I came across the work of Robert Franks while researching street photography. Robert Frank took a different approach to other photographers. He photographed the everyday mundane drudgery of life, without setting up any compositions in the way that Walker Evans did, although Robert Franks did work alongside Walker Evans earlier on in his career.
Trolley, New Orleans
The image above was taken just before Rosa Parks refused to
give up her seat to a white person. The
image clearly shows the separation in America between White people and Black
people at a turning point in America’s history.
The people on the bus appear to be aware that their photograph is about to be taken with everyone looking at camera except the lady in the last window. The two children in the middle of the frame draw your eye in straight away with the girls white top. You are then drawn to the man in the window to the right of the children who has a a lacklustre to his expression. He looks tired and browbeaten almost demoralized and in despair.
In the City of London, you are herded onto public transport and packed in like cattle. Some people make friends who travel on the same transport at the same time ending up in a huddled group chatting. Others just stare out the window watching the world go by as they try to switch off from work with normally with a blank/vacant expression on their face. This would be a possible image to consider when photographing in the City, either on a bus, train or tube.
Canal Street, New Orleans
The above image is of a busy street in New Orleans. Franks has used a dark black and white tonal range in this image. By using the darker tonal range the detail in the shop window has merged into the background and does not cause a distraction from the passers by. It has also created a separation between the passersby and the backdrop allowing your eye to concentrate on the people in the crowd. The framing of the image also conveys the hustle and bustle of the street. Franks has not worried about people being chopped by the frame leaving your imagination to continue out adding more people to the scene. The height that he has taken the image also creates a deep pavement that is approximately 3 to 4 people deep reinforcing the how busy the scene is as you are unable to see he whole face or body of each passerby. Although this could be seen as a mundane image it captures a social aspect and fashions of the time.
Former actress Edna Wallace Hopper, now in her mid-80s, exiting Wall Street subway en route to her office, NYC
I’ve picked up on the above image as one of the images I am considering trying to capture is of the City workers coming out of the Underground on their way to work or home depending on the time of day I choose to take my images.
In the image Franks has positioned himself slightly to the right of the center of the subway exit, which has allowed people to walk straight up the stairs rather than having to separate in order to walk around Franks. The angle he has used looking down into the ticket hall allows fractions of the detail from the ticket machine and booth in the highlights informing you if what is h=behind without creating a distraction. By looking down into the subway when taking the image everyone is on different elevations, which draws the eye down and then back up to the forefront of the image.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who documented social change through his photography. He was inspired to take photography seriously after he saw a photograph by Martin Munkácsi titled ‘Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika’ saying ‘I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant’ (Pogrebin 2007, cited in Wikapedia, 2019)
Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika, circa 1930
He used a Leica 50mm covering up the shiny parts of the camera to enable him to remain anonymous in the crowds. He wanted to stay anonymous, so that he could capture peoples natural behaviour rather than those who are aware of the photographer tending to alter their behaviour, composure and expression.
Henri Cartier-Bresson used a Leica camera with 50mm prime lens for his work. He would cover the shiny parts of the camera so that it would not glint or reflect the light drawing attention to himself. By doing this he was able to merge into the background allowing him to capture peoples natural expressions, reactions and behaviour.
Henri Cartier-Bresson explains his approach to photography as questions and expressions.
“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.” Cartier-Bresson H (s.d.)
His first photojournalist images to be published were of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. During this event he took a different route and did not take any photographs of the Royal Couple, but instead concentrated on the crowds lining the streets.
GREAT BRITAIN. London. Coronation of King George VI. 12 May 1937
Henri Cartier-Bresson sets the scene leading up to the above photograph saying:
‘People had waited all night in Trafalgar Square in order not to miss any part of the coronation ceremony of George VI. Some slept on benches and others on newspapers. The next morning, one who was wearier than the others, had not yet wakened to see the ceremony for which he had kept such a late vigil.’ Cartier-Bresson (s.d.)
The image shows the public in the morning, prior to the coronation of King George VI, stood on a London Monument with a sea of newspapers strewn across the floor. Some members of the public are stood up while others are sat on the edge of the monument. There is one gentleman asleep on the ground in front of the monument.
Cartier-Bresson has captured a moment of anticipation in the air prior to the Royal Family arriving for the Coronation. You can feel the anticipation in their air by the different directions people are looking and craning their heads attempting to get their first glimpse of the Royal Procession. The exception to this is one little boy who appears to have spotted the camera and is looking directly at you.
The image informs you that you are witnessing the lead up to a special event, which will be covered by all news outlets, by a sea of newspapers discarded on the floor revealing that the spectators have been there for some time. Also at the foot of the monument there is a sleeping man, who had slept there overnight, not yet awoken when the image was taken. Both of these elements reinforce the the fact that this is the lead up to a special occasion.
The composition of the image is in the reverse to the more traditional composition. Although Cartier-Bresson has used the rule of thirds in this image he has positioned the main crowd in the top third, which would traditionally be the skyline. On the bottom third he has singled out the sleeping man, who is lying on a sea of newspapers with no other member of the public on his level in the bottom third. This has created a triangular tension drawing your eye across the top of the image along the crowd of people down to the sleeping man who is central in the bottom third, back to the crowd.
During the second World War Henri Cartier-Bresson was captured by the Germans and was put into a prisoner of war camp. He made several attempts to escape from the camp and was finally successful on his third attempt. Following his escape, he worked secretly with others to document the occupation and liberation of France. Post War, he was commissioned by the American Office of War to document the returning French prisoners and citizens who had fled.
In 1947 Henri Cartier-Bresson founded Magnum Photos, which is a cooperative agency owned by its members and still runs today. He set up Magnum Photos with Robert Capa, David Seymour, WIlliam Vandivert and George Rodger.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was assigned to India and China by Magnum Photos. His assignment was to create a photographic essay on the country capturing its essence at a time of huge significant social change. India had recently gained independence from Great Britain and had descended into unrest and violence splitting the country between Hindu’s and Muslim’s. It was during this time that Mahatma Gandhi was campaigning for the end of the violence, most famously going on a hunger strike.
Whilst Henri Cartier-Bresson was working on his photographic essay he had exclusive access to Gandhi, during which time Gandhi was assassinated. Henri Cartier-Bresson found himself witnessing a pivotal moment in India’s history. He continued his assignment by documenting Gandhi’s funeral, which brought him international recognition.
Two examples of his work during this assignment
Although Henri Cartier-Bresson has placed Gandhi centrally in this image he is flanked by two woman, one of whom is carrying notebooks and an inkwell. They appear to be in deep conversation with Ghandi who has his head bowed down listening intently whilst holding on to the woman on their outer shoulders to him. The three of them are then further framed by scholars/followers. On the right side there is a soldier who is side on to the photographer and is facing away from the camera looking towards Gandhi. On the left side the two men framing the trio appear to also be listening intently to the conversation with the man on the right dipping his head slightly to listen.
By placing Gandhi in the center of the frame and framing him by other people Henri Cartier-Bresson has emphasized Gandhi as being the central figure in the image even though you don’t see his face in full due to his head being bowed own. This is further enhanced by the people flanking Gandhi looking at him drawing your attention to him as the central figure.
Henri Cartier-Bresson has managed to obtain a high advantage point in order to capture this image of the crowds waiting to pay their last respects to Gandhi. You are immediately drawn to the group of men sat up in the tree on the right third of the frame, who have managed to obtain an advantage point for when the funeral cortege passes. Your eye is then drawn to the sea of people below them, starting at the forefront slowly moving the eye up to the horizon, across the frame and of the frame on the left side.
Henri Cartier-Bresson has not used a full depth of field in this image, but has kept just enough detail to define the outline of individuals in the crowd stretching back to the horizon, which then leads out of the frame. By not using a full depth of field he has avoided the image becoming too chaotic and overwhelming with fine detail, rather that he has used the depth of field more like brush strokes depicting many within the crowd stretching as far as the eye can see. He has also used the oval shape of the shade combined with the lean of the tree to the left to enhance the composition. This has created a curvature from left to right in the foreground, which then leads you up and around with the crowd, finally leading you out of the frame on the left side reinforcing the sense that the crowd stretched as far as the eye could see.
The chose of depth of field used by Henri Cartier-Bressons combined with the use of the shade in the composition and positioning of the tree, this image informs you that you are witnessing an outcry of national mourning and beyond, which will have a profound effect on the days, months and even years to come.
Because my idea for the Assignment has changed and I now plan on taking photographs of people on the fairground rides at Carter’s Steam Fair I decided to revisit Dicorcia’s work. After reviewing his photographic series ‘Heads’ and seeing the way he picked individuals out of the crowd, I felt that his work would be a good guide/inspiration to the way I want to capture the fair.
In this image you can the motion blur of another train passing out of the window telling the viewer that they are not static, but rather on the move. The colour of the seats compliment and highlight the goldfish in the clear bag of water that the main subject of the image is holding. The subject of the image is sitting down and is composed on the left half of the frame. It appears that DiCorcia has taken this image using a wide angle from knee height as the angle has distorted the size of the subjects hand in comparison to the other and face. There is a slight fish eye effect to the image linking it back to the goldfish.
New York, 1993
Dicorcia has used two effects to allow the subject of this image to stand out. The first being the shallow depth of field separating her from the street she is walking down and passers-by. The second is the colour. The street has a grey colour with the people walking around in subdued coloured clothes allowing them to blend more with the street. Whereas the subject is wearing a white coat and has orange hair bringing her to the forefront allowing her to stand out from her surroundings. Looking at the image it looks like Dicorcia has used a flash which has gone off as the subject passes highlighting her left side bringing more clarity and vibrancy to the colours.
When viewing this image, the shadows don’t appear to correspond with the subject on his bike. The shadows in this image fall right to left. However, the subject is fairly evenly lit with a light halo around him from behind, which makes me wonder if DiCorcia has lightened the shadows on the subject to enhance him and bring more separation from his surroundings. This is something that I will need to consider and see the effect on my images if the light isn’t good enough. Will I need to bring the shadows up on the subjects due to the shade created by the roof of the rides? If so, I need to keep in mind that this creates noise within the image and I will need a fine balance between the shutter speed, exposure and ISO.
DiCorcia has used a slow shutter speed on this image to create the motion blur of the bus coming down the road and the two people walking away down the pavement. The composition of the photograph takes you from the main subject, who is brighter than the rest of the image, down to the crushed can of Coca Cola. The pop of red from the can against the grey of the pavement stands out creating a path via the white curb to the two people walking away. I am then taken out if the tunnel to someone riding a bike with a red jacket following the white curb edge. The yellow of the taxi brings you back into the tunnel and onto the bus as your focus shift to move back forwards to the main subject of the image. This has created a great tension within the frame keeping you in the tunnel except for a brief glimpse out into the open with the rider before being brought back into the tunnel by the taxi.
highlighted in the OCA course book Wells is of the opinion that we have moved
away from statement photography and moved towards dislocated moments that don’t
reflect the greater meaning.
review of The Present by Paul Graham, he highlights that Grahams has managed to
capture the antithesis of the decisive moment and has captured the mundane
average street view of the contemporary world that it has become an indecisive moment. Pantell goes on to say that Grahams photographic
series pose a question ‘what do we look at when we look at a photograph?’ (Pantall C 2012) Pantall suggests that the images
don’t contain a question, but are a question within themselves.
reading Zouhair Ghazzel’s essay on the Decisive Moment, she is of the opinion
that at the very meaning of the decisive moment doesn’t seem to be pretentious as
it could be about anything ranging from ‘any object, moment, event, and body’
(Ghazzel Z 2004). However, Ghazzel feels
that an order to the images is required ‘to reduce the flux of images to their
most relevant one’. Therefore, there is
a fleeting moment in time that cannot be repeated and can only be captured by
the lens. It is a unique moment that
tells its own story of what happened in the lead up to the image and what
vemeo videolink provided by OCA, Cartier Bresson explains that the majority of
people don’t look at the image they are capturing and just press the button. He goes on to explain that when this is done
the gaze is missing a question. Henri
Cartier-Bresson believes that images are about a conversation and this conversation
will not be captured when you just press the button without your gaze seeing
the question. The Images are about the geometry and form firstly and foremost,
then you think about the light.
I tend to agree with Ghazzels opinion and Henri Cartier-Bressons opinions that the Decisive Moment, must contain a question. It should allow the viewer to see in their minds eye, what just happened prior to the shutter being released, capturing that moment in time combined with where it led directly after. If the image doesn’t hold a question or that fleeting moment to pull you in then I feel that it is more a form of a snap shot.
my research and looking at the images focusing on this technique, I would agree
that the shutter can create psychological drama. This can be captured in many ways and there
is no magic formula to this. Drama can
be created within an image by using a slow shutter speed to capture the
movement of an object. The reverse is
also true that a fast shutter speed can capture a split moment of something leaving
you in suspense.
Another good example of the shutter creating psychological drame is Richard Billingham’s image below from the series Ray’s a laugh.
Untitled, 1995, from the Ray’s a Laugh series
In this image the psychological drama has been created by the cat being in mid-air leaving you wondering how did it get there? Was it thrown? The subject’s hands are directly below the cat. Did it jump, if so where from? Where is it going to land? This together with the subject’s reaction and recoil from the cat in mid-air creates tremendous drama and leaves you wondering about the lead up and what happened after. The photograph is also taken at a slight angle making the image appear to be a snap shot.
At the time of the Normandy landings Robert Capa was the second only photographer that travelled with the armed forces over to Normandy to photograph the D-Day landings. He travelled with Company E in the first wave of landings at Omaha Beach. Capa took four rolls of film. However, during the developing process the technician in the dark room left the lamp on too high burning the film resulting in only 11 photographs surviving of the D-Day landings.He captured many photographs of the preparation leading up to the landings and of the actual landings. His most iconic photographs of the D-Day landings were taken with a slower shutter speed due to the poor light. This has resulted in reflecting the chaotic scene. The images also contain noise, which has been used to create an authenticity within the photograph. His most iconic photograph is ‘FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day.’
FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day.
In this image a US Soldier is charging through the water at chest height, with his rifle out in front of him ready to fire. There are anti invasion blockades in the water in a line on the top third of the frame and in the distant there is a ghostly shadow of a war ship on the top right. By using a slower shutter speed Capa has created the sense of fast movement. However, the shutter speed was not so slow that the water was completely smoothed out losing the detail of its movement. This has added to the sense of the soldier’s frantic struggle to keep low and move quickly avoiding enemy fire. You can almost feel the palpable air of adrenaline, anxiety and fear that the soldiers must have felt during the D-Day landing in this image.In this image a US Soldier is charging through the water at chest height, with his rifle out in front of him ready to fire. There are anti invasion blockades in the water in a line on the top third of the frame and in the distant there is a ghostly shadow of a war ship on the top right. By using a slower shutter speed Capa has created the sense of fast movement.
The noise has also been kept within the image to help create
an air of authenticity about to demonstrate that this is not a composed or planned,
but rather an instant reaction to the scene that is unfolding in front of him.
With the slow shutter speed the far background is over
exposed, resulting in the image of a ship becoming a rather ghostly enhancing
the drama of that moment.
The very essence of the image draws you in as an eye witness to the events unfolding around you.
FRANCE. Normandy. June 6th, 1944. US troops assault Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings.
The above image is taken
from behind a number of US troops trying to charge through knee deep water
towards the beach with their rifles in hand rather than over the shoulder ready
to pull up and fire, whilst dodging enemy fire.
This image has also
been taken with a slow shutter speed creating a blur telling the viewer that
Capa was himself charging for cover whilst photographing the scene. The image highlights the smoke floating from
the bombs landing
on the beach, creating a haze over the top
third of the image. The soldiers closer
to the beach are less prominent as they are engulfed in the smoke and dirt
floating in the air. The image captures the
atmosphere of a chaotic, fearful scene charged with adrenaline. Although the slow shutter speed has created a
slight blur especially around the soldiers as they move quickly, it has kept
the movement of the disturbed water giving you a sense of how quickly things
were unfolding as the landings took place.
There is a soldier on his back on the left third of the image
approximately half way down with men charging past without stopping to help
making you wonder had he been a casualty of the landings being fatally hit by
Although Fig. 1. Is the most
iconic image of the D-Day landings I feel that Fig. 2. is more explicit in
bringing the human element to the forefront showing a large group of soldiers
frantically scrambling for cover from enemy fire wadding through knee deep
water whilst carrying all their equipment weighing them down, stopping to drag
injured comrades adding to their load.
The longer exposures used
for the D Day landing appear to be more of a necessity rather than an artistic
licence. Capa is quoted on Magnum Photos
website as saying
‘It was still very early and very grey for good pictures, but the grey water and grey sky made the little men, dodging under the surrealistic designs of Hitler’s anti-invasion brain trust, very effective.’ Capa R (s.d.)
When looking at the images the composition is flawless, highlighting the talent that Capa had for photography under extreme conditions. When viewing the images you are able to see that Capa was not on a boat or in a safe place using a telephoto lens but he was in amongst the thick of it, alongside the soldiers. There is a connection between him and the soldiers that can clearly be seen.
Hiroshi Sugimoto is a Japanese photographer who created a photographic series named Theatres, which he started in 1974/5. Sugimoto explains in the Youtube video that this photographic series fist came together with a vision. He describes the process of creating the photographic series in stages. This began with the vision, followed by thinking about the concept alongside his vision, concluding with thinking about what he was going to do and how he would be able to photograph the scene. In this instance his vision was to capture nothingness.
Sugimoto used a long exposure on a 4×5 camera mounted on a tripod to capture an entire screening of a film at theatres. He would open the shutter when the movie began and closed the shutter when the end titles started to roll. The only light provided within his photographs is that of the light being produced from the film being projected onto the screen.
Everett Square Theater, “Mujo” 1970, Boston, 2015
The above image was taken in a derelict movie theatre. Sugimoto projected a film himself onto the screen in order to capture this image. The light emitted from the film lit up the whole theatre with the intensity decreasing towards the outer frame being further away from the screen. The light and length of exposure has allowed the camera to capture the building in fine detail with an ethereal light shining upon it, enhancing the details. Sugimoto has composed the frame symmetrically placing the theatre screen on the lower central section of the frame allowing the detail of the theatre to frame and contain the screen. Although this goes against most of the compositional rules that we have learnt so far on the course, it is very effective in creating a central tension. This tension allows the eye to explore the theatre on all sides, bringing your eye back to the centre. It creates a coherency slowing the eye down avoiding it from darting around erratically allowing you to explore every detail. The position of the screen also retains your attention within the frame instead of wondering off and out of the frame and you realise that you are looking at an emptiness that has been serenely framed.
The course literature recommended that we look at the work of Michael Wesley and in particularly his work documenting the renovation of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin which took a few years to produce. Michael Wesley has developed a technique for him to take unprecedentedly long exposures using filters and small apertures, that can go on for a number of years both in black and white and colour.
His images taken of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin creates ghostly shadows of buildings, which are no longer and the creation of its replacement.
Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (4.4.1997 – 4.6.1999)
In the image above there is a vague outline of a building on
the left half of the image. This rather
ghostly exposure of the building leaves you wandering whether this the building
is a remanence of what was or that of what is to come pushing its way through
to be seen. In the background the
buildings that have not been demolished have remained constant and are in sharp
focus together with the tree line on the horizon. These images serve as a reminder that nothing
is permanent and that the world around us is constantly changing. Not only does the light change, but the
physical elements around us come and go.
I must admit that this series of work didn’t really hold my attention. Maybe they were a little bit too chaotic for me, with so much changing in one frame.
Woodman was an American photographer who started taking
photographs at the age of 13. Both her
parents where artists. At the age of 22
Woodman committed suicide having produced in excess of 800 untitled prints
taken in the 1970’s.
Her photographs were mainly black and white
self-portraits. Although the contents of
some of her portraits had a slightly disturbing content, they always had a
serene quality to them due to the aesthetics and tonal range used within her
Her black and white images use a light tonal range leaning
towards a soft grey palette rather than using dark blacks. The images also contain an intimate quality
about them, that are enhanced even further by the way they were printed. The prints of Woodmans images are 8” x 10”
and are printed using vintage gelatine silver.
Woodmans images could easily sit alongside those of Julia Margaret Cameron who was a photographer in the Victorian era more than her contemporary’s like Cindy Sherman. Cindy Sherman was also producing a series of self-portraits at the time. However, Sherman’s series in titled ‘Film Still’ reflected the different stereotypes of woman depicted in the media, through TV, films, magazines and advertising.
Untitled Film Still #13
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-78
Looking at both the images which were taken in or around
1978, they do not appear to have been captured in the same era. In addition to the tonal ranges the hairstyle
and clothing seem to date them, together with the surroundings and tonal range
used. Woodman used soft greys and white
in her images, with soft lighting. Whereas
Sherman used a more defined tonal range with a clean sharp light. Without knowing when these images were
captured you would tend to place them in completely different eras if not
In the majority of Woodmans self-portraits, her face is
obscured either by an object or motion blur using a long exposure. Even though her photographs were taken in the
1970’s Woodman choose to use vintage clothes and furniture as part of her
surroundings. The locations she chose for
her backdrop were either dilapidated and crumbling buildings or nature.
Through her choice of setting, props, and lighting, combined with the use of black and white instead of colour, make her images timeless. You could easily think that these images may have been taken in the early 1900’s rather than decades later.
Through her choice of setting, props, and lighting, combined with the use of black and white instead of colour, make her images timeless.
Providence, Rhode Island from Space2, 197
In the above image, Woodman’s has used the houses dressing (wallpaper) to cover her face and intimate parts to become one with the house. There is a vulnerability to this image created through her partial covering. Woodman has cleverly used soft lighting to create a sharpness to the right side softly moving across her body ending with a soft shadow on the left blending her body into the wall. Although there is a vulnerability to this image, the lighting and tonal range create serene quality.
In this image Woodman is stood in front of some silver birch
trees within a wood with her arms extended up.
She has wrapped some bark of silver birch around her wrists and forearms. You can just make out that one arm follows
the same angle of a tree trunk in the background whilst the other extends out
presumably representing another silver birch tree. In this composition Woodman and become one
with her surroundings.
Does the camera capture time or does it fragment it as Szarkowski believed, isolating thin slices to reveal something new?
‘There is a pleasure and beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening. It had to do, rather, with seeing the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement’ (Szarkowski 2007, cited in Photography 1 Expressing your Vision 2018:58)
For this project I first researched the recommended photographers, many of whom were instrumental in the progression of photography enabling the modern day photographer to capture fast moving objects, effectively freezing it. You can see my research here
With today’s advancement in the quality of cameras and lenses I do not feel that you can place high speed photography in a specific category. Photography today can capture a frozen moment in time or a fragmented moment in time depending on your focal length, composition, framing and subject matter. For example if a wide angled photograph of a polar shelf plunging into the sea is capture showing the ice shelf in the background and the sea in the foreground, then it tells its own story and becomes a frozen moment in time. However, if a tight frame is captured and you are not able to see the polar shelf, or enough of the water to decipher that it is the sea then I would see this as a fragmenting of time. Therefore, it is all dependent on the subject, composition, framing of the image.
Having said the above, each highspeed photograph does revel patterns and lines, which the naked eye would normally miss; it does not tell you what led up to that moment in time either. Going back to the example of a polar shelf plunging into the see. Would the photograph tell you it is most likely due to Global Warming or would you be reliant on a brief description from the photographer, or the image being placed in a photographic series showing different types of global warming?
Using high speed photography also allows you to capture the more obscure/unique photographs creating an abstract image that you would not normally notice in everyday events. For other images they serve a more scientific purpose as seen in Muybridges work Animal in Motion and Human in motion together with Edgerton’s work studying surface tension. Where high speed photography was used to study the subject movement.
Bloomfield R (2018) Photography 1 Expressing your Vision Barnsley Open College of Arts