Thursday, 27 January 2011

Another from the last shoot

Continuing the theme of experimentation and broadening the scope of what I do, this was an image that came from the same session in Market Place, Huddersfield last week.  Clearly, what happened was that this guy appeared in front of my camera when I was trying to play around with shadow shots using the wide angle lens.  I kept the image, vaguely thinking that I might be able to do something with it.  The original showed almost no detail in his back & head, but with some processing in Lightroom &Photoshop, I produced this result.  It has a dark and sinister feel to it – something threatening about the way he seems to be stalking the people in the shadows; the high contrast between shadow and light; the colour difference between the cold blue grey in his jacket and the warm golden sunlight on the stone; the shadow figures reaching out from him towards the light.
That was never my intention when I was taking these photographs – though I was, to an extent, looking to get whatever I could out of some interesting light in the street.  When Trent Parke took this shot  did he set out to get exactly this?  Or was he just recognising that the combination of low sun and heavy rain would make for interesting light/effects?  And did he need to do some processing afterwards to get the very striking result that he did?  Answers are probably – ‘No’; ‘Yes’; and ‘Yes’, respectively.
This is very different from the type of image I normally take and it makes me feel uncertain.  Is it really me, or am I just playing around for the sake of it?  Do I want to make dark images that might unsettle the viewer?  (I reflect back to the first portrait of Isobel in Assignment One & my tutor’s comparison with Testino.)  But on the other hand, going out into the street and looking for interesting images; pushing the boundaries a little; seeing what ‘emotional’ outcomes there are; letting loose a bit more; all that might be a good thing.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Some Further Street Practice 2

On 20th Jan, I went to Huddersfield again.  I had actually wanted to fit in a trip to one of the bigger cities e.g. Manchester, where there might be more opportunities to find interesting images, but a combination of work and family commitments meant that I would not be able to contemplate that for at least another week, maybe longer, and I’m keen to keep some progress going.
One thing that prompted me to go on that particular afternoon was that the sun was shining, and I could see some possibilities for use of better light; plus Thursday is one of the days when the covered market is in operation, so I could plan a visit there as well.  Another step that I wanted to take was to use my DSLR to take the pictures, which I realised would make me more obvious and reduce the chance for ‘discretion’.
The market day proved disappointing.  It wasn’t very busy, which not only reduced the chances that there would be anything happening but also made my presence as a photographer more obvious.  I include the image below, only by way of illustration that I was there!!
Actually, there is a little bit of a story behind it.  The stallholder in the cap on the right was calling out to his customers, as they do – “2 pound of carrots, certainly love; how are you today?” and so on but added “Is that bloke taking my picture?”, as I was holding the camera to my eye.  I joined in the banter, briefly, and then went back later to have a brief chat with him.  He has obviously had some bad experiences with ‘photographers’ in the past, but he did also tell me that there is someone who regularly takes pictures at another market he attends.  Possibly someone to work on/with in the future?
Frustrated by the lack of opportunities in the covered market, I went back to Market Place, where I had spent some time on the 12th, mainly to see how the sunlight was working on that location.  As it happens, the low sun was just creating an interesting shadow towards the edge of the square, which seemed to present a possible opportunity.  I didn’t have long, because the shadow was moving, but I had a wide angle lens on the camera, and took the following.
Taking up my desire to be more creative, the first is just a ‘different take’ on ‘People Unaware’; the second has some reference to other street images – Lee Friedlander’s use of shadows, for example; Joel Meyerowitz’ New York shot 1975, where a couple in camel coats are disappearing into a cloud of steam, just as another, similarly dressed couple appear on the right of frame, each with a shadow of a head on their back.  I was also reminded of something I had seen more recently in a magazine, which turned out to be the British Journal of Photography, September 2010 – ‘Silence of the Bees’, by Ed Swinden, which won the magazine’s ‘Shoot the Street’ competition.
But this is the one I liked best from the short set of images that I was able to capture whilst the light was right. 

I’m not saying that it’s a great photograph, but the combination of the light with the fortunate juxtaposition of his foot with the shadow of the bollard does at least make it a little more interesting than some of the previous ones.
I’ve also used a little bit of creative processing in Lightroom – using a ‘Direct Positive’ preset that increases the colour and the contrast.
I’m not sure how well I am sticking to the principles of this section of the course at the moment, and I do have to get back to the specific projects at some stage, but I do feel that it’s a good thing for me to explore the creative possibilities in photographing people.
Time is going to be difficult again this week, with major work commitments, but I feel a little happier with what I was able to do at the end of last week.  I think I need to go on ‘pushing my boundaries’ a bit, but also that I need to find some time soon to get into a city where there are more possibilities.

Some Further ‘Street’ Practice 1

I’ve actually been out and had a couple of further practice sessions since the blog post on 10th Jan.  The first was a couple of days later, and I set myself three objectives:
·         To take better quality images (from a technical point of view), though still using the Ricoh compact camera;
·         To put the camera to my eye when taking the shots, rather than shooting surreptitiously at waist level;
·         To find a location (or maybe a couple) and spend some time there waiting for something to happen.
I went into Huddersfield again, and positioned myself in Market Place, where there is a regular ‘through-traffic’ of people, and stayed there for around 40 minutes.  It was interesting to watch the comings and goings (I am a people watcher by nature, so that part comes easy), though nothing actually happened in that period.  I took around 20 shots, waiting particularly for people to be close to me, but using the wide angle on the Ricoh.  Only half a dozen of them survived the first cull, but they were all taken with the camera to my eye and, shooting at ISO200 & 1/200th second, the quality is better than some of the earlier ones.  So, two of my objectives were certainly achieved, or at least some progress was made!
These three best illustrate what I was doing.
The technical quality is better than in my first efforts, thanks to the camera being to my eye & the settings I used, and I didn’t have any problems with taking these pictures ‘in public’ – no concerns about whether I was going to be challenged, whether they saw me taking the picture etc.  But, they are not very interesting images.  The closest I got to a significant moment was the guy in the second shot, who looked back over his shoulder as I pressed the shutter.
So – waiting for something to happen either requires you to be in a spot where more is going on or to be prepared to hang around for a very long time.
Reflecting afterwards, I did think about the conditions in which I had taken these shots – some very average, dull light, in particular.  Thinking of Trent Parke, for example, and the great use of light in his images (referred to earlier in the blog – 10th Jan 2011).  What sort of difference would some low sun have made to these shots, for example?  Thinking back to basic principles, photography is about light.  Low sun wouldn’t have made them great shots, but it would have introduced another creative dimension.  This, of course, also fits in with my thoughts after the NMM visit – that I perhaps need to think more creatively about how I use all aspects of the photographic medium.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Bradford – 3 exhibitions in one day!

On Saturday, I met up with three other OCA Photography students for a visit to the National Media Museum and the Impressions Gallery, both in Bradford.  Whilst there is perhaps less time for personal reflection when visiting exhibitions in a group, that is more than made up for by the chance to share reactions and discuss the works immediately.  The three exhibitions were:
From Back Home – Anders Petersen & JH Engstrom
The outcome of a seven year collaboration between these two Swedish photographers, the exhibition shows images of the Varmland region of Sweden, where both have lived significant parts of their lives.  I won’t repeat in here too much in the way of background derived from the accompanying leaflet or their respective websites – no point – but will record my own personal reactions.
Engstrom’s work was, for me, the most interesting, being the most challenging and the most varied.  He uses the photographic medium in a very broad, creative manner.  Some images resembled teenage snapshots, taken at night with a compact camera & flash, or even on a mobile phone.  I’m not saying they were taken in that way, but that this is what they most looked like.  They were arranged in a row, closely together, printed/framed at about A4 size, looking a bit like a slideshow that you could take in all at once – and that is how I felt they should be viewed; all at once, like a single piece of work.  Other parts of Engstrom’s work was similarly grouped, though it wasn’t made clear whether the groupings were based on specific places, specific people, or indeed, just a particular memory.  What was interesting, was that each group might include black & white landscape images, portraits, family ‘snaps’, an image of a painting, and ‘faded’, de-saturated mages of mundane urban scenes, or pieces of agricultural equipment.  I found the latter particularly intriguing.  The effect was certainly that of a faded photographic colour print from the 1960s/1970s, but has he deliberately underdeveloped/de-saturated the colour to create that effect, or has he actually photographed a faded print (particularly since, in some cases, he has definitely photographed paintings).  Either way, the outcome is effective in helping to create the sense that these images represent the sometimes ‘faded’ memories of places, times and people.  Another section of Engstrom’s work showed large prints of photographs of selections of old ‘snaps’ pinned to a board – again, emphasising the role of the photograph in fixing our memories.  The final grouping, before the viewer moved on to Petersen’s work, showed a series of closely cropped, intimate black and white images of the heads of older couples, closely embraced in dancing.  As well as quite closely resembling the style of the Petersen images that were to follow, this sequence provided a sharp contrast to the earlier shots of pairs of teenagers – the latter, in full colour, standing side by side, sometimes touching but rarely seeming close and intimate, looking straight at the camera, self-conscious and fully aware that they are being photographed; the former, older couples, in slightly grainy, softly-focused black & white, absorbed in each others’ arms, often eyes closed, heads almost merging into one, unaware or unconcerned, as they danced together, wholly absorbed in each other, that they were being photographed.
The Anders Petersen photographs were presented in a much more consistent manner – large black & white prints, again combined in groups, though without specific explanations as to the significance of the groupings.  Mainly close-cropped and wide-angled, they seem to take you right into the heart of whatever is being depicted.  Again, the subject matter includes landscape, people, groupings/pairings, domesticity, and often absurdity – but the close framing, combined with a tendency to shoot the image with the camera off-level, and to crop the shot so that parts of the subject might be out of the frame, results in a sense of vigour, but also a sense, as viewer, that one is there, involved, part of the activity.  I also got the sense that Petersen pays close attention to composition, even though the framing and angles suggest something spontaneous.  Patterns, curves, diagonals etc, seemed to emerge, for me – almost separate from the subject matter and the action.
Overall, I was left with a less than comfortable feeling about the Varmland, but then I’m sure that was the photographers’ intention.  Both use both subject and medium in a manner designed to unsettle the viewer, and both succeed.  The most significant  thing that I feel I took from this exhibition was that matter of ‘the use of the medium’, particularly in Engstrom’s case.  It does make one aware, again, that there is plenty of scope for using the photographic medium in a more creative way, beyond the perfectly-exposed, perfectly-composed, perfectly printed image that one sometimes find oneself pursuing.
Land Revisited – Fay Godwin
Having already written about Fay Godwin, and ‘Land’ in particular, when completing my Landscape course, I’m not going to say too much in my Log about this exhibition.  It confirmed my feeling of how ‘modern’ her work can feel, even though this exhibition is marking the 25th anniversary of the first time these images were exhibited.  It was good to view the original prints and to watch some background videos, including film of Godwin herself, talking about her photography, but also out shooting in the landscape as well.  I felt less impressed by highly enlarged versions of two of her images, which seemed to miss the point, losing the detail and tonal qualities of the originals.
Lost Languages & Other Voices – Joy Gregory
This retrospective brings together various pieces of work from an artist of whom I had heard before, but knew nothing about.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  She is another artist who uses the photographic medium in a highly varied and creative manner, albeit totally different from Engstrom above.  There are large-scale prints of ‘mock-tourist’ photos of European landmarks, brought together with the theme of a pair of shiny gold high heeled shoes that appear somewhere in each image.  There are playful self-portraits, simply shot and teasingly cropped.  Victorian photographic processes are used to create ghostly images of items of female clothing.  And, large-scale images of sites in London that have historic links to Africa, are combined with brief pieces of text, to create disturbing poster-like pieces that point to the uneasy racial history of those sites.  And that is just some of the variety on show.  Again, apart from the stimulating nature of her work in its own right, the exhibition inspires one to think more broadly about the creative possibilities in photography.

I’ve not, so far, been one for experimenting with, for example, exposure, focus, grain, colour etc, but I wonder whether it might be time to try to explore some of those possibilities?

Additional Comment 09-02-2011

Paid a return visit to NMM today, as part of an OCA Group, during which we received introductions to the two exhibitions, by the curators.  It was an interesting opportunity, though a little disappointing that there was little time for questions.  Some interesting comments that stick in my mind:
  • Apparently, Fay Godwin would not have described herself as an artist (though she didn't object if others thought that she was).  It sounds as though she kind of felt that she was more of a technician.  What's in a word, of course?  And it doesn't really matter a jot in the end, but it was an interesting comment.
  • The Engstrom exhibition is arranged 'thematically' by the curator (I refer above to the 'snapshots' in a row, like a slideshow), though that is not how the photographer would normal present his work, as I've subsequently seen on the Internet.  Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to ask why!
  • He referred to Petersen and Engstrom as 'fine art' photographers.  When OCA CEO, Gareth, asked what he meant by that, his answer seemed to amount to 'because they can sell to collectors' (though, to be fair, he did say it  was a complex question to answer).
Enjoyed seeing the Swedish work again, though.  Petersen's work made me think again about my approach to 'People Unaware'.  His subjects usually are 'aware', but it is the energy and power that he gets from wide angle, close-up, roughly cropped images that I find interesting.  It is possible to do something similar 'in the street', I think.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Assignment One – Tutor Feedback etc

I got the feedback from my tutor last week and have exchanged further e-mails with him since then.  The first thing to say is that the report was detailed, constructive and considered which is pleasing and certainly very helpful.

There were some positive indications – ‘a good collection of images’; ‘a variety of techniques and styles’; ‘fits the brief to a “t”’; ‘well executed’; ‘a definite idea of what you want to achieve’; ‘a good grasp of lighting’ – which is OK, but there were some general comments that indicate the need for further development – ‘need to develop your skills in putting people at ease’; ‘more work on developing your own style’ – which I would also agree with.  I had done virtually no portrait photography when I began this course and although I think I’ve made progress, there is still plenty of way to go if I am going to develop my portraiture skills.  In relation to developing my style, my tutor brought out all sorts of detail issues with, for example, the first image (below), comparing it to a similarly-located Mario Testino picture, and indicating how much more I might have been able to get out of it with things such as ‘use of the angle of the shoulders’, ‘a hint of what the arms are doing’.
I think this illustrates the ‘gulf’ between the professional photographer, with a professional model, and the relative beginner, such as myself.  Not surprisingly, experience can teach you to think of all the details and nuances that make the difference between ‘fitting the brief’ and making a ‘dynamic image’.  Fundamentally, it needs more practice, more thought, and attention to detail.  I feel that I can handle most of the basic technical requirements (something that I wasn’t entirely sure about when I started out), but there is a lot to learn in terms of style and creativity.

Another piece of general feedback related to this learning log, where he feels that I need to be more reflective – more indications of why I chose one image over another and more attention to where I need to strengthen my skills – so I’m trying to do that, including in this post.
Taking the individual images in turn, he felt that there could be a better crop of the first one, making the drainpipe less dominant, and I agree.
He also asked whether I had tried alternative camera angles, different poses etc.  The answer is ‘yes’ but to a very limited degree (back to the earlier comment about attention to detail).  I said in my notes on the images that the smile and positive look on Isobel’s face has a reassuring effect.  His question – quite rightly – is why would I want to reassure the viewer.  What if I wanted to unsettle them.  The truth is, of course, that I am being cautious with this image and not wanting to show Isobel being frightened, alarmed, provocative, or whatever in this seedy looking location.  And that is why I have made this choice.  I did have some alternatives, with minor variations, as below.
On the whole, I still favour the cropped version of the original, accepting that this is partly down to my own ‘caution’ and preference for the ‘positive’.
Feedback was positive on the second image, but my tutor had an alternative crop for this one, too, with which I also agree.  I wrote about the surrounding foliage framing the subject, but the tree in the top right does distract to some degree, so I go with the tighter crop.
On the third image, he liked the different style, the conversion to black and white, the sharpness in the eyes, and the ‘great expression in the face’.
He was less sure about the depth of the shadows and felt that the eyes could be lightened; suggested that the skin tones were a bit flat and could do with more contrast; and again had an alternative crop. I have struggled with trying to specifically target the skin tones in Photoshop and come to the conclusion that this particular tweak is probably a step too far, at present. I did try the lightening of the shadows and the eyes, plus the tighter crop. 

For me, the lighter version looks a little too much like dirt on the face (something I had been concerned about in my initial post).  That might just reflect my (lack of) skill in making the change, but I think I prefer the higher contrast version with the dark shadows.  The lightened eyes look OK in the lighter version, but didn’t quite work in the original, more contrasty version.  The crop, on the other hand, is fine.  So I end up with this one.
The fourth image proved to be well-liked.  He did comment on the slight shadow behind the face and felt that the image might be slightly under-exposed.
My original notes did refer to the shadow, which I had not originally wanted in the image but which I found acceptable & even felt that it provided a little bit of contrast.  Positioning my subject further from the background would have eliminated it, but that wasn’t an option for this session, working in limited space. I did produce the following version, with slightly higher exposure.
We have had a little bit of debate over the fifth image, the original of which is below.  My own notes had questioned whether my subject might be too small in the frame and whether we could see enough of her face. 
My tutor felt that the treatment was valid, and that the crop was right, but shared the reservations that I expressed, wondering whether I might have gone for a different situation e.g. grooming the horse, where there was scope for more of an intimate shot.  I agree, but on the other hand, I was chiefly aiming to show Isobel working hard in a challenging environment, rather than creating an intimate portrait of ‘girl with horse’. I did have some other images of her with the horse in the field, but felt that they had not come out right from the technical point of view – not sharp enough; some lens flare; etc – because I was having to work ‘on the hoof’ (pardon the pun!!) as she led the horse into the field.  Here are those two.

I also took some others of her doing other work in the field prior to the horse coming out – see below.
My tutor thought that a version of the last shot, but with all of her shadow in the frame, migh work well – true, but not captured at the time, unfortunately.  Another approach, with hindsight, would have been to get closer for the shot of her leading the horses.  I have done some very tight crops of the oroiginal to show what might have been possible – though as crops, the second one pushes the pixels somewhat!

On the whole, whilst there might, on reflection, have been better images that I could have taken.  Of the ones I did take, I think I made the right choice, albeit I accept that it does test the boundaries of what might be considered a portrait.
The final image, I chose to some extent on the basis of its composition.
My tutor agreed, but also commented that it demonstrates the problems with using on-camera flash – the shadow below the arm – and that perhaps a lower camera angle, showing more of her face, would have worked better.  The latter is probably true, and I was only working with the flash because the light was so poor in the stable and my D80 can become very grainy/noisy at high ISO settings (which would have been necessary to ‘stop’ the action as she worked).  That said, ‘grainy’ might have worked!  I did take a lot of images in this sequence, and there were others that I might have chosen, a selection of which are shown below.

Perhaps, looking back, I might have chosen either the second or third of these for my submission – as more interesting images that retain the context and the concentration in her face, but do show more of her face.
So, there is plenty to reflect on here.  It has left me a little overwhelmed, if I tell the truth, but I have to remember where I started out with portraiture just a few weeks ago.  If I want to pursue this further, either later in this course, or as part of Level 2, or even Level 3, then I have a lot more work to do.  As a starter, I’m not too unhappy with what I’ve done, and it’s time to concentrate on ‘People Unaware’.

Monday, 10 January 2011

People Unaware – some first ‘street’ images

About a week ago, I went out into Huddersfield for a couple of hours, simply with the intention of taking some photographs of people in the street.  I had no other particular goal than to walk around, looking for something that caught my eye, however trivial it might have seemed.  I took my compact Ricoh camera rather than the DSLR, so that I could be as discrete as possible, and I had the idea that I would keep it at a reasonably wide angle, with a view to photographing people from fairly close range.  (The camera has a 35mm equivalent range of 24-72mm.)
It wasn’t a ‘comfortable situation’, or should I say that I didn’t feel ‘comfortable’ enough to simply raise the camera to my eye and shoot away ‘willy-nilly’.  In fact, I ended up using this small camera in a ‘surreptitious’ way.  I pre-set it to the wider focal lengths and to ISO/aperture/shutter settings that would give me the best chance of capturing something reasonably sharply, and then I held it in one hand, thumb ready over the shutter button, raising/angling the camera as I judged necessary to capture what I had seen.  It was a bit of a crude approach and I wasn’t expecting high quality results, but I just wanted to make a start and give it a try.
A few days later, I was in Sheffield City Centre for a short time and, using the same approach, took a few more photographs there. I am posting some of the images here to demonstrate this part of my learning process, even though they have technical limitations and are mostly short on impact. Firstly a batch from Huddersfield.

Critiquing this set at various levels, I would firstly have to say that there are no really striking moments, incisive observations, interesting juxtapositions etc; so they immediately lack genuine credibility in the street genre.  There is a colour theme – pink – running through a number of them, and the duo of the lady with a pink shopping cart and ‘matching’ bright green scarf works quite well.  It might be really effective if it was a sequence of several images shot over a number of days!  There are a few ‘moments’ captured, even if they are not ‘striking’ e.g. the lady opening her envelope, the couple eating, the two men mirroring each other’s leg positions, and the contrast in the last image between the stressed young woman with her two dogs an the two behind her who seem to find her amusing.  But, finding really good street images takes time and patience, and if I want to progress this I need to spend a lot more time at it.
Secondly, there is the technical issue.  As I know from studying Joel Meyerowitz for the Landscape course, a fast shutter and a steady hand are crucial.  In many cases above I had neither!  The Ricoh gets very noisy at high ISO settings, so most of these are at ISO100, with shutter speeds of less than 1/125th second, even down to 1/40th in some cases.  My hand was often less steady than it should have been, especially shooting ‘blind’ as I was (and a bit nervously, I think), and I would need to work on the technique if I wanted to use this approach to produce technically acceptable images.  I think it is worth practising, though.
These from Sheffield are marginally better, I think.

I absolutely promise that the guy in the red hat did not know I was taking his picture and was not posing!  The last shot at the bus stop is probably the one that comes closest to qualifying as a decent street image, I would say.  It is still technically deficient and doesn’t quite have a strong enough ‘story’, but there is some possibility in the composition (parallels of the woman’s hiking stick and the lamp post; the diagonal of the glass roof leading right to the man in the mobility vehicle) and the contrast/juxtaposition of the two main subjects.
The chief positive to come out of these two sessions is that I have made a deliberate start on working in ‘the street’.  There is a technique here that has enabled me to get ‘up close and personal’ whilst retaining discretion, but I need more work and practice before I can be confident that it will produce images of a viable quality.  The next step is to go out and try some more this week, if at all possible.

‘Street Photography Now’

‘Street Photography Now’, by Sophie Howarth & Stephen McLaren, published 2010 by Thames & Hudson, is a collection of images by leading protagonists of this genre, supported with four ‘essays’ from the authors, brief notes on each photographer, and some dialogue from a discussion between seven of them.  It was published around the time that I started out on this course, and has obviously proved to be a popular book because it took me some weeks to get a copy through Amazon.  I have spent some time working my way through it and found it to be quite a useful source of thoughts and ideas in connection with ‘People Unaware’.
Some of the photographers whose work I have particularly noted are the following (some of them being totally new to me):
·         Christophe Agou whose ‘Life Below’ is reminiscent of Luc Delahaye’s L’Autre that I mentioned earlier in my log, which is in turn reminiscent of Walker Evans’ subway project, of course.  That led me to look at more of his work here   It was also interesting to read his short written pieces on this site & I particularly note that his work comes across to me as very personal, as an emotional response to the world.  I also see that he has a new collaborative project ‘Face au Silence’ coming out in 2011.
·         Melanie Einzig, whose work I seem to have missed before, looks to be very much in the tradition of New York street photography, with Winogrand, Meyerowitz etc; colourful, witty, strong observations of people.  I find her reference to street photography involving ‘wandering’ – which also comes up in the discussion at the end of the book.  Her street work appears here
·         Osamu Kanemura is a surprise inclusion in my list.  His work is here  I havn’t always felt I could relate to Japanese photography, and I have always tended to favour colour, but I really like his high contrast, complex images of Japanese street scenes.  I suppose, in some ways, with few people in the images, they almost fit into the landscape context – certainly more into the ‘Place’ side of this course than the ‘People’.  I find their chaotic complexity attractive – so many wires and cables and shadows, a bit like a Jackson Pollock painting.
·         Trent Parke I certainly had seen before, but not necessarily looked at closely - - fantastic use of light and shadow.
·         Bruno Quinquet’s ‘Salaryman’ project - - is a kind of photographic diary of Japanese businessmen, but always ‘anonymous’, with their faces obscured, blurred, distorted, or some such, so that they are unrecognisable.  I like some of the very clever framing and composition.
·         Paul Russell is very much in the British tradition of the likes of Tony Ray Jones.  Subtlety, gentle humour, as can be seen here
·         Peter Funch is totally new to me - - and the book has some images from his ‘Babel Tales’ series, where he has produced ‘constructed’ street images.  It looks as though he, in simplistic terms (though the work certainly isn’t simple!) photographs people doing similar things, in the same place, and then combines the individual images of people into the same street scene.  He captures several ‘moments’ and combines them to construct a ‘moment’ that never happened, but which nonetheless has something significant to observe about human behaviour ‘in the street’.
There is great breadth and variety in this book; loads of inspirational work and ideas that make you want to get out and have a go.
Actually, I have been out and ‘had a go’, and I am going to put some of the results in here shortly.

Monday, 3 January 2011

2 People Unaware – Some initial thoughts

The introduction to this second section of the course focuses on ‘street photography’, albeit the word ‘unaware’ probably implies a wider range of potential photographic opportunities and, indeed, the first project under this heading – ‘Project 9: A comfortable situation’ – suggests starting in circumstances other than ‘the street’ in its rawest sense.  I am giving some thought to how I approach it, not least because I find myself tackling this section in mid-winter, which is not necessarily the ideal time for finding lots of ‘comfortable’ situations such as markets, fairs, parades, sporting events etc.
As the notes for Project 9 say, the idea is to ‘ease’ one into the task of photographing people who have not been asked in advance and where there is a risk of causing offence.  I do feel some sense of apprehension about this issue, as most people do, and particularly at a time when the whole question of photographing in public is even more controversial, in the context of terrorism, increased sensitivity on privacy issues, greater awareness of the commercial ‘exploitation’ of publicly acquired images and, of course, concerns over child pornography.  That said, I have taken ‘candid’ photographs in public circumstances before and, working with sensitivity to these issues, I don’t mind doing more of it.  In the absence of an obvious ‘comfortable situation’ for Project 9, I am wondering whether to simply go ‘out into the street’ and see what I can do!
The ‘street’ genre has formed a significant part of my studies of photographers and photography since I started with OCA some years ago.  In 2008, I saw the Henri Cartier Bresson exhibition at the National Media Museum & have the ‘Scrap Book’ publication that went with it.  Joel Meyerowitz was the subject of my ‘Critical Review’ in my Landscape course – concentrating on his landscape work, of course, but not without looking in some detail at his origins in ‘street’, which of course provides links to Robert Frank, who inspired him to take up photography, and Meyerowitz’ peers such as Gary Winogrand and Tony Ray Jones.  The latter supplies a lead into the British strand of the genre, leading to Martin Parr, who is referred to earlier in this blog.  Latterly, as well as picking up on the references to street photography in Roswell Angier’s ‘Train Your Gaze’, I have just been looking at the recently published book, ‘Street Photography Now’, by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren (Thames & Hudson), of which more later.
Partly, I think, to reassure myself about going out and taking street photographs, I have been looking back through my own previous images, and have included a few here – not to form part of the projects or assignments, which need to be specific to the course, but just by way of a lead into working on the first project.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park


                                                        Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Compton Verney, Warwickshire

Holmfirth Folk Festival, 2010

Lauterbrunnen Station

Berne, Switzerland
These are all images taken over the last 3 or so years, some of them in the kind of ‘comfortable situations’ envisaged for Project 9 e.g. the Holmfirth Folk Festival, where three of these were taken in 2010.  One thing that I note is that the majority – probably all, except the last two – have been taken from a ‘telephoto’ distance, suggesting that I need to learn to get ‘in amongst it’ more than I have in the past!  I also note that only one is capturing a ‘critical moment’ – another area to work on!  I also note that most of the people don’t look too happy; perhaps a reflection of the times!