Stop Looking & Relax ?

 The State of Britain and UK Closed doors projects have helped me  realise that I have been taking things too seriously, I have not shot a proper feel good "Street" pic for a while . this week I decided to go in search of a pic or two that might put a smile on my face, the weather was great , my mindset was right and more importantly I was feeling lucky !

I soon discovered that the reality of the situation did not match my optimism, as the heat and lack of picture opportunities evaporated my optimism and reminded me of how challenging SP is when your on the front line .  I shot a few frames that I knew were not going to make the cut as I tried to make something happen,  in order to maintain what optimism remained I decided to take a break and rethink my approach.

Armed with my favorite sandwich and soft drink I found a quiet spot and watched the world go by, to be honest it was the best part of the day, I did not rethink anything I just relaxed , my peace was shattered when I noticed a young woman walking past carrying a very unusual item, I could not believe my eyes !

The next few minutes are probably  best described as "How not to take a street pic"  !

Thankfully my camera was already around my neck , with my part consumed sandwich and soft drink in my left hand and my camera in my right I jumped to my feet and pursued the view that I knew would put a smile on my face . I already knew how I wanted to frame this shot as I moved into position and shot 3 frames !  Got it !

It turns out that the subject of this pic is a student of Beauty at the local college and the item under her arm is her model head , strange how this picture only revealed itself to me once I had stopped looking !

Keep it surreal ...

The State Of Britain

When I embarked on my State Of Britain series I knew that 2017 was going to be a year of political significance , the Brexit vote and political change in the US lead me to believe that a year of uncertainty and political upheaval was inevitable.

What interested me most was how these changes would manifest themselves into the day to day live's of the UK population , in some ways the challenge for me was to interpret what I saw around me and try to create a series of images that represent everyday scenes during these unusual times .

One of my concerns has been the way that Britain's adoption of Americana appears to be growing into a increasing appetite for the "American Dream" which to my mind at least is the creation of a society that believes in the survival of the fittest and accepts food banks and homelessness as acceptable solutions to a under funded welfare state.

The only great certainty is that things are about to change in the UK , the changes will be much more subtle than the dismantling of Britain's industrial landscape that came to represent the Thatcher era and feature greater pressure on disadvantaged individuals who rely on state support.

Where and when the pictures for this series will reveal themselves to me is as yet unclear, however I will be viewing this country of mine with a more cynical eye than ever before and suggest that you do the same and try to record how your community changes.

Keep it real !

Who are ya !

What do your photographs say about you and your life ?

Its a simple question but I can hear your silence from miles away, its deafening !

The truth is that most of us are happy to pick up our cameras and rush out the door in the hope that something will turn up and we will get lucky. This approach is not rare and can be seen repeatedly on many SP web sites.  I'm sure that we all accept that Street Photography for all its faults and interpretations of definition is at the very least a form of communication, this could be emotional, factual and hopefully creative, in short it is a alternative to using words as a descriptive form. In fact a photo is worth a thousand words, allegedly !  

I see many SP efforts that are worth far fewer words but we'll not go there,  now lets change the medium, take a look at how you might approach sending a text message and look at the decision process involved.

Who is it for ?

What do I need to communicate ?

Does the recipient read the same language as I write ?

The parallels between the two acts of picture making and texting are clear, the worry is that sending a text for most is so familiar that we accept the thought process above but often give less planning and consideration to the images we make on the streets. Would you send a text to a friend that said "Random Unremarkable Stranger" , no ! The value of the statement and images of this subject are not unrelated, they are of equal value.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we should engage with our photographic equipment in the same way we would a computer keyboard ,learn the rules of the medium , decide what you want to say and don't share your message until it says what you need to say,  simple .

The next sentence relies on luck ,hope & serendipity . Djkfhieugfagj jgsrajj  hjds  ,,hgedfcvbgh  hffsfgcbnvcvgdbk !  Those who are able to read the above message should carry on  shooting without thought for form, structure and content ,  the rest of us might want to develop a more thoughtful approach to our Street Photography captures.

This blog was written on the back of a fruitless Street Photography session yesterday.

Enjoy the Easter break and keep it real .

 

Time To Change !

I can't believe that we are almost at the half way point of March in 2017, this year seems to be flying past, to be honest I feel as if its leaving me behind as I have yet to achieve anything meaningful this year on the photographic front although the Blue Frames project and my State of Britain projects are making slow progress.

Its time to get organised for the year ahead and decide what my photographic priorities are and identify the the places and subjects I want to shoot over the remaining 9 months of this year of instability.

The Blue Frames project is so spontaneous it requires little planning and usually relies on me winging it each week, however my "British" shoot needs a bit of forward thinking if I am to be in the right locations at the right time. The truth is that The State of Britain project is not really about the places but has more to do with the times and political climate that we are currently living through. I believe that the visual effects of austerity, change and economic uncertainty are the currency of this project and should be seen against a background of existing cultural and political links with the United States. 

How the story of our times will manifest itself through my pictures remains to be seen as the creation of work that represents a time or era and its effects on a particular place can only be judged with hindsight but must be created now.

The take away message of this short blog is that the next few years will be seen as important on both sides of the pond and images that communicate the changes to our everyday lives may be viewed with more significance in the years and decades ahead, for that reason we should try to engage more meaningfully with what we see and shoot and try to create a narrative of political and social change that hopefully will create a greater understanding of our lives and times.

Keep it real !

 

Whats that smell ?

I'm beginning  to worry about the well-being of Street Photography, it appears to be under attack from all directions. I appreciate that both sides of the pond appear to be embracing change at any cost but surely the lunatics have not taken over the SP asylum, have they ?

The first thing I noticed on my Twitter feed this week is that some Japanese manufacture had introduced a new letter or number to a previous model number and togs seemed to be conflicted between feelings of enticement, excitement and inadequacy !  

The second thing I noticed this week was a article in the Guardian promoting the work of female photographers, apparently SP has been dominated by the "male gaze" for longer than is good for the art form so a woman only group has been set up to right this wrong.   I was more than a little surprised to find out that my SP sisters were feeling less than equal in the Street Photography community so I set about seeking a male only tog group but came up empty handed, it appeared that all the groups I found embraced equality and diversity. I did find one group that was only open to those who believed in the creative qualities of Hobnob biscuits but even they allowed Bourbon fans to join.

All in all as I sit here I'm feeling as if the Street Photography world is becoming more selective than ever before, I'm starting to feel anxious, if I don't buy this camera that has a new improved model number or start treating female togs in a more positive way I'll be doomed to a life of Luddite or sexist accusations. 

The cynical side of me believes that the problem with open photo groups is that they are not unique and that's not helpful if your seeking to create a USP to sell a few prints, I hope it works for those involved but I worry about the long term cost of disingenuous divisions.

The way I see it is very simple, there are only 2 types of Street Photographs, those I like and those I don't !  I care not one jot about the sex, sexuality ,race or nationality of the author and just for the record I care even less about camera kit and have no understanding of the excitement created by the launch of a new bit of Japanese tech.

It would appear that marketing is at the root of all things smelly this week as I can't believe that the latest Japanese offering or a photo group that excludes others is either needed or necessary ?

 

Those of you who have made it to the end of this piece have probably already guessed what the smell is,  

Keep it real !

 

Chelt2014-4web.jpg

 

 

The Blue frame project

Happy New Year !  If your reading this you managed to survive the festivities, congratulations !

During the Christmas break I was invited to participate in a picture per week project for 2017 and of course I accepted without really considering the logistics, the problem I have is that I'm not a city dweller, which is a bit of a disadvantage for a Street Tog, anyway I decided to shoot this 52 pic challenge with a conceptual approach and was inspired to buy a blue framed mirror for two quid from a local charity shop and investigate the creative potential of this mirror that had almost reached the end of the road .

I had made a capture a few years ago at a car boot sale that had sparked my interest in the way reflections can create a surreal vibe if considered carefully. The truth is that this idea had been put on the back burner along with many others, once I was confronted by my moment of inspiration (The charity shop moment) I knew I had to give it a go.

The first picture for the project came within minutes as I needed to rest my new blue friend against a wall, combined with my shopping I was struggling to make it back to the car without a breather, I did not plan to buy a great big mirror !

Anyway the view that the mirror picked up led me to believe that I might be onto something, I managed to capture 3 decent views before I returned back to my car. The mirror now lives permanently in the back seat and will be taken out 51 more times this year, madness !

That's how the Blue Frame Project was born, I'm unsure that I'll manage to create 52 shots with it before the seven years bad luck curse catches up with me, we'll see.

Apologies to the Street Photography Police for going off piste but the conceptual thing can't last, can it ?

 

 

 

Ask Why !

 

 

Now that 2016 is rolling to its end I have been evaluating my personal photographic motivation and trying to understand why I do what I do and trying to identify any changes that might bring me closer to my creative Utopia !

1. Why bother taking pictures ?

My personal reasons for practicing photography are simple, my captures now give me a connection to the times and environment I live in . My motivation was not always this noble, the pursuit of cash and technique motivated me for more than 25 years.

2. Why should I shoot Street Photography ?

The buzz of creating a image that has a element of surprise, sadness or humour is the only motivation I need to pursue "Street" pictures, the thrill of extracting these moments from real life without intervention is both a torment and a minor miracle when these collisions of coincidence occur .

3. Why do I shoot everything in colour ?

Colour photography for me is the medium of the here and now, the practice of removing (colour) information from a photo does not sit well with me, for that reason I have no intention of exploiting monochrome imagery in order to bring a level gravitas to my work. despite my reservations I must confess to liking Dalmatians shot in Black and white.

 

4. Why do I share pictures on-line ?

Photography for me is a isolated activity, my on-line activity helps me to feel part of a larger community, the feedback can be both a blessing and a curse which is most welcome but I never allow it to influence my visual agenda. I will probably post fewer pics during 2017.

5. Why am I buying fewer Photo-Books ?

One of my treats in life is to invest in photo-books, I have bought fewer this year than ever before . This is not a conscious decision, I'm just not seeing or should that be feeling it, many of this years publications are wasted on me !

Depardon's Glasgow is a gem !          

 

Self evaluation is never a bad thing especially at the end of a year, The "why" question should be a important question for all of us  and is far more valuable than the glib "why not" answer !

Keep it real in 2017 !

 

 

                                                                    

 

Visual Integrity or Aesthetic Vanity ?

Is Street Photography losing it's shine ?

As we head towards the end of 2016 I'm beginning to wonder if the limitations of Street Photography are becoming exposed and I'm asking myself if the stylized aesthetic we all bought into should be exchanged for a more meaningful Documentary approach ?

The overused visual devices that are looking so tired now are becoming parody's that define the art form, the Street Photography Now book should be re-released with the title Street Photography Then , as it is more useful as a historical record than a source for inspiration and is probably the greatest contributor to SP cliche !   Many of the on-line resources appear to be more engaged with kit rather than promoting the understanding of the "Street" environment that togs shoot and should be trying to interpret.

The value of the moment is  becoming diminished due to the volume of "special moments" that appear to be captured everyday with 99% of them having nothing to say,

The series I'm shooting at the moment is nothing more than a dead pan record of two dimensional closed doors that will probably never open again . The surprise for me is that I feel as if these simple pictures reflect my life more than the slices of life I have shot previously. The UK appears to be a place of increasing uncertainty and change, but I see little of this reflected in the work. being created on the streets, the search for honesty and truth in personal picture taking has been replaced by the pursuit of pictorially pleasing anonymous shadows and silhouettes that avoid the real lives that create them.. 

2016 has taught me that I must bring more of myself and my life to my work , I believe that a greater level of visual integrity is more useful than my technical and aesthetic vanity .

Keep it real !

 

Closed Doors

" Tombstones that mark the demise of community "

In mid November 2016 I was struck by the sight of my local pub as it lay in a decayed state having been closed for many years. I then came across the remains of a local boxing club that had lost the fight against a changing youth culture. Both of these sights filled me with sadness . As a photographer who had invested his life recording everyday happenings in the hope of understanding the society I live in, I began to wonder if the everyday things that were not happening were having the greatest impact on our communities.

 

My thoughts then moved towards the failed businesses that both these buildings had once housed and the sense of loss that must have been felt at the time of closure,  I  considered the people who were no longer able to socialise in these facility's, and felt a greater sadness, these thoughts inspired me to start The Closed Doors Project as i began to believe that these often overlooked derelict entrances to the past symbolised much more than entrepreneurial failure, . to me they represented social, political and economic failure, these closed doors could be read as barometers of austerity as they appear to measure the slow erosion of community and that is perhaps the greatest loss of all.

Individually these works tell a depressing story, collectively they may help us understand the country's political climate that led to the Brexit vote !

The surprise for me while shooting this very simple project was the discovery of the inherent beauty that these gateways to the past possessed, they appear to take on a dignified stance against modernism, like abstract tombstones that mark the death of community and mourn the passing of lost opportunities.

Closed Door No4, my local pub .

Closed Door No4, my local pub .

A Studio Approach to Street Photography

Many of the photographers who prosper on the streets are equally at home in photographic studios , today I want to examine what crossover skills are being brought into play and how you can start using these approaches.

The first thing any tog will do before contemplating setting up a table top shot is to examine the product to be photographed, is it textured, translucent, dark etc, this initial examination will determine the suitability of backgrounds, lighting and viewpoint.

Note that the first decision is background, is it coloured , neutral or detailed in someway,( eg old wooden planks) this principle is the first lesson we can bring to Street Photography !

Build your shots from the back, ask yourself. Will the view behind your subject compete with your intended subject, hopefully it will complement your subject, even though we might not be aware at this stage of what or who will become the main subject of our "random"  street pictures. Some of my favorite Street backgrounds work as abstract compositions independently, this is usually a good start.. Let me state here that backgrounds with reasonable footfall in front of them are my preference but I will invest more time waiting and adopting a fisherman's approach if necessary.. 

A early test shot from my Another Species of Giraffe pic.

Okay, so the background has been chosen, now for the lighting,  although most of us rely on natural / available light for our Street pictures that does not mean that we have given up control, we can choose when we shoot to ensure the best lighting is exploited for our work. Sometimes that can mean returning later in the day, on another day or even a different month in demanding circumstances. The take away point here is, shoot on your terms and don't be too quick to accept the picture conditions offered when you discover a potential location.

Some locations demand back-lighting or flat overcast soft light, think about what light is best for your intended capture, don't rely on luck, take  control, .revisit the same locations throughout the year and learn from what you see. You can be sure that our studio photography colleagues are in total control of every element of their compositions.

Last but not least , the viewpoint you choose should not be underestimated . taking up different positions around your location is never a waste of time, you will also discover that eye level views are rarely the best. Check out low, high, left and right views and decide which one you want to invest in, quite often the best view will be the most uncomfortable to maintain, such is life.

Background, check, Lighting , Check and viewpoint check !  You're ready to go !

Congratulations ! You have done all you can to capture the best image, all that is needed now is for a moment to unfold before you, yes a element of luck is still required for your Street picture to happen but this decision making process will reduce the odds of failure and put you in control.

Spontaneous captures are fantastic, however serendipity needs a helping hand occasionally.

Keep it real !

I invested a bit of time into this location due to the light and background and was rewarded with this.