Delivering a Workshop; Rephotography Photowalk, Birmingham UK

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 9

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Figure 1

I was fortunate in having an opportunity to build upon three previous workshop style pieces of work I had done with three different communities in Birmingham to create the fourth, a photowalk around the city centre for 2 hours on 22nd July 2017.  The theme was Remaking Birmingham; experiencing the historic and contemporary ways in which the city is being reconfigured.

This session was slotted into the Developed in Birmingham programme of photography activity as an 8 week long festival of lens based experiences.  Whilst the session was two hours long, inevitably success depended upon the thoroughness of preparation.  This spanned back to the first discussion and framing of the walk in April 2017 and agreeing that it should be a digital version; the parallel and complementary walk used pinhole cameras around the city during earlier weeks.

The session sold out in the previous week, meaning there were 12 attendees.  I regarded this as an ideal number as I wanted to be able to have both group and individual conversations and avoid herding a larger group across roads and into clusters to talk, listen and image make.

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Figure 2

The workshop was based upon rephotography.  I obtained maps from 1839, photographs from the late Nineteenth century through to late Twentieth and etchings from the Eighteenth century along with an 1828 poem.  These were stapled into a 15 page A4 set (figure 2) of papers, along with other information in 12 tote bags.

As part of my preparation I was able to present the draft set of information to a tutor and peer group during a webinar on 20th July.  The feedback included ensuring I understood what the audience would expect out of it, ensure that is delivered and seek feedback at the end.  I should, at the introduction, show what was meant by ‘rephotography’ via a quick demonstration.  I implemented all of this advice.  I also invited the group to use the hashtag ‘remakebrum’, having checked that it wasn’t active with an overwhelming level of images.  I checked with the group that they were familiar and happy to use hashtags.  One participant wasn’t and he asked if he could send via a transfer site, which of course was fine.

20170722_140244Figure 3

The introduction (figure 3) took circa 5 minutes (including a reading of the first two sections of the 1828 poem that lamented the amount the city had changed as the poet was returning to his city of birth 20 years on), then we walked to Paradise Circus, spotting a Walcott camera and Raspberry Pi live streaming kit from a window en route, then around the edge of the revitalised New Street station, comparing the map and photographs on the way, then through the new entrance to the station, via the interior and out to the new urban space to the eat of the station, then via St Philip’s cathedral yard (viewing an etching within that space for a brief dwell time to explain that the cathedral would have been, in 1858, the tallest building in the city) and on to the Grand Hotel which has been very substantially stripped back to its origins in order to create a new hotel operator to occupy the original structure.  We were able to spend time hearing about the story of the life of the hotel from the building owner and use the three inertial images I had obtained from 1891.

Figures 4,5,6,7,8,9

The images show amply the variety of locations we spent time in creating an opportunity for the group to find the best location from which to create their rephotographs moments, discuss what they were seeing and the pace with which the city changes. The audience of participants was pleasingly diverse from every perspective, but not least the fact that there were 10 women and two men, plus Pete James the photographic historian and a friend of mine (who was able to document most of the process – which was fortunate as I had little time to record the press).  Feedback forms were completed at the end but I have yet to have sight of them, however the verbal response was very positive from the whole group.

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Figures 10,11,12

A number of images were deposited during the session using the hashtag.  I would have liked there to be more.

Learning points

The A4 paper packs were quite fulsome and may in future be best printed out at A6 to make it easier to hold the images and shoot to create the rephotographs.


Rephotography – Part 2


Fig 1

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 1

Unlike many of my fellow visitors, I attempted to deal with the emotionally sensitised visit to Auschwitz with care, respect and solemnity – that was my strategy during my visit.

Despite the attempt to sanitise the death camps by the Nazi regime days before liberation of Poland, witness accounts, overwhelming evidence of recycled shoes, cases, clothing and gold told the story of what went on; 1,100,000 people passing through the gates never to reappear.

Photographs make one swallow hard when studying the monochrome imagery made by the nazis.  On asking our guide I realised that it is surmised that Berlin wanted to receive an account of the design, efficiency and operation through imagery rather than written reports.  These images were retrieved and spoke absolute volumes of the journeys made upon entry into the camp, mostly by Jews.  The viewpoint was often from a slightly elevated position which suggested a podium or perhaps taken from a watchtower, of which there was one every 100m around the perimeter fencing.  Occasionally I photographed these images – fig 1 – alongside the spaces or rooms that they were taken in; they added a human stake into hollow a solemn volumes.

I would dare to suggest that the most telling images wre made via a discreet camera held under clothing by an ‘inmate’ and, at very high risk, the rolls of film were passed through perimeter fences via toothpaste tubes into the hands of the Polish resistance.  These show lines of people queuing for the chambers and the bodies being incinerated afterwards.  These were known as the Sonderkommando photographs.  Only four images were made.


Below are three images – fig 2,3,4 –  taken in the most galling spaces, I will leave the viewer to ponder and dwell on the space these describe.


fig 2, 3, 4


Figures 1-4 copyright Philip Singleton 29th May 2017, Fuji XT-1