Exercise 2.2 Explore a road
- Whether you live in an isolated village or a city centre, roads are something we all have in common. Make a short series of photographs about a road near where you live. You may choose to photograph the street you live or work on, or another nearby. How you choose to approach this task is your decision, but use this exercise to develop the observational skills that will be challenged in Assignment Two. The objective is to try to think about something that is familiar to you in a different way. You don’t need to make any preparations for this exercise. Work intuitively, and try not to labour the exercise. Compile a digital contact sheet from your shoot and evaluate your work, identifying images of particular interest – to you or, potentially, to a wider audience.
I learnt from my research on “road photography” that once again observation is key. Focusing on the familiar can enable viewers to see things in a different light and that beauty can be found in overlooked subjects. I chose to photograph the road outside of my house, a sort stretch; however for a fresh look I walked it, whereas I would normally drive or run on it. This meant that my gaze would be slower but I set out as instructed with no plan. As I walked I instinctively focused on things that I didn’t normally observe at speed, mainly the manhole and drainage covers! So I stuck with this theme as I walked and the contact sheet are the images I selected.
This first sheet are the images that I would use; I would present them as Typologies in a grid for comparison, they were photographed devoid of any social, cultural, political or historical context, so I think this would work well:
These are the images that I’d not use:
2. Watch one of the films mentioned in this section or any other ‘road movie’ of your choice. Write a short review (around 500 words), focusing on how the road features within the film’s narrative.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
This is an American road movie about 2 friends who embark on a trip for fun, a journey of liberation, that develops into an on the run situation.
The road features highly in the movie beyond a vehicle to get the characters from A to B. The narrative is played on either on the road or in roadside cafes/motels. Many of the motifs that photographers have shown in their images figure strongly: gas stations, roadside stores, road signs, and motels.
The road is the symbol of liberation at the beginning of the story, a way to escape, explore and adventure. When the narrative is away from the road it usually signals a change of pace in the narrative. I see the car as a mirror for the progress of the characters; for instance when they are out of control the car is out of control, when they are determined the car is shown being driven purposefully. The angles used to shoot the car and the road are dictated by the narrative; At times the road is seen through the windscreen looking at the road behind them, for instance when they are putting their troubles behind them. When urgency needs to be signaled the camera shots are from the side of the car showing the scenery passing at speed at the other side of the car.
The road is ultimately used as a tool for transformation, and the end of the narrative is firmly indicated by them driving off of the road at the end of the movie – it is “the end of the road” for them.