3. Blog

Initial thoughts

[20Dec20] In September, while considering all the assignments and just before I started the Melting Pot page, I wrote,

I’m not in any local groups, so it’s the window. I have often thought of offering my services to one or more tattoo parlours – that resembles a community.

Blog, 25 Sep

The only group I really had contact with pre-Covid was workers in a Swanscombe food bank where I advised their clients on debt and benefits once a week or so. My advice group has not worked since April and I’m not sure when we’ll start again, or where, so that’s out.
I thought of tattoo parlours when scoping Asg.1, but kept it back for Asg.3 and yesterday London went into Covid Tier 4, so they are all closed for the foreseeable.
While I’m working on the clergy for Asg.2, I thought one of the congregations might include a choir I could Window on but that is now on hold for Covid.
Yesterday, I was reading about Hans Eijkelboom in Part 3 and encountered his Street Fusion: Bristol project that included a group of people with dogs and I thought of switching to local dogwalkers – there are plenty of them, some will consent, they don’t fully meet the assignment specification, but they are a definable group with a common interest and that will have to suffice.

I started today on the way back from the shops with only my iPhone to hand. One request, one positive outcome.

Unlikely to make the final cut because it won’t sensibly crop to 6×7, but at least a start has been made. Count 1.


3rd January 2021 – Batch 2

[3Jan21] Gradual progress since the first subject on impulse. It is not easy to get a decent photograph. I can encounter quite a few dog walkers relatively eaily, but:
1. As an man of age, I will not ask single women or groups of children, especially in the less populated locations;
2. It does not work with dogs off the lead, they are busy elsewhere;
3. They have do be walking towards me and not too quickly and not distracted by, say, a conversation with others;
4. Some just assume that I am saying “what a nice dog”, as they say yes and walk on; 5. Not many of the remainder refuse, just Anon on 26th December who insisted, “don’t photograph me”;
6. Dogs are not good at posing and their owners are nearly always looking at the dogs.

Nevertheless, I’m aiming to get 100.

[Later that day] I should remember that, despite what I’m telling the subjects (“dogs and their owners”), I am actually targetting dogs and their owners. Suddenly I feel a lot better.
Count 8, 1 anon.


11th January – Batch 3

10 Jan – 1 request, 1 refusal.

11Jan – Jessie plus 2; Dan and Helen; Millie and Gary. No refusals. Count 11, 1 anon.


Batches 4 and 5

[17Jan] It rained for nearly a week and the only photographs produced for the series was a few distant views to start a new subset which I have named Unmet, subjects with dogs from a distance and no opportunity to converse. Today was pleasant but the paths muddy and the count has risen, but I took more Unmets too, because there are some interesting configurations of subjects in the distance which I have no chance of catching up with. I do not always get the walkers names: when they refuse to say, I call that ‘Anon’, otherwise (in a rush or whatever) it’s eg Rover ‘plus 2’.

After writing the above I took a first cut of the images and will mention a new designation. One of the problems in the park is that the dogs are off their leads, excitedly active and unwilling to pose with their ‘owners’. There are a few now suffixed ‘sans’.

And an update on my patter. It usually runs,
‘Do you mind if I photograph your dog?’
then, if affirmative, do it
then ‘what’s its name?’
and, if they seem co-operative,
‘and yours?’.
If they ask what it’s for,
‘I’m trying to photograph 100 dogs’
and if they ask whether it’s for SE9, a local freepaper, I explain that it’s for a photo-degree, it’s portraits this year and difficult to find subjects with Covid.
If they are seated, the conversation may continue to dogs, dogs’ names (one of the owners in fig D8 today had a theory about dog owners who choose ‘human’ names as opposed to Fido, Spot etc.), or the course or occasionally cameras. If the dog is in motion, then there is not time for such things.

No refusals today, or indeed since 10th Jan.
The Count is 20 with 1 anon, 1 sans and 8 unmet.


21st-22nd January, Batch 6

[22Jan] A new park where the pace seems slower, the walkers better separated and the opportunities more apparent.

These are all shown full frame. The variation in formats arises from using two cameras.
No refusals, the Count is 31 with 1 anon, 1 sans and 18 unmet, total 53.


23rd January, Batch 7

[23Jan] Mika & Dexter, Bosco (anon) Bart, Pearl, Becca, Lexi & Lola, Blaze.

No refusals on the day, the Count is 36 with 2 anon, 1 sans and 21 unmet, total 60.

No refusals, the Count is 37 with 2 anon, 1 sans and 21 unmet, total 59.


26th January, Batch 8

[26Jan] Person-eye-contact for once this morning, if not the dog, and then a couple who I have seen before but did not ask at the time as they seemed preoccupied.

Kim, the first subject suggested that I should send the snaps to SE9, our local freepaper. That’s not the first time this has been mentioned and so I emailed them today.

No refusals, the Count is 40 with 2 anon, 1 sans and 21 unmet, total 62.


2nd February, Batch 9

[2Feb] 1 refusal, the Count is 52 with 3 anon, 1 sans and 24 unmet, total 80.

to 17th February, Batch 10

[17Feb] No refusals, the Count is 60 with 3 anon, 1 sans and 25 unmet, total 89.


to 8th March, Batch 11

[8Mar] No refusals, the Count is 67 with 3 anon, 1 sans and 26 unmet, total 97 with 2 refusals b/f.


to 14th March, Batch 12

[15Mar] 1 refusal, fig. K3 All three refusals have been from middle-aged men.

The Count is 74 with 3 anon, 2 sans and 29 unmet, total 108 with 3 refusals. Two repeats so far – Frankie and Louisa (previously on 21st January, one of my favouries) and then Dan and Helen on 11th Jan and 2nd Feb.


Date, Batch 13

[30Mar] A couple of new experiences here. Fig. L2, the owner emerged from her terraced house and seemed minded to co-operate, but was soon followed by her partner who hurried the, off. Fig. L6 was proceeding as usual until I asked ‘what are their names?’ then the nearest walker changed his attitude and became reluctant. I sought to clarify that I was asking the dogs’ names, not the walkers, but that made no difference.

The Count is 79 with 5 anon (including the two mentioned above), 2 sans and 32 unmet, total 118 with 3 refusals. One new repeat, Spot and Jane, previously on 1st January, bringing the total to 3.


Date, Batch 14

[2Apr] Lockdown restrictions have begun to lift and so we took are first ‘trip’ (of sorts), on the bus to Greenwich Park. They were ‘all shot at a +3 adjustment so the originals are rather dark. The images have been recovered from the Raw versions without much trouble’ and there are some which could well make the final cut.

One refusal today. I didn’t ask any walkers’ names.

The Count is 89 with 5 anon, 2 sans and 32 unmet, total 128 with 4 refusals. 3 repeats.


24th April, Batch 15

[24Apr] The highlight of the exercise so far, on 13th April, a pair of beagles called … [wait for it] … Benson & Hedges (fig. N9). Benson was named after his father and Benson’s sister was named ‘Hedges’ by the walker’s daughter in the car on the way home from picking up the puppies. Irony is not dead.

Gilbert, the first image of the batch (fig. N1), was extracted as a frame from the time lapse made for Exercise 4.5.

Following on from my comment on the previous batch, I think I have given up on the wish to ask the people heir names. Whichever 10 images make the final selection, I plan to title them with the dogs’ names only and present them in alphabetical order thereof. If there is ever an extended chat, we might exchange names, but it will not be an aim — in most cases it is a passing moment, and so there is not the time check anything but the dog’s name.

There are two unusually good Unmets in this batch, N11 and N18

One refusal on 20th April.

The Count is 🍾 100 with 5 anon, 2 sans and 40 unmet, total 147 with 5 refusals. 3 repeats.
There are just over 50 in the favourites section (Box O), including a few unmets.


7th May, Selection

As stated in the introductory text on the [draft] Submission page, the brief does not specify how many images to submit. There are several criteria that could be applied. On 15th March I wrote,

I am giving some thought to how I’ll select the submission. I decide how many, but let us suppose 10.
1. all those with names of both dogs and owners, then sift
1a. sift for dogs looking at the camera
2. the best 10 with dogs’ names
3. 10 with Mrs. B in the background
4. 10 with the owner pointing at the camera
5. choose the best of the unmets too, although they will probably not make the cut.

Also on the Submission page at this time are thumbnails of 1. the dogs with names, 2. The Unmets, 3. my favourites – they may not all be in the final version of that page. Here are my favourites —


Mrs. B.

Yesterday I selected nine that have my partner in the background. Nine fit nicely on a page, and so I will aim for nines in any shortlists I run.


Dogs looking

Including Pearl (fig. Q3) with her single eye.


Best Names

These are, in order of encounter, Hurlock, Bosca, Dexter, Thor, Fizz, Elvis, Pippa & Peanut (Cousins), Trevor, Gilbert
and the last and greatest of them all, a pair of Beagles ironically named Benson & Hedges (siblings) — another pedestrian who passed by while we chatted burst into laughter with me.


Best Walkers

These will, presumably, figure heavily in the submission group, as the walkers are the ostensible subject and purpose of the assignment.

As with nearly all selections of this type, it is largely subjective, but most are looking at the camera and there is some expression of character in the image. The principal exception if fig. S7, an Unmet sans dog, where I find the stride expressive — this was photographed into the sun and so post processing is needed before a decision is reached.


Final Selection

I am writing this after selecting the Mrs. B. images, but before running any of the other lists. I assume that the final selection will be mostly the Best Walkers, while ensuring that there is a range of interest and variation. I will then reprocess from Raw for a final check.

[The next day, May 8th] I plan on choosing a dozen to process from Raw. The assignment brief warns against being ” too close to some of your favourite pictures”. I have some of those, P1, P9, Q1-3, Q9, R4, R9, S1-3, S5-9. That’s 16 already. I’ll process those and see whether there is enough variation. (Pearl was listed twice so that’s 15.)

[9May]Fig. O8 did not make it into any of these categories, but it is in the final selection, bringing the total back to 16.

If I’m still aiming for 10 in the final submission, the first pass for the strongest images (that is the ones I think to be so intuitively-æsthetically, while trying to ignore my memories of and attachment to the people and dogs involved):,

T1 – one of the first and something of a benchmark for what followed:
T2 – the walker is good, the dog not;
T3 – a natural, relaxed stance from both dog and walker;
T4, T8, T10 and T12 are rather similar and there should probably be no more than two of these in the final cut;
T5 and T6 – both stand out from the rest (re my comments above, I found a bit of the dog in the fuller Raw image) but I’m not sure whether they should both be in. Perhaps I could use them as ‘bookends’ or maybe reverse one;
T7 – I find one-eyed Pearl and her secretive walker hard to resist, but that’s playing favourite memories;
T9 – is the only walker I recall ‘striking a pose’ (a little like Susie from the Red Cross in Asg.1);
T11 – one of the most striking compositions due to the length of the lead and also the attitudes of both dog and walker;
T13 – a unique pose in the whole set with eye contact from both parties;
T14 – identical comments to T13 with the added interest of canine action in the background;
T15 – it is unlikely that I will drop Benson Hedges, firstly because I love the names but also because the walker is the only one noticeably carrying a bag of dog fæces, a vital accessory of dog-walking;
T16 – this was a rather unexpected inclusion, one of the last images and an unmet. The dog, the walker and also the girl queueing for the unseen ATM, all of whom seem to have noticed the camera. I was experimenting with a long lens that day and the images might benefit from reprocessing if I use it.

Mrs. B. in the background never was an important criterion, but I’d be loathe to lose them all.

Inexplicably, having gone through all the batches to check the names, I have realised I left out two more worth consideration. They are shown below figs. U1 and U2, together with a possible gathering for submission, acting on the comments above, fig. U3.


I&P Asg 1 References

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place [I&P]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.