IAP 5 exercise 5.2 exhausting a place

Looking out of my kitchen window towards the junction of Sudeley Place and St George’s Road, Kemptown
10.45 am Saturday 4 July

Words and letters
Sudeley Place
Non-recyclable waste
No trade waste
No building waste
No bulky items
Tea coffee (the rest too small to read)
Brighton Cookery School
Cook Eat
To Let Carr & Priddle
Buy three get one free

Blue bin
Black bin
Purple plantpots
Green trees
Purple flowers
White flowers
Red flowers
Red shop sign
Blue To Let sign
Yellow paving tiles
Orange wall
Green garden door
Blue shed
Orange shed
Blue car
Silver car
Black car
Red car
White house
Yellow door
Black door
Grey door
Terracotta chimney pots
Yellow road marking
White road markings
Grey roof

The leaves and branches on the trees wave in the wind
My tomato plants hang limp and dead after a week of wind and rain
The fire escape winds upwards and downwards
The sky is flat and white with cloud
Seagulls squawk as they bounce in the wind
The flowers in the gardens below nod their heads in the wind
Two garden tables have been turned upside down in the garden below to stop them blowing away

The Necot café is serving customers from a side window while lockdown continues
Two people stand and talk on the corner keeping a two-metre distance
A woman in a blue anorak walks past
A grey car draws up and parks in the Disabled parking bay next to Necot’s side window
Two women get out of the car, one in a pink jumper and the other in an orange jacket
Orange jacket crosses the road to the wheelie bin and deposits a garbage bag into it
A man in a yellow jacket walks past with two dogs, one black one white
The pink and orange ladies order something from the Necot café
They rest their elbows on the shelf of the open window through which Necot is serving its customers 
Two women turn the corner, one with a dog and the other dressed all in peach. Peach lady hunches her shoulders as she walks up the hill
The pink and orange ladies stroll around the corner and back again as they wait for their order from Necot
Another customer has arrived at Necot, a man wearing a khaki jacket. He stands a good two metres distance from the other customers
Another man walks around the corner on the near side of the road – it’s my downstairs neighbour Martin, carrying an orange shopping bag
The pink and orange ladies stand with their hands on their hips
Two more people come round the corner; both wear face masks and scarves wrapped around their necks
A woman in a tub-like hat walks down the road holding her phone to her ear
She stops to talk to the pink and orange ladies
The orange lady now holds a cup of coffee
The man in khaki receives his coffee order and walks away out of sight around the corner
The pink lady hasn’t received her order yet and leans against the windowsill as the orange lady drinks her coffee
A young couple walk briskly round the corner and head up the hill towards the hospital with purposeful strides
The occupant of the ground floor flat below me comes out into their yard, turns and goes back into their flat
The orange and pink ladies now have their orders from the café and get back into their car
They do not see seem to be in a hurry to drive away
Pink lady is in the driving seat
She is organising things in the car
A man in a black mask with AirPods in his ears walks down the hill towards the café
The pink lady has got out of the car as she continues to rearrange things
A man with grey hair and a bald pate has arrived and is making an order through the cafe window
A young woman with a lot of hair blowing in the wind walks down the hill reading her phone as she walks
The pink and orange ladies continue to sit in their car as they consume their orders from the café
Finally pink lady starts the car and they drive away


This exercise asks us to create an observation report like those compiled by Perec (1975) and asks us to consider whether we can transform this into a photography version. I located a copy of Perec’s observations and used them as a loose template for my own report. I can see that the point of the exercise is to encourage us to look carefully at what’s around us, and to look not just at the actions taking place in front of us but also at the location, and to view it through different frameworks – focusing in turn on words, colours and other characteristics. For me, however, this forensic deconstructing of the scene felt uninspiring and I would not use this method as the basis of a photography project. At this point in my development I’m more interested in trying to encourage my subconscious creative mind to intuit meanings and significances that are less direct and literal than this. I’m looking for the emotional content of a scene rather than the obvious narrative content. My experience of doing this exercise was that listing everything in this way served to drain the scene of interest rather than inspire me to explore it through photography.

References and resources

Perec, G. (1975) translated by Lowenthal, M. An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Wakefield Press.