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!

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