For this image, I wanted to show one of the “corridors” of the gallery with someone viewing the artwork to show the space’s suitability and accessibility to various users. I took the image with the camera close to the right hand side as I liked the leading lines from the framed pictures to the man and child and as I was able to show some of the work on the opposite wall. There are also leading lines from the bottom of each of the walls and the framed images on the opposite wall directing the viewer to the man and child. The area is quite open with little objects on the floor which helps when the gallery is busier at weekends as it means people do not have to go around items and there is an easier flow of people.

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For this image, I chose to use the shop as it is different from the rest of the space as there are lots of things to look at and purchase. It is tucked up in the far corner, which can be seen on the panoramic image, but has glass walls so it still feels like part of the rest of the gallery. There is a visible eye line from the cashier to the customer and I wanted to include this image as it shows the variety of art work that is on offer at the gallery.

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For this image, I decided to take a shot that was a little different and showing two different sections side by side. There are various juxtapositions within this image, both obvious and suggestive, such as

  • Size; large vs. small
  • Age; old vs. young
  • Inertia; still vs. motion
  • Perspective; near vs. far

Stafford Leisure Centre

Out of all the places I had chosen to photograph, the leisure centre was the one I was most looking forward to photographing. However, it ended up being the most difficult as there were strict guidelines placed on me i.e. I was not allowed to photograph any people (staff or public) and I had to be escorted around the building. To begin with I was able to take photos without any problems as I asked to look/use rooms that weren’t occupied, however when I moved onto the swimming pool and lobby I found that the duty manager kept looking over my shoulder and repeatedly telling me not to photograph any people. In order to prevent anything like this happening I had earlier offered to show her all of my images before I left so I could delete and retake any that she was not happy with however this did not happen.

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When planning my photos, I decided that I wanted to shoot the swimming pools as a photo montage so I could show the whole room as I feel it is quite grand and impressive. By taking a number of images and stitching them together I was able to include both pools which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had just used a wide-angle lens. The photos were taken from the viewing platform as there were obvious health and safety risks taking the photos from the side of the pool such as the slippery surfaces and the possibility of my camera ending up in the water. Again, to keep with the running theme I chose to stitch it together using the cylindrical panoramic setting. I also feel that the curves add interest and surrealism to the photo and help to set it apart from the more standard images.

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I decided to take a closer shot in the gym as the other images are quite wide and a full shot of the gym isn’t really required as the image adequately shows that it was taken in a gym. With the image being taken at this angle there is a leading line drawing the viewer’s gaze along the exercise bikes and with this layout there is a clear rhythm.

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This is just a simple image showing the different areas of the leisure centre, including some that would not be appropriate to photograph such as the changing areas. There are leading lines on the ceiling and on the sign giving directions.

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The other images I had taken showed the sort of activities that could be done so I wanted to show the more relaxed side. The chairs aren’t very neatly kept but this shows evidence of active use. The area has a number of possible uses such as meeting people, watching swimmers in the smaller pool, getting information about classes/ activities, somewhere to relax after doing an activity or where you can buy food and drink.

Hanley Bus Station

This is one of the newer buildings that I chose to photograph as I quite like the appearance of the building and I wanted to show there was more to it then “just somewhere to wait for a bus”. Whilst I was there I tried to take a number of photos that I could stitch together, however when it came to stitching them together I found that Photoshop kept cutting people in half or duplicating them as they were walking along. This also occurred when I tried putting them together manually. This made the images look very confusing to a viewer and would detract attention from what I was trying to achieve. I have come to realise that the stitching technique only lends itself to certain situations, although it has worked for the other images I found that by trying to complete it in this scenario it had limitations when using it for a more active environment.

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Basically this image instantly reveals the purpose of the building.  It shows a girl sitting waiting and people queuing through the door to the buses which can be clearly identified through the panes of glass.

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With this image, it is less obvious that it is from a bus station as no buses can be seen, however in the background people can be seen waiting and there are various notice boards and signs which can give clues to where the image was taken. I have taken the shot looking down the corridor of the building as there are a number of different activities that can be picked up, such as

  • People queuing
  • Station workers assisting with the running of the station
  • People looking for the appropriate door/bus
  • People using the facilities

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The last image I took was of a seating area and shop/café where people could buy food and drink or a paper while they waited for their buses or to meet someone. Although the bottom half of the image is quite busy with harsh metallic furniture, I feel that this is well-balanced with the top half which seems a little more structured with softer lines.

Dad’s House

The last building I used was my dad’s house. As I had used my own home a lot for the exercises I felt that I needed to look at another house for the assignment so I could examine how the space is used. I found that by using someone else’s home it brought up an interesting question. How can one person define the usefulness of the space? When laying out our own homes, we look to what we feel is the best use of space for our own circumstances. This may not be the same way that someone else would choose to arrange their home but they may use their home in a slightly different way.

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Again, my first image is a montage of 14 images of the lounge with the dining area in the background. I have enjoyed using this technique as although the results are quite varied and sometimes a little surreal, it gives the viewer a broader view of the area and the potential activities within it. There is a little discrepancy towards the right of the sofa but I kept this as I feel it doesn’t detract from what I am trying to achieve with the image. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard for me to comment on the layout as it is down to personal choice. I feel that the overall layout is good and works well for the room, other items could be added or taken away from it, however this is dependent on the use and people using it. Within this image there are a number of things that can be seen indicating its use such as

  • DVDs on the floor, so a place to watch tv
  • Sofas and armchair, so somewhere to relax
  • The dining area; a place to eat
  • Toys scattered; room for children to play

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This image is very easy to sum up as it can easily be identified by the viewer as a kitchen and its uses are obvious. I chose to shoot from this angle as I liked the implied triangle that the work surfaces gave as it draws to eye up to the centre of the image. I had to be careful when photographing as I took this image in the evening with a flash so I had to be careful not to get the flash reflected in the window. In post-production, I altered the perspective slightly as I felt that the image was leaning a little too much towards the left.

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The last image I took was of one of the bedrooms, as there are built-in wardrobes and cupboards/drawers, there is very little that can be done with the layout. However the layout of the room fits the use very well. When taking the image, I tried to take it as wide as I could however by doing this it ended up including the door and the door frame. With this in mind, it decided to position myself just inside the door and take a wide-angle image.

Evaluation

I found this assignment very interesting and I am pleased that I was able to take the array of buildings that I have, even though some proved quite difficult. I feel that by pushing myself like this allowed me to have more fun with the assignment and challenge myself to look at buildings/space in a different way.

When it came to assessing the usefulness of building/space, I found it a lot easier with public buildings as there are more obvious uses and due to their use they are under health and safety guidelines to layout the spaces in such a way. This is something that I had not realised until I started assessing the usefulness of the layout within my dad house. As mentioned previously, in your own home the layout and uses vary between different people and what someone would do in the space or whole house is not necessarily how another person would use the same space. The perfect example of this is when you are moving house and you go to have a look around a potential property. At the time you are looking at how the current owner is using it however you may think that you would arrange your furniture differently or you may see something and think that you would like to try to copy it.

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About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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