Assignment Five – Research, exploration and development part two

Due to certain circumstance, both in and out of my control this maybe the quickest research, exploration and development competed yet for an assignment!

Initial Ideas – Exploration of Welling

Partly due to an oversight on my part and a mistake by the OCA over my course deadline date, I am under pressure to get this assignment finished and submitted ASAP… so a telephone call with Russell and a re-vamp has seen me thinking along the lines of re-visiting a place and comparing my local environment now as to how it was several years ago. Not something I had planned to do and the weather today was grey and overcast so a re-shoot will be planned. In the interests of expediency further research, better images etc will be added later….

The photographers I have used as reference are Chris Steel Perkins with Tsunami Streetwalk,  Dana Lixenberg who went back to the same housing project, Imperial Courts, and won the Deutsche Börse photography prize this year, also Fazal Sheikh who covered the place/topic 8 years apart.

I have some of the original shots from 2009, but know I have others in archived files so will continue to look and edit possible a different/better selection, but here are the ones I have chosen at the moment. With a link to others on Flickr 

2009 Photoshoot


Images taken today….



Some businesses appear to have gone, some downsized and others expanded whilst others have redecorated. New street furniture has arrived, recycling bins re-sited.

These are the comparisons I have temporarily made and submitted as a rough assignment five project:



The original 2009 jpegs are unedited so still look a bit rough. Plan is to look more closely at the whole set, photographing some of the sites that were inaccessible today due to time, weather and traffic! Noticing the angles/vantage points used previously I may try to emulate them….or I may do as with the Lemon Tree Gifts image photograph what is in the shop windows if more interesting. The gift shop has now become a tattoo parlour and has a larger than life size Orc like monster in the window…

I pinged this rough draft to Russell as an acknowledged work in progress but knowing I had to make a submission date.

And was advised :

It’s good enough for your submission for the time being… revise the work before I have to send you my formal feedback…Then, if need be, you can do any further changes before you submit for assessment…think about how you want to develop this; particularly time for research into practice, and a creative approach to the A5 images that allows you to produce a well composed and consistent set as well as a strong narrative – maybe a secondary narrative of some kind in the contemporary images (I’m not sure what that might be, but one that further defines and consolidates the idea).

More Thoughts

A week on, more research completed and ideas buzzing around my head, I have thought of a way of making this project a little more in-depth, more complete as a documentary idea and visually more interesting. It will take more research and some collaboration which I hope people will agree to go along with. Having looked more closely at the Kingsmead Eyes project I recognised the diversity that is also on my doorstep, also the idea of a collaboration would be me taking more risks and challenging myself in yet another direction.

In revisiting the locations that have changed or are the same, I thought of speaking to the shop owners/workers asking for a little background information, to make the images reflect not only the current economic climate of the area but also the richness of culture contained therein. I know what it is that I want to photograph about their premises but what do they think sums up their shop? Would they represent it in the same way? Each image would then contain possible three shots, possibly the shop frontage, a portrait and an item from the shop…that maybe a little adventurous but it is a possibility to explore. The opening image in the set could be a montage of shop fronts from 2009 and the final image a montage from now…

Mock up example:

Shop front is mine the other 2 are images from the net…no intention to use them in the project obtained them from here
and here


I had also thought about taking a photograph/portrait inside the shop but didn’t want it to look like a cliche for example this from shutter stock.


After running some ideas passed Russell, he agreed that it was a good idea to research further. He suggested that the top version might appear too journalistic, and the other too much like an advert and sent a link for a body of work taken of a flea market in Paris.

Portraits of Shopkeepers and Their Shops at the Saint-Ouen Flea Market in Paris which looks really interesting.

The flea market of Saint-Ouen in Paris is one of the largest and oldest of its kind. Founded in 1885 and made up of 15 smaller markets, the market sees more than 11 million visitors each year and hosts more than 2000 merchants. Photographer Andrew Kovalev’s most recent project highlights some of the incredibly diverse shopkeepers who have made the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen their home for many years.

From the very beginning my goal was to show the connection between a person and his or her shop. Even the most chaotically decorated shop appears coherent. Every item is in its place, every little thing tells a story: about itself, about its previous owners and of course about the shopkeeper.


Some quick links and info I have book marked to look into over the next few days….

Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, 1776, wrote:

To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight, appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers, but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.

The phrase “England is a nation of shopkeepers” is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte in reference to Britain’s preparedness for a war against France.

When presented with a list of 22 career options, 10pc of respondents said they most aspired to be a shopkeeper. This was followed by musician at 7pc, a scientist at 6pc, while actor and artist completed the top five.

Of those who said their dream career is to be proprietor of their own independent shop, the stores they would most like to run are a book shop, a tea shop or a pub.

It is a well known fact that Britain’s retailers have been undergoing a crisis of identity in the last few years and that the growth of online shopping has put pressure on shopkeepers, already squeezed by rising rent and business rate costs. In exploring the diversity of the shops in the High Street I would like to find out what the difficulties each one faces.

In 2014 the independent reported that there were nearly a quarter of a million independent shops in the UK, outnumbering chain stores by two to one, (according to data from the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA).)

The article continued … ‘Once packed with thriving independent shops, Britain’s high streets are now dominated by betting chains, charity shops and discount stores. In the first half of 2014, there were 16 store closures a day, according to figures from the Local Data Company commissioned by PwC.’

Another article in the Financial section was promoting Small Business Saturday, which began in 2013 and this year takes place on Saturday December 2nd.

probably would have been a good article but it wasn’t free….
Further research into how to capture the essence of shops/shopkeepers unearthed John Claridge
Vladimir Antaki


Tom Hunter’s body of work Trading Places


Sebastian Erras


Nick Dawe

Welling facts and figures research

Situated on the A207 Welling has one of the longest high streets in London. The high street has recently benefited from street scene improvement works which have enhanced the look and feel of the town centre, including a new civic area for people to meet. Visitors benefit from good public transport links and often come for the large supermarkets situated on the high street but stay for the array of independent shops and restaurants.

In 1989 5 Roman cremation burial urns were found when land of the Guy, Earl of Warwick Public House was sold off for housing. In 2009 Roman remains werefound under the demolished Embassy Court on Welling High Street.

The shopping district of Welling has an established night-time economy of pubs and eateries offering excellent dining diversity along the high street which accommodates a comprehensive range of independent traders. Investment by the Council has improved public realm areas providing a more attractive and appealing shopping experience.

The average spend in Welling is higher than other town centres in the borough. The high street is made up of 49% independent shops so small business owners will quickly feel at home here! Businesses on the high street report that there is a loyal customer base and like the availability of premises.

Welling currently has a vacancy rate of 4.2%, (2016) and an average weekly footfall of 7,960 (September 2016).

A quick walk down the H/S counted 248 ‘shop fronts’ which had many independent traders as well as ‘chain’ businesses and superstores.

Eateries, including fast food/cafes/restaurants totaled 44 – 18%.
31 Beauty shops, including nail salons, hairdressers, barbers and tanning salons came to 12.5%.
6% of shops were closed although some were being refurbished.
8 estate agents  comprised 3%
Charity shops numbered 7 at 2.8%
Surprisingly there were still 6 pubs open, one being a very small real ale establishment making up 2.4%.
DIY/Hardware shops and Chemists at 5 converts to 2%
Superstores, Bookies, Opticians, furniture shops and Dry-Cleaners each numbered 4 @1.6% each
Carpet shops, accountants, funeral parlours, PC repair shops, Window replacement, car-dealers, tattoo parlours, property management, tyre replacement, electrical stores and banks had totaled 3 each or 1.2%

Duplicated businesses included amongst others petrol stations, dentists, solicitors, bakers,travel agents, acupuncturists,and oddly enough vape stores and pet grooming!

The single figure premises were a mix of usual and unusual for example a sewing shop, record shop, library and petrol station rubbed shoulders with Welling United Football Club, an angling shop, a comic store, a Thai massage parlour and a gun shop!

If shop-owners were willing to participate I wanted to document the more unusual or long established independent traders. I posted or hand delivered a letter of intent to several shops along with a small questionnaire regarding their business.

Having completed some more research and approached several shop keepers I  discovered that in order to do a ‘collaborative’ piece of documentary you needed the shop keepers to collaborate, co-operate and participate! Whilst I found some willing to let me photograph their shops they did not wish to be in the photographs. Some of the more unusual  stores were not interested. I therefore had to change some of my ideas.

On looking at the Vladimir Antaki images just by looking there was no real indication of where the shops were. I liked the greater depth of field but highly suspect he used HDR, which I am not overly keen on.

With Tom Hunter there was a green and purple hue to most of the lighting in his images, not sure how he achieved the uniform look for that, apart from that it looks like ambient lighting was used. I liked the wider angles to include a lot of the shops and shots taken from straight on.

Erras also took his shots straight on but the shop fronts were the ‘stars’ as Russell also pointed out.

I really really liked the body of work by Andrew Kovalev but couldn’t, in the time I had, get enough shop keepers on board.

Going back to the drawing board I thought about previous research into Tsunami Streetwalk by Chris Steele Perkins, and work by Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, the last three all inspired by Bernd and Hilla Becher.


I liked the way all adopted a wider view point, the greater depth of field and a constant vantage point; people were absent from most and the lighting was also consistent throughout the bodies of work.

Thinking of how I could provide a ‘secondary narrative of some kind in the contemporary images’ I challenged myself to create a video!

Ideally I wanted to put together a video as per Chris Steele Perkins, the top half would show one side of the high street whilst the bottom half would show the opposite side. This would give the audience a complete feel of the area I documented and how and where the individual shops fitted in. I wanted to include text giving facts, figures and information that the owners gave to me with regards to difficulties in trading, the benefits (if any) of being in Welling High Street, and the effects of Brexit and the current economic climate. The continuous line of shops would be broken at even intervals by the interior shots taken.

For the internal shots I hoped to keep a constant view point, shot from the same (possibly a lower) perspective, use ambient lighting and a greater depth of field. Several photo-shoots later and I had enough photographs to work with, although I do have some stores to visit yet which may provide better shots for this project, but in order to complete by my deadline I am working with what I had and am awaiting feedback from Russell on the final submission.

Welling High Street even side:


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Welling High Street odd side


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Original jpegs to choose from and be edited of shop interiors etc

















Making the Video

I have never made a video, I don’t know the names of video software so in some ways this was one of my more stupid ideas and a huge learning curve/challenge, but worked for me as a concept and creatively something new to try. When I suggested the idea to Russell he stressed that videos were not easy to make… but to go for it and see what happened.

His initial advice was to watch the verticals, think of colour and possibly crop a lot of the road out. Russell also suggested looking closely at Magnum in-motion essays.

Although not a video presentation Misha Henner used a soundtrack when presenting his body of work No Man’s Land  In this work he explored (via Google images) the contemporary landscape and environments – not to mention certain activities within that environment – and used various media to present it to his audience: a slide show of stills, large billboard images, framed prints and books. I just intend to use video and stills.

My son has played a little with videos but never making a slideshow from stills. Before we did anything fancy with edits we played… at the moment this blog is free and won’t let me upload videos so I need to find a free video hosting site…have chosen Vimeo, let’s see how I get on with that…

After realising it could be done I edited some images, we stitched it together but then realised the aspect ratio was all wrong…back to the drawing board. My son went out to a party leaving me with an idiots guide and I made my first real video, I sent it to Russell without sound or text, as I wanted feedback before spending more time on it.

The first draft has a few errors, two of the images are not inline and the smaller reduced file size for uploading doesn’t run as smoothly as the large video on my PC, nor is the image quality as good…

The intention is to have some stats/info about Welling at the start, hence the initial black frames, with quotes from the various owners with regards to the difficulties they face in trading during this current economic climate. There will be 15 stand-alone images, of shop interiors, to support the video.

Taking inspiration from Chris Steele Perkins I also wanted to reveal the interiors as well as the exteriors of the buildings. Not all provided the exact wide angle shots I was after but this was due to the size of the shops and the reluctance of some to participate.

The images I am thinking of using were included in the video plus one more, in order to keep the video format uniform.


Another aim is to document Welling High Street warts and all, the closed and being refurbished; from the small port-a-cabin of Welling Football Supporters Club, to the independent traders running on  a shoestring; from businesses who have been running for over 60 years, people still working at the age of 90 to the newer trendy ventures reflecting latest trends of vaping and dessert only restaurants.

My thanks must go to Welling UnitedFootball Club, Skoops Gelato and Dessert House, Bartlett’s florist, D&D Haberdashers, Welling Cycles, E Brittle & Sons Carpets, Devils Work Tattoos, Welling Home Stores, C H Fowler & Co Ltd, The Door Hinge, No.1Ejuice, Cruisin’ Records, Bridge Garage, Alsford Timber, Avenida Restaurant, Seafoods of Welling and Krazy Horse Motorcycles. Links where available:
D & D Haberdashery Repair & Alteration- 6b, Bellegrove Rd, Welling, Kent, DA16 3PR
Welling Cycles, 69 Bellegrove Road, Welling
Welling Home Stores 118-122 Welling High Street, Welling, DA16 1TJ
Alsford  Timber
Avenida Restaurant
Seafoods of Welling
The Door Hinge
E Brittle & Sons
CH Fowler & Co Ltd
Cruisin’ Records

sound effects came from:

and I used an MP3 converter for the very first time!

If I had had the time maybe I would have been able to record my own sound…

The second incarnation of the video is here:

I have added a sound track, more images, introductory text and captions.


*Update* Russell recommended that I reflect a little on the use of stills within video – Reflect further on unique properties of medium and impact of stills into moving image.

Therefore I did a little more research:

Apparently articles with images get 94% more total views but including a photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45%…so making a video would help to market a body of work.

There are many benefits to using video in education as shown in several decades of research.

Shepard and Cooper (1982) and Mayer and Gallini (1990) joined the dots between visual clues, the memory process, and the recall of new knowledge. Allam (2006) believes that the creative challenge of using moving images and sound to communicate a topic makes it engaging and insightful. Therefore it is highly likely that people will remember more detail of the work from watching a video.

With a multimedia approach the interactive features of modern web-based media players can be used to promote ‘active viewing’ and people can consume/learn at their own pace. In a gallery setting people can sit and watch a video rather than walking around a large room with others getting in the way. A video can be displayed in a smaller area and target more people.

Many people consider film and video to be just a progression of stills a bit like a flip book, however stills can be incorporated in many different ways for different reasons and effects.

There is in fact a history of Hollywood using this technique: Snatch (Ritchie, 2000) , The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, 1966) and more recently Juno (Reitman, 2007) are films which delved into the use of stills. Stills assist with setting the mood and for introducing main characters or important plot points.

When considering the documentary genre, many documentaries would not even exist if it weren’t for stills, mainly due to the fact that still photography has been around since 1826, whereas the motion-picture camera only came about after Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 experimentation.  For example the American Civil War took place between 1861 and 1865 when there was no video or filming capability. With no-one alive from that time period the only way to produce a more visually appealing documentary would have been to include stills.

On completing more research I came across the phrase ‘the Ken Burns effect’.  Ken Burns names his inspiration as the 1957 National Film Board of Canada documentary City of Gold (Colin Low and Wolf Koenig). In fact he did make a documentary about the American Civil War, which apparently won ‘over 40 major motion picture and television awards, including two Emmies, two Grammies, the Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild of America, the People’s Choice Award and the Peabody Award, to name just a few.’

‘The Ken Burns effect’ is a slow pan or zoom added to a still photo to direct the viewer’s eye and make the content less static and more interesting. Had I more time I may have added this effect but would have had to completely alter the way the video was presented.

The Civil War (1990) is a nine-part series comprised almost entirely of still photos with voiceover. Burns used the rostrum camera to pan across or zoom into or out of thousands of still photos. Other films of note from this prince of PBS documentaries are the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge (1982) and The Statue of Liberty (1986), as well as his Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001) and The War (2007) docs.

Technology helps us embrace these new  or old ideas – the sixth-generation iPod, MP3’s incorporate the “Ken Burns Effect” by animating album art in its video interface.

Stills can also be used to incorporate more recent history into a narrative when a film or video camera was not present at the time. A personal example for me would be my children’s first birthday parties, or my mother’s wedding day.

There are many other techniques that can be used to present stills some can be found on Coffee and Celluloid

For me the inclusion of certain images helped to illustrate important points for example the transience of businesses, vendors and customers, pertinent architectural differences, historical links to the community and the quirky individual characteristics of places as well and the ‘sameness’ of other High Streets.