Saturday, September 25, 2010

Assignment 4: First Thoughts

I haven't yet submitted assignment 3, however the photography is done and all I need to do now is to complete my write up and email it to my tutor.  As a result I have started to think about what might constitute assignment 4.  I have a subject, but am looking for a linking theme or treatment.  When I first moved from the UK to Munich I found a flat in a district of the city called Haidhausen and lived there for 12 years before needing to move to somewhere offering more living space.  This means that I know Haidhausen very well and have walked along pretty much every street.

Haidhausen sits on the eastern side of Munich, just across the River Isar from the historic city center.  Haidhausen is, however, as old as the city and has existed in records for 1200 years, so has a rich history and heritage.  Much of the district is named after towns and cities in France, due to the fact that Napoleons army used it as a camp for a time.  Beyond the history, Haidhausen also contains a good mix of old and new buildings, is viewed as a great place for a night out, especially for getting a good value meal and a beer or two.  It is a cultural center with both the home of the Munich Philharmonic and the Kultfabrik and maze of industrial buildings containing night clubs and bars.

As such it is a rich environment for a photographer and is only 30 minutes walk from my front door.  Having chosen this as a subject, the question of theme and treatment become moot.  Currently I am looking at a lot of photographs by the Americans, such as Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, and William Eggleston, as well as Brits such Martin Parr and Fay Godwin.  Adding to this are a couple of books from the Dusseldorf school, and in particular Andreas Gursky.  All taken together, this pulls me in the direction of a very straight approach, using the themes of social documentary and aesthetics from this group of photographers.  I want to portray Haidhausen as a place people inhabit, not visit from far away.  In assignment 3, my photographs all featured people, this time, I may imply people rather than directly portray them, place might be more prominent than people.  I also keep coming back to the idea of constraining the images by choice of a single lens/camera combination, although a sophisticated one using a 24mm tilt shift.  This is harder to decide, it is both liberating and constraining at the same time.  It will force careful image selection and restrict choice of subject, but will provide a commonality to the images and remove the issue of lens choice from the process.  On the other hand it will very much restrict the ability for the spontaneous grab shot, such as the following:

This is intended to capture something of the look of American Street photography and would have been harder to capture with a wide angle from a fixed position - the focal length is 22mm on an APS-C camera so around 35mm in normal terms.  Still much to think about, although I want to complete the photography by the end of October, so I need to develop my ideas soon.

To aid in that process I have been out and about with my camera taking a long walk around Haidhausen and capturing as many aspects/locations as I could.  There is no attempt here at art or even at quality, this is simply an exploration of possible subject matter - some of the images are poor quality, but reflect the location.

The center of Haidhausen is a 30 minute walk from where I live, however, a finger of industrial and commercial land almost abuts to my street.  This is a shopping center and bus station on Einstein Strasse:

Behind it is a small industrial area with a hotel behind it, providing a larger perspective

Walking past this site I found the following sign, maybe I can include some detail in one or two of the photographs

Just south there is a main railway line (series of lines), behind which is the very modern Deutsche Telekom building with its interconnecting bridges.  I was able to get closer than expect, through a convenient hole in a fence.  These images try to balance the modernity of the building with the typical dereliction of land adjacent to railway tracks

Crossing the railway lines I was able to image the same buildings, but this time emphasizing their cleanliness and stark appearance.  Any location documentary should balance the different activities and uses of the area, industry is a key element of that

The modern industry can then be contrasted with the remains of older industry, or the clean with the dirty

Vacant industrial land

This is the Kultfabrik, even more oppressive in daylight than at night.  If you go out on the booze in Munich and 1am rolls along when most bars close, this is where you end up if some bright spark suggests another drink.  I don't think it really ever closes

It is just behind the Ostbahnhof (east station), which is the southern side of Orleans Platz, the French influence I was talking about.  Some people have the audacity to call Haidhausen the French quarter, mostly estate agents - it is very German and great for that

Another key element would be shops, although how to treat them is a question, here are two

A unique aspect of Haidhausen in Munich is the presence of two large open squares, in which a pedestrian area sits in the middle of a road junction.  Typical in France or Italy this is very rare in Munich

The above photo is very photo-shopped, to try and pull some color from a very washed out image!  Continuing south from the above platz is a street with no cars, but plenty of interesting places to sit and eat or drink.  Del Cavaliere is my favorite Italian restaurant in Munich and used to be my local hang out when I lived across the street.

Around Rosenheimerplatz are a number of modern buildings

This is part of the complex know as the Gasteig which houses Munich's Philharmonic, a large library, and this building which is the HQ of the organization that gathers royalties for artists.  This place is also evry historically significant, it is the site of the Buergerbrau beer keller, the beer kellar from which the Nazi party set out to launch the Bierkellerputsch and led to Hitlers imprisonment.  All that remains now is a plaque commemorating a brave attempt to assassinate Hitler with a bomb in on of the kellers supporting pillars.

Another key element of any treatment must be where people live - this is one of the few high rise appartments in Munich.

Germans and in particular Bavarians are obsessed with cars and this is reflected in some of the local businesses

Following the line of American straight photography, these two images need work, but have some ideas in them

Found this painted on the side of the Gasteig

A couple of wide angle forced perspectives

Some of the more popular places to grab a beer or two

I am finishing with a few street scenes taken at twilight, I seriously doubt that I would use anything like this, but who knows

So, first thoughts and a few images to guide my development of the concept.

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