1. “A photographic grid aims to make a meaningful visual statement about an environment by adopting a systematic approach. What does this place really look like? What does this place feel like? These are the questions being answered by a grid photograph.”

    I’m never to sure what to think about these kinds of projects. While the intentions are laudable, the notion that this project tells us what Birmingham looks and feels like is fundamentally flawed, and despite the grid structure the photographs present just as subjective a viewpoint as typing the word Birmingham into a Flickr search. If school kids are being encouraged to explore their environments photographically then this can only be a good thing, but the organizers need to be careful of how this is dressed up. It’s a great way of formulating and presenting a photographic project, but no more than that.

  2. That’s interesting Stuart — if, say, they’d decided to make every photo level horizoned at 5ft and pointing due north would it be more interesting to you for being less subjective?

  3. We talked about the objective/subjective balance quite a lot when deciding how to approach this grid. We did want, though, to include each individual’s own feelings about the place they found themselves in. So we asked them to use their own judgement about where to point the camera.

  4. Jon

    I don’t think it would be more interesting and would make the whole exercise of using a team of individuals pretty pointless. I like the idea of having rigid geographical constraints and then asking people to work intuitively and subjectively within those constraints. I often do this in my own work.

    My issue is more to do with the claim that by imposing this rigid structure, some kind of truthful representation of what Birmingham looks and feels like can be revealed.

  5. Jackie Hodgson

    Maybe the problem is the word “really” – what does Birmingham “really” look like – which might suggest to some people that this project claims to reveal a single truth or reality. We all know that doesn’t exist – whichever way you point the camera. What this does do, is capture a set of images that present a representation (or a set of representations) of Birmingham. If you asked us all to do the same grid points again, it would doubtless produce a different set of images and tell a slightly different story. I found the process of collecting the images quite interesting (that’s my pic of Digbeth police station) – I got my children to help me select where to point the camera for some and friends from another city came exploring on another.

  6. Jackie Hodgson

    ps Just discovered Birmingham Flickr – some fabulous pics. Interestingly, there’s another reflection of Digbeth police station…oh well!

  7. It may not be a perfect representation of the city, but it has already inspired copycat projects in other parts of the country and acted as a catalyst for people to look at their own surrounding more closely.

  8. Ron Carter

    I was one of the collaborating photographers, lets face it ‘every thing’ is subjective, I stood
    on some of those grid points and often agonised over the choices before me. I think this should be viewed as personal record by a group of parts of Birmingham on the date and therefore has a historical value.

    I also want to make the point that a lot of the photo’s are taken in unusual or unatractive locations, due to the imposed grid. This gives a ‘new’ view of Birmingham as an alternative to the many views of the new bull Ring or Centenary Square.

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