Summary of My Thoughts Regarding Assignment 1 – Documentary

I felt I responded to the brief well throughout the photo essay in terms of the project being a coherent body of work documenting the brewery and its people and my engagement with them. A strong area for me was the sense of progression from one photograph to another, which could serve to pull the viewer in to the project. I saw the research into Lewis Hine and Henri Cartier-Bresson beforehand as being very helpful in establishing a strategy for photographing the brewery and its people. I concentrated particularly on creating quite decisive moments in the brewery and its surrounding vicinity. This enabled me to show better my interpretation of the scene. Combining this with eye contact in a couple of photographs to further show my engagement but in a different (more direct) way.

 

In terms of creativity, I could see a few photographs where I was clever with composition but two photographs which stood out creatively as a pair were Photographs 4 and 5. They helped to give the viewer as much better idea of my engagement with the brewery worker during the project when viewed simultaneously. I thought the execution of the idea was quite good because the action of the brewery worker was captured on both cameras at pretty similar moments in time so the viewer could associate the two photographs in tandem.

 

By titling the photographs, I felt I gave them extra context which I had increasingly come to realise was important for the viewer to gain insight into a project. This was because it allowed them to make up their minds more readily. I thought most parts of the project could be inferred from photographs when seen as a series but the titling helped with the flow of the photo essay. My communication of ideas after titling the photographs gave extra context in what I saw as quite a clear concise manner.

 

I would say a few of the photographs could have been taken better in regards to technical skill, for example Photograph 2 where the sun flare was quite distracting and some of the highlights were blown. Overall though the photographs in my opinion gave a realistic depiction of the brewery at particular decisive moments in time in relation to its people and my engagement with them. This was what I had set out to document and I was pleased it showed the brewery from more than one dimension.

Photograph 10 – ‘The Bar Staff’

Photograph 10 was a massive contrast compared to the previous two photographs. Here, the scene was much more organised and the photograph was clearly posed; a group portrait of three of the bar staff. The reason I included this photograph was to show another side to the brewery, a more polished and refined side where the beer had been made. Evidence of the beer having been made was bottles proudly sitting on the shelves and on tap for the customers ready to be served by the welcoming bar staff. This was an example of me showing my engagement with the community because I maintained eye contact (albeit through the camera) with my subjects who were responding to being photographed by me. This portrayed something of my relationship with them; they were comfortable in my presence reflected in their smiles. I felt the 35mm focal length worked well here because I could frame all three of them in the camera easily within the confined space of the brewery. This was while still providing some subject separation from the background by using a fairly large aperture setting of f/3.2.

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The Bar Staff
Camera settings for Photograph 10 were:
f/3.2, 1/200s, ISO 1400, focal length 35mm, handheld.

Photograph 9 – ‘Mashing In at the Brewery – Part 2’

For me this clearly showed the second part of the mashing in process: the stirring of the mixture. Although there was less steam present for this part of the process there was a bit and so there was still some atmosphere while still retaining an accurate representation of the environment. I changed the camera angle slightly, while still photographing from a high viewpoint looking down I moved round to the right a bit. This was in order to show another part of the brewery and suggest to the viewer that this was a different part of the mashing in stage. Instead of using a small spatula instrument like the man stirring in Photograph 7 – ‘The Brew School in Full Flow’ was, the brewer used a massive paddle to stir in the grain. Therefore the contrast was obvious in scale from Photograph 7 up to Photograph 9 (similar as with Photograph 7 up to 8).

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Mashing In at the Brewery – Part 2
Camera settings for Photograph 9 were:
f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 2000, focal length 35mm, handheld.

Photograph 8 – ‘Mashing In at the Brewery – Part 1’

Moving on from the smaller proportions of the brew school mashing in, here was depicted a brewer pouring in a whole sack of grain and mixing it with water from a hose. This was in contrast to the brew school where a bucket of grain and a comparative trickle of water were mixed in together. This for me showed the more serious side to the brewery when the beer had begun to be made on a bigger scale. I thought the steam coming from the mixture added to this seriousness as it added atmosphere to the more hands on approach of the process. I chose a high viewpoint looking down to document this process as I felt it added drama as well as showing more clearly what was going on inside the canister. The inclusion of more sacks in the distance suggested just how much grain the brewer would be pouring in to the mix. Lastly, I felt I managed to capture quite a decisive moment by photographing the brewer in full flow as he made sure to mix the grain and the water together, making the process more obvious to the viewer.

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Mashing In at the Brewery – Part 1
Camera settings for Photograph 8 were:
f/4, 1/200s, ISO 1400, focal length 35mm, handheld.

Photograph 7 – ‘The Brew School in Full Flow’

As the name suggests this was an action shot of the brew school as the brewers performed the ‘mashing in’ stage of the brew. I knew from photographing at the brewery that the mashing in was quite an obvious situation an action shot could occur at the brewery and so when I learnt the participants at the brew school would be doing this at a much smaller scale that day I tried to capture a decisive moment of their mashing in. I felt I was successful at this because it showed two of the brew school participants doing the mashing in as well as brewer running the brew school overlooking. Compositionally I thought the photograph was strong too because of an implied triangle between the three people pointing downwards towards where the mashing in was taking place. In my opinion it gave a better inclination to the viewer that there was a brew school happening at the brewery compared to Photograph 6. This photograph also served as a nice precursor and link to the next two photographs where the real mashing in for the brewery took place on a much larger scale.

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The Brew School in Full Flow
Camera settings for Photograph 7 were:
f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 5000, focal length 35mm, handheld.

Photograph 6 – ‘In Discussion During the Brew School’

This was quite an opportunistic photograph in two senses. Firstly, I found out that the brewery was very characterful in that it didn’t just operate as a brewery and bar but also a brew school on certain days. I decided this would be a good opportunity to show another side to the brewery and I was glad I did as I felt I came away with portraying to the viewer another, more playful dimension to the brewery. One aspect of the brewery is that it is quite confined in space and so I was having difficulty acquiring many good shots of the relatively numerous amount of people attending the brew school that day. Eventually I went on a whim around to the other side of the main brewing equipment and perceived a potential opportunity for a photograph in between two of the canisters. Not only was there a gap in between them showing people at the brew school but I was fortunate enough to find the brewer running the brew school deep in conversation with one of the brew school attendees. I thought this combination of features worked well, the canisters on either side and in the background showed it was a brewery while the two people in conversation could be seen to be talking about some aspect of the beer being brewed there. Although the information that the discussion was taking place at a brew school wasn’t absolutely clear in this photograph, for me the next photograph worked well as a continuation of this one.

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In Discussion During the Brew School
Camera settings for Photograph 6 were:
f/4, 1/200s, ISO 7200, focal length 35mm, handheld.

Photograph 5 – ‘In Action’

I chose quite a loose title for this photograph mainly because I felt it was quite evident to the viewer what was happening in the brewery when seen in tandem with Photograph 4 (‘In Preparation for the Day Ahead’). This was one of my response strategies to the brief where it asked me to show my engagement with my local community and its people. By appearing in this fifth photograph while simultaneously taking ‘In Preparation for the Day Ahead’, I saw myself from the outside, on assignment, in the brewery. I used a self timer of ten seconds on one camera set on a tripod (for Photograph 5) and took Photograph 4 at as similar a time as possible in order to make the effect of seeing myself from the outside as obvious and literal as possible. While it was a constructed photograph in the sense that it hadn’t happened by accident, I tried to compose both scenes for each photograph to my liking and interpretation (keeping in mind that I had to make my way over to where I had visualised the other tripod should be within ten seconds). This would hopefully enable the viewer to recognise that both shots were mine when seen in the series as a whole. I felt this quite creative response to the brief was a good strategy to both show my engagement with the brewery and its people as well as showing off more of the interior of the brewery at the same time. One thing I would say was that both Photographs 4 and 5 were taken with tripods and this wasn’t consistent with the rest of the photo essay where I had shot handheld because I deemed it more conducive to getting ‘decisive moments’ with.

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In Action
Camera settings for Photograph 5 were:
f/4, 1/200s, ISO 2000, focal length 35mm, a tripod was used.