Photography/Geography Collaboration Day

The module offered us the chance to take part in a collaborative day with geography students, in which we undertook several activities in order to create a final document. The day was based around ideas of Migration and the diversity of different groups within Cheltenham.

The primary objective of the day was to produce a ‘Neighbourhood Study’. This involved us using the techniques from above to help construct our neighbourhood study, whilst grouping up with geography students in order to create a multidisciplinary research group (part of the collaborative aspect of the day.) We then had to decide on a location for the study and then collect data in the field from our chosen locations and then produce a mini neighbourhood study based on a blend of images and text.

The day was split into several parts and ran from the morning till the afternoon. In the morning sessions we were split into our main groups – photography and geography. Photography students went and learnt about some geography techniques and the geographers went and learnt more about photography.

As I was in the group learning about geography, this was a chance for us to understand a little more about different methods of collecting data. Geographers collect data sources in numbers different ways. The ways we were looking at would help us cover the themes of mobility / migration and a sense of place. There were 8 different options in which we could collect information:

  1. Photography (this was key as it was part of the reason we were collaborating.)
  2. Creative writing
  3. Ethnography (observing / reflecting and note taking)
  4. Interviews
  5. Land-use mapping
  6. Business survey
  7. Public survey
  8. Statistics
  9. Local information (papers, leaflets, property prices, web-site, reports, etc.)

 

During the session these different methods were explained to us and shown how they might work in terms of a neighbourhood study. Photography was a given as this was what we’d be using as one of our methods as it is understood that it isn’t often used in geography as a means of incorporation into studies.

Creative writing involved us looking at a couple of examples within the paper pack we were given. One of the texts was written by John Steinbeck and was an extract from ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ written in 1939. The text captured the dust-bowl migration of 1930’s America and reading through it was an interesting interpretation of how migration can be presented in a creative visual manner. The language used is quite vivid in terms of imagery and allows the reader to actually visualise what they are reading in their head. We discussed how it gave us a representative truth but written as fiction which was a very well put forward point because although it may not be 100% factually accurate, we can still imagine it through the representation we are provided with.

Ethnography (observing / reflecting and note taking) provided us with another example from W. Whyte who wrote a paper called ‘Street Corner Society’ in 1955 of which he studies Italian gangs in Boston and then wrote about what he observed. Some people in the group preferred this piece of writing to the one by Steinbeck, just because it was more factual and therefore easier to read in some cases, whereas others enjoyed the Steinbeck piece more because of the visual imagery it provided.

For Interviews we looked at a verbatim text, transcribed by S. Scott in 2017 on labour exploration and work-based harm. A verbatim text is a piece of text transcribed directly from the source as heard so it is as accurately recorded as possible. It is an very common technique used in the field as it is a great source of primary information.

Another very geography based technique is Land-use mapping and we were shown an example of this in our packs by a geography undergraduate and how a map might be created with layers on top in order to represent and study a certain aspect of the land. This is usually done by GIS mapping software to an advanced level. It is a very interesting way to look at the mapping of the land and what is going on within a particular area.

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Business surveys were another type of method for collecting data. However it was pointed out to us by Sam Scott that a lot of students like to do this type of survey as a method, but he doesn’t actually think it is a very relevant way in which to collect data because of the fact that it isn’t wholly representative. However, it is still a method that is good to consider the use of and when it might be good to use.

A public survey is pretty similar in terms of what it requires. You would get the public to fill in a survey to determine a public view on a topic. Again it is not wholly representative and can be quite biased depending on the types of people who are most likely to take the time to complete the survey etc.

Statistics are a pretty good method for collecting data. In this case we looked at a pack of census data in which we could see hoards of different information about what types of people were living in an area, whether they were born here, their year of arrival etc. This threw up some very interesting points that we could look at and make. However the tables aren’t always easy to read because in some cases the years in question are a year apart and in cases where we are looking further back, the years are group with a 9 year gap for example, so it isn’t easy to read or judge a particular statistic. However neighbourhood statistics are a good way of finding out about some of the diversity within an area.

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We also looked at local information, for example in a paper leaflet or a newspaper, websites, reports etc. These are often good insights into what is going on and can provide useful information.

There were then some other sources that we could look at online for later reference in regards to capturing migration and a sense of place, however we did not look at these in the session.

We were given a map to look at of Cheltenham and asked to look at locations that we would be interested in looking at in terms of migration and ethnic diversity. A couple of places that we pointed out were:

  1. Gloucester (there are some places within Gloucester that provide a good example of migration and ethnic diversity.)
  2. The lower high street in Cheltenham as this is culturally very diverse.
  3. Around the St Pauls area, if we were interested in looking at the student internal migration.

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Once the session was over we moved to another room where we got to meet the geographers and have some ice breaker sessions over lunch. These were to help us form groups and to work out what it was we would be doing and where we would be going.

Once in our groups we made the decisions about where we were going. My group (Charlotte, Alice, Jack and myself) decided to head to the lower high street because we all deemed this to be one of the better places for diversity and migration.

Once we got there we decided we wanted to diversify ourselves from the general view of ethnic shops and so we decided to focus instead on one shop in particular: Nail bars. Nail bars are predominantly run by an asian population, however their clientele is often typically white women. When we were out photographing we were also broaching the idea that when photographing people, how are we representing them. Because although they are ethically diverse they may have been born in Britain, and there is no saying for definite that they are in fact migrants or have migrated at all.

As we walked along the high street we found that there were several different nail shops located all around the high street in different locations. We wanted to see if there was a difference in the amount of people and those that worked there, depending on the location as well as other factors such as gender and age. We looked at both the workers and the clientele that were in the shops and did a kind of survey on each as well as taking photographs of the outsides of the shops. For this we collaborated with the geography students, allowing them to help us with our surveying and our methods and also letting them partake in some photography.

We noticed there was a distinctive pattern in the fact that the workers were all asian in appearance and seemed to be foreign, whereas the clients were all mostly white. However there was a very equal spilt in genders of those who worked in the nail bars, but the clientele was primarily women from what we saw. In some cases there were no people in the bars and we assumed this could be because of the location of them in the lesser well kept parts of Cheltenham.

Once we had collected all our data we came back to university, where we began to put a document together that looked at the data we had collected in a more cohesive way. The geographers also decided to do some extra research on some online databases which would back up the data that we had collected ourselves. As we didn’t have much time to put the project together we had to think quickly about design layouts and how we would create the document. Our final working piece is as below:

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 18.20.31Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 18.24.48.pngScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 18.20.50

We created a mix of text and images to try to create a layout in the way we thought would be good for the particular theme we were looking at. We were given feedback along with the other groups which was quite interesting to hear. Overall everyone seemed to like the design, although for me personally there are a few tweaks I would make in terms of design and layout because I am quite picky about these things. However in the brief amount of time we had to put it together we did quite well. We split the workload into the Geographers looking more at the text and analysing the data we had collected, whereas as photographers we looked more at text layout and space awareness. A couple of points from our feedback were:

  1. Overall the topic was great as it was more diverse and clearly considered. We were able to document it fairly well, however some images didn’t seem to be wholly sharp (which may be down to camera lens fault and not user usage.) It was also commented that it would have been nice to have seen some of the images from a straight on positions such as the Kim Nails image is.
  2. The font as a serif font could potentially have been more fancy, as the nail bars font is usually quite fancy. Normally we would stray away from fancy fonts such as serif if they are unreadable, but in this case it might have been better to look at using this type of font instead.
  3. Some of the images could have been a bit bigger, especially on the middle page.
  4. The back page was deemed to be a very nice layout and it was good that we had noted where all the locations were and where exactly the images were taken as captions. We should have included out surnames as ownership for the work, however we didn’t realise this at the time.
  5. We had a nice combination of image colour in terms of palate so they complimented each other nicely.
  6. We had a good amount of detail and it was great we had used other sources to back this up. However in our writing it was obvious that we hadn’t gone into any of the shops and asked the owners or clients anything about this, nor taken any images inside. When asked about this, we said it was due to the fact that actually we didn’t know how to word our questions so we didn’t seem racially insensitive or rude and also in most cases, the people in the shops were all working. Had we had more time, it could have been something that we considered the time of day of so that we go when there is less clientele because of course, 4 students walking into a nail bar as such may actually put off some of the clientele and this wouldn’t be ideal.
  7. For me personally I would look more at font and layout just to make sure everything is sat where it should be, as well as making sure it all works well on the page. It was suggested that the title could have been moved further up the page and our captions and names switched round. However this is a minor thing, but it could have quite a big impact on the way in which the document is viewed.

 

We looked at other people’s work and it was nice to see how these mini projects all came together and the results that people got. It was also interesting to see the diversity around Cheltenham, where previously a lot of us had thought it was a very white dominated area. In fact it is almost the opposite in some places and is very ethically diverse and has a lot of cultures on offer. It was interesting to note this because as soon as we began looking for it, we saw it everywhere so it was really interesting.

I think the day went well in terms of learning and understanding more about the ways in which we can look at migration and how we can begin to understand the movement of people how migration takes place. It was good to look at different data collection methods because as photographers it is something that isn’t normally a primary concern to us, so it has actually enabled me personally to look at other methods for research and understanding into this particular topic.

Overall I found the day quite beneficial and it has given me some ideas of ways I could potentially incorporate some of these techniques for data collection into my own project potentially to look at how diverse areas are and what is happening in terms of migration. I think the day was productive and the mini project came together quite well in the end for the time that we had so I am glad I took part. As well it has informed my learning so I am positive that I can take forward some of the things that I have learnt in todays session for further use.

 

 

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