Documentary Appraisal

CSM Supplies is a small garage owned and run by Chris Martin, in Normanton, West Yorkshire. During the first few years, the business did very well. But in the last 3 years the recession has crippled the shops custom with less and less people willing to spend money on the upkeep and repair on their vehicles, and it has become a struggle just to keep the shop open. This is just one example of small businesses struggling in this economical climate, where the government is supposed to be helping such people, more and more small shops and businesses are shutting down due to larger rival companies such as supermarkets or in this case shops like Halfords.

My target for this photo story would be an economical based magazine, newspaper or website such as The Business Magazine, this magazine is available both digitally and on print. focuses on the stories relating to the state of the economy in Britain. The homepage of the website is a very simple layout, there are advertisements from banks and solicitors so the websites target demographic is obviously a mature adult audience who want to keep to date with issues surrounding the economy and how the government is dealing with the recession. The articles they showcase are usually about companies having to cut down on their expenditure, and having to make employees redundant. I think my photo story would fit in here perfectly as it is about a small business that is struggling to manage and is faced with the prospect of shutting down

In my photos I wanted to how little custom the shop has on a day to

day basis, I wanted to show how he feels about his situation but without making any of the photographs feel constructed or planned in anyway. I think I achieved this in the 9 photographs I took. I went in midweek and spent most of the day there.


I chose to convert every photo in this series into black and white. I did this for several reasons, the first being I think black and white photography has a strong connection with an older audience; the subjects tend to be of a more serious nature. The second being that I think the lack of colour signifies the bleak situation my subject is in.

My first image is an establishing shot, taken of the front of the shop. The purpose of this image is to show the audience where my story is taking place, but it also signifies that it is just a small shop, and not one of a large number of shops in a chain that could financially support their locations. This is signified because of the location of the shop, it is on the corner of a street, and has been converted from a terraced house into a shop.

My second image is the only constructed image in my photo story, but I wanted to introduce the subject of my photographs in a formal way, this would reflect the formal and professional viewpoint my target magazine would want to portray. I used a shallow depth of field for this image to create a stronger focus on the person in the image, and not the items in the background.

My third image is of Chris working on one of only two vehicles that were in the yard that day. I realise that this fact is not apparent in the image itself but In the magazine, my photographs would be accompanied with short captions that could explain this. This is the first image I took that Chris wasn’t aware of; I didn’t want to create a staged environment and instead chose to step back and watch as he worked.

My fourth photograph is of the garage area itself, usually there would be one or two vehicles parked in here, the area would be well organised and used regularly. However now it is unkempt, and has an almost abandoned aspect to it, the tools left on the floor and most of it is now used for storage rather than a work area due to the lack of work coming in.

My fifth photograph is an image I took whilst Chris was filling time between the two jobs he had booked in that day. My initial intention was just to show him filling time but later I realised that because what he is doing is obviously dangerous, it would obviously be against health and safety laws that strictly govern larger companies. I think this image strengthens the idea that this business is vastly different to larger companies. Again I wanted to blur the background to focus the audience’s attention on the figure.

My sixth image is of what used to be the lamp showroom upstairs. The technical aspects of shooting this image were difficult to attain. The upstairs of the shop no longer has electricity, when the customers for the car lamps disappeared; the upkeep of the showroom disappeared too. The room was largely in darkness save only from a small amount of light entering from a small window. I shot with the window behind me to avoid having the only light in the image entering the lens directly. Without the use of a tripod and with the flash function on my camera broken, I had to use a longer exposure time and a higher ISO than I usually would, this resulted in quite a noisy image that I tried to fix later in the editing process. I used the reduce noise function on Photoshop as well as the dust and scratches tab to reduce the appearance of noise. I couldn’t make the photo much brighter without affecting the quality of the image. However I there are signs in the image that signify the disused aspect of the showroom, the boxes and tables that were once used for displaying products are now packed away and ladders and chairs are now stored in here.


I took my seventh image as Chris was explaining how he has chosen to shut the shop on Christmas Eve. I faced the same technical problems as the sixth image and usually I would not want to include this image in my final chosen series, but I think the audience is still able to read his body language, facial expressions and emotional state. His body language is a sign as to how he feels about I tried to increase sharpness in the editing process, but I was able to achieve very little in bringing the subject into clearer focus.

My eighth image is of the yard whilst Chris is working on the second and final job of the day. I wanted to show how the yard has plenty room for other vehicles and once, there would have been two or three more cars in the yard waiting to be worked on. I stood back from Chris whist he was working and retracted my lens so I could have a wide as image as possible to show the majority of the empty yard.

My final image is of the amount Chris took that day. With such little money coming in each day, the shop is unable to pay bills, purchase stock and employ people. I used the dodge tool to make the amount on the screen stand out more.

Overall I think that my photographs tell my story well, they are appropriate for my chosen magazine and my target demographic of a mature adult audience who are interested in how small business are coping, or in this case not coping in the recession.

The only thing I would change if I were to do this shoot again I would take a tripod so I could increase the exposure in the sixth and seventh images whilst keeping a lower ISO.



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