My first impressions on reading the Square Mile brief left me with a mixture of feelings between panic and excitement. The first thing I realised is that Blandford doesn’t feel like home and thinking about the assignment made clear to me how strong that feeling was. I had no desire to explore it as suggested in the text.
I moved straight on to thoughts of returning to London and recreating images of my childhood. That idea was later reinforced when I looked at the work of Li Ma, an OCA student whose visit to her childhood school in China was featured on the OCA blog. However, over time that idea became less appealing as I had a strong sense of wanting to move on.
I thought about my house and the places I frequent during the week, and I did consider using these. However, after my tutorial I thought more about feelings of being disconnected from Blandford, why that might be and how I might represent it, so – as suggested – I began working with the idea of showing what Dorset feels like to me.
At first I created images that I realised were merely evidence of my feelings: the sense of having ceased to care for my environment – peeling paint, overgrown gardens. Then I tried to describe things I don’t like about the town but it wasn’t working.
I had a lot of ideas for images I wanted to capture that I sketched out, but I just couldn’t take images that felt authentic. However, I was taking a lot of images through car windows while travelling and also of various types of threshold. I don’t think I realised their significance until I looked at ‘Journey’s By Train’ by Gawain Barnard. I still can’t explain to my satisfaction why my images suddenly made sense at that point, but I think it was the feeling of someone looking at an area without attempting to be part of it.
I have a feeling of being different – of sticking out in a culture and set of values that feel alien to me. This idea of not fitting in is one I would like to explore in the future and I am developing an idea of images I would like to produce.
The images I finally chose weren’t the best in terms of technique or composition, but they show what Dorset feels like to me. When I thought about the order I also realised they show how my feelings have developed over time.
I moved here from London full of hope, moving from an urban environment to a more natural one. Gradually the way Dorset is usually presented started to break down as I got to know it better and saw some of its darker side.
Trying to pinpoint certain moments I’ve felt most disconnected, Brexit stands out as a point where suspicions I’d had crystallised into a new certainty that for a lot of people anyone different is not really welcome here. Finding graffiti here with the Magen David and swastika side by side wasn’t as surprising as it would have been a few years ago. In one way it doesn’t fit – it’s not an image seen through something else – but it feels important in the set. I’m Jewish – my family are the only Jewish people here. That makes it directly relevant to me. It feels personal, and it’s acting as an anchor for everything else.
I wanted show that the countryside I see is not for me, I’m not allowed to be a part of it. Last year I spent three months living in Manhattan and so mentally I moved on, then I had to come back. Because of that, the old railway arches in image 5 really struck a chord with me as essentially they are a bridge to nowhere; they also remind me of Brexit – of a town that wants to be cut off. I would like to retake this image because of the cloud in the top left corner.
The last image could be anywhere, and I think that’s important – it’s reminiscent of childhood days desperate to be outside having fun but stuck indoors because it’s raining. My experience of living here is waiting. It’s not a place I belong to.
I’ve concentrated on trying to change the way I think about taking images and haven’t worried too much about the technical aspects of my photography for this assignment; most of the final images were taken with my iPhone. When using my camera I set it to auto. I also used a Lomo’ Instant Wide and I really liked the unpredictable nature of it – for some reason it felt like a small act of rebellion against domineering conformity to have some physical prints with uncertain outcomes as a part of this, even though they aren’t part of the final set.