Project 3

Reportage

I hadn’t come across the term “reportage” before. ‘On the ground’, “close to the action’ with the implication that it tells a story from the point of view of one person. One picture contains within it a bigger story. The example given in page 31 of the Module Handbook is from Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dessau, Germany, April 1945 stating that this image of a Belgian Gestapo informer being revealed to the crowd is taken at “..a decisive moment, when the press of a button tells a much wider story in an instant” I just saw this on the web this morning  At first I thought it was a fashion image using a deprived area as a background and was ready to be critical, but it isn’t. The image is part of a longer term project by Jane Hahn. The woman was returning home after bathing; not willing to speak, and in a hurry so Hahn took the shot as she was walking away. There’s a quote from Sean O’Hagan

Jane Hahn’s image possesses a beautiful tension, between the surroundings and the subject, ………The woman wrapped in the England towel seems to have arrived in the photograph from another world, her grace and poise as she walks though the shanty town at odds with the ramshackle buildings and debris around her. A great example of the old-fashioned decisive moment, I guess.

It was the colour of the woman’s turban and towel that caught my attention enough to click my mouse on the thumbnail. I’ve been thinking that it might not capture such attention in black and white, but I’ve just done a quick b+w conversion on a screen shot. The image is high contrast whilst having a spread across the tonal range and the composition is striking – diagonals of steps and shanties; those lines contrasting with the cobbled path. And then there’s the slightly tilted posture of the woman as she’s walking along with the towel and its bright contrasts.

I’ve done the same with the Cartier-Bresson image which has a similar spread along the tonal range. Here’s it’s the many faces with all those different expressions and lighter clothing that capture the moment and contrast with the foreground figures of the women wearing dark clothes.

I haven’t done further current research on street photography apart from writing my thoughts on the Co-optic Project, seen at the Brighton Biennial 2014 recently. The photography there was street-style in the sense of capturing the moment; showing some of the idiosyncracies of British life and wide angle/close to the action.

The Exercise

This is to find a street that particularly interests me and shoot 30 colour and 30 black and white images in a street photography style. Taking photographs in the street in my area is not easy. The town guardians of Woking and Guildford do not appreciate it. In fact there was an incident in Guildford in 2012 when two photographers were questioned by the police for taking photographs in the city centre, see here. I had no trips to London planned either. Still I decided to go out with my Fuji camera onto my local shopping street. It wasn’t too successful, there were hardly any people around and those who were gave me curious looks when they saw me taking photographs. Here are the contact sheets of some of the images – colour and those I chose to convert to black and white. I chose the black and white conversions by eye first to see what range of tones I could detect and then checked this through the histogram.

ContactSheet-001 black and white

I walked down the street again, late afternoon, when I had my larger camera.

 

They’re not what I would call street photography because, as I’ve already written, to me that’s close up and involves people. I have taken photographs more in that style when I’ve been in London (or on holiday). I don’t personally have a preference for either set although generally I prefer colour even though I can appreciate the structure and composition in black and white.

Because I felt pressure to do the exercise I did take the Fuji with me when I finally got up to London a couple of weeks ago to see the Elina Brotherus Exhibition. It was raining on my way there and I was in a hurry to get back home so no photographs were taken. I’ve promised myself that I will do some actual street photography the next time I go to London, whenever that is. The alternative is to fasten the Go-Pro camera I have around my chest and do some covert photography locally. We’ll see!

28th November 2014

References

http://www.bjp-online.com/2014/11/jane-hahn-wins-the-single-image-ipa-prize/

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19 thoughts on “Project 3

  1. Walker Evans strapped a camera inside his overcoat and rode the subway taking surreptitious images of other passengers (mind you it was a much bigger camera than the ‘Go-Pro’!) – so you’d be in good company. The public has an interesting perspective of cameras in public; I have worked with a (relatively) small Fuji x100, a large DLSR and a medium format and generally the DLSR generates the most issues. A MF camera on a tripod is more likely to be ignored, or perhaps provide the impression of an “official at work”!
    I do wonder about the benefit of this type of exercise, especially if the student has to intent on working on the street…..

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    • I’m quite happy taking photographs on the street when I can be a ‘tourist’ but it’s a different kettle of fish nearer to home. I wonder too about the value of this exercise given that I don’t experience myself as a street photographer. However, I decided that this was another case of “It’ll do me good to test my boundaries”. Well – they’ve been tested and, so far, have held true!

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      • Catherine, all you need to do to overcome the fear is to become a ‘tourist’ in your own town. I’m hoping to go and shoot my assignment next week in London; and am already thinking of my ‘costume’. Maybe a foreign rugby shirt or hat? Or maybe a hat with Union flag—and definitely a map in my hand. 😉

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      • Regarding the selfie—you’re on! That will make me look even more like a tourist! BTW—am looking to see if I can do an extended project on the ‘selfie’ somewhere in C&N—have started the research—but no idea if it will fit anywhere! But the requested selfie could well form part of that project! 😉

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  2. I think this exercise is about: 1) see yourself what does mean shooting the street photography, and 2) pushing your boundaries. Unfortunately, incidents like the one in Guildford make the job more difficult for photographers taking pictures in public places. This post makes me think about photographers rights in the UK and I’m going to find out more about it.
    Anyway I hope you’ve enjoyed the exercise and good luck in your future shooting in London 🙂

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  3. It is a shame that you have been put off street photography in Guildford. I can understand that working close to home can feel quite different but I take street photos in Guildford, Farnham, Winchester and Aldershot on a regular basis. I used to use a DSLR but now tend to take a Fuji XT 1 which is more discrete but we have a right to take photos from and in public places and whilst we need to be sensitive – I avoid including children for obvious reasons – I feel quite strongly that we need to preserve this right. Its a bit like the ramblers walking on rights of way to keep them current. Its a cliché but if anyone gives me a look I smile and if they approach me I am always ready to show them the picture and explain the current project. Many shopkeepers / managers approached me when I was doing my mannequin project – half thought I was from head office and half thought I was from the council – generally being neither made me acceptable. If photographing people head on is intimidating I suggest getting into the swing of things by photographing their reflections in mirrors and windows, that way you don’t have to point the camera at them.

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  4. Another angle is that street photography doesn’t have to include people, just evidence of people, which you might find easier to begin with – shoes, signs, shop windows, bicycles, glasses/cups on tables, shadows of people, umbrellas etc etc – you get the idea. Then if a ‘person’ shot does make itself available, go for it. As you know I’m not into people in my photos but I really enjoyed my shoot for this exercise – and a lot of my images don’t include whole people!

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