Category Archives: Project 3 Reportage

Exercise, Project 3- Street Photography

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In this exercise I am tasked to take 30 colour images and 30 black-and-white images in a street photography style and then comment on the two formats.  I prepared my shoot by first making a list in a small note-book of ideas for composition which helped motivate and provide aims and objectives.  I set about altering the settings in my camera for JPEG and familiarizing the setting between monochrome and colour.  I altered ISO settings from auto to manual throughout the shoot and I did the same for white balance and the shooting modes (manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority).  I used just one lens a 24-120mm zoom f/4, hand-held, no flash.

Street photography

I am using a DSLR and would normally take my pictures in RAW and process them through Lightroom.  However, for this exercise I feel that to do this properly I must work as if I have only colour or black-and-white film in my camera.  Moreover, it would add to the challenge if I limit my shots to 36 each, the most from a reel of 35mm film.  So for this exercise I set my camera to JPEG, Fine, and made 36 images set to Monochrome and 36 images set to Colour – Vivid.

I find working with a DSLR on the street to be very awkward.  The camera is heavy and bulky and it is difficult to take candid shots because as soon as you lift the camera to your eye people become aware of you.  Moreover, I had an incident when a busy-body manager from the local Mall came out and tried to interfere with me working outside in the street but he backed down immediately when I told him that I knew my law.  I am sure that if I was using a smaller camera or a mobile-phone I would have been left alone and ironically would probably have been able to work in the Mall without anyone taking any notice.

Black and white

Out of 36 shots some I duplicated to get the correct exposure and some didn’t come out as I was experimenting with times exposures.

Colour

As with the black and white images, I made some duplicates to try to improve on the colour or composition.  I would have liked to have been able to have taken some of my colour images inside my local Shopping Mall to make use of the white balance feature for lighting effects but I was told that I wasn’t permitted to use my camera inside the Mall.

My preference has to be monochrome, I personally found this a more challenging and rewarding medium for this project.

Remaining monochrome images that made up my 36 image limit.

Remaining colour images taken that made up my 36 image limit.

Research point – How is irony used to comment on British-ness or American values?

Martin Parr.

I believe Martin Parr’s documentary projects of the mid 1990’s may be a good example of this.  Parr’s ‘Common Sense’ project looks is a rather the British view of junk food, tacky souvenirs and package holidays and the British class system.  His images of the English eating fish and chips in an English by the sea, tearoom table cloths and old men’s flat caps are put together to suggest that these are British cultural idiosyncrasies which are dying out.  The irony being that all these images which are quintessentially stereo typical of the English working class man is a world that is in fact disappearing.

joel-sternfeld-man-with-beer

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=joel+sternfeld+photography&view=detailv2&id=C3CC95ED3A0DC2E1DAD07448B860303151705FB5&selectedindex=17&thid=OIP.M2fbb4d6260df61a21bdf7457037f430eo0&stid=c82f8db6-e889-f46d-7790-c014b5d39522&cbn=EntityAnswer&mode=overlay&first=1&ccid=L7tNYmDf&simid=608028616775567351

Joel Sternfield

In the early 1990’s Sternfield took a large format 8″x 10″ view camera on a tour of America searching for images that he later published in his book ‘Stranger Passing’ (2001).  Sternfield took portraits of ordinary Americans representing recognised social types, teenagers, drifters on the road side, etc. Sternfield combined his interest in the subject with his interest in landscape by framing his subjects in context with their surroundings.  An example is a photo of a Hitchhiker perched on a shopping trolley by the side of the road, behind him is an unhitched farmers trailer, clearly going no-where as so, metaphorically, neither is the subject.

 

 

 

Research point – Can you spot the shift away from the influence of surrealism (as in Cartier-Bresson’s work)?

I would suggest that Robert Frank with his book ‘The Americans’ suggests a shift away from the influence of surrealism to realism.  Frank’s journey across the USA photographing Americans as he frankly saw them was different to the surrealist’s creating an artistic perspective.  Frank’s images heralded a new generation of photographers such as Nan Goldin, Martin Parr, Joel Meyerowitz, Diane Arbus.

Surrealism

http://www.surrealism.org/

Surrealism, is an art form and cultural movement that developed in the 1920’s.  It’s root begins before the first world war and continued to grow during the war; but it was in the 1920’s that surrealism began to influence the art world, music, literature, philosophical thought social theory and even political thinking and practice.

Useful to photography, surrealist’s work features ideas such as elements of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-logical inferred conclusions.

The photographers Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson were very much influenced by this movement as was artists such as Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, etc.  Writers of the surrealist movement:  Andre Bretton, Pierre Reverdy, etc.

Philosophers such as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse were also influential in the surrealism movement.

Surrealism has the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important; but that their arrangements must be open to the full range of imagination.  Freud’s ideas of free association, dream analysis and the unconscious was vital to the surrealists for developing methods to liberate imagination.  They embraced idiosyncrasy while rejecting any suggestion of underlying madness.

Following this line of thought the surrealists theorised that, ‘one could combine in the same frame elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects’.  Pierre Reverdy wrote: “a juxtaposition of two or more or less distant realities.  The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be – the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”

The surrealism movement aimed to revolutionize human experience, its personal, cultural, social and political aspects.  Surrealists wanted to free people from restrictive customs and structures and false rationality and at various times the surrealists aligned themselves with Anarchists and Marxists.

Research point – What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly black and white?

The medium of photography began with the development of the monochrome / black and white image and for decades photographers honed their skills learning how to work with a very limited pallet of only shades of grey.  However, photographers quickly realized that black and white could produce stunning images and could exaggerate a sense of atmosphere that normal colour vision could not.  The portraits of the Hollywood stars of the 30’s and 40’s are a good illustration on the power of black and white.

When colour photography first came in to being it was a costly process and did not really take off until the cost of film and development fell in the late 1950’s.  At this time established photographers were reluctant to start working in the new medium.  I suggest that this was partly due to being nervous about moving out of a familiar and tried and tested photographic field in to a new area that was also gaining a reputation for amateur ‘snappers’.  Professionals with reputations may have found this intimidating and threatening and at that time colour theory was still a mystery kept and only practised by the painters in the art world.  However, in the film industry colour had been in regular use since the late 1930’s and interestingly one of the great pioneers of colour film photography was a keen painter who enjoyed making copies of famous masters for his home and to understand how they were made.  I refer to the British cameraman and film director Jack Cardiff who was the first British cameraman trained to operate the Technicolor movie cameras.  I would recommend watching some of Cardiff’s films of the 1940’s to see some good examples of how Cardiff understood both lighting and colour: ‘The Red Shoes’, ‘Black Narcissus’, A ‘Matter of Life and Death’ to name just a few.

William Eggleston has been credited as the photographer who made colour photography excepted in the photographic world of fine art when John Szarkowski, )Director of Photography of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City) discovered him and his work.

Black and white works to simplify an image creating a sense of past tense something that happened, an event, a ‘moment’.

Colour adds a new dynamic, if used well, it can add impact, by using colour theory and with the right combination on colours an interesting composition can be created from something ordinary and bland.  We see in colour; and strong colours have impact on our senses and with this in mind, interesting and attention grabbing photographs can be found.

 

 

 

Research point – Robert Frank

Robert Frank (9th November 1924)

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=robert+frank+photographer&view=detailv2&id=CD92DB350E261C9003F43B325A958F106983A024&selectedindex=23&thid=OIP.Md8695de70b6d67b81f1c6eac59266c96o0&stid=93b38e8f-4fd4-156c-2f72-2b08d34ad379&cbn=EntityAnswer&mode=overlay&first=1&ccid=2Gld5wtt&simid=608036021296958550

Frank’s most famous work is the book ‘The Americans’ which critics have said changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it.  It is considered to be the most influential photography book of the 20th century.

 

Research point – Martin Parr

Martin Parr (23 May 1952)

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=martin+parr+photography&view=detailv2&id=B4C221C49D71E3DA49056F5BCC9A1EF23196D23D&selectedindex=36&ccid=iw1vvH%2Bb&simid=608032061335277320&thid=OIP.M8b0d6fbc7f9b9502bb1367f0b01fd675o0&mode=overlay&first=1

A documentary photographer and photojournalist Parr is also a book collector.

Parr is famous for his photo projects that takes an intimate look at aspects of modern life from a satirical and anthropological prospective, documenting the social classes of England and more broadly the wealth of the western world.

Major projects: Rural Communities (1975-82); ‘The Last resort’ (1983-85); ‘The Cost of living’ (1987-89); ‘Small World’ (1987-94); ‘Common Sense’ (1995-1999).

Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1994 and had published over 40 books and exhibited at over 80 exhibitions.

 

Research point – Joel Sternfield

Joel Sternfield (30th June 1944)

Sternfeld

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=joel+sternfeld+photography&view=detailv2&qpvt=joel+sternfeld+photography&id=F3189B5A34CC7A8B79B1DD77C5C9DECC94F47B5E&selectedindex=33&ccid=pRgRhvWq&simid=607992418791589122&thid=OIP.Ma5181186f5aad280efea4b35057d1562o0&mode=overlay&first=1

Sternfield is a fine art photographer specializing in large format documentary pictures of the USA.  He began working in colour in 1970 after learning the colour theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers.

Sternfield’s most known publication is his book, ‘American Prospects’ (1987) exploring the irony of human altered landscapes in the USA.  Other publications of note, ‘On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam, (1997) about violence in America, Sternfield photographed sites of recent tragedies.

Between 1991 and 1994 Sternfield worked with Malinda Hunt to document New York city’s cemetery on Hart Island, producing the book ‘Hart Island’ (1998).

Other published books on subjects such as social class and stereo types of America, ‘Stranger Passing’ (2001) Abandoned elevated railway lines on New York, @Walking the High Line’ (2002) ‘Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America’ (2006) and ‘When it Changed’ 2006 contains portraits of the delegates debating the climate change at the 2005 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal.

 

 

 

Research point – Paul Graham

Paul Graham (1956)

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http://paulgrahamarchive.com/index.html

Graham, has been extensively published in recent years as a fine art and documentary photographer and his work has been published, exhibited and collected internationally.

Graham has exhibited at Venice Biennale, Italy; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Tate Gallery, London; touring Germany – Museum Folkwang, Essen and Deichtorhallen; and White-Chapel, London.

Research point – Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz (6th March, 1938)

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=joel+meyerowitz+street+photography&id=B95A11F223F9EE32C348A82DF90DA2CC40924DF2&FORM=IARRTH

Meyerowitz specializes in Street and Landscape photography and began photographing in colour in 1962 during a time when there was still a resistance against colour photography in the art world.  in the early 1970s he taught the first colour classes at the Cooper Union in New York City.  Inspired by Robert Frank, Meyerowitz quite his job at an advertising agency to take photographs on the streets of New York with a 35mm camera and black and white film.  Joining the ranks of Tony Ray-Jones, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Tod Papageorge.  Meyerowitz has also taken inspiration from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eugene Atget.

Meyerowitz switched to large format cameras and in 2001 was became the official photographer to record the aftermath and wreckage at ‘Ground Zero’ New York City with exclusive access whilst the clean up operation was underway.  Meyerowitz involvement was documented by Channel-Four and his work has been critiqued by the writer David Campany in his 2003 essay, ‘Safety-in-numbness’ (http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/).  He is also featured in a 2009 BBC documentary ‘The Genius of Photography’ and in 2013 the documentary film, ‘Finding Vivian Maier’.