Saturday, 17 November 2012

'Hovering' Street Statue

It had been my intention for some time (since I started the assignment) to photograph a street 'statue' that was not really a statue at all. They were prevalent around London's South Bank and Covent Garden and in my opinion made for good subjects for this brief for a couple of reasons. Firstly they were quite good at provoking reactions from innocent passers-by, which I thought would make for an interesting moment to be captured. Secondly, I personally found them an integral part of London's character, providing an alternative style of entertainment for London's visitors.

   I had initially set out to capture one of the street 'statues' startling one of the tourists/public. However I came to realise most people now knew about the street 'statues' not really being statues and so it was difficult to find a street statue that actually stood still for long periods. Instead I shifted my attention to 'hovering' street statues. This was because I thought they were an interesting subject and they attracted lots of people trying to work out how they managed this.

8. 'Hovering' Street Statue
   I chose a low viewpoint for the 'hovering' street statue I decided to photograph. This was to emphasise the apparent hovering of this silver 'statue'. I waited for an opportune moment to capture the expressions of some people trying to work out how the 'statue' appeared to be sitting on thin air. I was lucky to catch a telling moment as a boy was clearly startled (there was a look of wonderment on his face) by the 'statue'.

Graffiti and Tricks of South Bank

This photo was quite visually impacting, I thought, especially with the graffiti splashed out all around the photograph. There was a lot of colour and life in the setting alone and I felt the BMX rider was a suitable addition to the scene. The element that made the photograph fit my brief was the way the skate park appeared almost 'dissenting' especially considering the contrast it provided to the rest of the South Bank, some of which was visible behind the BMX rider.

   Of course the BMX rider was the focal point of the photograph and I tried to place him in the frame deliberately in such a way that he attracted the most attention. If there was a criticism I would make of myself taking this photograph it would be I could have captured a more 'decisive' moment where the trick looked as impressive as in reality. This would probably have meant taking the photograph either a fraction of a second before or after I took it but I've found these fractions can make a big difference.

   'Girl Jumping Rope on the Burning Ghat, Benares, India 1995' by Mary Ellen Mark was a photograph that sprung to mind while thinking about these differences. It was an action shot, in that action was frozen in the frame, similar to the BMX rider. Furthermore the two photographs showed their respective subjects during the middle of the action they were performing. But as mentioned above, mine was captured a little late/early while Mary Ellen Mark's was spot-on.

   This was another photograph I had planned for in advance; I had been to this location already to try to assess the best position to take the photograph. What I couldn't neccessarily plan for however, was who would be using skate park. Fortunately there was this BMX rider who didn't mind me photographing him. I was pleased in the end I photographed him as he was clearly in his element, which meant I could concentrate on things like lighting and composition.

7. Graffiti and Tricks of South Bank
   One area I thought the photograph could have been improved on slightly was the lighting. I was pleased it was an overcast day so there was not too much contrast between the skate park and outside, which meant some detail of the rest of the South Bank was retained and not washed out as I exposed for the foreground and middle distance. The area I could have improved on concerning lighting however, was the fill flash. While it illuminated the BMX rider well, in my opinion a secondary fill flash (at lower power and placed in front of the BMX rider) would have eliminated any shadows on the stairs.

   Overall though I felt this photograph had a lot of impact, which was paramount for me in delivering the 'dissenting' look, which helped it to fit the brief.

Sleep Out

Simon Roberts made an impression on me with his high viewpoints, particularly in 'The Election Project', which helped show the scenes 'objectively' rather than making it 'subjective'. I felt this was useful in 'The Election Project' as the viewpoints chosen helped inform the viewer as the 'action' took place in the middle of the frame. It also gave the viewer a unique perspective, obviously visually, because they were looking over from distance rather than in among what was going on. This let the viewer decide what to infer from the photographs, which was different from many of the photographers I had been looking at, where it was more 'forced'. This wasn't to say the photographs were any less 'personal', often 'revealing' themselves after a closer look.

   In practise I discovered it was pretty difficult to reach or gain access to such high viewpoints but I persevered; hoping at least one of my shots for 'Alternative London' would be captured from a high vantage point. I improvised, and using my articulating LCD screen that my camera possessed I managed to achieve a relatively high viewpoint. This was standing on top of a small ledge and holding the camera above my head as described.

6. Sleep Out
   The high viewpoint I found overlooked an organised event aimed to help raise awareness of homelessness, which was called Centrepoint Sleep Out 2012. I was able to capture an image that documented the event, where voluntary fundraisers decided to sleep out the night. Using Simon Roberts' technique of using a high viewpoint and letting the middle ground tell the story I took a wide angle shot of one side of the scene. The signs did help show what kind of event was occurring and the middle ground (a few of the fundraisers getting into 'bed') informed the viewer what all the bags were for.

   Another point I wanted to get across in this photo was how it could be related to the homeless man next to the Centrepoint building (photograph number 3 of this assignment). It showed perhaps there are people who care and are aware of that 'alternative' side to London.

Heading Home

First of all I had planned this photo out beforehand and it resulted in an image that closely resembled what I had imagined prior to getting the shot. So it was quite rewarding, if challenging, to get the end result. It was also technically challenging for me to get right, which made it quite satisfying as well.

   Philip DeCorcia inspired me to look at dramatic lighting and sometimes colour to further enhance what would already be an interesting photo. Also with 'Heads' series he took an almost voyeuristic approach where the people were completely oblivious as the photo was taken. This was helpful to leave a natural look to the faces of the unknowing models - something I would hope to incorporate into this photograph for the assignment. C. Cotton (2009) also made this observation saying: ''a form of photographic portraiture in which the subjects are entirely unable to influence their representation." and I thought this was an accurate summation of Philip DeCorcia's 'Heads' images.

   So I went to London Bridge to photograph commuters crossing the bridge on their way home with a dramatically lit photo similar to DeCorcia's 'Heads' series but from my own perspective in mind. This included a wide angle view to show off the vast number of commuters crossing the bridge, with them being unknowing of the fact they would be lit by a flash going off from a perpendicular angle (similar to DeCorcia's 'Heads' series). This provided the dramatic lighting I was after as well as the 'neutral' expressions of the unknowing commuters.

    I was pleased with how all the commuters were heading home in the same direction, with a bus also going in the same direction, with maybe more commuters on board. The bus also added to the scene, making it (in my eyes) unmistakeably London. Factors that made it 'Alternative London' for me though were: the commuters wrapped up warm in coats to fight the cold, the backdrop of some of the city at night and the wet, reflective pavement the commuters were walking on. This last factor was quite typical of London in my experience and I had actually planned for this kind of weather to add some interest in the photograph. In this respect I felt I was successful.

   One area that could have been improved in this image though was the shadows of some of the commuters caused by the fill flash I had positioned to the side of the commuters. The fill flash really added to the dramatic scene of commuters crossing London Bridge in the dark I felt but at the cost of creating somewhat unnatural shadows in the process. If I had had another flash I would have used it (on a low power setting) from the front just to avoid these shadows.

5. Heading Home
   Other than that I thought this was an attractively colourful image and one that fitted the brief well from my point of view.

   Aesthetically, the city looked vibrant in the background and the orange/blue complementary colour relationship was quite obvious to me and worked well in my opinion. The photo unedited showed a mild orange/blue relationship already before I edited and I decided to place more emphasis on this relationship. This was to depict the 'cold' blue of the commuters crossing over London Bridge on their way home set against the 'warmer' orange of the bus and its headlights on the road as it was taking other commuters to their homes.

   A photograph by Paul Strand called ' Day of the Dead, Tilisca, Romania, 1967' I thought shared a resemblance to this final image, in regards to all of the people in the image facing in the same direction and all not wary of the camera.

Anyone for the Big I?

Quite sensitive topic for me, although not as much as the homeless man in the previous photo, this portrait showed a strong sense of place and also person within place, in a way that was consistent with the brief. I was pleased with his photograph technically and thought it was well-balanced. This was because there was symmetry with the trees leading up to the London Eye, the colours in my opinion worked well on a dull day and most importantly the portrait was impactful - mainly because of the model's expression.

4. Anyone for the Big I?
   I would say the composition was good in regard to including such a famous landmark as the London Eye, but at the same time the Big Issue seller was deliberately placed out of line so as to still draw a lot of attention in the frame. This was to the side of the symmetrical line of trees and the London eye. That being said, I wouldn't think it would have worked so well had the Big Issue seller not been wearing the bright red jacket or had his expression been less captivating.

   The fact the London Eye was so obvious in the frame gave the photo some context and I thought I got the distance between the model and the London Eye right. This was to distribute weight fairly equally between the two subjects and incidentally so the London Eye fitted into the frame.

   One photographer I had been looking at and in particular his 'Motherland' project was Simon Roberts. My photograph of the Big Issue seller was similar to some of his portraits in that project in regards to letting the viewer observe how positive the vibe of the photograph was for themselves, even though my subject and Roberts' subjects were trying to make the best out of adverse circumstances. In the words of Rosamund Bartlett on Simon Roberts' website: "Whilst acknowledging their country's deficiencies, Russians nevertheless believe their native land to be a remarkable and exceptional place." R. Bartlett in accessed on 13/11/2012. While this perspective on poverty was more patriotic than survivalist, they shared the same purpose in terms of showing a brighter side of a darker theme; the big issue seller wasn't sleeping rough like the homeless man in my previous image. The portrait photographs by Simon Roberts which stood out most as similar to my photograph of the Big Issue seller were 'Identical twins, Elena and Vera Karnova, Magadan, Far East Russia, August 2004' - found at: and 'Driller, Kupol gold mine, Chukatka, Far East, September 2004' - found at: both accessed 13/11/2012.

Homeless - but being watched over?

This was probably the 'darkest' photo I've taken and I would admit I didn't particularly enjoy taking it but I felt it was necessary, almost essential, to have a photograph like this within the set of photos I had assigned myself in order for the brief to be met accurately. This was because a lot of 'Alternative London' for me revolved around homeless people and this was one way of answering criteria about people who are down on their luck and without a home.

   I thought I managed to tackle this sensitive subject quite cleverly and creatively though, by including a famous related building to the homeless man - in the frame. The building was Centrepoint - the headquarters of an organisation for young, homeless people. I thought this was a fairly unique perspective to see a homeless person in - the Centrepoint building in the background suggested an obvious relationship between the man and the building.

   The work I felt this image was most comparable to, even though his was rural and mine was urban, was that of James Ravilious's. In particular 'Farmer Using Antique Farm Equipment, ca. June 1975' (found at and accessed on 14/11/2012). This was because both my image and his showed each subject clearly in their own setting.

   I thought I executed the photograph well technically, correcting the converging verticals of the Centrepoint building in post-production. Again the photograph had been planned out before the fact (similar to the sign-holder) but it still took a lot of luck and reconnaissance to find a homeless man in the immediate area of the Centrepoint building. Then it took a lot of courage to ask the man's permission to be photographed. Lastly, I used some fill-flash to help attract attention to the homeless man as he was inevitably placed right in the corner of the frame (because of the height of the Centrepoint building fitting into the frame). This was also so he was properly exposed in relation to the rest of the image.

3. Homeless - but being watched over?
   I thought this was one of the strongest photographs I took for the assignment, the colours for me worked well, with the blue of the homeless man's sleeping bag and clothing symbolising coldness/loneliness. This contrasted with the warmer orange of most of the rest of the photograph, including the street scene and the main part of the Centrepoint building, indicating maybe a safe refuge for the homeless man below. Finally the blue of the top of the Centrepoint building matched the homeless man's sleeping bag and clothing, again symbolising coldness as it was a lone haven in London helping homeless people.

Halloween in London

Here I decided I couldn't let a good opportunity pass me by so I went into London on Halloween to see whether there were any Halloween revellers and I was glad I did because I found some and they provided me with the shots I was looking for.

   The shots I took weren't really pre-conceived other than that they should reflect 'Alternative London' but with a Halloween theme. Well, I was very satisfied with what I found and captured. There were a group of people dressed up in Halloween costumes. They were located outside the National Gallery and I recognised the National Gallery would make a good backdrop for one of these Halloween themed people as I assessed the scene. The reason for this was that seeing such dark and macabre costumes in front of such an usually orthodox, conservative (and well-known) landmark was a bit of surprise. I asked one of these people in Halloween costumes if they would mind having a portrait taken and he kindly obliged.

2. Halloween in London
   This showed a side to London that was strange and contrasted with the usual day-time tourists, revellers and business people, as well as showing off a time of the year where such out of the ordinary clothing was reasonable. At the same time being outside the National Gallery with its trademark pillars and triangular roof, it suggested that perhaps the Halloween reveller I photographed was eerily related to the gallery he was in front of, or at least went against what was the 'expected' user of the building.


Friday, 16 November 2012

The sign holder

I have come across a (very) important idea that wasn't immediately obvious to me concerning the way I approached this assignment. I have been becoming aware of this idea as I have been making my way through the course, particularly with Assignment 4: 'A sense of place' but it really came to the forefront when exploring possible photographs for the fifth assignment. This was the conscious imagining and precognition of what I wanted certain potential photographs to turn out like before I took them.

   My first image for the assignment was therefore a well-imagined shot, which turned out to be similar to what I wanted beforehand. This made the experience of taking the shot rewarding but also the photograph fitted well into the brief. I managed to conceive the subject and the backgorund beforehand, while leaving the overall 'feel' of the photograph for the moment in which I was taking it. The fact I went about taking the photograph this way meant my creativity was 'channelled' towards the brief and the photograph was to order. Lastly, I tried to make the photograph creative and eye-catching.

   I tried to portray how a person advertised something (in this case a religious message) on a sign, while showing them in the context of 'Alternative London'. 'Alternative' because, from my experience of London streets, the sign holders were usually largely ignored and in my opinion contrasted strongly with the 'rest' of the street users. The reason for this was because in this case the signholder was so still compared to the other users. I had decided on the subject - a sign holder - and the background - a London street with an underground station in the background. This was to retain a sense of place. The feature I had planned which would  make this photograph stand out however , was the movement of people in the street; this was in direct contrast to the sign holder, who was very still. To achieve the sense of movement I employed a slow shutter speed; introducing motion blur.
1. The sign holder

   To achieve the slow shutter speed I used a tripod and cable release (ensuring the background and sign holder were sharp) and a neutral density filter (which gave me a slower shutter speed).

   This was a technique I had been utilising (and practising) quite frequently in part 4 of People and Place and I thought I produced a well-balanced photo with the main feature being the contrast between the sign holder and the people around him.

Bibliography: People and place on assignment


R. Angier, (2007), Train Your Gaze, AVA Publishing SA, Lausanne, Switzerland.

R. Bartlett, "The Meaning of Motherland", In S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on: 13/11/2012].

C. Cotton (2009), the photograph as contemporary art – New Edition 2009, Thames and Hudson, London WC1V, 7QX, 2009.

P-L. diCorcia (2000), Head #7, 2000 and Head #23 [Photograph] In. C. Cotton (2009) the photograph as contemporary art – New Edition 2009, C. Cotton, Thames and Hudson, London WC1V, 7QX, 2009, Pages 20 and 46.

C. Dunn [WWW] Cheryl Dunn. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

M. Harris (ed), (Fall 2012), aperture, 208.

M. E. Mark (1995), Girl Jumping Rope on the Burning Ghat, Benares, India,1995, [Photograph]. In. C. Hagen (2001), Mary Ellen Mark 55, Phaidon Press Limited, London N1, page 105.

M. E. Mark (2001), 'Rat' and Mike with a Gun, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1983, [Photograph]. In: C. Hagen (2001), Mary Ellen Mark 55, Phaidon Press Limited, London N1, page 39.

J.Ravilious (1975), Farmer Using Antique Farm Equipment, ca. June 1975, [WWW] Corbis Images. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

J. Ravilious, [WWW] James Ravilious - photographer of rural life. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2010), The Election Project, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 14/11/2012].

P. Strand (1967), Day of the Dead, Tilisca, Romania, 1967, [Photograph] In. Aperture (1987), Masters of Photography, aperturefoundation, New York, N.Y. 10001, page 83.

Reference Page: People and place on assignment

Reference Page:

R. Bartlett, "The Meaning of Motherland", In S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on: 13/11/2012].

C. Cotton (2009), the photograph as contemporary art – New Edition 2009, Thames and Hudson, London WC1V, 7QX, 2009, page 46.

P-L. diCorcia (2000), Head #7, 2000 and Head #23 [Photograph] In. C. Cotton (2009) the photograph as contemporary art – New Edition 2009, C. Cotton, Thames and Hudson, London WC1V, 7QX, 2009, Pages 20 and 46.

M. E. Mark (1995), Girl Jumping Rope on the Burning Ghat, Benares, India,1995, [Photograph]. In. C. Hagen (2001), Mary Ellen Mark 55, Phaidon Press Limited, London N1, page 105.

M. E. Mark (2001), 'Rat' and Mike with a Gun, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1983, [Photograph]. In: C. Hagen (2001), Mary Ellen Mark 55, Phaidon Press Limited, London N1, page 39.

J.Ravilious (1975), Farmer Using Antique Farm Equipment, ca. June 1975, [WWW] Corbis Images. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2007), Motherland, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 13/11/2012].

S. Roberts (2010), The Election Project, [WWW] Simon Roberts. Available from: [accessed on 14/11/2012].

P. Strand (1967), Day of the Dead, Tilisca, Romania, 1967, [Photograph] In. Aperture (1987), Masters of Photography, aperturefoundation, New York, N.Y. 10001, page 83.

Inspirations for the fifth assignment

There have been a few photographers that I have been looking at recently in relation for this fifth assignment. The first was Mary Ellen Mark. Her photographs ranged greatly but there was always the same style even though the photographs were often to order. This was definitely something I could learn from as I was completing a brief and her photojournalistic style is powerful for documenting many topics. For example ''Rat' and Mike with a Gun, Seattle, Washington, USA, 1983' portrays two outcast children in a harsh, urban reality, which also related to my current brief coincidentally.

   I consequently found out about Cheryl Dunn through looking at Mary Ellen Mark's work - Cheryl Dunn had shot a film including Mary Ellen Mark (Everybody Street). I found her work to be very impactful and always seeming to make a statement. I realised a lot of her work included text in the images to aid with these 'statements' and provide stimulation for the viewer. I thought it would be a useful possibility to incorporate into the assignment.

   I looked at James Ravilious' work on rural life in Devon in the Beaford Photographic Archive with the intention of gaining insight into how he managed to convey different angles on rural life and of both people and place in a set of photographs. Then I attempted to transfer these observations into contributing towards my own project with the main difference being that photographs would be based around urban life. I discovered after looking at some of his 'Beaford Archive' that just by placing the subject in the frame in a way that attracted the viewer's attention, he suggested relationships between the subject and the background. I thought this 'compositional awareness' was something I could learn from in this assignment because it would potentially allow me to show off the alternative side to London where the backgrounds would be as important a factor in some of the photos as the subject. Secondly, I admired the vast variety of his photographs in his study of rural life in Devon and thought it would be applicable to my study of 'alternative' urban life in London. It gave me confidence for the assignment because if he could create such variety in a study of a small village like Beaford, then it could mean lots of possibilities for me.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Preparation for Assignment 5 Including the Brief and What I Have Set out to Achieve

Introduction to and preparing for Assignment 5: First and foremost, the most crucial aspect of this assignment for me would be that it was a subject or subjects that were practical and at the same time personal to photograph. I knew such criteria was important for it to be a project that worked. I have found it is vital for me to enjoy what I'm photographing in order to achieve the best results.

   This didn't necessarily mean the subject matter has to be all 'airy fairy'; conversely it didn't have to be all 'doom and gloom'. As I brainstormed ideas however, I discovered I was starting to lean towards a more dark and melancholy theme for the brief as it would perhaps be a step sideways - an opportunity to depict something a little more 'gritty' and less 'perfect'. This was in contrast to the fourth assignment and I felt it would be an opportunity to make it more personal as mentioned above but also potentially to express myself.

   The obvious location for me then was up in the streets of London city. It was an obvious location firstly because I loved the atmosphere and vibrancy of the place, which would help me to enjoy myself as mentioned. Also the diversity present in this city would hopefully allow me to get a unique perspective of the city as I saw it.

   As I began to formulate a more specific brief I realised I was fairly sure the notional client would be one that helped circulate information, so probably a magazine, but with topics that were personal/insightful as well as of course important to potential readers - not just informational. This suggested for me then, as the location of the brief would almost definitely now be London, the photographs could perhaps be used in a local magazine attempting to spread an awareness article concerning the topic at hand. The topic at hand would most probably be the otherside or darker side to London's character.

   Here is the choice of client:

A magazine (narrative and illustrative)

   Purpose of the assignment: 

Informational - raising awareness

   How the images will be used:

To complement and illustrate the text of an awareness article

   My brief:

'Alternative London' - These photographs should portray a side of London City that is not immediately apparent to the average visitor but that should demand more attention, which this project will bring to light.