Landscape A5 Self Directed Project
Click on the image above for a larger view of the typology click on the images below for a larger view of the individual images
I set out to create a typology of Fast Food restaurants that in some way, inspires the viewer to consider the idea that American culture is changing the landscape in England forever. I am happy with the results given the time pressure caused by my extension.
Given more time I would have liked to shoot these images between 2 am, and 3 am to get the night time colour grade naturally and the glowing lights of the restaurants, this would also remove most of the cars and people giving some cleaner images.
You may ask why I did not do this, and the answer is simple the weather has been terrible in the small window I had to finish this project there was not a night that was free from rain the images I did get were shot in a few rare windows between the rain.
As you can see above from the three versions I created, I have selected the Black and White set, I have gone for this one based on the failings of the other two and the strengths of this one. The natural colour series seems to be out of balance as two of the images were shot in the dusk and have a blue cast the colour graded set don’t feel quite natural to me and I am slightly uncomfortable with them. In contrast, the black and white set seem to pop out of the paper at me an effect that is even more pronounced in hard copy.
The inclusion of black and white is somewhat in keeping with the Beechers and Ed Ruscha and the work of many of the renowned typologists. My series felt a lot like the twenty-six gasoline stations of Ed Ruscha and even his series 34 parking lots he took from a helicopter, I watched an interview with him https://youtu.be/0xboX5cvIzw on youtube and his practice felt a lot like my own, he describes taking the images head-on with no emotion a phrase that resonates with my work on this series.
The shooting of these images was a strange experience I have been doing a lot of commercial drone photography lately and I have experienced a lot of negativity toward the drone and my right to be there taking pictures, so when I set out to do these images I half expected to be challenged, however, the only interaction was a waiter in Costa drooling over my camera, people it seems are much more trusting of big DSLR’s.
In conclusion, I am happy with the black and white set and given more time would love to produce a collection of images in black and white in book form very similar to twenty-six gasoline stations. I do feel that the pressure of completing a degree does sometimes not allow us to take our practice to its conclusion, but maybe that is something to tackle beyond my degree, for now, I am happy that I have fulfilled the assignment.
Fast Food is a body of work exploring how American pop culture and the fashion for the strip mall is infiltrating the English way of life and terraforming our countryside to look like a slice of American Pie.
Arguably there has been fast food in England since the middle ages where most big cites had cookhouses or pie shops. The humble Sandwich has been part of our shores since it’s invention by the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in 1762. In the nineteenth century, we adopted a fast food craze that has become synonymous with Britain; Fish and Chips. As a country with a coastline that circles the entire island, there was always the ability to catch fish and the culinary delight was a favourite even in the war when many things were on ration
However, in 1974 a more drastic change took place with the opening of the first McDonalds restaurant. These and similar fast food outlets have spread across the face of the country like a cancer, to a point where they are just about everywhere.
Moreover, the change has bought with it an architectural shift towards the design of an American Strip Mall so that every corner of our country is being developed to resemble this American architectural tradition. As consumers, we devour this tradition as we are fed fast food and movies like American Grafitti and Grease and many more that are slowly reprogramming us to accept the terraforming of our once proud nation.
This series of images was taken as a typological exploration of the state of this change which now looks irreversible and is based on work on typology by photographers like the Beechers, Ed Rusha, Fabrice Fouillet and Rachel Barrett. Like these renowned artists, I attempted to make a typology that allows the viewer to study the effects fast food has had on the landscape.
When I had all 12 images selected It occurred to me that some were taken later in the day than others a necessary evil to get round all the locations in the time available. On the first shoot, I started much later in the day and the last few were taken in the dusky blue light at around 5 pm.
It occurred to me that it might be possible to colour grade all of the images to look like they were taken at the same time of day. I sampled the colour from one of the later images and used that value to add a colour grading layer to all of the other images. I then messed about with a brightness layer and a levels layer to manipulate the shadows and to add a glow to the windows and signage.
On completing the two sets I printed them out and it occured to me to try them in black and white which is also presented here.
The following are the original non-colour graded images:
After applying the edits described, these were the colour graded results:
And here are the Black and White results:
Edititing down to Twelve Images
Once I had the initial twenty-three images selected it was time to rank them and make a smaller selection of twelve images. I used my corkboard and printed all of the twenty-three first selection images and moved them around to make a selection of 12 images. I graded each of the remaining images and ended up with three reserves that did not seem to work as well and eight alternatives that did not really fit the aesthetic of the edit.
Picking the Initial Candidates
I did three shoots in total to get the images in my contact sheets, some were out of focus or badly taken so the first job was to edit down from 405 images to a more workable number. I knew I wanted to end up with around twelve images but for now, I chose one image from each location, giving me an initial twenty-three images to work with.
The following are the results of that initial edit.
Shoot 1 – Contact Sheets
Shoot 2 – Contact Sheets
Shoot 3 – Contact Sheets
After what seems like a long time the weather gave me the window I was looking for to shoot the images for A5 finally. I made a long list of places and divided the work up into three trips.
My first trip took me to Aldershot Fleet and Farnborough where I mostly handheld the camera, which got a little shaky as the sun went down, the weather held up, and I got most of the locations done.
The next several days the weather turned bad again and I was not happy with all of the images in the can so far so when the weather broke again I jumped in the truck and headed to Basingstoke where there is a gold mine of fast-food restaurants.
I had planned for that to be the end of shooting but circumstance gave me another day shooting and a new honey pot of locations. I went t Woking to pick up the mobility Scooter so that I can reshoot A3 and in the process realised that the sculpture park was not open so a quick replan sent me to Reading for the third A5 shoot and left me planning the sculpture park for the next day.
I managed to get an excellent series of locations in Reading and came home with more images than I need for A5 giving me the luxury of a severe edit and the ability to discard any that don’t quite work.
I have completed the first edit and have a set of twelve prefered images, three reserves and eight spares not to mention a load that did not make the grade.
I am wondering if I should colour grade them all so that they all fit more neatly.
I am starting to tear my hair out as the weather is really atrocious. It is raining every day the only window this week is on the day of my daughter’s masters graduation so that won’t work. I have wanted to take images at night or in the early hours to lose the people and get the effects of the lights but this is proving to be impossible to execute.
I am off out now in a small weather window to get some more shots, but this is really pushing against the deadline.
Rachel Barret started documenting the news stands in Manhatten in 2006 little did she know that they would all disapear due to a licensing problem
From his web site:
Fabrice Fouillet lives in Paris and works in France and abroad. After university education (Sociology and Ethnology), he studied Photography at The Gobelins School in Paris. Since 2004, he has been collaborating with advertising agencies and magazines in the areas of Architecture ans Still Life. His personal research aims to explore the notion of identity and the close relationship of men with their environment. He participated in group exhibitions and international photography festivals. In 2013, his series on new places of worship, “Corpus Christi”, won the Sony Awards in the category « Architecture ».
Fabrice Fouillet has created several what his website calls series, these fall into the category of typology and are exciting examples of the genera
In this series Fouillet sets out to document modern church design, his images are carefully constructed to place the alter straight on and at the bottom of the image to symbolise the link between God and the church. He has taken all of the pictures so that the height of the church dwarfs the alter which also seems symbolic of the power of God. These images remind me of the David Power book Mass that I bought and read in my first module where Power had taken pictures of the mass in churches in Poland and accompanied each with a picture of the offertory slot.
Each of Fouillet’s images is different, but all of them seem similar in the way that the best typologies do.
On a trip to Keiv to photograph a monument Fouillet was drawn to the barricades that had been set up, he arrived on the day after the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukrainian revolution of 2014.
This series demonstrated to me that it is possible to use all sorts of landscape features to create a typography. These hastily made walls may look like piles of rubbish, but they define the nature of the conflict that has just occurred and as features of the landscape even though temporary they also define the political landscape of that moment as the Ukrainians fought to get a treaty signed with Europe to the displeasure of the Russians.
Fouillet was intrigued by man’s need to build colossal statues to preserve the memory of an event, a person or a piece of culture.
He admits that while the hugeness of these structures is appealing the thing that intrigued him was the human need to build them. This lead him to the idea of how the landscape could accommodate these edifices.
This piece of work fascinates me as Fouillet is exploring the landscape and how it accommodates such massive structures, this is similar reasoning to my thinking about the effect of fast food outlets on our landscape.
As I am looking at Fouillets work he is starting to resonate with me as many similar threads drive his work to the reasoning behind my assignment which hopefully lends legitimacy to my thinking on assignment 5
This work shot in Hong Kong was conceived because of the shortage of space available to the architects. It is a dense city where the only option was to start building up since there is a high demand for habitation it has led to some very packed architecture where all the homes malls parking lots etc. are all crammed together.
This work again looks at the effect of human development on the landscape and adds more fuel to the debate over my A5 assignment.
Eurasism is a study of the new capital city of Kazakhstan. The city of Astana is a symbol of the fresh start the country has after the decline of the Soviet Union. The old capital Almaty has now lost its status as a capital.
This series while powerful does not work so well for me looking at influences for my assignment, it is more of a documentary style of work and is not a typology. It is, however, useful to look at this work when considering my own as this shows me how my series could not work together if the subjects are too diverse and do not appear to have a strong connection with each other.
The thing I have learned from looking at the work of Fouillet and especially this series is that a typology must have a visual similarity that connects all of the images like the water towers, but each image must also have elements that separate it from the others in the series. For instance each of the water towers in the Becher’s work is a different shape they are all obviously water towers, and they share a similar configuration. The frame house series by the Becher’s highlights my point more acutely as each one looks like a repeat of the others and it is only by close examination that it becomes apparent that each house has a slightly different configuration of beams I always have liked this image as it highlights the practice of typology.
If I want my series to be successful I need to shoot different restaurants but they need to hang together as obviously from the same family or type so that the viewer associates them together.
Twentysix Gasoline Stations
Edward Ruscha was born in Nebraska in 1937. He was a commercial artist trained at the Chouinard Art Institute. He worked as a graphic artist in an advertising agency.
Twentysix Gasoline Stations documents the landscape between Los Angeles and Oklahoma along Route 66 by capturing Twentysix Gasoline stations and presenting them as a book. The book is rather rare now and costs between £477 and £3200 needless to say I have not purchased a copy, however, you can view the entire book online on the Tate website:
Edward Ruscha’s work is a typology of Gas stations along Route 66 it is a similar concept to my idea for assignment 5. His work on Gas stations got me thinking about all the different types of buildings in this country and trying to link them by type. I thought about office blocks and tower blocks etc, the concept of commercial premises like the Gas stations seems like a good idea. This leads me neatly to the Fast food restaurants and linking it as described previously to the slow Americanisation of our landscape.
The change to an American strip mall design mentality is in keeping with modern pop culture and a desire for all things American that can be seen all over the world from the Chinese appetite for Blue Jeans to the Russian craving for American Hamburgers. However, it flys in the face of the idea of all things quintessentially English like tea on the lawn, long walks in the countryside, the hedgerow, and rolling hills and dales. It seems that the onset of fast food is changing more than our diet and unhealthy lifestyle it is also fundamentally terraforming England into New Pennsylvania.
Thirty Four Parking Lots
Edward Ruschers next work is entitled thirty-four parking lots, he took to the sky with a friend and a pilot in a helicopter and was struck by the number of parking lots he saw. In one day they flew over and shot all thirty-four parking lots for this book.
One thing I don’t understand is the way he inconsistently leaves blank pages and often puts two images on a double spread then does not use the back of the next page giving the book a bit of a feel of an old photo album where some of the photographs have fallen out. Unable to question him about this, I suppose I will never have an answer.
Thirty-four parking lots is a work that has a lot of synergy with me, taken from a helicopter it is in some ways similar to the drone photography that I do commercially, though it would take a lot of planning and permissions to take images of 34 carparks with modern drone laws in place.
Nine Swimming Pools
The last of Edward Ruschea’s photo books was called nine swimming pools and featured – you guessed it nine swimming pools, this book was however, in colour unlike his other two books.
Bernd and Hilla Becher
I suppose the water towers by Bernd and Hilla Becher is one of the most Iconic Typologies and is probably the image that comes to mind when discussing Typology as a photographic practice, I have written previously about this topic in almost all of my previous modules it is one of those topics that keeps surfacing and I have to admit to a certain facination for it.
Landscape is another genera of photography that can make use of the principles of typology to create a body of work, it therefore seems that it would be an appropriate way for me to conclude this module by creating a typology based on the practice of landscape photography. To that end I am looking at expanding the idea of the strip mall and the drive thru resturant as a subject for A5
The Strip Mall
I was looking for a better subject for my landscape typology. I was doing the usual brainstorm for ideas thinking of everything that is similar but different and would make a good subject for my typology.
I thought about architecture and was scouting around looking for similar building types like tall office blocks flats similar housing types and nothing was sticking.
I thought about our local McDonalds drive through that has just been built, and that got me thinking. There has been a massive increase in the number of these establishments. Lately, they seem to keep building new ones on top of each other, the Mcdonalds at the end of North Lane has just been built right next door to the brand new KFC.
The following table from the article shows the state of play in 1985
The following link is to a guardian article showing the state of play in October 2017 it states that there are 56,638 fast food shops in England
The heat map supplied by the Guardian for 2017 shows the following statistics about Rushmoor where I live:
In Rushmoor, there are 1.14 takeaways per 1,000 residents.
That’s slightly more than in the average local authority. There’s a total of 107 takeaways in the area.
The number of takeaways in the area has increased by 10% within the last three years.
With all this competition the players have to work harder to beat their rivals none of this is good for our countryside as we are washed away in a sea of takeaway strip malls. The latest twist is that all of these drive thru’s now having to sell their food via online services like JustEat and Deliveroo as the wave of popular demand is looking not even to leave their own homes to get their take away.
I had several ideas for my final assignment I thought about looking at traditional landscape photography fro the view of someone who is not as able-bodied as the typical hiking landscape photographer. I considered the possibility of hiring a mobility scooter and testing out the viability of getting to some of the places a respectable landscape photographer would want to shoot.
If I am honest, there was not the time for this, and I have a very tight timeline to finish this module and needed a topic that would work for me accessibly and allow me to work hard on producing the best result.
Typology – Cell Phone Towers
I have always been interested in typology since I started my degree, so I thought that a typological study might be the way to go for this assignment. I found a lot of information and some handy sites for locating cell phone towers.
I pitched the idea to Russell my tutor and got a lukewarm response. He was worried about the shape of the towers and their ability to fill the frame and still work like the Beechers water towers. Russell did have the idea that I could take a more landscape image that showed the towers as a part of a landscape, but it would be a tough assignment.
Research into cell phone towers near me revealed that this was going to be one of the singularly most boring set of images I have ever produced. Almost all of the towers nearby are now straight posts that look like lampposts with the interesting bit on the top removed.
This discovery has taken me back to square one needing a new idea.