Tag Archives: Street Photography

Evolving Assignment 3 – Mannequins

Fig 1 Clock Face - complex multi-layered reflections - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 900

Fig 1 Clock Face – complex multi-layered reflections – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 900

The theme for assignment 3 is evolving. The initial idea was to focus on the changing face of small southern towns as viewed through the reflections in high street windows but, whilst this offered some interesting results on test shoots, it began to feel too premeditated and potentially exploitive. The most interesting “reflection” test shots feature mannequins and these shots are further lifted when the same window displays include photographs. This gives at least three layers of image – the reflection of the street, the mannequins and the photographs and this complexity is often multiplied when the opposite side of the street or the tops of buildings are included in the reflections. In terms of composition and design I am exploring how these these layers relate to each other.

This exploration has been done by visiting several towns, often just for an hour, to capture pictures at different times of day and in different high streets. To some degree it is easier to think more clearly with a camera in hand and I can test DoF, angles, subjects, and lighting far better on location than by trying to create pre-meditated story boards. The nature of the subject makes planned shots especially difficult as the images are often complex with, by intent, crowded frames containing lots of detail and the multiple layers of subject bringing an equal number of layers of light with differing intensities. The reflections are the common thread that hold the physical aspect of the theme together. In parallel , I am developing  a theme of these displays as reflections in a more metaphysical sense.  The mannequin represents an ideal, an aspiration, a style model for us to mimic and over the centuries mannequins have gone beyond being glorified coat hangers displaying current fashions and styles. These shop window dummies have followed their own fashion trends and thereby reflected society in both an obvious and sometimes quite subtle way.

Fig. 2 Holding Hands - mannequins being given human emotions - 1/125 at f/8, ISO 1,100.

Fig. 2 Holding Hands – mannequins being given human emotions – 1/125 at f/8, ISO 1,100.

In their article for the Smithsonian Magazine in 1991 Emily and Per Ola d’Aulaire * (1) describe how fashion dolls in the 14th century evolved to become today’s mannequins and how their shape changes to reflect how society wants to see itself. In the 1890’s they were big bosomed with impossibly narrow waists, during the great depression the trend was to appear affluent and well-fed, during the two great wars they were patriotic, in the 1950’s demure, in the 1960’s they became as skinny as Twiggy with short hair and slender thighs (here) * (2).

In the United States the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, one of the driving forces behind prohibition in the 20s, declared mannequins as vulgar and campaigned for their destruction and today the debate still appears to phase in and out of the headlines. The normal female mannequin is a size 8 or 10 and as the average women in Britain is a size 14 it is often argued that these skinny mannequins damage self-esteem by promoting an unrealistic body shape. On the other hand, when the Swedish equivalent of John Lewis used size 12 mannequins it came under fire for promoting obesity * (3). In early 2014 mannequins again made the headlines when American Apparel, a large clothing chain with stores world wide, featured a display of  mannequins with pubic hair, an action that kept this particular retailer front and centre of the debate about whether ever more realistic mannequins court controversy or are a empowering statement of the female body. * (4)

Without intending to take or promote any position in this debate it is an interesting to wonder why the mannequin is the only shop fitting that has the ability to stir such strong emotions. This inanimate model has variously been the subject of films, possibly even the inspiration behind the Wizard of Oz *(1), love stories and, in December 2013, even a music video to promote Daft Punk’s latest release “Instant Crush”, a video that dramatises the love affair between two museum mannequins. The obvious conclusion is that we identify with a paper mache or fibre glass object to such an extent that it doesn’t just reflect our aspirations but has an assumed personality and assumed values. Not all models of people have these attributes so it is not simply the human form that creates this relationship between human and dummy it must also be the setting and the context in which we see them.

Fig. 3 Over My Shoulder - example of photographs being used with a mannequin - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 800

Fig. 3 Over My Shoulder – example of photographs being used with a mannequin – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 800

In my current project I can see that the trend, at least in this corner of England, is to de-humanise the mannequin with many shops using headless torsos or wire frame heads but then to display these models with photographs of models wearing the same clothing lines.  The body shape is on display but with no personality but a large backing image shows how attractive or happy we will become if we dress this way. This relationship between dummy and photograph is yet another sub-plot. It is not clear to me whether this fashion for headless mannequins is for aesthetic, marketing or economic reasons. The manager of Reebok Guildford was not sure why his mannequins seemed to have the most personality in town but he did suggest that “personality costs money”.

Fig X Face Lift - mannequins with personality at Reebok - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 2,800

Fig 4 Face Lift – mannequin with personality at Reebok – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 2,800

Sources

Internet

* (1) D’Aulaire, Ola and Emily. (1991) – The Mannequin Mystique, originally published in the Smithsonian Magazine April 1992 and reprinted with the author’s permission on the Manequine Madness Blog – http://mannequinmadness.wordpress.com/the-history-of-mannequin/

* (2) Voices of East Anglia. Mannequins – Brochures for Dummies. http://www.voicesofeastanglia.com/2012/06/mannequins-brochures-for-dummies.html

* (3) Mail Online – Department Store Uses Normal Mannequins – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2299498/Swedish-department-store-hl-ns-reignites-body-image-debate-photo-normal-sized-mannequins-goes-global.html

* (4) Huffington Post – American Apparel Pubic Hair mannequins Stop Pedestrians In Their Tracks – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/american-apparel-pubic-hair-mannequins_n_4610688.html

* (5) Daft Punk – Instant Crush Video – http://www.mtv.co.uk/daft-punk/news/daft-punk-debut-new-video-for-instant-crush

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Exercise 23 Primary and Secondary Colours

collection-with-textIn this exercise we are asked to collect a set of primary and secondary colours without resorting to photographing paint. I turned the exercise and my weekend into an exploration of natural colour.

I undertook four very different shoots that I hoped would provide a wide selection of colours. The first shoot was to explore my local woods looking for mosses and lichens which provided nearly all the colours from orange through blue green, the exceptions being a fern which gave me a more “pure” green than the mosses at this time of year and the daffodils which provided a classic yellow.

The second shoot was to look at the fruit and vegetables in the kitchen, this gave me quite a selection of reds.

For the third shoot I visited some local flooded meadows in the search for blues and greens and in particular looking for reflections of the early morning sky in the shallow flood waters.

Lastly I visited Kew Gardens to look at their orchid festival, this trip provided a large selection of colours in the ranges of yellow to red and red to purple.

Restricting my self to natural colours at this time of year was challenging, it is still winter and although a few plants have been lured into life by the mild and wet winter there is very little in flower outdoors. A few daffodils have flowered locally and there were far more at Kew which being nearer to London is a degree or two warmer. The biggest problem was to find blues, there being no obvious blue vegetables, and among the huge collection of orchids at Kew there was only one flower that was predominately blue. The reflected sky in the flooded meadows gave me my best blue choices.

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When I visited the National Portrait Gallery I noticed that they were using a painter’s palette (see above) as a motif on various souvenirs and I thought it would be interesting to try and do the same with photos. To achieve the overall effect using naturally occurring colours was too much to ask in a single weekend but I used the general idea to build my colour chart as shown below.

chart

The idea is to read the colours from yellow, through orange to red then through purple to blue and onto Green and back to yellow. I found this whole exercise absorbing starting with the search for natural colours right through to looking at the wide variety of hues and selecting a set that covered the whole spectrum. I found that it sharpened my sense of colour making me far more conscious of where colour blends or mixes fit in the classic colour wheel.

I also looked back to the previous couple of weekends where I was beginning to think about collecting colours but had not settled on an approach.

chart2

That provided a quite different collection ranging from orange through red to blue.

The most obvious conclusion to this exercise is that colour is light and the intensity of light has a major impact on how we see and how we capture colour. Strong sunlight and taking a photograph of a pure red half a stop under exposed will give a strong deep red. The same object in the shade or over exposed will appear less red, paler. The object has not changed colour but the way we see that colour changes with the intensity of the light and the way we capture that colour varies depending on how much light we allow into the camera.

All in all a fun exercise, I just love colour.

Stephen Shore Uncommon Places

DSC_7282Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore *(1), considered to be one of the most important American photo books, is a diary. The pages of the diary have fallen out and been put back together out of sequence but it is still a diary, a journal in the tradition of the Victorians like Edward Lear who wrote, sketched and painted as he travelled through Italy, Albania and Greece in the 1850’s or of Shore’s fellow American Robert Frank who toured America one hundred years later camera in hand. Each of these men documented a place in time with a forensic eye for detail and no little skill and in the perfect medium for their time.

Lear worked in watercolours which Wilcox and Newall * (2), in Victorian Landscape Watercolours, tell us was considered in the 1800’s to be “a new art” and one that rose to its zenith in the middle of that century when Lear was complaining about poor roads and dirty villages in Southern Italy whilst creating a collection of landscapes that documented the region.

Robert Frank’s work is black and white photographs, considered in the 1950s, and for many years before and after, to be the only possible medium for art photography, and then we have Shore who was one of a small group of American photographers who worked in colour and who made that medium acceptable and then acclaimed.

I believe that this link is key to understanding the work of these documentarists. Each wanted to communicate something they saw as important about the places they visited and the people they found there. If you wish to communicate something it is only sensible to use a language that can describe your subject and that be heard and understood. Each man selected the medium of his time that best allowed them to describe their subject. The difference is that Lear and Frank rode the crest of the wave of their chosen art form whereas Shore was part of the formation of the wave of “New Colour”.

Uncommon Places has been published twice, an original in 1982 which comprised 49 plates and an updated version in 2004 which included around 100 more photographs. This has now been reprinted many times, my copy being the 2013 reprint. Uncommon Places is seen as one of the most important photograph books of modern times and my own research shows that this book and William Eggleston’s The Guide are two of the most quoted and reviewed books in the world of photography. Given its status I wanted to understand, as far as possible, what Shore was trying to achieve when he embarked on his road-trips between 1973 and 1979 so I have spent time finding interviews with the artist in both written and video form so that I started to look closely at Shore’s work with his own thoughts and statements as my guide.

DSC_7284There is, of course, a technical aspect to Uncommon Places which is much discussed and much copied. Shore’s choice of camera was a 8×10 view camera which can been seen in a number of films of him at work *(3). This camera can only be used with a tripod and focussing is carried out on a ground glass backplate. Once the film is inserted the image can not longer be seen so Shore stands to one side of his camera, cable release in hand and waits.

Having worked for a number of years with a medium format Bronica, which could be used hand-held but was far more effective on a tripod, I know that a large camera guides you towards a slow, measured and thoughtful approach to subject selection and composition and, because the tripod enables long shutter speeds, there is the opportunity to use deep depths of field. Shore realised all these things before he started using the 8 x 10 but more importantly he recognised that this allowed him a greater level of compositional freedom than he had known with a handheld camera. In his interviews he repeatedly uses the word “detail” and this is part of the key to his work. He saw that, by having such a wide DoF, he could compose his images with great depth and include detail right to the horizon, as an analytical man he became intrigued with the structure of his images and “how deep space in a picture relates to a picture plane”. * (4)

This depth is one of the first things that stands out in his landscapes and it is not just about DoF and sharp focus from near to far, it is more to do with the fact that the images are often full of detail deep into the picture and that he is composing the background right into the depths of the frame. The huge 8 x 10 negative means that he has precise clarity for this detail when he prints and this means the comparatively small prints that he often displayed overflow with information.

There are many examples in Uncommon Places of these trademarks of his style, the depth of the image in the frame, the immense amount of information that draws us in, and the careful, precise, positioning of every element; in U.S 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, 1973  the telegraph poles disappear so far away from the viewer it is difficult to say precisely when they are still there and when they have gone, the clouds lead us to a vanishing point somewhere behind the billboard and the horizon is fringed with mountains upon which the trees might be counted. Main Street, Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, 1974 is a very different type of photograph, a small urban scene, but like South of Klamath even the more distant objects are carefully positioned and you can sense that he took a step to his right to position the blue building so precisely between the telegraph poles, Gull Lake is also an example of the type of detail that connects with viewer and calls for a second, third and forth look to see the cowboy boot on the Coca Cola sign which in itself is missing several letters, the two street lamps with red shades outside the little white store at the end of the street and is “Wal Wal” really “Wall to Wall” and is it a carpet shop?

This extreme level of detail and Shore’s tendency to exhibit his work with comparatively small prints reveals yet more of his analytical nature. He knew that the 8 x 10 negatives, even when masked in camera to allow him to take two 4 x 10 pictures on one negative, would allow him to produce large prints without any significant loss of quality but he also saw that a large print allowed a viewer to casually look and move on, thereby missing whole tranches of information * (5).  A smaller print, however, demanded close inspection and once we start to look closely at a Shore print we look even more closely and then we reach for our reading glasses and look again. I found myself using a magnifying loupe to investigate the depths of his compositions.

DSC_7264

There is another aspect of detail that makes Shore unusual today and made him stand-out from all but a tiny few in the 70s. His all-in-focus pictures using all the available detail of the 8 x 10 negative allowed him to offer everything and nothing as the subject. In American Beauty * (3) he says ” recording in extraordinary detail allows me to see things but not make them the whole point of the picture.” This idea, of what he calls a “state of hyperawareness” make his pictures a more complete view of a scene than we could have had by being there. He captures everything in a split second but it takes us far, far longer to explore the scene via his image and often, there is no one subject, no item sitting at a “rule of thirds” intersection that explains the composition and I do not believe that he wants us to ask what is the subject? of say “Speedway Boulevard, Tuscan, Arizona, 1976” is it the cars? is it the Mazda sign? is it the road? because it is all of these and the lamp posts and the palm trees and the road signs and … The point is made; he presents a complete and complex view, left to right, top to bottom, front to back that in totality describes Speedway Boulevard.

Stephen Shore embraced colour in much the same way as William Eggleston, he saw the world in colour and documents places that might be described as “dull” using a technicolor palette. He rejects the idea that the colours in his photographs are nostalgic * (4) and the re-print of Uncommon Places supports this position. Plate after plate glows with saturated colours. He choses to photograph people in bright clothes against muted backgrounds so the subject leaps out such as in “Main Street, Fort Worth, Texas, June 17, 1976”, or in “Ginger Shore, Miami, Florida, November 12, 1977”. He revels in the colours of vehicles whether in close- up or as part of his landscapes and when there is little colour contrast he offers beautiful tonal variations as in his photo of the Yankees at West Palm Beach, Florida, March 14, 1978. Colour is never incidental it is front and centre in his compositions.

Having highlighted the depth of his pictures, the detail and the colour there is one further element that  brings everything together and that element is structure. Shore is a scholar, a thinker, an analyst and as much a scientist in temperament as he is an artist. His photographs therefore have many levels, some apparent to the casual viewer and some that are less obvious and this is where I found his words an important guide to his work. Shore tells us that he spent a lot of time exploring the structures of photography and how to organise space in a picture * (3) and it is clear that Uncommon Places, a celebration of colour, a documentary journey across America and a detailed record of what he saw is also part of this exploration of structure. The organisation of space, the careful balance of large blocks of tone and the lines that he uses to direct our view are examples of his desire to show that “structure is not a visual nicety simply over laid on the world but is way of understanding the world.”

Because compositional structure is so important in his images one can select nearly any of the plates in Uncommon Places as an example to prove this point but I am selecting “Miami Beach, Florida, November 13, 1977” as my example because, at first glance, it does not conform to Shore’s other landscapes. This is a picture of a woman sunbathing under a tree on a quiet, nearly empty beach; it is constructed around four large shapes, the road and wall being one, the beach, the sea and, lastly, the pale, blue sky. Each of the four is nearly an empty space but each space is broken by small but relevant points of interest, the rocks in the wall, the trees, two people, huts and shadows on the beach, the ship and the waves and a band of clouds on the horizon. Overall the frame is divided with restful horizontals that match the relaxing scene and diagonals that run both left to right and front to back to create some tension. The position of the huts and trees are balanced and carefully related to each other and the ship sits perfectly both on the horizon and between two trees. The woman is off centre and could be the natural starting point but the lines move us left, then right and at each pass we see a little more, now there are waste bins on the beach, there is another set of tyre tracks we didn’t see the first time until eventually he has led us around this scene and we have seen everything and feel we have an understanding of that afternoon in Florida.

DSC_7297

Shore compositions are painstakingly precise, many are symmetrical with buildings carefully centralised and related to parallel horizontals and verticals. Roads, which are a recurring theme, often cross from bottom left to top right or visa versa, human subjects are mostly centred, and diagonals regularly link with other diagonals at 45 or 90 degrees. His high structure is in stark contrast with his mundane subjects. Shore wanted to photograph the parts of America that were not news, document the heart of his country with forensic accuracy, record the backdrop, the ordinary scenery of the nation whilst most eyes were on New York or Washington, Vietnam or the cold war that was all in the centre of the stage.

Not being an American my emotions are not those of nostalgia when I look through Uncommon Places but my responses are emotional, I love the saturated colours in the sunshine, the voyeuristic insight into a place I can never visit, the ugly middle American architecture of gas stations and car dealerships set against the distant majesty of mountains and arid desserts, the gas guzzling pick up trucks and flat, wallowing, limos stuck in traffic jams.

At its heart Uncommon Places is a dairy but it is a diary about everything that is ordinary and unremarkable about middle America, it is about ordinary people and ordinary places captured in an extraordinary way.

Sources

Books

* (1) Shore, Stephen. (2004) Uncommon Places: The Complete Works: 2013 reprint, London, Thames and Hudson.

* (2) Wilcox, Scott & Newall, Christopher, (1992) Victorian Landscape Watercolours, New York, Hudson Hills.

Internet

Kimmelman, Michael, (2007) Biographical Landscape: Passing Mile Markers, Snapping Pictures, New York, The New York Times. www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2005.100.498

Hodgson, Francis, (2013) Stephen Shore: Something and Nothing, Sprüth Magers, London – Review, London, The Financial Times. www.ft.com/cms/s/2/42423636-5b42-11e3-848e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2tKC0Qo47

* (4) Jiang, Rong. (2007) The Apparent is the Bridge to the Real: Interview with Stephen Shore, New York, ICP. www.americansuburbx.com/2012/01/interview-stephen-shore-the-apparent-is-the-bridge-to-the-real-2007.html

National Gallery of Art, (2009) Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, the National Gallery if Art. www.nga.gov/exhibitions/frankinfo.shtm

Welling, James, (2010) James Welling puts five questions to Stephen Shore, Blouin Art Info International. www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/33591/james-welling-puts-five-questions-to-stephen-shore/

Edvardsen, Simen, (2012) Uncommon Places, on the Road, The Photobook Club. photobookclub.org/index.php/2012/02/10/simen-edvardsen-uncommon-places-on-the-road/

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collections www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections

Films

* (5) Stephen Shore Uncommon Places, (2012?) Spike Productions interview with Stephen Shore. vimeo.com/32562146

* (3) Stephen Shore American Beauty, (2009) Joy of Giving Something Inc. Directed by Donna Golden. www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRM2X1GnNSQ#t=318

Exercise 19 Implied Lines

horses

Fig 1

In the first image of the horses on a threshing floor there are two implied directions creating a dynamic meeting point.

The stronger lines are from left to right with a strong curve and thereby speed implied by the shape of the horses bodies. there is a sense of power created by the combination of this curve and the lead horse’s sight line. It is straining to increase speed.

The man is looking into the horses and both his implied eye line and his hand point in the opposite direction of the horses. The horses are bigger but also their curving shape says that the majority of power is coming from the left but the implied eye line of the farmer and his firmly pointing arm indicate that he is in control of this union.

bull-fight

Fig 2

In the second image there is an implied circle. The tangible curve on the sand behind the bull fighter tends to imply that the bull has moved clockwise around the man.

There is a clear implied eye line from the man down to the bull’s head or shoulders and the flying cape to the right amplifies the momentum of the bull.

The vertical shape of the man might also signify a dominant and strong position.

ND8_1999-graffiti-plus-line

Fig 3 Graffiti Artist South Bank

In the first of my own images there is a clear implied sight line from the artist to his hand. We cannot see his face let alone his eyes but there is not doubt about where he is looking and this implied line takes our eyes straight to his hand.

DSC_0090-fishing-at-Rodney-Bay-with-lines

Fig 4 Rodney Bay St Lucia Scanned from 35mm Slide

With the fishing boat there is a strong implied curve starting with the man in the left and ending with the direction of travel of the boat. The net floats in the foreground start the curve and the boat line finishes it off. The crew are looking at the helmsman who is watching the net.

DSC_5385-with-lines

Fig 5 Beach Scene Hayling Island

In the beach scene there is a dynamic of opposite implied lines. The three children are looking at each other and at the swirl of movement created by the spray as the left hand child tries to splash the two on the right. The greater number of lines moving to the left draws the viewer towards the face of the older girl.

Fig 4 Local Wedding on Grace Bay - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig 6 Local Wedding on Grace Bay – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm

The first of my two new images for this exercise is using the eye line and the implied forward movement of the photographer to led the viewer into the centre of the wedding ceremony.

Fig Kite Flying at Grace Bay TCI - 1/250 at f/11, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 34mm

Fig 7 Kite Flying at Grace Bay TCI – 1/250 at f/11, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 34mm

An alternative eye line is included at fig. 7. The pilot eyes, not surprisingly, lead us to the kite.

Fig 8 Little Ruin Sapodilla Bay TCI - 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm with polarising filter

Fig 8 Little Ruin Sapodilla Bay TCI – 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm with polarising filter

The little ruin in fig. 8 was all that remained of , what appeared to be, a large house that must have once stood on this peninsular. The twisted, wooden path leads to the gazebo and although part of the path is not in view the viewer continues to follow the line.

 

Assignment 1 Contrasts

The first assignment asks for eight pairs of images that express the extremes of different qualities and one that demonstrates contrast in one picture. We are told not to lose sight of the fact that we are aiming to produce 17 interesting images.

My original thought was to create 17 images around a single theme but this quickly proved to be too restrictive so I aimed for pairs that complimented and related to each other. I wanted each image to have value in its own right but to work better because it was part of a pair.

It is quite clear that the assignment is asking for images to be conceptualised and then sought out and captured. This in itself is a lesson in how large a gap exists between the idea and the end result at this stage in the course but it made the assignment challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

Contrast in a Single Image – Black and White

Fig 1 - The Dark Angel - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 100, 105mm prime lens

Black and White – The Dark Angel – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 100, 105mm prime lens

The Victorian section of the Aldershot Military Cemetery is a place of decaying grave markers, monuments from a time of great certainty where, even in death, the rulers of Empire expressed a black and white view of their place in this world and the next. Rudyard Kipling, a man of his time, wrote:

“Blesséd be the English and all they make or do.

Curséd be the Hereticks who doubt that this is true!”

I liked the contrast of the discoloured and nearly black angel against the statue of Christ in the background that is still predominantly white. There is an irony that time and weather is slowly creating a black angel where once a whiter angel stood and will, in time, do the same to the statue of Christ.

Rather than using the, perhaps, more obvious choice of processing in black and white I made the decision to present this as a colour image which better captured the light in the trees and made the angel more distinct against the background. The intent is to move from dark to light, from black to white.

I wanted to capture the Gothic feel of this statue and of the graveyard in general and have therefore processed the image leaving the angel quite dark. I chose a tight frame to capture the upper third of the statue to focus on her sad face and selected an angle that encloses Christ in the triangular space created by her wing.

HIgh and Low

Fig 2. High - 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

High – The Standing Tower – 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Fig 2. Low - 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Low – The Fallen Tower – 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to capture high and low. I was helping at Sarum Academy in Salisbury on the day the old tower was scheduled to be demolished and spent the late afternoon waiting for the digger to prepare the site by raising the rubble platform to a suitable height. For the final sequence I chose a low angle to maximise the sense of height. 

In high the last part of the old Sarum Academy is about to fall, the mechanical digger has just touched the tower and the first pieces of debris are falling. The tower has been a been a local landmark for decades, placed as it was, on a hill above the largest housing estate in Salisbury. The staff and pupils saw this as an important moment in their history as one of the last remnants of the run-down old school made way for the new academy.

In “low” the tower is falling. A cloud of dust is rising and the bricks are tumbling towards the camera. It is a symbolic moment in the politics of education, an old school brought low by the development of an ambitious new academy.

Earlier in the afternoon there had been sunlight on the site and the tower was lit by a warm evening light but by the time they were ready to bring down the tower the site was mostly in shadow. For these images to work the tower and the machine had to be isolated and stand out so I used a touch of HDR toning in Photoshop to sharpen the contrast and the outlines of the bricks and then created a mask to leave the machine in colour which I then de-saturated to avoid too great a contrast.

I am pleased by the sharply defined bricks, the choice of mixing black and white with colour and the overall composition but a little disappointed that the cloud of dust raised in low makes the sky look quite different to high without it being obvious as to why. Overall I like the fact these images capture a piece of local history.

Light and Dark

Light - 1/80 at f/14, ISO 6400, 16 to 35mm lens at 16mm

Light – The Junk Room – 1/80 at f/14, ISO 6400, 16 to 35mm zoom lens at 16mm

For light and dark my idea was based the idea that these terms are often relative. I wanted two subjects with contradictory attributes so that light existed because of dark and that dark was exhibited by the inclusion of light.

The junk room in light is a gloomy corner of the props warehouse at MC Motors but I have endeavoured to focus attention on the light or lights. There are four sources of light, natural light coming from a dusty skylight in the adjoining space to the right, the star, the paper lantern and the small hanging light. Each is a different temperature and therefore a different shade so there is a also a mix of reflected light in play.

Dark Font - 1/20 at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Dark Font – 1/20 at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

The dark font is in Salisbury Cathedral and, from the right angle, acts as a mirror capturing reflections of the brightly lit wooden bust and other artwork.  I spent a long time waiting for a moment with no one in the frame but then chose this image with two visitors by the bust because they contribute a sense of scale to the image.

Following the idea of dark being relative I needed a subject where the inclusion of light told the viewer that the scene was dark. As modern cameras deal so effectively with poor light, note the ISO of 6,400, we sometimes need to include a bright light to explain that we are in a dark place.  An example of this is regularly seen on televised cricket where the director will show the bright lights in the hospitality boxes to explain how dark it has become in the middle.

Few and Many

Few - 1/125 at f/6.7, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 40mm

Few Locals – 1/125 at f/6.7, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 40mm

You can guarantee to find people sitting on the steps of Teramo Cathedral regardless of the weather and I felt this image worked well, for few. Three couples and a single in front of the huge wall sitting on the broad steps.  I like the balance of the people and of the linear steps against the high wall. I know that I am drawn to symmetrical images but there is just enough irregularity here to make the composition work.

Teramo is a small provincial city on the east coast of Italy in the shadow of the Apennines. Very few tourists ever visit here so the subjects are pretty well guaranteed to be local which explains why, even on a sunny afternoon they are all wearing coats.

Many - 1/200 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 65mm

Many Tourists – 1/200 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 65mm

The other side of the country in Rome you can equally guarantee people at the Trevi fountain and if the sun is out there will be a crowd. I left a little piece of empty space in the bottom right to give a hint of context and to show that the front row were sitting on a wall.

Few asks the viewer to think about a small number of people and wonder what each little group is doing, they are quite distinct and doing something different. Holding hands, making a phone call, chatting and sitting alone. On the other hand many has so much happening you are asked to view the dynamics of the crowd, people videoing, taking photos above their heads, showing their photos to each other, chatting, just sitting, coming and going, drinking, eating and just looking. A real tourist scene.

The less obvious contrast is that no self respecting Roman will visit the Trevi fountain when the tourists are there. There may be some Italians in the photo but you can reasonably assume no one is a local.

Much and Little

Much Graffiti - 1/125 at f/6.3, ISO 5600, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Much Graffiti – 1/125 at f/6.3, ISO 5600, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

The South Bank is famous for its ever changing, fast evolving and constantly replenished graffiti. To such an extent that I considered using this for “continuos” but it was hard to think of a pairing without it becoming too tenuous. Whenever I have reason to be in London I come here as, in the space of a month, the whole place will be refreshed with new street art. Banksy would be sprayed over in a week.

In much this artist was working on a new piece on one of the larger walls. I used a very high ISO rather than flash as I wanted to capture the shabby look, balance and depth is achieved by including the different walls and the big puddle. The fact the artist was hidden beneath a huge hoodie amused me, it is as if being incognito is an essential element of his art despite the fact that nobody cares about who does the graffiti here.

Few Graffiti - 1/125 at f/14., ISO 4000, 16 to 35mm lens at 35mm

Few Graffiti – 1/125 at f/14., ISO 4000, 16 to 35mm lens at 35mm

Is graffiti a noun? Can you say few graffiti ? I’m not sure. To pair with much graffiti I wanted a wall that was worth photographing in it’s own right and that had a small amount of street art. I found it on the other side of London at MC Motors which is where I also found the light junk room in light and dark.

In my day-to-day work, MC Motors is a wedding venue but its main role is as a studio that is hired out for fashion shoots and TV shows. The owners also own the venue for Dragon’s Den and I think somewhere’s next model was filmed here last year. The props are brilliant but it is the decaying paint on many of the walls that makes it so popular with photographers.

I selected this subject because it seemed that, at some point in the past, someone had cared about this strange little painting being here and had tried to remove it which was a further contrast against the South Bank. I framed it right down at the bottom to show as much clean wall as possible with the drawing significant but not dominant.

Camilo José Vergara was part of the inspiration for this pair of images. He clearly sees documenting graffiti as a way of documenting social trends and the fact the authorities leave the South Bank as a live art gallery is, indeed, a sign of the times, quite unthinkable even twenty years ago. The other Vergara influence was to leave the artist’s plastic bag in much. I better understand that this type of untidy detail is a key part of the scene.

Rough and Smooth

Rough Wheel - 1/60 at f/6.3, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 36mm

Rough Wheels – 1/60 at f/6.3, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 36mm

As discussed in my research I visited the Milestones Museum at Basingstoke twice in the course of this assignment thinking that there would be a number of industrial images in the final set.

In the end rough wheels is the strongest and the only industrial image to make the cut. I wanted to emphasise the rough surface so used a diffused flash gun on the floor underneath the wheel to throw the light across the surface to create deep shadows and highlights. I took a whole series of photographs but chose this composition because of the balance provided by the cogged wheel and its teeth which provided a second type of rough.

Smooth Discs - 1/60 at f/3.2, ISo 100, 105mm prime lens

Smooth Discs – 1/60 at f/3.2, ISo 100, 105mm prime lens

Because rough wheels was all about texture and lighting I needed a complimentary pairing that relied on the same elements. I chose these DVDs positioned one in front of each other to offer a similar composition. Because smooth discs had to be about texture and light I used a small LED light from the left and a hot-shoe soft box from above and to the right. This has emphasised the smooth surface and all the reflections (or are they refractions?) have changed the look of the subject and hopefully emphasised the smooth surface.

Rough and smooth are tactile characteristics so, without the ability to touch the subject, I had to use light to show  that these were rough and smooth surfaces.

Diagonal and Rounded

Diagonal Arial Dance 1/1600 at f/4.2, ISO 400, 70 - 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Diagonal Aerial Dance 1/1600 at f/4.2, ISO 400, 70 – 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Rounded Tumble - 1/4000 at f/4, ISO 250, 70 to 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Rounded Tumble – 1/4000 at f/4, ISO 250, 70 to 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

These two images are selected from a series taken using a trampoline and an energetic young relative who was happy to try and create the required shapes. A very fast shutter speed was used to freeze the moment. Diagonal has captured her at the top of a leap and in a ballet-like pose. Rounded was a little harder to achieve but the close crop has focussed on her rounded shape while she is in the process of turning round, of becoming rounded.

Moving and Still

Moving Cyclist - 1/125 at f/2.8, ISO 360, 24 to 70mm at 24mm

Moving Cyclist – 1/125 at f/2.8, ISO 360, 24 to 70mm at 24mm

The moving cyclist was captured on the edge of the graffiti zone on the South Bank. Taken whilst in mid-air performing a stunt and into the light with a flash gun to fill in the shadows. The artificial light adds to the sense of frozen action but, for me, the picture is made by the spectator on the left. This was taken with a wide lens but I have cropped to balance the cyclist with the spectator.

Still Skateboarder - 1/100 at f/8, ISO 640, 24 to 70 zoom lens at 35mm

Still Skateboarder – 1/100 at f/8, ISO 640, 24 to 70 zoom lens at 35mm

The still skateboarder was taken in Aldershot. I have left the framing very wide and cropped for width rather than using a 3:2 image to enable me to emphasise the empty bus shelter backed by the white windows and to show him as a isolated and rather lost little figure. His spiderman-like shirt and batman-like hat make him look very out-of-place.

Curved and Straight

Curved Poppies - 1/100 at f36, ISO 2500, 105mm prime lens

Curved Poppies – 1/100 at f36, ISO 2500, 105mm prime lens

I have written up the shoot that led to these Remembrance Day images.

I planned to use poppies for curves and expected to use the wreaths rather than the individual flowers. In the end I liked this near-macro photograph which is a quite abstract representation of the commemorative symbols and full of curves. I wanted there to be strong contrast within the image itself which I feel emphasises the shapes and increases the abstraction.

Straight Poppies - 1/100 at f6.3, iSO 100, 105mm prime lens

Straight Poppies – 1/100 at f6.3, iSO 100, 105mm prime lens

For straight I had planned to use the lines of wreaths on the memorial. However, I watched the wreaths being laid out by three military policemen. They were laid out in reasonably straight lines leading up to the memorial, the intent being that the people laying the wreaths could collect their wreath and place it at the base of the war memorial when they came out of the church service.

This sergeant was not happy with the ‘straight” lines and kept returning to make minor adjustments until he was satisfied that they were parade ground perfect. I felt this act of straightening was an expression of everything he stood for. His military desire for order and neatness, his pride in the job he had been given and the importance he placed on honouring the fallen in a manner that he believed they would understand. Straighten that line soldier!

To end as I began with Kipling:

“You may talk o’ gin and beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny fights an’ Aldershot it;

Straightening poppies is indeed to “Aldershot it”.

Researching Assignment 1 – Remembrance Sunday

Fig. 1 - 1/100 at f/5 ISO 125

Fig. 1 – Proud Para – 1/100 at f/5 ISO 125

Continuing the process of researching and undertaking TAoP Assignment 1, Contrasts. Over the last few weeks I have slowly collected images for the contrasting pairs. My process has mostly been to map out ideas and then to identify locations that might work for those ideas.

When thinking about straight & curved I had thought of soldiers as a possibility for straight and with Remembrance Sunday falling last weekend I wanted to attend the service in Aldershot to further explore that idea.

Aldershot is a location that I see myself regularly returning to during this course, in reality it is already becoming more of a personal project. Aldershot is famous for a very small number of things.  First and foremost it is the Home of The British Army which is one of life’s great ironies as successive governments have reduced the military presence in the town as they have consolidated the Army in other places such as Colchester. Most of the army has left home.

The opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem Gunga Din* immortalises the town:

You may talk o’ gin and beer, When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, And you’re sent to penny fights an’ Aldershot it;

Penny fights was Victorian army slag for training battles and Aldershot was where they happened.

Fig. 2 Gurkha - 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

Fig. 2 – Gurkha – 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

It’s second claim to fame is more recent. Joanna Lumley, the daughter of a Gurkha officer, was the public face of a campaign to secure the right of ex-Gurhkas, the Nepalese mercenries who have been part of the British Army since the days of the Raj, to retire in Britain along with their families if they had served in the regiment for more than 4 years. This led to a influx of Nepalese to the UK and many settled in Aldershot which was the nearest town to their old barracks at Church Crookham. By 2011, 1 in 10 residents of Aldershot was Nepalese putting a significant strain on the infrastructure and creating much tension in the community. The so called “Battle of Aldershot” had begun and is still a topic of hot debate today.

I am interested in Aldershot at many levels. The Nepalese story is compelling, the tensions it has created, the strain on social services and infrastructure against the work ethic of the immigrants and the boost they have given to the local economy by creating successful businesses that might help regenerate the town.

At another level I am drawn to the history of a place that started as a tented training camp, around a small village, and grew into a town with no other purpose than to house and support the Army – a modern day vicus** and, I suspect, potentially quite unique in that regard in modern Britain. But a town that has nearly lost its reason for existing as the army has withdrawn and is trying to reinvent itself.

The rapid growth of the army in the Aldershot area led to the construction of barracks, stables, churches and a wide array of military buildings whilst civic and commercial buildings sprang up in the town centre. Sadly many of these buildings were demolished and their sites redeveloped in the 60s, an era of wanton vandalism by town planners, and, of course, many of those developments are now abandoned or already pulled down. However, dotted around the military town there still architectural gems that have survived and that deserve preservation.

Fig. Garrison Church Aldershot - 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

Fig. 3 – Garrison Church Aldershot – 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

So, on Sunday, I travelled to Aldershot and specifically to the Garrison Church on the edge of the military town.

In planning I thought that there was potentially a pair of images to represent straight and curved. I knew that the war memorial was likely to have straight lines, that there would be lines of wreaths on the memorial and soldiers at attention. There was also the connotation of straight for an upright uncool citizen such as a soldier (or am I showing my age?).

For curved there would be wreaths of poppies and musical instruments.

I was highly conscious that this was a subject that must be treated with respect. Aldershot is a town that has lost thousands of serving soldiers from it’s regiments since it was founded in 1854. Since the Crimean war soldiers have left Aldershot to serve in every conflict Britain has been involved in.

Some research told me that Civil and military dignitaries would first join each other at a remembrance service in the Garrison Church followed by wreath laying and a march past.

Arriving early I had the opportunity to meet and photograph some of the veterans that were gathering for the parade including the ex-paratroper, or “para” as they are known locally, in fig. 1. Breaking from any tradition of candid street photography I asked his permission to photograph him and he rewarded me by striking the marvellous pose shown in fig 1 and fig. 4.

Fig. 4 - Proud Para - 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

Fig. 4 – Proud Para – 1/100 at f/5.6 ISO 100

I am especially pleased with fig. 4 as it includes the memorial in the background. This could be my “straight” image but I feel that this would not be respectful.

After a short while military policemen or “red caps” arrived with an officer or NCO from a Scottish regiment and began to arrange the wreaths ready for the official laying. This provided interesting images that I had not expected.

Fig. 5 - Memorial & Poppies - 1/160 at f/10 ISO 100

Fig. 5 – Memorial & Poppies – 1/160 at f/10 ISO 100

Fig. 6 - Memorial & Poppies - 1/320 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 6 – Memorial & Poppies – 1/320 at f/7.1 ISO 100

My expectation had been to capture the wreaths in lines after they had been laid but the MPs placed them in the long straight lines in fig. 5 and fig 6. ready to be picked up and placed on the memorial. I initially though that one of these would be my “straight” image but eventually choose a slight variation on this theme.

And, apparently in charge, or was he just in the best uniform ? The gentleman from Scotland, a Regimental Sergeant Major perhaps.

Fig 7 - Scottish RSM - 1/100 at f/8 ISO 180

Fig 7 – Scottish RSM – 1/100 at f/8 ISO 180

It was an interesting learning experience, I do not recall photographing anything quite like this before. In some ways it is similar to photographing the winter solstice last year. I felt a bit lost, not quite sure where to be at any given time and not certain what was acceptable and what was intrusive or disrespectful.

It was helpful that a local press photographer was there and happy to explain the programme. However, watching where he went was the real education as he was always one step ahead of the action. I would imagine he has covered this event many times and knew exactly where to stand for each phase of the ceremony. If I go again next year I will get into better positions and that might lead to better images.

The summary of the lesson is that research about an event can only get you so far, being there is the only way to know what to do next time. Hopefully, if I go to enough events, my senses will become better tuned to spotting the right place to be.

Fig 8. - 1/1250 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig 8. – Ready for the Ceremony – 1/1250 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Sources:

*Kipling, Rudyard, (1990) The Complete Verse. Folkestone, Invicta

** A “vicus” was the civilian settlement that grew up outside the walls of a Roman Legionary camp or fort. Initially populated by camp followers many of these disorganised camps developed in towns and eclipsed the original military camp. See Salway, Peter, (1993) The Oxford Illustrated History of Roman Britain. Oxford University Press. Page 404