Collecting: Crowds – Learning log

THE BRIEF

Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing: Crowds, views, Heads.

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.

A series should reflect a single coherent idea, even though the individual photographs will be unique. For this assignment you’ll make a collection of photographs using a combination of lens techniques that you’ll decide for yourself. Your tutor will evaluate the series in terms of its technical skill but also on how well the assignment works as a whole.

PREPARATIONS

Knowing that I was about to spend 3 weeks travelling through Rajasthan India it made sense to seize the opportunity and shoot the images for my assignment whilst there. For that reason I chose the subject matter of crowds. I have travelled to the region before and so had a good idea of the situations that I would encounter and was confident that I would collect plenty of images.

The challenge for me was being focused and prepared whilst on location, as I would also be capturing images for our travelling album and myself (architecture, individuals, views etc.). I was also very aware that I should not fall into the trap of thinking that images taken in such a location would be interesting in themselves and should therefore be very sure that they fitted the brief and were strong in themselves.

Research

I began by exploring the theme of crowds, looking at definitions and others images. The definition that stuck with me was “A crowd may be definable through a common purpose or set of emotions” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd (Accessed 15.10.15).

I browsed some online images of crowds such as: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/photos/crowd?excludenudity=true&mediatype=photography&phrase=crowd&sort=mostpopular (Accessed 15.10.15).

http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/photo/new-york-city-time-square-people-walking-high-res-stock-photography/127810433 (Accessed 15.10.15).

I was able to explore the work of Syd Shelton in his Rock Against Racism exhibition whilst attending the East London photography Festival on October 24th (http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/rock-against-racism  Accessed 22.10.15) and found in his images many that offered interesting and different viewpoints and focal lengths of crowds.

In preparation for shooting I decided to research street photographers, as I knew that much of my capturing would be “on the hoof” on the streets.

Street photographers

Alex Webb uses strong colours and emotion when capturing his images. Webb said of Mexico and Haiti “these are places where colour is somehow deeply part of the culture, on an almost spiritual level”; indeed I knew this to be so with the location where I would be shooting and expected to use it to capture the intensity of a crowd situation. He “stumbled upon a way of working in vibrant, saturated color” (Alex Webb: Rendering a Complex World, in Color and Black-and-White, Estrin. J 8.1.13 http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/alex-webb-rendering-a-complex-world-in-color-and-black-and-white/?_r=0 Accessed 20.10.15), I thought that I would probably do the same working with colour in Rajasthan.

Webb “takes complicated pictures of complicated situations” (Alex Webb: More is more, Dyer. D. 14.5.11, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/may/14/alex-webb-magnum-photographer-geoff-dyer  (Accessed 20.10.15). Webb uses layering to create depth in his images, often with strong foreground, midground and backgrounds. Leading the reader into the image and fills his frames with many subjects. He rarely planned his shooting and shared “I sense the possibility of a picture. It might be a group of people, it might be the look of a corner I can’t say what it might be until I see it. It’s all about having a feel for the street.” (Estrin. J. 8.1.13).

Garry Winogrand was a prolific photographer Street photographer, constantly searching for subjects and situations “Life, for him, was the energy of the street in all its unruly momentum” (Garry Winogrand: the restless genius who gave street photography attitude, O’Hagan. S. 15.10.14 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/15/-sp-garry-winogrand-genius-american-street-photography (Accessed 21.10.15). Winogrand did not mind being noticed, “many of his reluctant subjects only seem to register his presence at the very moment he presses the shutter” and stare at him in a “slightly bewildered fashion”: I would like to learn to be gutsy but respectful when shooting on the streets.

Interestingly there is a “Winograndian” logic to his compositions, an instinctive grasp of the geometry of a good photograph” (as above). He was interested in the rhythm of the streets and the people who created it, I will need to find the rhythm of the crowds on the streets. Winogrand was also an advocate of emotionally detaching yourself from your photos and often left an extended period between shooting and editing for this reason, he said “photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the picture as judgement that the photograph is good”. I should remember this when editing. For more of his images see http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Garry-Winogrand.html (Accessed 21.10.15).

William Klein the photographer wrote a series of books about cities in the 60s, New York, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo “filled with raw, grainy, black-and-white photographs that caught the energy and movement of modern urban life with scant regard for traditional composition”, (William Klein: ‘I was an outsider, following my instincts’. O’Hagan. S. 28.4.12, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/apr/28/william-klein-interview-sony-photography Accessed 21.10.15). In New York he captured the ethnicity of people and in his images represented their culture. “His images came from the thick of things. He was often working down on the pavement at the eye-level of the kids he was photographing…in Klein’s New York people press themselves up against the lens, dancing around the photographer, pulling faces, pretending to shoot each other, or the photographer, with toy guns”, (Photography: William Klein, P. Strathern, 23.10.11, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/photography-william-klein-1178874.html Accessed 21.10.15). He filled his frames with emotions, actions and his compositions were innovative and often intimate.

I also viewed an interview on Andreas Feininger which was suggested by my Tutor as an inspiration on perspective and photography: Andreas Feininger BBC Master Photographers (1983): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23UjjfnlDDc&app=desktop (accessed 12.10.15).

This you tube interview of the photographer Andreas Feininger, as my Tutor suggested, inspires you to consider different aspects of perspective and the use of lenses. He talks about photography as “freezing the moment”. Feininger talks about the superiority of the camera lens over the eye as it is not fixed, the eyes sees only rectilinear whereas the camera sees cylindrical (panoramic) and spherical ((fish eye). He believes photographs interpret as well as represent reality and so widen the viewer’s sense of reality

He uses photography to show you things that you otherwise wouldn’t see, in particular using the telescopic lens for small objects. He also uses the telescopic lens to change perspective, to compact masses, to create monumentality. Feininger also uses the wide angle lens for distortion to create a strong feeling of depth.

Feininger prefers to work in black and white as he likes the contrasts it gives, the shadows that give depth and feels that it can make stronger statements. When asked what makes something visually attractive, he suggests: interesting, eye-catching, something that speaks to you or tells you something and suggests that you should select your technique as a graphic means of expression (a means to an end).

His portraits are interesting as they are symbolic and abstract representations, his images of nature as they show you things that you’ve not seen before focusing on structure and pattern.

From this research I knew when collecting crowd images I should:

  • Develop a feel for the emotion and rhythm of the crowds
  • Use colour to portray emotions
  • Show the context of the crowd
  • Fill frames and layer interest
  • Shoot in the “thick of things”
  • Use various perspectives

For the rest of my preparation I created a mind map of reminders of foci to use when on location organised into the subheadings: Technical, Fact and form, context, senses, perspective, viewpoint, focal length and aperture see below:

IMG_1417 mind map prep

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