Friday, 29 June 2012

Amendments/replacements for Assignment 2 - People and activity

Image 4 - to be replaced
I have read my tutor's comments about my second assignment for People and Place and in retrospect I agree strongly with a lot of the comments he made. Fortunately, I felt I had the capacity in terms of the quality of unused photographs for the project that it was feasible to make amendments to the choice of photographs. I have since updated the blog in this post by replacing photos I realised were in some ways lacking in areas like clarity of the activity taking place and/or lighting/'decisive' moments.

Replacement for Image 4
Image 6 - to be replaced
Replacement for Image 6
   If there was one clear faculty in my selection for the assignment for me, it was that there was no clear shot of the development of the cardboard city from an objective point of view, which my tutor had picked up on. Instead there were a couple of weaker shots that were incidentally quite subjective type shots of participators to the city (like image 4), where no obvious connection was made between the city and the builders. Luckily, I had taken a shot offering an objective point of view and looking back was quite surprised I didn't choose it (replacement for Image 4) over the subjective type of photograph.

   Again I was surprised with the next replacement photograph (replacement for Image 6), that I didn't choose it initially over the replaced image (Image 6 - to be replaced) but the replacement image was indeed stronger in retrospect. This was because it remained subjective like the one it replaced but crucially better documented how the child was interacting with the city.
Image 9 - to be replaced

Replacement for Image 9
   The last shot I replaced (Image 9 - to be replaced) was the most obvious candidate for replacement and the replacement (Replacement for Image 9) was for me one of the strongest in the project. I agreed with my tutor that the image to be replaced was weak, in that that there were weaknesses apparent like the hands at work (a reason I included the image initially) didn't provide much interest. In contrast, its replacement provided the viewer with what I felt was an interesting insight into the smaller details of how the cardboard city was built and captured a good expression on the face of one of its builders.

   I have realised that the project was still not perfect but I felt the amendments I made did make a significant difference to the comprehensiveness of how the cardboard city was documented.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Assignment 2- A Cardboard City Day 5- the twist!

On the final day of the cardboard city social event there was a rather large and destructive twist to proceedings. The city was destroyed! I knew this would happen but nonetheless it was quite sad to see all the children within 5 minutes destroy a city they'd helped to build over 5 days. On the other hand it made for some interesting photographs and I was less melancholy after documenting some of the destruction!

   I had to be quick and decisive in order to get some 'action' shots of the children but in the end I was quite spoilt for choice, which picture I would select for my final one for the assignment. Eventually I decided in a close and involved wide-angle photo- with a low camera-angle for further effect. I had been becoming more and more accustomed to taking these type shots ever since the project I learned about them in (Close and involved). I thought this told a story well- stand-alone and in combination with other photos. It worked as a stand-alone picture because the boy was clearly in a cardboard-filled place and was concentrating on doing something to the cardboard. I thought it worked even better in combination with the other photographs for the assignment because the cardboard was flat on the floor again, similar to the first photograph of the series. This meant the viewer could infer that the children (standing over the cardboard) had built and destroyed the city through looking at the photos in sequence.

   As far as lighting was concerned I decided to use bounce-flash on the ceiling of the room to make sure the children and the cardboard were well-lit. Another reason was to reflect the change in emphasis from completely natural lighting used in the first couple of selected shots. While the natural lighting in those first shots (admittedly inadvertantly) created an air of mild expectancy in the first couple of shots, the change to flash lighting for the duration of the rest of the event for me depicted more purpose and in this last shot openness.

Assignment 2- A Cardboard City- Day 3 and 4

7. A fragment of the city
Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good on day 3 so not many families decided to attend. All the same I managed to capture the photos I was aiming to obtain. My aim was to convey development of the city while still showing its 'builders' in an interesting fashion. I thought both photos I selected on day 3 showed off these factors well with a sense of place remaining true without detriment to the people within it.

   With photo number 7 a very large building of the city was being erected by two of the main 'workers'. I felt the camera angle helped show the activity that was going on and the bits of cardboard scattered around kept the photo in sync with the other photographs of the series. Being critical I would say that the faces could have been more expressive and turned toward the camera. To achieve this I could have waited for a better opportunity, even though they were moving quite quickly.

8. In deep concentration, busy constructing

   With 8 my goal was to show more activity in  development of the city but this time in the form of a child working busily with the rest of the city 'looming' behind him. In evaluating this shot I would say the lighting and composition were fine and I also achieved the above goal. If I had changed the viewpoint slightly the boy's face could have been seen more clearly but it was still quite visible.
9. Securing a part of the city

   On day 4 I tried to experiment with something a little different. This was to concentrate on something other than mainly the children's faces. Instead I concentrated on their hands. In the end I got a variety of hand poses. The reason I decided on this photograph (9) was because it was substantially different from my previous shots. There was a sense of intrigue I felt as the child's face wasn't shown but there hands and some graffitti on the cardboard was. The hands were clearly partaking in the activity and the cardboard theme was present.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Assignment 2- A Cardboard City- Day 2

It was sort of testament to how useful I had found the exercise 'Close and involved' earlier in 'People unaware' that I devoted a large part of the second day to trying to get a wide-angle shot of how the cardboard city was developing while simultaneously capturing a child's facial expression. The wide-angle shot was relatively easy to line-up: I decided on a diagonal view of the 'city' to give an impression of size. I also used a low camera-angle to add drama as I'd also learned was effective in 'Close and involved'.
5. 'Close and involved'

   The hard part was capturing a child's face with a good expression with the child still remaining 'unaware'. This was difficult because the children were so active and playful- especially with a camera in front of them! However I managed to create quite a few natural shots.

6. Amidst the cardboard
   My concentration on expression grew as this day went on and I decided to vary the manner in which I took the photographs by changing focal length. I chose to use a telephoto lens with the sole intent of capturing a child's expression. The cardboard city was quite large and dense by now so the telling chracteristic of the photos taken so far (the cardboard within each shot) remained intact.

   Overall I thought this day was sccessful as I could select two strong images that were different to each other with my preference between the two leaning towards number 5. This was because I felt it captured the essence of what I imagined it was like for a child involved in building the cardboard city.

   Photograph number 6 was maybe more 'routine' but it offered some variety to my shot selection. The boy's expression- the main reason for taking the photo was obvious and quite involved.

Assignment 2- A Carboard City- Day 1

1. Early beginnings
So the first day of the 'Cardboard City' went ahead and I would say it was a wonderful event to be a part of. As far as the photography went it took me a few attempts to get into my 'stride' but after that things went well. More specifically I took a lot of varied shots in keeping with what I had planned. This consisted firstly of me taking photographs that had a sense of place. This was achieved by almost always having some form of the cardboard city in the shot, be it in the foreground, background or even in a child's hand.

2. The frameworks
   Secondly, I tried to mix up the lighting and framing while still making sure I kept a grasp of telling a story. This was, quite simply the growth of the cardboard city through people. In this regard I thought there was room for improvement on the lighting side of things. The story (in its beginnings) might have been more telling if the lighting had been consistent throughout. The framing worked well though, showing intelligibly what was happening in each shot as well as sometimes offering a bigger view of the proceedings. Also maybe I could have concentrated more on the beginnings of the cardboard city. This was because I didn't realise at the time how telling the first few hours of building the 'city' would be in regards to a narrative of the event. In retrospect I would say I didn't take a critical photograph of the 'city' while it was just past its 'infancy' but I did take a photograph either side. As the event will be taking place over several days I selected 4 images I thought best depicted the 'Cardboard City' at an early stage.
4. A helpful contibutor
3. Building on the frame

   Lastly, I felt that as the day progressed I became more confident, which helped lots with the outcome of the photographs.

   With the first photograph I attempted to convey how bare and lifeless the place was with just the hint of what was about to take place (there was only the first cardboard box of the city being laid). I thought this set up the series well with the natural lighting adding an air of fresh beginning. The photo also worked on its own in my opinion as the people in the background were grouped suggesting activity within the place would occur.

   The second photograph was strong in terms of composition I felt as the triangles filled the frame well and connected the children with the cardboard material that would become prevalent within the rest of the photos. There was a lot of activity going on in the photograph as well but maybe if the girl holding the frame was looking up there would have been a bit more character.

   In contrast I thought the third photograph showed lots of character as well as being well-composed. The girl on the left was clearly in the middle of helping to construct a part of the cardboard city and the lighting showed her face well. The mother on the right could possibly have been better lit (less shadows across her face) but overall it worked well. The low camera angle also offered a different and more immersive view.

   Finally for this first day I deliberately waiteed until the boy (who was conscious of my presence) turned his head so I could capture his facial expression while still making the picture look 'natural'. Differing from the third photo, there was a lot of visible activity behind the boy, where in the third photo the two people were the main focal point. The only thing that could have been improved for me in this photograph was the boy could have been a bit more sharp- maybe the focus was slightly behind the boy.

Bibliography- People unaware

B. Davidson, Subway, 2003 – Revised Edition, Magnum Photos,2003,

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

M. Durden, Dorothea Lange 55, Phaidon Press Limited, Regents Wharf, All Saints Street, London N1, 9PA, 2001

W. Eugene Smith, Magnum Photos,

C. Hagen, Mary Ellen Mark 55, Phaidon Press Limited, Regents Wharf, All Saints Street, London N1, 9PA, 2001

S. Hansen, Colour, German Street Photography,

E. Kim, How to Become a Fearless Street Photgrapher, Eric Kim Street Photography, 9 May 2011,

S. McCurry, Afghan Girl, Pakistan,

T. ├ľnder, The Official,

A. Stonehouse & Peter Thomson, Anthony Stonehouse Guest Photographer, London Street Photo, February 17 2012,

D. Santos II, Portraits of Strangers, Shooting Strangers in Orchard Road,

F. Van Riper, Mirror to the World, March, Frank Van Riper Talking Photography, 2009,

G. Winogrand, Atget Photography,

Zoriah, Color Photography, Photojournalism Technique, 28 April 2012,

Reference page- People unaware

B. Davidson, Subway, 2003 – Revised Edition, Magnum Photos,2003,

E. Kim, How to Become a Fearless Street Photgrapher, Eric Kim Street Photography, 9 May 2011,

S. McCurry, Afghan Girl, Pakistan,

T. ├ľnder, The Official,

A. Stonehouse & Peter Thomson, Anthony Stonehouse Guest Photographer, London Street Photo, February 17 2012,

D. Santos II, Portraits of Strangers, Shooting Strangers in Orchard Road,

Preparation for Assignment 2- 'A Cardboard City'

Well I prepared for the assignment 'People and Activity' by researching how other photographers go about similar 'documentary' photography and also by sorting out practical technicalities like starting times for the event, duration and the number of people involved etc.

   Prior to preparing for the assignment I was aware of photojournalism and how photographers tried to depict a story of an event often within a single picture. However in researching telling a story through multiple photographs I realised 'documentary' or 'narrative' photography was the closest type of this kind of photography I would be working towards in my assignment.

   The photographer in particular that influenced me with the most inspiration and ideas was Bruce Davidson. In particular I was struck by a series of photos called 'Subway', accessed 4 June 2012. Here there were many photos that would have worked 'stand-alone' in telling a story but together they formed what I thought was a comprehensive and true-to-life gritty depiction of how a subway in New York City was like in the 1980's.

   I found he used light in particular to set a mood but I thought there was also the more subtle factor of a reccurring theme being implemented, namely graffitti on the walls in the background. Showing the Subway in a new light, literally! and with such a harsh background in a lot of the photographs I felt set the photographs apart as a set. The 'set' was easily seen as a set because of this reccurring theme. I would try to implement at least this technique into the photographs for my assignment too, with the reccurring background being cardboard. I would also try to experiment with lighting.

   On the prctical side of things I found most details were pretty straightforward. The social event I would be attending was called 'Cardboard City' and consisted obviously enough of people building a 'city' out of cardboard. The factor that pretty much decided for me I would be choosing the second of the two options: depicting different people at the same event was the following. The event would be held over several days so of course the people attending would be different each day, apart from the organisers.

   One thing I did find out that I would have to be careful and sensitive about was that quite a few children would be attending so I made a mental note to myself to ask permission from the parents first.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

By the Lake (A Public Space)

The way I chose to approach this exercise was complicated in both technique and the concept behind it. The concept consisted of finding a person or people engaged in an activity and photographing them. At the same time, in the distance, a second activity would be taking place, which would in turn become the main subject for the next photograph. This would tell a story while still showing the main subject for the exercise: people in activity.

  As you might have imagined this turned out to be quite challenging to execute. The reasons for this were having the right amount of depth of field to capture both the foreground and the background (that would later become the foreground so had to be discernible) and actually finding situations where each photograph would 'lead on' while still showing various activities taking place.

   However I had planned out a route in a famous London park where I could carry out this idea. More specifically it was beside a lake in St. James Park that I chose to start with. As the  weather was very sunny there were many visitors to the park and I had planned for this, trying to use it to my advantage as I could 'select' interesting activities with my idea still intact.





   If viewed sequentially in succession I thought the photos did tell a story of people engaged in activities with the foregroound and background being linked between each photograph. Although the photo session was successful in that regard there was room for improvement technically in my opinion. The most important places I felt I could have done better in were to have the content in the backgorund (maybe using a smaller aperure so more was in focus) more obvious so the connection could be made between that and the next shot. Also if possible keeping the background in the preliminary photograph the same as the foreground in the post photograph. Specifically that would be using the same person or people for both shots like I started off with.

A Couple's Journey Around a Food Market (An Organised Event)

Well, I thought after completing this exercise that the research paid off and everything went as smoothly as I hoped. The whole idea I had in mind hinged upon whether a stranger or preferably a couple of strangers were willing to let me photograph them as they browsed around the market.

2. Being introduced to the market (the couple are on the right).

   Everything ran like clockwork. I walked up to the first couple I found and soon I was taking photos from almost every angle and viewpoint I could conceive of them. The couple actually enjoyed my attention but crucially not so much as to affect the nature of the 'shoot'. This meant I could photograph their faces (often from the side or behind the stalls) without the photographs looking staged. I could also suggest the makings of a story through these photos in order to explain what was going on.


  Soon I became more comfortable and started to think more lucidly about framing and compsition. I could then also concentrate more on expression, which admittedly I felt was more under my control than lighting or colour. The expressions were sometimes limited to hand gestures. This was because the strong sunlight  dictated sunglasses being worn, at least by half of the couple! However this worked well in producing telling moments with the hands explaining when they were buying things off the stalls.
10. An exchange at a dramatic angle

   I used a range of focal lengths from 18-55mm and found I leaned towards the wider side of that focal range for two reasons. The first was that the nature of a wider field of view produced a more involved feel to those images as I had discovered in the exercise 'Close and involved'. Secondly, it showed off the rest of the market and its goers more effectively. If I did use the longer end of the focal length range I was using it was for framing convenience or because I had spotted a lively facial expression.








21. Getting ready to leave