Today, I took the (inevitably delayed) train to London to do some work. As such a busy and buzzing place, I had great expectations for what I could acheive and was very excited to be going. But when I arrived I felt a bit overwhelmed. Some of the popular areas, such as China Town and Piccadily Circus, were absolutely rammed with people, street entertainers creating dams of people watching who were then blocking the thoroughfare of others, including myself. The crowds were so dense that a lot of the time it was difficult to get many sucessfull images in my normal style.
Narratives, characters and quirks were hidden amongst scores of people marching shoulder to shoulder through the streets. The obvious subjects for me tended to be tourists who took the time to stop and 'tourist' giving me the opportunity to move around them into a position that I wanted to shoot from. But largely the day consisted of me looking for areas that could proffer an opportunity of someone enagaging within the space in an intrinsic way. Naturally I was rewarded with such opportunities, but mostly I felt stunted by the volume of people and unprepared to work even faster than I previously thought i was!
The final results from the day were that I found I took a lot less images than before, spent a lot more money in doing so, and got 8-10 images that could make the final edit.
I took the camera out today, very much wanting to shoot in a more obviously surveillance manner - using parts of the car to block or blure out certain aspects of my image, or shooting into my subjects cars - peeking at them through windows or bars and becuase of the, the style of work feels very different to my other shots. Some of these may appear visually truer to my initial objective, but to me they dont have such an interesting narrative - they lack enthusiasm, life, colour (drained away by shooting through dirty car windows etc) some of them have worked really well, for example I really like the people crossing the road with two people in wheelchairs - theres a lot going on in the photo - lots of intersting lines and forms created by the multiple directions of all the people points of view contained in the frame.
"Born in Paris in 1953, controversial artist Sophie Calle employs any means necessary to find adequate methods of self-expression. Famous for her unique observational tactics and outright invasion of her subjects’ privacy, Calle has pushed past the social and formal boundaries of photography in order to fully explore identity."
I have always felt compelled to Sophie Calle, her work is significant to me in that I admire her eccentricity, concepts and frankly her somewhat cavalier approach to making work. Unbound by the usual constraints of ethic and morality, Calle doggedly persues her work/theme often putting herself at great risk in order to not only create images but to fully immerse herself in the sensation of the concept. Calles work is very much about herself in this sense, she explores her ideas at a greater personal depth than her contemporaries and as such, for me, she becomes the embodiment of the work. Her actual finished photos are really not as important to me as her character and style of working.
So today I found myself with a spare hour so I decided to sit in my car in a public car park in Tewkesbury with the 120-400mm lens and my Nikon d810 and see if I could get much - and be brave enough to do this in my home town. After wasting 15-20 minutes of time not having the courage to start, I finally got on with it an am rather pleased with my results. These are a selection from about 80 images shot - I particularly like the middle bottom one of the two guys, the top row with the man in a hi-vis vest talking to someone in a car and the chap in red with the gingerbreadman in the shot - i think these are the strongest images as they carry a lot of narrative due to the subjects body language, position within their frames and the crop of the photos.
“The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
I feel there are some very successful shots taken amongst this batch. Interesting dichotomies, tensions and dialects between some of the characters and the way they unintentionally interact with their backgrounds. However, I do feel the 'in car shots' are getting more 'samey' and i am not enjoying the process of making them as much as i had previously thought. Instead I am enjoying a more 'Henri Cartier Bresson approach' of the 'Decisive Moment', in that I take delight in finding an interesting background and then waiting until such a time that someone interacts unknowingly within the space and background; creating narrative, being watched - consumed with inner thoughts or outward tasks oblivious to the incidental and many digital reproductions of themselves and for what purpose or by whom they are harvested.
This is a rough edited mixture of 3 shoots worth of photos, I have categorised these only for my own benefit at this stage so I can see how they might work later as part of a series or book.
The photos were taken experimentally with a few objectives to try and establish a. the best combination of equipment and settings and b. to see how I would feel about different styles of shooting and c. to see which combo feels stronger in review.
These shots were taken whilst sat in my car. I use a Nikon d810 camera and have trialled both a sigma 24-70mm f2.8 aperture and a 120-400mm f4.5 lens. For these shots, I favoured the larger 120-400mm lens because of its physical size - more about that below. What I like about these shots in the purposeful inclusion of the interior frame of my car, it changes the narrative of the shots from street to surveillance. With this in mind, I tried experimenting with shooting empty windows, however I feel this may be somewhat cliche and weaken the overall strengths of the other work.
I particularly like the shots where the person is almost obscured by the car, it gives the impression of the shots being taken in a hurry or that I am trying to conceal myself in taking them - which of course I am.
These shots I have for now categorised as Irony - in the final edit, I don't think I will isolate these shots or give them a title but in doing so on here it gives me a better insight into what I have and more importantly what I haven't got.
These are some of my favourite photos, I love the metaphors and humour that these present to me. In order to take these shots, I tried a different approach. I stood outside a prominent corner in the centre of Cheltenham with my camera hanging around my neck whilst i subtly shot from the waist without looking at what I was doing. Because it is important to me that people do not know I am taking their photo - I want to capture them as natural as I can and for them to not be influenced into posing or changing their expressions or appearance in anyway. I tried not to be obvious and make it look like I was merely stood there - but evidently to no avail as I shortly encountered the police demanding to know what I was doing and why!
I definitely know I want to make more images like these. They have a very different feel to them than the more obvious surveillance work, but I like the implied narratives and assumptions that may be made by the viewer because of my choice of framing, cropping and angles.
These shots I think I am most ambivalent about, at the time of shooting I was quite pleased with these, but on review in my opinion they are weak and just 'so what'! i wont be persuing this type of image in future.
I was very pleased with these shots, I particularly like the dog shots and the dynamics between the dog, the air freshener and the viewer. I also liked the experience of taking these shots, it got my adrenaline going because I had to be more obvious in taking them. I think there is something quite interesting and confrontational about looking at people in their cars as a private space, I need to shoot more of these to try and gain a clearer understanding of this.
These shots were taken with the big 120-400mm lens and I felt I was taking more of a risk with them in the sense I was more obvious and it would have been easier for the subjects to catch me in the act as it were. I do feel quite happy with these shots, i like the framing and the narrative.
These are the ones I have selected in the 'so far' edit, but I cant decide at this stage where they belong.
I did enjoy taking these photos as the risk of being caught was heightened, however I am aware there may be legalities regarding shooting in this style so its sadly not an option I will pursue in future.