Thursday, 2 December 2010

Street Photography Now #9

This week's instruction is quite fun and addictive, because they can be found aplenty. The instruction is by Siegfried Hansen.
Play photographic poker. Look for a pair, two pairs, or three of a kind
In Siegfried Hansen's photostream there are many examples of this and he has done it with simplicity and irony. Again, in the ilk of Matt Stuart and Nick Turpin. Infact, with my limited knowledge I am beginning to identify at least two 'leanings' within the street photography genre. There seems to be those that pertain to the black and white aesthetic, with the characteristic high contrast, atmospheric, moody drama commonly with motion blur.  Perhaps in the style of the original greats of Henri Cartier Bresson, Helen Levitt and Walker Evans. Then there seems to be a good few photographers featured on In-Public that have predominantly adopted the colour aesthetic similar to that of Joel Meyerowitz which I think has a slightly lighter approach focussing more on the irony than the mood. But I don't know enough yet about the genre to understand why or even if this is the case. Personally I prefer the colour aesthetic and this is what I am working on. I am guilty of desaturating when the image doesn't work in colour - which isn't really a good reason to go for black and white.

This week I'm undecided on my submission. As in previous weeks, it's so difficult to achieve the quality of the photographer providing the instruction. Their images make it look so easy!!

Option 1: three of a kind - I like the mirrored posture and his incriminating hands and facial grimace. However, there's only one real person and he's fairly static.

Option 2: one obvious pair, plus a few others - I love the vibrancy of this but whilst the two women make a pair with their head scarves and the other with the bobble hat making three of kind, the characters just don't seem as interesting as they could do had you not known what the instruction was.

Option 3: 2 pairs - I think graphically this is fairly strong with a certain juxtaposition between the mannequins and shop assistants. So it fits the brief and can sit within the street photography genre.  But it doesn't stand-up when I ask myself 'and why is this interesting?'

Option 4: 4 pairs - this isn't a serious contender.  There are four pairs but quantity doesn't beat quality!!

So these are my options. Oh the sheep one btw I have discounted for being too rural and not including a person!! The fourth I've ruled out too. I can't decide between the other three. None of these three have everything I would want to see in an image.

I made the mistake for instruction #7 of my message being too subtle. However conversely, I think there is also the danger of intepretating the brief too literally. What I mean by this is a photograph can technically fit the brief. However, I think this sort of misses the point on two counts. The first is it doesn't really embrace the street photography ethos. And secondly, my intention of participating in this project is to improve my street photography, using the instructions as a springboard and not as an end in itself. However, putting it in to practice is another challenge altogether.

I think I need to sleep on it and then decide!


  1. Are you sure No 7 was a mistake? I think sometimes we expect too much of individual images. I've enjoyed looking at Mimi Mollica's interventions on the instruction forum this week. One thing he said really resonated with me, and that was that being 'political' is about finding your own voice and what you have to say.

    I think I'm beginning to see patterns and trends and some evidence of personality across the pictures I'm taking (when I get round to posting them I hope others may too). I think I will be happy if at the end of this exercise I have 10 pictures that work as a series. Each one may be inspired by the weekly theme but I'd like them to talk to each other and have some common themes.

    Anyway, going back to no. 7: maybe it will make more sense over time, as part of a series? Maybe it won't of course - I just think it is interesting to look across the images sometimes to see what in this is uniquely you.

    PS: My favourite of these pics is no. 1. Why can't you have sheep in a street picture?

  2. Eileen, you make some really poignant points here. Mimi Mollica I think has really upped the ante in terms of how the spn project can work. And finding your own voice and what you have to say as you point out is probably the crux of it all. But this seems more allusive than it should - we are encouraged to research, study and look at others work, which is important, but it has for me, to a certain extent, diminished the value in my own voice (temporarily hopefully). Since studying with the OCA I feel I have been guided to base camp and only now at the foot of the mountain am I aware of how enormous the task at hand is! It didn't seem that high from a distance!

    Since seeing Kate Kirkwood's work my eyes have expanded somewhat. And I'll feel a little braver next time to expand the definition of street and include some rural shots.

    I look forward to seeing your steet images and thank you for taking the time to comment Eileen, it's really appreciated.