Assignment 5 requires a series of 10 photographs of any subject choice. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject in as much as there must be additional information being given to the viewer by each image. The order of the series is of significant importance that a clear sense of development be shown.
The chosen subject is Bretton Hall and its associated buildings that used to form part of Bretton College, a site for teacher training in Yorkshire, primarily of teachers whose specialisms were arts subjects. Bretton Hall is being re-developed to create a hotel and conferencing centre.
The subject was of interest having visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and seen the changes to some of the site, the notices as to the conservation aims, having taken some photographs and then spent some time searching for information as to the re-development and the history of the site. Personal interest includes a school trip to the location in 1984 when one of the ‘hostels’ had been opened to provide bathroom facilities for school and youth visitors.
Preparatory Notes: Assignment 5 – Considerations, Decision Making and Planning
Research: Location / Subject Research
Research: Documentary Photography
Finished Images in Series: Bretton Hall
Image 1 is the introductory image giving as much of an ‘overview’ as possible. In this image to the rear left is the original Bretton Hall. Seen to the right, with gold lettering is a newer building marked with Sir Alec Clegg’s name, the year 1949 and that he was the founder of Bretton College. The foreground of the image is a tarmac area and whilst the cluster of buildings behind this blank space can feel busy, to the rear of the view is the landscape of the area, ascending to a tree topped horizon.
Image 2 is a window view of a stairwell, showing part of the staircase between two floors. The staircase is typical of local authority academic buildings: concrete, steel, wood. The leaves on the trees are reflecting in the glass giving two views at once. The second image is focussed more tightly on a smaller amount of information than the expansive first image.
Image 3 is focussed on an even more discreet area of the subject chosen. Here there is, at the base of the stairwell an abandoned health and safety sign that has been knocked or fallen over. The sign is to caution against slips and falls. It was this view that originally captured my interest in the location as a subject. It strongly reminds me of my visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as part of a school trip in 1984. One of the hostels or associated buildings was opened for the use of bathroom facilities. There was much liveliness between different visiting groups in the stairwell area and a number of falls.
Image 4 returns us to a more expansive view of the Hall and some of the teaching areas and paths surrounding the teaching areas. It can be seen that in some of the windows there are still blinds hanging. The top window has an open slatted blind, the middle a closed slatted blind, the bottom window is empty of any veiling. The reflections and markings on the floor length windows have been brought out with some selective lighting adjustments. The main reflection is an abstract graffiti that looks not unlike a face.
Image 5 shows the decay to the building structure quite clearly. The structure seems like it might be a water tower of some sort to aid pressure to the building’s systems. The security lights at the top of the tower have a watch tower type feel to them.
Image 6 is again a more expansive image yet with a large foreground. There appears to be going to be some separation of these linked buildings once the re-development moves further forwards. This is the area where the National Arts Education Archive has been being housed.
Image 7 shows another tower topped building. This particular one is closer to the buildings that are hostels. The blind in the window is in disarray and panels have been pulled from, or fallen from the tower area in the earliest stages of the re-development of the Bretton Hall area. The television aerial is no longer needed.
Image 8 shows a teaching building with a large deciduous tree of advanced years in the foreground. The top of the tree is cropped from view but the foreground is largely covered by its leaf falloff. The tree being a strong part of this image influenced the colour work across the series as with the blues that are repeated across several of the building’s exteriors.
Image 9, the penultimate image of the series is of an area at the back of the old Bretton Hall mansion building. There are areas of ground that are sectioned off from usage with orange plastic safety netting and metal poles. They have largely fallen down. A large white mask in the style of masks used to signify performing arts lies on ground. The stables’ clock is stopped at ten to two. There is a semblance of a view toward the grassed area through the portico area. It is the grassed area that features in image 6.
Image 10 was another view that stopped me when I was slightly lost at the Yorkshire Sculpture park and brought to the decision to photograph the former Bretton College as assignment 5. The wall of this building appears to have been scratched extensively across its surface. Possibly when someone has been taking some of the climbers off of the surface? The framing of the climbers that are there combined with the scratched surface with its arcs of lighter areas and the three windows felt appropriate for the closing image of the series. The window to the left is closed with an opaque set of vents in a blue hue that appears to be thematic of the college buildings. To the right there are two larger windows that are glazed. One of them, the top window is reflecting another hostel with a boarded window of its own. The hostels are due to be demolished as part of the re-development. The bottom window is blank and perhaps is a figurative space for the future of the site.
The series of photographs document the former Bretton College. Bretton College, and Bretton Hall before it, have gone through many changes during the course of their history. The re-development of the site sees the possibility that an amount of the former college will have completed all its evolutions in its history and what remains will be brought into the designs for the hotel and conferencing centre that is to be developed here.
The series is therefore about the communication of change. It is concerned with the cycles of change, with decay, with what was, with memory, history, significance to individuals and communities and with inevitable loss, yet also with awareness that change is of course inevitable. Here change is not just concerned with the need for re-invention for economic necessity but that change and evolution have been and are part of the path institutions, mansion houses and all of us traverse during our life cycle.
This series is a development the work considered within Exercise 5.2 where an homage to a known photographer was produced. In consideration of the homage work Joseph Wright’s statement as to the, “part autobiographical, documentary and environmental journey,” (Wright, J, [http://www.joewrightphotography.com/the-floods/]) was of critical importance. Further research into documentary photography and into the location believed to be a strong possible subject choice made for a realisation of a strong challenge available to me for the assignment series.
This concept of meaning had been built upon having read of Robert Adams consideration of the verities of landscape photography, “geography, autobiography and metaphor,” (P.14, Adams, R, (1981), ‘Truth and Landscape’ in Beauty and Photography: Essays in Defence of Traditional Values).
The former Bretton College seemed therefore an appropriate choice to develop documentary photographs in a series that explored the possibility of an autobiographical, documentary and metaphorical journey for me as the author and also for a viewer. The images were then curated to a series which is meant to hold as a narrative and to function as a document that provides a response from the viewer.
(Word Count – 339)
Adams, R, (1981), ‘Truth and Landscape’ in Beauty and Photography: Essays in Defence of Traditional Values