A couple of weeks ago on Flickr, I decided to join the group SPNC. Great groups of street photography enthusiast’s people like you and me who have a love of photography. Although to be honest there are some photographers on there who exclusively just shoot street photography, there are some who shoot random style.
These random style photographers do have a mind of their own when it comes to this kind of work, they look for multiple layers, negative space in certain locations. Those of you who know me know that too, I enjoy photographing geometry or geometrical shapes in certain situations.
Whilst my main sort of photographic composition, usually involves focusing on triangular and linear compositions, other photographers seem to have the knack of layering with shapes and others combine light and shadow into their work.
I have come to realise something lately, when I look at a past master photographers work, the question which is beginning to form in my mind is this: Is there work still relevant in todays marketplace?
So I go through my list of photographers’ books that I do own or have read their bibliography at least viewed some of their portfolio. So I typically looked Robert Doisneau and AndréKertész, two very different styles although both shot black and white photographs, Kertész concentrated more on the artistic style of black and white photography photographing a lot of subjects.
Where as Robert Doisneau photographed a lot of street photography, he also shot similar locations to Henri Cartier-Bresson. He focused on shapes, however they’re a lot of photographs shot by Robert Doisneau that one could argue they are actually staged photographs in the street. Indeed one of his most famous photographs Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)”, was staged although the photograph is not as iconic as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Sailor kiss on V.E Day it is none the less a fascinating image.
It is also surrounded by such a huge controversy in today’s street photography ethics; some photographers do not like the use of staging a street shot. Certainly in the case of Doisneau it lead to court battle.
However interesting debate does ensue in this case:
What this has lead to is me asking more questions about other photographers works, after all those who have studied photography have at some point done some work in a studio.
So does that mean all the past master photographers staged their iconic and most memorable photographs, possibly to some extent.
The irony of it all though for me is if am serious about creating art or am I serious about creating staged art? It’s a dilemma to stage a photograph and make it look as though it is not staged or to shoot some street scene and await something to happen some story to rear its head in such a manner that it does not look contrived.
Such was the dilemma I found to create a photograph that was staged. I decided to try and create a photograph with a couple but not like Doisneau or Eisenstaedt, and re-create the kiss.
I wanted to shoot something like a couple pointing in opposite directions sort of like to imply a couple who don’t ask for directions but use the hands and gesture to each other which way they should go.
What this then states it that all couples eventually go their separate ways? It’s an observation and yes this was a lighthearted one but it is true nonetheless.
If you read the Eric KimStreet Photography blog, you will know that Eric is always focused on what past photographers have taught him by his own observation and study of those photographers.
Eric comes across, as some one who like me, is just as passionate about photography as you and me. This is great stuff okay I admit not every photographer I know owns a Canon 5D or a Leica M for example, two separate pieces of kit on so many levels. The 5D makes a great photojournalist camera, for street photography though it is not practical.
If you look at the likes of Gilden, Mermelstein, and Meyerowitz they all use Leica cameras, owning a Leica does not make you a great photographer, capturing great moments in time, makes you a great photographer or in the words of André Kertész, it makes you an eternal amateur.
Incredible to think that such a man would consider himself in this way, when his works are still highly regarded today, but is that because to know photography, we have to understand the history of photography.
Yes of course it is, but if we fast forward fifty years or so, and we look at the works of Eggleston and Herzog, we can see that their influence are so far removed from what Kertész was shooting at the height of his career.
They relied heavily on the use of colour and shapes to inform of the world of an art form, which would open your eyes to a new perspective.
The use of colour has greatly influenced me I too have a fondness for colour film and colour digital however with digital I get my instant fix of viewing my images once I get home. Though with film it is a different process and that process of producing a print is one that will stay with you forever once you process your first roll and then produce a series of prints.
A few street photographers combine this art of splicing together a few prints juxtaposed against each other, which is the focus of the next instruction on SPNC.
So why not take a look and get involved, you may remember I talked about the photographer Ray K. Metzker and his combination of splicing together these composites, his works would focus on light and shadow, he would over emphasise the subject matter in such a way that makes it abstract, the overall composition would be focused on shapes depicting a story which included some human element.
Not always did it feature a human element but he concentrated on the geometry of linear, triangular and curves, at differing angles to give a very artistic new wave of interpretation of street photography.
What I would suggest is to look at a series of works by these photographers, then implement it into your own work.
Practice these techniques; look for the groups on Flickr.