ASSIGNMENT 5: PHOTOGRAPHY IS SIMPLE

Niki South    Student number: 514516

FINAL IMAGES

LR -3617 1500 crop 3

“Beginnings”

Image 183: Exposure 1/1250, Aperture f\6.3, ISO 400, Focal length 133mm

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_MG_3508 1500

“Cleating”

Image 134: Exposure 1/400, Aperture f\9, ISO 400, Focal length 300mm

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“Dangling”

Image 128: Exposure 1/2000, Aperture f\5.6, ISO 400, Focal length 87mm

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LR -3381 Final 1500

“Hauling”

Image: 34: Exposure 1/320, Aperture  f\10, ISO 400 Focal length 52mm

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LR -3581 1500 final crop

“Mooring”

Image 172: Exposure 1/100, Aperture f\13, ISO 400, Focal length 92mm

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LR -3416 final 1500

“Climbing”

Image 56: Exposure 1/320, Aperture f\18, ISO 400, Focal length 141mm

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LR -3534 crop ps 1500

Reefing”

Image 147: Exposure 1/800, Aperture f\11, ISO 400, Focal length 48mm

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LR 3-3429 1500

“Enjoying”

Image 67: Exposure 1/640, Aperture f\11, ISO 400, Focal length 17mm

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LR -3385 final 1500

Sailing”

Image 38: Exposure 1/500, Aperture f\11, ISO 400, Focal length 16mm

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 LR -3480 1500

“Owning”

Image 109: Exposure 1/500, Aperture f\6.3, ISO 400, Focal length 300mm

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ASSIGNMENT 5: PHOTOGRAPHY IS SIMPLE

FINAL NOTES AND ANALYSIS

Niki South Student number: 514516

BRIEF

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.  

Assignment notes: In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’ Write about 300 words. Your response to the question doesn’t have to be complicated; it might be quite simple (but if you can answer in one word then you will have to imaginatively interpret your photographs for the remaining 299!)

For this assignment it is important that you send a link (or scanned pages) to the contextual exercise (Exercise 5.2) for your tutor to comment on within their report.

WHAT IS MY SUBJECT ABOUT?

The Jolie Brise:  Was built in 1913 in Le Havre and is one of the world’s most famous tall ships. She was a pilot boat (the last to carry royal mail under sail), has won the Fastnet race three times and the Tall ships race in 2015; she is steeped in history and breathtakingly beautiful. Now owned by Dauntsey’s school sailing club, this is how I have been lucky enough to sail on her twice.

I chose The Jolie Brise for my subject as sailing is one of my passions, and I hugely admire The boat’s craftsmanship, beauty, and amazing history. A personal connection (my daughter has sailed her) and the opportunity she has given many other youngsters to develop a love of sailing and adventure, strengthens my attraction to her.

As I set out in my learning log, she was an opportunist subject for me, not the one I had originally planned. Invited to sail on her at short notice, I had my camera with me, but didn’t expect to use it much. I shot at first for my pleasure and then realised I could use her as the subject for my assignment. I liked the challenge that this presented me: quickly translating my planning for another subject, thinking on the spot, dealing with difficult shooting conditions (constant movement, bright sunlight, working in a tight space around crew and equipment). I had only a few hours left to observe, think creatively and photograph. I had planned to present my original series as a “slow reveal”, and shot to that brief. All the images were opportunist, not staged. I felt confident and comfortable with her as my subject and enjoyed shooting the images, which I hope have captured viewpoint, moment, enjoyment and subject. Yes photography can be simple if you have an affinity with your subject!

Link to contextual exercise 5.3: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/exercise-5-2/

Link to learning log: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a5-learning-log/

ASSIGNMENT 3: THE DECISIVE MOMENT

Niki South   Student number: 514516

FINAL IMAGES

No smoking_MG_1668 crop print lighten 20 1500Exposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/ 5.6, ISO 640, Focal length 82mm

Metal man_MG_1260 print.jpgExposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/ 5.0, ISO 800, Focal length 44mm

Never grow up!_MG_1712 exp crop print lightened 1500Exposure 1/250 sec, Aperture f/ 6.3, ISO 400, Focal length 28mm

Ambush_MG_1803.jpgExposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/ 5.6, ISO 800, Focal length 63mm

Convergence_MG_1690 used.jpgExposure 1/400 sec, Aperture f/ 5, ISO 400, Focal length 44mm

The eye_MG_1277 Print lighten 1500Exposure 1/640 sec, Aperture f/ 4, ISO 500, Focal length 28mm

Think safety_MG_1626 used.jpgExposure 1/250 sec, Aperture f/8, ISO 400, Focal length 39mm

ASSIGNMENT 3: THE DECISIVE MOMENT

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Niki South Student number: 514516

FINAL ANALYSIS

Brief: Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

Assignment notes: Submit assignment notes of between 500 and 1,000 words with your series. Introduce your subject and describe your ‘process’ – your way of working. Then briefly state how you think each image relates to the concept of the decisive moment. This will be a personal response as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course. 

 INTRODUCTION TO SUBJECT

The decisive moment is not a dramatic climax but a visual one: the result is not a story but a picture.                                  (Swarkowski, 2007, p.5)

As I had used street photography in with my previous assignment I tested other ideas initially; I wanted a different challenge. I experimented with capturing sea spray and waves, but found that though beautiful pictures, overall they lacked interest. I resolved then to return to street photography for this assignment, but try to find “my difference”.

I  reconsidered the meaning of the decisive moment. Cartier Bresson defines the decisive moment as, “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” (Cartier Bresson, 1952). Others are decisive in different ways; Erwitt for instance instinctively pursuing absurdities (Golden 2003, p74), Diosneau waiting patiently (Lichfield, 2010), or Meyrowitz seeking astonishment, (O’Hagen, 2012), juxtaposition or constructing relationships.

Link to research page: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a3-research/

I agree the decisive moment is “that infinitely small and unique moment in time which cannot be repeated, and that only the photographic lens can capture”. (Zouhaighazzi, 2004); however to discover what this meant in reality I headed onto the streets to capture images.

MY PROCESS

I learnt much about the practical aspects of street photography during my previous assignment, so I set out this time concentrating on really looking, observing and to capture some shots planned with strong geometrical composition and some spontaneous “moments”; I had starting ideas for subject matter and intended to present in monochrome to present a difference to my India street photography.

See planning mind map: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a3-learning-log/

Whilst capturing I found that my style of looking was evolving. Often I composed a shot, even took it, then looked deeper and noticed something else adjacent or within more visually interesting. I quickly learnt to look deeper at the outset. From the first shoot I found some of my best images were those where there was a visually pleasing background or graphics where a person added substantially to the image. I began to pursue this theme. On my second shoot I returned to some locations to see if I could improve on any images and search for more; however my first shoot was the best and often the first shot in a series was the most effective. I generally found that if I waited too long for the completion of the composition, then the image appeared contrived. Converse to my plan, I realised that colour was important and enhanced my visual messages.

When editing I strove for “beauty in a fragment of time”, a fleeting precise organisation of form, as well as images that linger, engage the viewer or poses questions. I additionally looked for:

  • Images with ambiguity or open to interpretation by the viewer.
  • Juxtaposition.
  • A graphic and/or visual message.
  • Contrast
  • A synergistic relationship between an environment and a person.

The theme for the series emerged: Images where the relationship between the environment and person create a decisive moment.

See link to editing mind map: https://nkssite.wordpress.com/category/a3-learning-log/

Technically I set the shutter speed to freeze the moment. I used my 16-300mm telephoto lens for the first shoot and after discovering that my images were all shot under 85mm I used my 17-85mm lens for the second shoot.

  • To give homogeny to the series I used eye level viewpoint throughout and composed full frame, where I have cropped I maintain the original 3:2 ratio.
  • I have presented in colour as in most images it accents an important visual component or creates a contrast in an otherwise urban coloured scene.
  • The compositions were instinctive rather than fulfilling any rules. Framing mainly focuses attention into the images, separating the contents from their context. Focus is balanced between the environment and the person. Some images are more depictive than mental (Convergence and Metal man), whilst some function on a depictive and mental level (for instance, Smoking, Ambush, the Eye (Shore 2007, p 97).

HOW THE IMAGES CONTRIBUTE TO THE DECISIVE MOMENT:

  1. No smoking: As I rounded the corner I saw simultaneously the graphics of the man with the cigar and the man smoking beside it; the addition of the no smoking sign and the cigarette butts on the floor was a bonus. Realising the significance of this combination I shot quickly to capture it.
  2. Metal Man: This image is a picture not a story, created by waiting for a decisive moment. I was attracted to the metal shutter, stairs and rails but I needed something to create a picture. In my several attempts lying in wait, this “grey, sharp” man appeared with his unknowing face and metal briefcase; He created the visual climax of a “precise organisation of forms” (Cartier Bresson,1952).
  3. Never grow up: The graffiti clearly needed a human touch to create a picture. I knew if I waited the right person could turn this from a potential picture to a strong story. These subjects were a perfect enactment of the graphics and their exact location on the pavement was critical to the composition.
  4. Ambush: The idea behind this shot was at first accidental. I was focusing on gestures of a man and then noticed his backdrop. I moved in to create a possibility for an interesting composition, taking a number of shots experimenting with passer-by’s looking for juxtaposition, ambiguity, contrast or relationships. I choose this moment to shoot as the people and the positioning created a mini drama.
  5. Convergence: I found this building and graphics on a quiet street and knew that to complete the visual picture I should capture people exactly the correct position  in the frame (converging) and against the graphics to complete the geometry of the composition and to emphasise the graphic message.
  6. The eye: I was firstly attracted to the line of bicycles and waited for a cyclist to appear to complete the composition. The eye was part of the pattern of image, however it wasn’t until I reviewed the images on site that I was really aware of the importance of the eye visually. I shot more but ultimately chose this first subject, as they seem to be looking at the eye looking at them; which creates tension and empathy. So my first impulse had been the decisive moment.
  7. Think safety: I was attracted by the graffiti background as a pattern and the text of the notices. I framed some pleasing compositions and hoped additionally for something interesting or even “unsafe” to occur, it didn’t. However I seized the moment when this man in the safety jacket appeared giving emphasis to the textual messages and completing a pleasing composition.

EVALUATION: 

What worked well:            

  • I feel that all of the images are decisive moments, they were the perfect moment to press the button.
  • My observational skills deepened enormously during the shooting and editing.
  • Flexibility with the assignment. Unlike my previous assignments I was fluid in my thoughts and preparation and much more instinctive when shooting.
  • Working with colour in a different way, as an accent rather than as a main component.
  • I was more decisive and instinctive when editing and forming the series.

 What didn’t work so well and how the series might be improved in the future:

  • Now I am in a more decisive mode and have learnt that often the first shot is the best, I will try to take less images to catch the image that I want.
  • Technically I would like to move to from shutter priority to manual.

 References:  

Cartier Bresson, H. (1952). The Decisive Moment, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Golden, R (2003). Masters of Photography. 3rd Ed. London. Goodman.

Lichfield, J (2010. Robert Doisneau: A window into the soul of Paris, Independent Sunday 5 December 2010. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/robert-doisneau-a-window-into-the-soul-of-paris-2151370.html (accessed 30.1.16).

O’ Hagen, S. (2012). Joel Meyerowitz: ‘brilliant mistakes … amazing accidents’. Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/11/joel-meyerowitz-taking-my-time-interview (accessed 30.1.16).

Shore, S (2007).The nature of photographs. 2nd edition. London. Phaidon.

Szarkowski, J (2007). The Photographer’s Eye. New York: MoMA.

Zouhairghazzal (2004). The indecisiveness of the decisive moment. http://zouhairghazzal.com/photos/aleppo/cartier-bresson.htm (accessed 28.2.2015).

LEARNING LOG: THE DECISIVE MOMENT

Niki South   Student number: 514516

THE “DECISIVE MOMENT” DEBATE:  

Where I stand Part 1 (pre shooting)

I am comfortable at this stage with most of Cartier Bresson’s concepts and assertions, however there are many who are more critical. O’ Hagen (2014) questions why although “The Decisive Moment” (Cartier Bresson, 1952) changed photography forever, it has been republished and asserts that it cements out of date ideas. Certainly Cartier Bresson stressed the importance of composition, and liked to instinctively fix a geometric pattern into which to fix a subject. O’Hagen suggests that “The idea that he lay in wait for someone to walk into a precomposed frame may explain his extraordinary hit rate” (2014). He weighs this against the photographical methods of Garry Winogrand or Joel Meyerowitz, who he suggests pounded the streets in search of the right convergence of light, action and expression rather than patterns and geometry and others like Frank and Eggleston signalled the future, and considers that the book is now a historical artefact:

“It cements an idea of photography that is no longer current but continues to exist as an unquestioned yardstick in the public eye: black and white, acutely observational, meticulously composed, charming. Colour and conceptualism may as well not have happened, so enduring is this model of photography outside the world of contemporary photography itself.” (O’Hagen, 2014)

In an essay in the London Review of Books (2013), Gaby Wood wrote, “The reason his photographs often feel numbly impersonal now is not just that they are familiar. It’s that they’re so coolly composed, so infernally correct that there’s nothing raw about them, and you find yourself thinking: would it not be more interesting if his moments were a little less decisive?”

Having immersed myself in the work, methods and thinking of Henri Cartier Bresson during these exercises and research I feel that I need to step back and see how the experience of shooting the assignment affects my stance on these things. I intend to enter into the spirit of Henri Cartier for the assignment:

“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” (Cartier Bresson, 1999).

Where I stand Part 2 (post assignment):

Having scouted and shot on the streets I now feel better placed to give my view on the decisive moment. I set out with a plan to shoot geometric patterns with a subject completing them. Initially looking for compositions like Cartier Bresson’s there was something lacking, however as I worked my way into the shooting, outcomes seemed to improve. Probably my “looking” improved so that I was able to capture more interesting moments; I whole heartedly agree that successful photography is “a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity(Cartier-Bresson, 1952).

What I did find was that whilst some of my shoots were fairly coolly composed, my most effective shoots were more spontaneous and decisive. Certainly my experience taught me that most often my first shot was the best, even after spending time trying to improve on an image and that observation and fast reactions are vital to capture decisive moments as “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again” (Cartier Bresson, 1952). I’m not sure as Gaby Wood (O’Hagan, 2014) suggests, that Cartier Bresson did “coolly compose” them, but most likely that he just had a good eye and instinct.

Some may now see his images as overly correct, not raw enough or passé, but however you view his images there is no doubt in my mind that he was a master of the decisive moment which is a combination of observation, readiness, instinctive composition and technical skill. In no way do I believe that the decisive moment belongs to another photographic time, but that it is essential to successful photography today. It may be that everyone’s decisive moment is different, depending on what they are looking for, but “ that infinitely small and unique moment in time which cannot be repeated” (Zouhairghazzi, 2004) is critical to effective images.

References: 

Cartier Bresson, H (1952). The Decisive Moment. New York. Simon and Schuster.

Cartier Bresson, H (1999). The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers.  New York. Aperture.

O’Hagan, S (2014). Cartier-Bresson’s classic is back – but his Decisive Moment has passed. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/dec/23/henri-cartier-bresson-the-decisive-moment-reissued-photography?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other : (accessed 25.2.16).

Zouhairghazzi (2004). The indecisiveness of the decisive moment. http://zouhairghazzal.com/photos/aleppo/cartier-bresson.htm (accessed 26.2.16).