Project 3


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