By Nigel Javis
Exploring my local area recently with my trusty camera phone was most enjoyable; exercising my physical and creative needs. Although you do get odd looks when taking pictures of everyday things, a rubbish bin, the back of a road sign or a post box but after a while you get used to it.
The walks started with me leaving home in a different direction each time, keeping the time to just over an hour to limit the area which I was exploring. Thankfully the weather during this project was good, the area a mixture of different types of housing surrounded by fields and farmland.
My approach is very simple. Walk and capture anything that catches my eye. I suppose the type of images I am drawn to is what you would call my individual style which has been influenced by the photographers I have been exposed to.
I am sure I am not alone in having gigabytes of photos sitting on multiple hard drives. In the old days we would have prints made but now it is more tailored to social media and sharing on various platforms, so having something physical you can hold and flick through has become less common.
The App. (Popsa) has a good selection of layout templates. The first decision to make: overall layout colour, I keep it simple with white as it looks good with my black and white images. Next layout decision: what spreads do I go for, as all the images are square in format, in the end I went for two images per page.
Now for the hard bit, editing and putting the images into the spreads. I had an idea for the first and last image, the rest were trial and error. Moving the spreads and changing images is very easy and I must confess I didn't agonise over the choice of layout or images, I am a believer in, if it looks good it’s ok.
Upload and order.
The images in the zine are varied, as the intention was to discover and document my local area. Whether I achieved this, who knows, but I have something I can hold, flick though. Most importantly I now have the confidence to take this forward into a much larger project.
By Emily Jarvis (No 4)
Absorbing the surroundings
We set off without an agenda. It's not about collecting another summit or doing a route by a certain time. The route itself is not crucial. There is usually an area we intend to cover. However, we may drift off it occasionally, if the mood takes us.
Camera in hand. Walking slower than we normally do gives us more time to take in the landscape and evaluate its photographic potential. Individually, we are all drawn to different things and work at different paces. Generally, we are walking within eyesight of each other, but not taking much notice of the other person.
Taking pictures where quantity no longer a consideration because we have more or less infinite digital space, no film to consider. The routine of doing this repeatedly, unconsciously trains you to know when it is or isn't worth taking a shot. This is valuable when you come to the processing and selection of shots for publication. Do I really want to troll through ten images that are virtually identical to pick out 'the one'. Confidence in knowing increases with practice.
What to take
Sometimes, it doesn't look much at first glance, but the ordinary can develop into something special. It's often abstract. We're looking for something to draw the eye in, so it's not a random shot in the dark that we're just hoping will become a picture. You can point your camera and click, but that doesn't make it a thing anybody is going to want to view. Instead, it'll be something they saw too, but didn't see it that way. It's been imagined. Pre - visualised.
It is necessary to have some idea of what you want to achieve. Random shots don't often come to much. Although accidental blurry shots often appeal more than they should!
Composition and framing are key. Too much of any one component unbalances the finished item. Lack of detail in a prominent place. Or the focal point not being pin sharp.
When it's good, you know. It's an “OH, that's good” moment. It's also personal. Do not expect this as a universal reaction, and you won't be too gutted about it. We are all our own best critics, to some extent. Interaction with other photographers is super useful. Any college course I have ever done has led to me thinking I have gained so much from my fellow students. The instruction alone is almost without value. It's how you interpret that counts.
Steidl - ISBN 3-86521-139-9
This is the book that launched a thousand Instagram accounts and made colour street photography suddenly fashionable again. Not the desaturated colour of the New Topographic movement or the Dusseldorf school, but strong, vintage Kodachrome colour. Closer in style to Ernst Haas than to Stephen Shore.
Saul Leiter was initially trained as an artist and this is reflected in his compositions, which are based around reflections, shadows and colour. White Circle, 1958 is a good example.
Based in New York, his day job was as a fashion photographer for publications such as Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, his street photography was purely a passtime. However it was his personal work that fired people's imagination and this book marked his breakthrough into the public consciousness.
The photographs open a window into the past, as they mostly date from the late 40’s and 50’s with only one from the 60’s and one from the 70’s. They show New Yorkers going about their business, in restaurants, trains and buses, smoking, shopping. A world untroubled by climate change, pandemics, social media and other 21st century ills. The formality of dress, especially womens clothing, is strange to the modern eye.
Leiter’s style differed from other street photographers in that he wasn’t wedded to wide angle focal lengths nor fetishised getting as close to his subject as possible. He frequently shot with telephoto lenses up to 150mm. This gave him the focal length compression effect that he used in his more abstract work, layering planes of colour on top of each other and picking figures out against busy backgrounds.
His work was often highly impressionistic. Mirrors and reflections feature a lot, obscuring or distorting the subject. He did shoot more traditional street subjects, such as the often reproduced shot of the postmen in a snowy New York although sometimes these were just simple studies, a dog lazing in a sunny doorway, a shoe shine peering back at the photographer from his booth. The combination of Kodak processing and age has given the pictures a warmth which, in a TV show, would signify a flashback sequence. In my view there is no better way to describe these pictures, they depict a past over half a century distant and evoke a strange nostalgia.
For me, this book remains inspirational. I confess that, whilst I was familiar with Ernst Haas’s work, I had never heard of Saul Leiter and this book was revelatory. It showed that you could apply artistry to street shooting and whilst purists will say that it’s not street photography as practiced by the likes of Garry Winogrand, I find it more satisfying.
Frank Peeters – Copyright
ISBN 3 – 89261-402-4
I bought this book back in the late 80s and it has remained one of my favourite books ever since.
It's a slim volume, only 47 pages, published in 1988 and as a soft-back. It's an album that was produced to accompany an exhibition at the Swan Tower, Kleve. The reproduction is excellent on good quality paper and the images haven't dated.
Peeters monochrome style owes something to Ralph Gibson - pushed film and high contrast. Possibly a red filter. The images themselves seem like details from other, larger, photographs. In all the photographs the film grain is very prominent and quite wonderful.
Textiles, bodies and skies figure prominently in the book. The textiles are particularly beautiful, lending themselves well to the high contrast technique employed by Peeters. People, when they appear, are often photographed facing away from the camera, adopting strange poses, sometimes mimicking a statue, sometimes gesturing to the heavens.
There are only three images in the book where you can make out the face of the model, indeed in one picture the model covers her face with her hands. Yet this just adds to the air of mystery that permeates the book.
A lot of the images are comparisons. A model in a floral blouse is photographed from above in a field full of wildflowers. The stark contrast of the picture makes the two subjects flow together. In another the same model leans on a tree next to some ferns, the flowers on the blouse again merging into the natural scene. Some grasses appear to be held by a model behind their back, the photograph just capturing the stalks on the silk garment which carries a faint floral pattern. The wrinkles in the material reflect the light which adds to composition.
Others photographs are abstractions, slices of reality filtered through the author's unique vision and process. All are arresting and thought provoking.
This book still inspires me to make photographs and when I first bought it I went through a phase of trying to copy Peeters style, but of course I couldn't get it quite right.
Technical mastery can be acquired but seeing is much more difficult.