When I was first set this brief I really struggled to come up with an idea that was just about something unsustainable, instead I kept coming up with ideas that involved documenting sustainability. One of the reasons I struggled is because I wanted to photograph something environmentally unsustainable and a lot of my ideas involved getting in touch with someone. Normally I am confident getting in touch with people and asking if I can come and take photos, however because I wasn’t going to be representing them/their organisation in a positive light I was nervous about rejection.
I began by contacting Cotteswold Dairy, asking if I could come and photograph the factory where they fill the glass milk bottles. The dairy had noticed that since the release of Blue Planet II they had seen an increase in the number of people requesting that their milk is delivered in glass bottles rather than plastic. This got me thinking about the other changes that people have been making in response to Blue Planet II shedding light on the plastic pollution problem. The issue with that was that it was leaning more towards ‘sustainable communities’ than ‘unsustainable communities’. I then thought about ways in which I could document the unsustainable side of things.
I then came up with my first initial idea for a book, which was to place photos of unsustainable plastic items next to their more sustainable version. I would then place statistics under each image. However, as the project went on and I carried out more shoots I decided that I liked the Cotteswold Dairy and Zero Green photos as individual sets. I then changed my book idea, splitting the book into four different sections, the first half of which aimed to document the amount of plastic in the consumer chain and then the second half providing example of the ways in which people are trying to cut down on their consumption.
When photographing the coffee cups and carrier bags I wanted to to do it in a way that made the photos interesting. I don’t think they’re particularly exciting objects and so I tried to pick out people and object that were bright and colourful. I also shot them all in a similar style and although they aren’t particularly interesting as stand alone images I think they are quite effective as a set.
I enjoyed putting the book together using InDesign because I had struggled with working out a coherent narrative in my head, and so being able to physically lay it out made it easier to understand. Although I am still not one hundred percent happy with the narrative of the book, I am happy with how the individual shoots went. One of the reasons I have found the narrative a challenge is because I have never put together a project with several different elements. Normally I work on projects that only have one subject and so putting together a smooth narrative is slightly easier.
If I were to do the project again, I think I would do more research into potential subjects and pick one particular subject to focus on. That way I think I would be able to create a book with a more coherent narrative. Despite this, I have enjoyed the challenge of linking several different subject in a single narrative.
To conclude, I have found creating a book about an unsustainable community a lot more challenging than I initially thought I would. Despite the challenges along the way, I am happy with the final product and I hope that the message I was trying to convey came across well.