Mass Observing Bolton

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On Friday the 17th of October 2014, second year students from Staffordshire University’s Photojournalism degree travelled to Bolton University. The trip’s aim was to allow the students to explore the roots of a national archive project called Mass Observation. Started in 1937 by the poet Tom Harrison, his vision was to create an archive of information focusing on everyday online payday loans life here in Britain, which mainly consists of photographs. Humphrey Spender was the main photographer recruited by Harrison for Mass Observation in the 1930s. Spender was a master of capturing  images with an added bonus of being packed with information. This was ideally suited for Tom Harrison’s big idea. Examples of some of Spender’s observations are pictured below. The Staffordshire students were greeted in Bolton by payday loan Caroline Edge, an expert on the Mass Observation archive at Bolton Museum. Caroline gave a lecture on the project before sending the students out on a brief. Staffordshire student Olyssa Osanakpo said “I enjoyed the lecture that Caroline gave on the historical account project of this pioneering project”. The task was to photograph the streets, sights and people of Bolton while focusing on a few main themes: Autumn, Public Spaces, Past and Present, People and Takeaways to name a few. Below is a short, random selection of some of the students’ work. After a couple of hours of intense photographing, the students returned to Bolton Museum to discuss their work and view some original archival prints. The prints date back to the 1930s and were displayed especially for the pupils to admire. Staffordshire student Jack Monahan said “I found it quite fun, it was interesting to look at those pictures from the archive.” Along with classmate Krzysztof Kaplon who added “Bolton is a great place to do Mass Observation.” Caroline will eventually choose a final photograph to have a permanent spot in Bolton Museum’s archive. She will choose from photographs taken by both Bolton and Staffordshire University students.