“Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the examples, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.”
Robert Capa – (B. Endre Friedmann) was a Hungarian war photographer best known for the coverage of D-Day 1944, for Life magazine. He settled in the States, and worked on other conflicts for the US media, such as the Spanish Civil War and was killed in 1954 whilst on assignment in Vietnam.
Its difficult to imagine how photographers managed to work at that time, and how physically vulnerable they were during this kind of assignment. I feel his work displays courage and quick thinking during really extreme conditions. I also think its to his enormous credit that he helped save the life of a fellow photographer, who had been shot four times in the shoulder, whilst weighed down by equipment trying to reach the shore.
It seems that the motion blur in his iconic D-Day photo was a result of the extreme conditions, rather than a device deliberately employed by him. However, its interesting that a debate remains over whether the picture known as “The Falling Solider”, taken during the Spanish Civil War, was actually staged.
He and his partner Gerda Taro, were politically motivated in their reporting of the conflict, rather than remaining impartial. However I gather that the staging of photos was generally quite common at the time. And this begs the question – should a photographer always be impartial? Gerda Taro was the first female war photographer to be killed in the field, in Madrid, 1937. Whatever the ‘truth’ of their images, all evidence points to their deep sense of involvement in their subject. I can’t help respecting that.
Robert Frank – is an American photographer and film maker, most famous for his book “The Americans”. Travelling around America with his family in the 1950s, he took a huge number of photos – a total of 28,000 pictures – and when first published, the book displayed just 83 black and white images. The pictures are a compelling set of ‘character studies’ from a cross section of society. Guardian journalist Sean O’Hagan comments that Franks work was provocative as “it flew in the face of the wholesome pictorialism and heartfelt photojournalism of American magazines like Life and Time. The Americans was shocking – and enduringly influential – because it simply showed things as they were. ‘I was tired of romanticism,” Frank told me, ‘I wanted to present what I saw, pure and simple.’ ”
I would argue that the American public did have the stomach for realism. Other photographers were also interested in ‘real life’, not just pretty pictures. One early example is Dorothea Lange, her depiction of America during the depression is credited with helping to highlight the urgent need for support. I feel her emphasis was on human endurance, humanity and suffering.
In contrast, I’m a little uncomfortable about realism that depicts people as ‘ugly’. Some contemporary street photographers such as Bruce Gilden seem to almost alienate the viewer by emphasising the awkwardness of humans. I feel is a more aggressive and far less respectful way of revealing our human quirks.
Here’s another welcome example of the emphasis on our humanity, is Del La Grace Volcano, an American trangender photographer. The images draw us in, they are often playful, and warm. These are not photos of victims made to shock us.
I often think it shows when a photographer likes their subjects!
Hiroshi Sugimoto – A Japanese photographer who experimented with keeping his shutter open for hours, notably in cinemas for the duration of a film. I read one of my fellow students comment about this, namely that the idea is a great deal more interesting than the actual photos. So true! Its just a a series of dark cinema interiors with a white screen. Only light remains. Kinda poetic but not that interesting to look at. If you’ve seen one…you’ve seen em all.
In contrast, I think this is diorama series is much more interesting. Taxidermy anyone?
Michael Wesely – This German chap used really long exposures, of several years in duration! (Question – how did he keep the camera there the whole time? Where was it positioned without being nicked?)
Anyway. The results are rather graceful and other worldly. Lovely.
Maarten Vanvolsem – This technique uses the ‘strip-scan process’, which builds up multiple pieces of an image like a still film sequence, fused into a single picture. I really like this effect, it feels a bit like a strange kind of time travel or parallel universe.
Francesca Woodman – Autobiographical photography which is imaginative, haunting and poignant. I think its inevitable that my response to her work is heightened by the knowledge of her untimely death. She was just 22 years old when she took her own life. I wonder how we would view this work if we could now google a mature smiling woman with decades of work behind her? It’s very sad this is the only window we will ever have on her world.
I had a go at capturing water from my kitchen tap, these shutter speeds were the slowest I could manage without my hands causing camera shake.
1/25 sec; f/16; ISO 200
I really like the way the water appears to have a trail of ‘electric sparks’ here, as the movement is frozen, but still has energy
The rest of these pictures are taken after buying a tripod, as it became clear I would struggle to experiment any further with slow shutter speeds without one. This is the stream at the end of the garden where I’m staying. Why the odd composition?Unfortunately the only access is looking down over this wall. But it allowed me to start using the tripod and timer delay.
1.0 sec; f/18; ISO 100
Next I looked at movement inspired by nature and the passage of time, in the form of a cloudy sky and a sun dial. This is my first attempt at multiple exposure. I’m not sure if my camera has this setting, so I took pictures and combined them very simply in photoshop. I’d read that one of the images needs to be under exposed to allow the second image to show through…
So I took a few pictures of the sky 1/80 sec; f/18; ISO 100
And here’s the sundial – at normal exposure
And under exposed 1/60 sec; f/29; ISO 100
I opened both images in photoshop, laid the sky on top and altered it to ‘Screen’ to mimic a double exposure. Here’s the result
I’m not really sure its worked very well, I think it would require a lot more fiddling in photoshop to make it look good?!
My last experiment was inspired more directly by one of the photographers we were asked to look at – Francesca Woodman. and one of my fellow OCA students, Alan http://whatifiamwrong.weebly.com/square-mile.html who has produced some really inspiring autobiographical work.
I’m very conscious that I have been taking rather boring impersonal images, and that it would be interesting to put a little more of my own life into my pictures, although I’m still really unsure how to do this in a way that makes sense to anyone else…
What I want to say is about my experience of chronic physical illness, and the frustrations and limitations it imposes. I decided to use the technique of keeping most of my body stationary, while moving my arms or head to create motion blur.
How to show something emotionally real and meaningful? Hmmmm. It seems that photographers quite often use nudity…. Um. That’s not gonna happen! Obviously I’m self conscious, but also I feel there are probably enough images of women in vulnerable poses (e.g. lying prone, curled up in feotal position etc) already, and I don’t want to look passive.
Honstly, I felt a bit weird and stupid staging these pictures as of course I had to pose for them. I’m still cringing as I post these. Do I need to explain it? Well thats my folding seat as I have difficulty standing for long, and the doors to life are often metaphorically closed. Blah, blah. The seat baffles people in real life too. And sometimes makes people laugh.
1.0 sec; f/16; ISO 100
On showing these to several kind friends who also have chronic health problems, the feedback was that the images had emotional resonance for them, but would maybe need further explanation for a ‘general audience’. I still working on how to communicate via image!