People & The Environment – First Thoughts

When the concept of the first course project was revealed to the class,  I was quietly relieved that I would be focusing on the concept of people and their environs or how people affect their locations. This is because I already had some  particular locations in mind.

Back in September, I had the opportunity to take part in a secret art sale on behalf of the Environment Trust for Richmond. The trust’s mission is to “promote and support community involvement in and responsibility for the environment within the London Borough of Richmond.”

As part of their remit, The Environment Trust also is responsible for the care and maintenance of buildings and sites of historical merit or community interest. When I visited the trust’s offices to discuss the secret art sale, I was told about some of the buildings and sites which they look after. These include the Kilmorey Mausoleum, Burton’s Mausoleum and the Vineyard Passage Burial Ground. I also discussed the possibility of capturing these places as part of a future project.

It may seem a bit grisly & ghoulish, but I find these places to be quite beautiful and peaceful. Places of contemplation and quiet. Also, they’re teaming with life – both plant and animal.

I already have know that I’m drawn to cemeteries and other final monuments within the environment. During my NCFE Level 2 Photography course, one project focused on the cemetery of a local church. I found details that I hadn’t spotted before despite walking through the area many times. It was by slowing down and making the close observations that I came to my final set of images.

One main aspect I find with my photography is that I have to feel comfortable & at peace in order to be focused. Also, the location is important – close to home & easily accessible enabling me to make repeat visits to a place so I can study it fully. As a single mother who’s in the process of starting her own business, this is essential.

Another aspect is how I see things & process images. What brought this home was when Zig showed images from various well-known war photographers during today’s class. I found it quite distressing to look at them. I know that, as I have a very strong visual memory, what I see stays with me. Ok, I have found that it can be frustratingly selective, but if it does imprint, when I recall an image, it brings up the initial emotions. Which is why I would rather bring out the beauty in things & pick out the details people don’t normally see.

I had already visited one of the locations, the Kilmorey Mausoleum, during September. The location was part of the Open House Weekend, when people get the opportunity to visit places of interest not normally open to the public on a regular basis.

The Environment Trust describes this hidden gem as:

“This Grade II* listed Mausoleum built in the early 1850s is set in about a third of an acre of land in Twickenham.  It was commissioned by Francis Needham, the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey for his mistress Priscilla Anne Hoste.  The designer Henry Kendall chose an Egyptian-style constructed in pink and grey granite at the cost of £30,000 which was a huge sum at the time.  The granite is covered in Egyptian symbols and skylight stars in the ceiling allow the sun to illuminate the interior.  The large marble bas-relief carved by Lawrence MacDonald is located on the interior wall and depicts Priscilla on her death bed with the Earl at her feet and son Charles by her side.  The enclosure wall and cast iron railings have just been renovated and look wonderful. A key element of the site’s appeal is the wildlife garden that was created by Trust volunteers.”

These are some of the photos taken on the day using aperture priority with the 50mm lens on auto focus:

After today’s class, I visited Vineyard Passage for the first time. Again, I took these on aperture priority with the 50mm lens on auto focus. Nestled between two buildings, it was nice to explore a place. Can’t believe I had passed many times without being aware of its existence.

So, that’s my starting point. These shots weren’t particularly great, but it gave me a better idea of what could be achieved using the 50mm lens. You have to think a bit harder about the shots themselves & where you position yourself to take them. Plus, you need to be aware of what’s around you & take a look before stepping back to get the composition correct. All part of the learning process. As they say, the longest journey commences with just one step…

Criteria Ref: P1, P2, P4, P5

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