Square Mile – Initial Exploration

I wanted to record my first thoughts on the assignment ‘Square Mile’.

I find if I don’t record ideas as they come they disappear quickly and it requires a lot of effort to reprocess any ideas.

At first, when presented with the title of the assignment my thoughts immediately drifted towards the obvious route of researching and documenting my immediate surroundings. Something familiar, close and safe. Whilst the idea of cruising the assignment is tempting I wanted to challenge myself and push my thinking outside of how it has been whenever I have photographed anything before.

Having recently moved I did still want to use the assignment as a way to explore my new living and working environment. I do have want to avoid documenting my part of the world as if I am a tourist information board photographer looking for the ‘sights’ of the city.

I always had a place in my heart for Salford and Manchester, one of many reason I moved here; the local history; creativity and atmosphere attracted my attention. I would like to discover a story within the city, something to challenge the way people see the city and the way it presents itself.

I’ve been considering what ‘Square Mile’ means to me. What connotations it raises and how to interpret the meaning into a workable project. One of the first thoughts I had was as mentioned the actually area of a square mile, but that wasn’t enough for me. The though of the area seemed a constraint, another tie in with my other thought of the ‘Green Mile’ from American parlance, described the death row in prisons.

Many times I’ve written the words into Google hoping for some inspiration from the image search or website, but again this seemed to constrain matters as the algorithms are so good at getting exactly what the words mean.

The idea of constraints stuck with me though, it seemed appropriate as my mind couldn’t let go of the constraints of the wording, so I decided to cave in to the idea of the area of ‘Square Mile’. I began researching the idea of social constraints, with current headlines being filled with rhetoric around Brexit, Austerity and crime, I discovered a subject matter which interested me.

The idea of social constraints has lead me, so far, to consider how the political climate has affected the area I live. I have researched into the socio-economic make up of Salford discovering interesting facts and figures around the depravity of what is perceived as a vibrant and developing city. This juxtaposition between the perception and reality is what interested me most.

Those who know Salford will be aware of Media City, a large development in the affluent are of Salford Quays. This area is home to the studios and production offices of Channel 4, ITV and the BBC. Organizations we can all agree represent the best in British creative talent, high productions standards and large value projects. The surrounding area is home to many of those who work in the many fields associated with these companies, a long way from the commonly recognized creative hub of London but with the added benefit of short journeys and relatively low cost housing.

In my research, I discovered that this massive multibillion pound industry, whilst vastly improving areas such as Claremont, an electoral ward located within a square mile of Salford Quays, the same cannot be said to the majority of neighborhoods and streets less than a few meters away. According to the latest data produced in 2016, Claremont has a very low amount if depravity, good living conditions, high expected eduction and life expectancy, all the usual signs of a developed and successful neighborhood. On the other hand wards such as Irlam Riverside, quite literally on the opposite side of the street sees double the unemployment, life expectancy 5 years less and triple the chance of children being in need. I found this quite shocking, not that it exists, but that the difference is so dramatic within such as small area. Especially considering that one of the country’s pre-eminent university also calls this square mile home.

I have begun walking research of area I have designated, looking to see the signs of both sides of Salford. The images below are of my first trip to Salford Quays. There I found opulent buildings, restaurants and green spaces filled with young families, obviously without a care in the world. I also found the over bearing dominance of the architecture which felt, to me, almost like the boundaries of wealth.

I hope with these first images to start building a picture of the inequality found here. My final assignment may feature some of these images, I may also completely reshoot dependent on what I find going forwards but for now I hope they represent the ideas I discuss throughout effectively.

Final image of the day, I found this interesting that even in the affluent Quays area you could see the beginnings of the underlying issues through the waste in the water outside the hotel.

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