Week 16 of FMP: Cementing change (11th – 17th February)

The week began with my second 1-2-1 of the year with my FMP tutor.

I put forward a proposal to. I also proposed to use the second-hand 5x4 Wista camera that I’d acquired last year for my self-portraiture project. The aim would be to capture as many 5x4 portraits of my existing group of twelve as possible. I’m also considering increasing the a increase the number of collaborators in my project.

The revised project plan and a draft questionnaire were accepted. These had been designed after consulting a number of books that i’d found in several of London University of The Art’s libraries, namely Central Saint Martin’s or London College of Communication. The most useful of the books I came across was that of Gilham, seemed very insightful and very comprehensive. Willis was also a useful source, stressing the cognitive aspects of questioning. Dunne’s book on interviewing techniques was a much easier to understand read with a number of useful pointers. Particularly on when it’s useful to fully transcribe, and when not. . Kvale had more about the planning, which is probably more appropriate in less voluntary work where tight deadlines are not an option. I did not make use of the ‘grounded theory’ form of qualitative inquiry described by Charmaz.

After all this research I finalised on the following questionnaire:

A few questions on your thoughts as proprietor.  

  1. What are your thoughts for the future, customer-wise, do you feel positive or negative? - Possible follow-up – Why is that?

  2. Looking back, what has been your most challenging experience while based here?

  3. What gives you the most satisfaction in running this place?

  4. What causes you the most irritation?

  5. How much do you feel this shop represents your personality?

I’ve tried to keep the questions reasonably focused whilst giving some latitude in their reply. Note that my plan is for the interview to last for no more than 5 minutes. This duration should be more than adequate for the uses I’m intending. At least to beging with I’m proposing to reasonably quality audio with accompanying video via a DSLR camera.

Presentation-wise I’m considering the possibility of presenting the larger amount of material that the Croydon Shopkeepers project should now capture in some form of book. In support of this I’d enrolled in the Victoria Forrest critique later that week, though I feel there will be insufficient time in the period left to progress far on this route.

In support of this aim I took part later the same day in a form of group critique with Victoria Forrest and our FMP tutor. Victoria was  very helpful. Only a little of the same ground that had been covered her previous presentations. The biggest difference was the direct comment that Victoria kindly gave gave on the work and plans that my colleague and I put forward.

In my case it was rightly viewed to be very early a number of positive points were made. A juxtaposition against the proposed interview text would be useful. Looking at my current set of images of my existing twelve collaborators Victoria felt that was inconsistent quality to the imagery. Supporting my view that I need to go back to at least some of my existing collaborators to improve the strength of their imagery..

The basic theme of shopkeepers was well received, a map of the locations was shown to illustrate how all are on or very close to the main road that runs South-North through Croydon. Sadly, as I’d mentioned earlier to my FMP tutor, the road has several names, from ‘South End’ in South Croydon through ‘High Street’ to finally the main stretch called ‘London Road’ (there is a short ‘North End’ stretch but this is now pedestrianised at does not include shops that I’ve covered.

Very shortly afterwards there was an FMP group critique with another of our tutors. Here I revealed my decision to forego the self-portraiture project they were aware that I had been following and say a little about my plans to further progressing the Croydon Distinctively Different’ Croydon Shopkeepers project. Feedback was fairly positive, though of course no new work to show at this stage.

On the next day I attended a monthly meeting entitled ‘Photoforum’ that meets at Print space near Hoxton. An easy place to get to from Croydon as there is a direct overground line from Croydon to station close by. Brian David Stevens began the meeting with a talk on his Doggerland project, plus a fascinating project based around the large number of suicides that take place at Beachy Head, very high chalky cliffs on the South Coast. He has to be careful when being interviewed not to make suicide sound attractive. Curious world.

The other presentation was by Andrew Yoingson, is work based on visualizing associations round landscape and memory..

The rest of my week was taken up with several non-MA photographic duties.

I’d been asked at very short notice to photograph a hat that was to be put forward for a competition, progression depended on the photograph stimulating interest to see the hat itself. I’d done this for the same client last year and both of the hats I’d shot had got to the short list and one won an award. Unfortunately it was very last minute what should have been a simple-ish product shoot, albeit in a less than perfect setting, turned into a job of several hours as further refinement was made to the hat. The lesson being be wary of last-minute jobs.

Graham Land; Four views of a hat

The second was a lot more pleasurable. I’d successfully been accredited to be one of the many official photographers covering London Fashion Week. Whilst I’d only applied for one venue, ‘Fashion Scout’ as The Feemasons Hall, the three days I was there was very instructive. Working alongside a number of full-time photographers as well as having the opportunity to capture a number of quite reasonable images. One lesson was to keep the kit used to a minimum. Little time to change lenses and not a lot of room to shoot with two camera bodies. Another lesson was to be very wary when changing settings for different environments, too often I failed to immediately notice that the manual set-up was incorrect. Overall my results were the best to-date for this type of photography, sadly they could easily have been better still. The areas to improve were largely technical, generally composition was good, just need to be a little more awake to what’s going on behind the subject lighting-wise. Not that changing position in my marked position was an option, too many photographers wanting to improve their position.


1) Gilham, B. 2010 Research Interviewing; the range of techniques. New York: Open University Press.

2) Willis, G. B., 2005. Cognitive interviewing; A Tool for Improving Questionnaire Design. London: Sage

3) Dunne, S., 1995. Interviewing Techniques for Writers and Researchers. London: A & C Black

4) Kvale, S. 2007. Doing Interviews. London: Sage

5) Charmaz K., Grounded Theory Methods in Social Justice Research in Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln Y.S., eds., 2013. Strategies of Qualitative Enquiry. London: Sage