People and Place

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The User's Point of View

For this exercise I mostly called upon my own experience.  By that I mean what spaces do I use and how do I use them. To show spaces in a way that gives a sense of how the space is used I looked at magazines and newspapers, particularly the home and decorating sections.  Advertisers are better skilled than me at knowing what will tempt someone to buy a product, in these sections of publications the advertiser is attempting to make you feel it is you in the place or using the product they are selling.
I then spent time thinking about spaces I might be able to show, carrying a Small notebook around with me jotting down ideas as they occurred to me.  I then shortlisted my list into ideas that more workable. (going into a public loo with a camera might get me into trouble, so crossed off the list.)

My first image is a changing room in a department store.  I sought out one that the door locked, had a full length mirror, plenty of hooks, so you have somewhere to hang the clothes you take off as well as the ones you are trying on. A chair for me to put my bag on.  This is a woman's ideal changing room.  Not one of those tiny spaces with a flimsy curtain thanks very much.

To give the feeling of size of the changing room I used the widest angle I have, 24mm.  I would have liked an ever wider angle say about 17mm to make the room feel very big. I've crouched at an angle that gives a sense of walking into the room and for most of us women our first reaction would be: 'perfect, privacy and space'.  I've used the mirror to add to the sense of space and to show that it is a real door, not a curtain.

My next image is in a bookshop. To me the perfect book store has loads of books (obviously) quiet spaces and the staff don't mind if you sit for ages looking through books.  The woman on the floor uses a book store the same way I do. I saw her and immediately saw the shot. Fortunately she was willing to allow me to include her in my picture.

I took this picture sitting on the floor to make the viewer feel they are also sitting reading on the floor.  If I had taken the picture standing looking down the feeling would be more of the passer by as opposed to the user.  I've shot at 28mm to try and encompass as much of the surrounding books as possible.  As it is very dark in here and flash not possible, I have increased the ISO to 1600.

To show I don't spend all my time in stores I decided an outdoor space would complete my set of three.
As part of the photography I have been doing around Kings Cross regeneration I have been working with an organisation  Global Generation.
They describe themselves as a charity that:
"We are dedicated to giving young people opportunities to play a part in creating a sustainable future.
Global Generation supports young people to generate change. We focus our projects on the three interdependent themes of  ‘I, We and The Planet’. This approach increases awareness of self, community and the natural environment and instils young people with the confidence to generate change in the business and local community."

It is an inspiring project mentoring young people to become actively involved in their community, in decision making and thinking about the future of themselves and their environment.  Equally the businesses that have become involved is making a difference.  I've photographed construction workers sharing their skills to help get the skip garden up and running.  Together they have built their own learning space. Created gardens and the young people have sold the produce to local restaurants. Gardens and beehives have been installed on the rooftops of businesses in the area. I've seen a basketball court and garden created on the roof of a school as a joint project with local business.
For my final image I wanted to show a rooftop garden from one of the on-going projects. I want the viewer to feel they are standing in the garden and looking out over Kings Cross and can feel some of the pride that the creaters feel.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Exploring Function

I have been photographing the changes around Kings Cross for over a year now as part of my personal interest in the area. By the time all the changes are finished Kings Cross will not be recognisable to those who knew it 10 years ago.  Photos that I have taken or will take will fit comfortably with many of the exercises for this course.  When I read the requirements for the first exercise heading towards assignment three I knew the picture I wanted would be the new concourse at Kings Cross. The old concourse was not only dated but did not handle the increasing number of people passing through. Since the opening of St Pancras as an international station and the moving of St Martin's University of the arts the problems had compounded.

 Prior to taking the picture below I had been following the work of John Sturrock, the official photographer, for the Kings Cross project. He specialises in design and corporate work with a lot of work on building sites.
Specifically I wanted to see how photographers who do this kind of work regularly handle a big area.  I knew I needed a wide angle lens. Studying the work of photographers like John and other images in annual reports, brochures and the home pages of newspapers and magazines I decided to take my photo from up high looking down over the area to achieve the sense of size and space.

In addition we are asked to think about what the space ought to be doing.For a railway concourse: a good flow of people, easy to see directions, easy access to platforms and for a station where people will come form around the world, a good first impression.
The new concourse at Kings Cross that officially opened Monday 19th March appeared on its first day to work fantastically. An impressive design, people were moving around easily without the bottlenecks of the old concourse. The departure and arrival boards are easy to see. In addition there are smaller boards strategically placed around the restaurant, cafe area.
The entrance has been moved to the west side of the station so that movement between St Pancras and Kings Cross is streamlined with no stairs.  This is important for two stations that connect national and international rail as well as three airports.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Preparation for Assignment 3

I bought the above book (Building with Light.  The international history of architectural photography. Robert Elwall) a couple of years ago. It is interesting and useful to study the pictures seeing them in a different way that I had previously. How do people interact with the space.  What did the architect have in mind when designing the space.
What particularly stands out for me re-looking at the images now are the patterns and shapes. An example of the images that I find the most interesting are those of Lucien Hervé An Hungarian photographer, who seems to turn the most ordinary aspects of a building into works of art. This staircase below an example.

 The high contrast makes it more dramatic.  I am beginning to see that this is something I am timid in portraying in my own images.  Maybe because I mostly take portraits and this course that is focusing on buildings is so different. My architectural images look flat.  Make a note to up the contrast.
The shapes in this image are more important than the place.  Diagonal lines, curves, triangles, everything we have learned about shape is in this image. The matching shape of the bird on the right and the black space on the left. The two sets of stairs creating diagonal lines in opposing direction. The big white space on the right and the banister on the right. Some how they all work together. 

Then there is texture on the grey stairs. 

When you see work like it is so impressive but what I need to learn is how to see it to take the image. Note to self. Look for shapes, texture. shapes and more in the very ordinary.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Exhibition - All about Eve

Eve Arnold - 1912-2012

All about Eve - Art Sensus Gallery a retrospective of her work.

The exhibition is a superb collection of Eve Arnold's photos that celebrate the decades of her photographic career.  This collection includes many photos from her personal collection.  Among them are original prints from the story on migrant workers on Long Island.  These pictures saw her accepted as the first woman member of Magnum Photographic Agency, in 1952.

Eve's photographic career began by chance.  A "beau" gave her a camera and taught her to use it.  She then did a six week course with  Alexey Brodovitch, a Russian born photographer and designer famous for his art direction of Harpers Bazaar. He was also famous for his harsh criticism of photographer's work.

Eve's first project at this course was a fashion shoot.  It was not a subject that interested her, so she decided on an alternative approach to the project.  Her son's nursemaid told her about the alternative fashion shows taking place in Harlem.  In the 1950's white people didn't venture there.  The black models felt the white rag trade didn't cater to them.

For Eve this was exactly the alternative she was looking for.  She was inexperienced, naive and everything seemed to go wrong.  However, Brodovitch loved the freshness of her work and told her to forget class assignments, go back to Harlem and do a comprehensive study.   She spent a year photographing  life in Harlem.  Far to raw for American publications, none would publish her work.  Her husband sent them to the British Picture Post which ran an eight page spread.  In 1951 Eve's career as a photographer was launched.

Eve travelled extensively documenting and photographing subjects such as the oldest man in the world in the Caucasus. Inside the harem of sheikh Sana she made the film "behind the veil".  Disturbing pictures inside a mental asylum in the Soviet Union, that outraged the communist regime.  Apartheid South Africa, where she photographed black children suffering from malnutrition and disease, was one of the most gruelling assignments.

Interspersed with her serious documentary work, Eve photographed celebrities and film stars.  She photographed four Prime Ministers.  Her photographs of Marilyn Monroe, whom she photographed extensively over  a ten year period  are probably her most well known work.  Marilyn totally trusted Eve and allowed her to take photos that show an intimacy and spontaneity that no one else was ever to capture.

When asked the secret to how she got such intimate pictures of people, Eve response was:
"if a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given.  It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument."

While I love all of Eve Arnold's work, it is her early work in Harlem that I find the most moving and inspirational.

Two of my favourite images are: Bar Girl and Milltown.

 What is it about these two images that I am drawn to? They are incredibly intimate.  It feels like a moment that their guard has been let down showing a moment of vulnerability or lost innocence.

Bar Girl taken in 1954 in the red light district of Havana Cuba.  For me the strength of this image is in the downcast eyes of the girl and her body posture capturing a moment of quiet reflection. The way she is positioned at the bar, drink in front of her, no-one around her creates a sense of sadness, a perception of loneliness, yet at the same time great beauty.

The Milltown girl taken in 1954 at an asylum in Haiti where American drug companies were testing a tranquilliser drug.
I feel drawn into the picture not only by her eyes but her whole body language. She feels like a prisoner trapped in her own body.  I had that feeling even before reading about the drug trials. These moments aren't always apparent at first glance, they are shared with the photographer. The way her arms are crossed over her body, the lines of the corridor on the right hand side and the plain windows on the right all seem to emphasis the sense of entrapment. The sameness of her life.
Eve Arnold had a special talent in getting people to share these moments with her.  She calls it her natural curiosity.

 The  relationship between subject and photographer is what is what I try and achieve in my work. An example of where I feel I have come close to this is in this picture below of Kelly. a young homeless woman who had just arrived in London.

I feel I have successfully captured the despair in her face. It was dark and I only had my camera, no flash, so I used street lights to enable me to take the shot. I have concentrated on her face and expression.
After looking at Eve Arnold's Harlem photos I can see the importance of drawing back a little to incorporate more body language.  To add a sense of place.