Wednesday, February 2, 2011

People and Place - In retrospect

When I came to the end of TAOP I was quite jubilant to have completed the course and excited to be submitting my work for examination, been over 20 years since the last time I have done anything similar.  However, with People and Place I am quite sorry to be completing this course, because of what I have learned and the pleasure I have taken from the activity.

When I first embarked upon PaP I was very concerned about the idea of photographing people unaware and this became a source of much worry once I moved out of the initial portraiture driven work.  However, once I got the bit between my teeth I found that I started to enjoy the thrill of bending rules or grabbing a candid shot of an unknowing subject.  Early on I was challenged when photographing near a supermarket, the staff were quite aggresive and threatening.  My initial reaction was shock and a desire to drop the course.  I took a deep breath, gave myself a break from the camera and then returned with more confidence and a "if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger".  Now completing the course, I wish I could afford a Leica rangefinder and head out into the streets emulating the work of Joel Meyerowitz or Garry Winogrand.

So what did I learn from the course, in no particular order?
  1. To look at the world around me and explore its photographic potential - In my study of Haidhausen I saw more of that district through the lens of my camera than I had living there for 12 years.
  2. To take time to properly understand any opportunity, consider the different angles and compositional possibilities before shooting.
  3. To work around any brief, if asked for 4 themes, develop 10 and select the best.  For most of the assignments I have taken a stepwise refinement process, not only of the images, but also the conceptual base.
  4. That it really is better to ask for forgiveness than permission - a cliche, but in this day and age a critical attitude for anyone photographing in public places
  5. To study practicing photographers, learn from their success and try to adapt some of it to my own style.  Stephen Shore and Andreas Gursky were strongly influential in my choice of subject matter and approach during this course.  The drawback is that my bookshelves are getting heavy.
  6. To think about photographs as they relate to each other, I have tried very hard to deliver photographic essays, not simply the best individual images for the assignments.
  7. Oddly, to take a break from photography, put the camera down for a few weeks and then start again.  Prior to Christmas I was suffering from overload, being unable to shoot for a few weeks has reinvigorated my desire and view.
I still have a huge amount to learn, clearly this is a year 1 undergraduate course, however, my biggest takeaway is a significant increase in confidence and a feeling of being able to handle pretty much any subject matter now.

Assignment 5: Tutor Feedback

Once again Alan has provided positive and constructive feedback.  Overall the set has met with approval and I am pleased with the response.  He makes very clear, however, that now that the course is seen as a component of an Honours Degree syllabus the standard will rise and that he needs to be more critical.  There is also comment about the format for final presentation, I will print and send the images to the examiners.

From the feedback, I do not feel any need to change any of the images, however, there is a very clear concern about the level of blue in several of the images.

To answer this, I need first to comment that the images in this assignment have only been processed in Lightroom, and that the only colour control that I have used has been setting the white balance and increasing the Vibrance of the images. For this assignment I deliberately went for a higher degree of saturation in the images as I wanted to emphasize the dramatic colour of the Munich subway system.  In fact my photo's do not do it justice, in person the colour is far more intense as it completely fills the vision of the visitor.  Blue is one of the signature colours of Bavaria and I wonder if this influenced the system designer.  In image PAP5-1 the blue background is created by the deliberate use of blue light shining on the concrete walls of the subway.  In other places large areas of Blue paint contrast with yellows and oranges.

The only image in which I find the Blue somewhat artificial when thinking back upon the locations or comparing my images with those of other photographers is the final image in the set showing the Christmas market.  This scene was shot around twilight, mixing the fading skylight with tungsten, strip, and modern low energy light sources, a complete nightmare for white balance.  I elected to grab a white point from the snow covered roof of the gothic Rathaus in the background, and then fiddle with the controls to ensure the sky was slightly blue.  In retrospect it might have been better to shoot this in full night and completely lose the blue from the scene.

The other major comment Alan has made is to do with the lack of people in the system.  This was my choice and reflected the hours of day when I was shooting.  I took time of work to complete this when I knew there would be fewer people in the system.  Why?  Two reasons, first of all what I was doing was not strictly allowed and I did not want to shoot when many people and the corresponding authorities might question my activities.  Secondly I wanted to highlight the clean striking geometry of the system, which was better with fewer inhabitants.  I needed some people to provide a sense of place and scale, but not too many. I do have shots with more people, but these were rejected on edit as aesthetically I found the less populated shots to have more impact.