Demonstration of technical and visual skills
The nature of this assignment rather dictated the results on many levels. With speed being of the essence, to capture the moment, I tended to allow the camera to take care of things like aperture setting, and sometimes shutter speed too.
In terms of methodology, I’m very pleased with the results obtained using the Canon Camera Connect app, though there were drawbacks to this. Fast, or sometimes merely acceptable focus was sometimes an issue, resulting in a lot of rejected shots.
Visual awareness was of vital importance though, and I found myself very much ‘in the zone’, having to be aware of both what was happening around me, and what was appearing in my viewfinder (phone screen).
I never really know how to score myself, so I won’t. I’ll just say I’m quite pleased with the outcome.
Quality of outcome
In terms of presenting the work in a coherent manner, conceptualisation of thoughts, and communication of ideas, I think my selected images work well. By working consistently with the same camera and lens, in a locality with a recognisable feel and atmosphere, and in consistent weather and light, my selected images hang together nicely as a set. While there are a couple of noticeable sub-themes within the set, the overall theme of ‘people in the city, out in the cold’ is coherent and clear.
In terms of communicating ‘the decisive moment’, it’s hard to say how many will be recognisable as such to the casual viewer. To me, they’re all glaringly obvious, but then I was there, and have a personal connection to the scene being depicted.
Demonstration of creativity
Imagination, experimentation, invention. Hmm. There was certainly some experimentation involved at first, in finding a way to take photos covertly, so as not to influence the subject. The act of observing (pointing a camera) affects the outcome… sounds kind of like quantum physics to me.
There is a lot of imagination involved, in interpreting the scene both before, and after pressing the shutter. What I saw at the time, causing me to take a photo may be far from the objective reality of the situation.
Was the lad in “Eh?” looking at the phone box? It doesn’t even matter. That’s what I saw when I took in the scene.
Was the younger woman in “Confounded thing!” looking at me with concern, because I was taking photos? Was she being protective of the older woman? I know this…despite how it looks in that photo, she wasn’t with, and didn’t know, the older woman. She had paused to adjust her boot. She got up and walked away a moment after I had taken that shot.
Reflection, research, critical thinking.
I had the work of both Atget and Cartier-Bresson in mind (and had browsed many random images of ‘decisive moment’ categorised photos on flickr) when I embarked on my trips to Sheffield. Unlike assignment 2, I felt like I knew what I was doing… or at least, what it was I was supposed to achieve.
It was a learning process, not just on a technical level, but in how I found myself feeling about the exercise itself. I shall go into this in some detail now.
My thoughts on this assignment
While I’m very familiar with street photography, in the past, I have tended more towards the style of Atget. I was shooting the scene… and was largely interested in the buildings and architecture. I actively avoided getting people into the shot.
For this assignment, it was the people who were of interest. This was a scary prospect.
Initially, my fear was in relation to how people would react if I pointed a camera at them. I’ve already had one very threatening experience with a man who insisted I remove all shots with him in them. I didn’t want to go through that again. (It should be noted that what he did was entirely illegal).
Having found a covert method, my concern became one of a moral responsibility. And what do I mean by that?
Here’s the thing. It’s perfectly legal to take photographs of members of the public while they’re out in a public place. Some may claim they have a right to privacy… but legally, they lose that right when they aren’t in a private setting. But morally…. it makes me very uncomfortable.
I have taken photos of people, you can see who they are, sometimes in great detail, and they’re expressing emotional responses to their circumstances. These responses show their personalities… little flashes of character that if they were given the choice, they might not share.
It feels like theft.
But there’s more.
In being there… in observing these people up close, watching little stories unfold on the street, I feel a connection. In reality, there is no connection. These people are completely unaware of my existence, or that I was even there at that moment. Yet I have these photos of them. I look at them and feel something. It’s probably voyeuristic. If I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it, it would probably be unhealthy.
So what is this moral responsibility I spoke of?
To not mock them. To not demean or diminish the subjects of the photos.
Some of the images I captured were slightly comical in appearance, but my hope is that it is the scene that amuses, or catches the eye. It’s the story. Not the people. The people should not become objects of jest or mockery. They are people, with real lives, just like you you or I.
The image should be such that if one of these people saw a photo they were in, I could, look them in the eye and say “This is about the moment. It’s about human behaviour and interaction. It’s not specifically about you.” That might not make them feel any better about it… but I would feel better about it. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve achieved this with all of my selections, but I tried.
The end result is, I feel these are some of the best photographs I’ve ever taken. They are also the ones I’m most uncomfortable about. I only post them on this blog because it’s necessary, for this course. I wouldn’t post them on flickr, and I wouldn’t sell them. At most, I would exhibit them in a gallery (if I was ever fortunate enough to be in the position where a gallery would want to do that).
Will I ever do this kind of photography again, if it isn’t part of an assignment? Hell yes! It’s art, and who ever said making art should be comfortable?