Back 2 School: Part II

In a way I find it difficult to understand how I can have such nostalgic connections towards a place I’d only really been away from for 2 years, it would be dishonest to try and argue that someone who’d maybe been away from the school 20, 30 plus years wouldn't come back and have more powerful emotions in their reminiscing. But I don’t know honestly how much the school has changed since its opening in 1971, the interior “look” of the school today is the one I knew and can vouch for probably not really changing in the past 15 years at least. To fully appreciate the nature of the project I feel its imperative that you understand your own high school “journey”. Personally, my first 4 years of high school were really quite a shit time, I was counting down the days to leave. If there was a day that passed where I didn’t hear “gay boy” shouted at me from afar it probably meant I called in sick that day, and even that sometimes didn’t stop people. But eventually, you come into yourself a little more, start getting closer to some good people and all of a sudden you start creating better times for yourself, good enough to almost forget there were ever any bad ones. All of a sudden those days I was counting down to leave were the days I never wanted to come. The truth of the matter is no matter who you are or how long you’ve been away for its hard to come back to a location of that calibre (a place in your history) with a creative mindset and not spiral into an emotional frenzy of good memories, bad memories and everything in between.

In first discussions with Mrs Parks (head teacher) it was a very positive chat about what a great keepsake the project would be for people, it was from that discussion I came up with the name “Last Days in Tyme” - Tyme referring to the school motto “Tak Tyme in Tyme”. However while she admired the aesthetic I was going for in “Utopia Tomorrow” with the focus on details and the notable decay, that she would rather I downplayed that aspect in regards to photographing the school - while she admitted the structural condition of the school was part in parcel for the new builds go ahead, in this photo book, given who I was making it for a slightly more tasteful perspective would be more appropriate.

Separating emotion from what I was actually photographing around the school, I needed to make mental notes of what areas I wanted featured and how I could photograph them so that it didn’t look like a very mundane shot seen in a newsletter showing the school for what it is and actually get something a little more creative where people can look and say “oh yeah that happened here” while showcasing areas in a way they might not have seen before. This is why perspective was so important, I really avoided wide angle shots unless absolutely necessary to tell the story of a scene. In the classrooms for instance if there was a patch of wall or an area of interest I would maybe shoot this at a longer focal length (70-100mm) in order to get as much compression as possible and to not give away the location at a glance, I want to force to viewer to really see what their looking at and transport themselves to that place. An issue I ran into however which I hadn't picked up on before and didn't notice even while I was at school was just how similar a lot of the classrooms were aha, or how lacking in “interesting” subject matter to act as a momento for a specific area or department, making it hard to keep a nice flow of imagery - obviously places like the art, history, pe departments will have more captivating props to photograph than anything you might find in maths or english - but I made do with what I had available. A big moment for me was revisiting my old photography studio where I finished my first ever major conceptual project - it looked so different and more or less became a dumping ground to the rest of the art department, but I spent hours and days in that room agonising over my first lot of work and then here I was ready to immortalise said studio into my most recent project. 

 

After I wrapped the shooting for the first couple of days I went back over everything to make sure I’d gotten all departments covered and then going back to take variant shots just for options when it came to sequencing the images. The biggest relief I’d gotten while in editing the final lot of images from the last day was finally seeing the images come together in a way that allowed me to see the school in a more creatively iconic aspect whereas on days 1 and 2 of shooting I’d only had a couple of areas covered and heavily doubted I had any kind of material. 

 

I had made a facebook post announcement prior to shooting telling people the nature of the project so that ex pupils could share it around and comment about anything they would like to see featured in the photo-book and while I thought I’d made my intentions clear there appeared to be a lot of misunderstanding to what I was actually doing which was a “last look” view of the actual school building. What a lot of people took from what I wrote was I was looking into documenting old photos and featuring teachers and pupils from over the years. But unfortunately as nice as an idea as this was it was a world away from what I wanted to achieve - what people were alluding to was a whole other project in itself with way too much to compile than I could have achieved in the time frame I have. I will say on a final note, as the project is still in the process of editing and sequencing - I keep going back and forth from showing any people in the photo-book, while the predominant focus is the building it has been put to me in more ways than one that a school isn't a school without the people who are there to educate and those there to learn. So I hope to incorporate the idea further down the line.