In the feedback on my first take of assignment 3, my tutor made several helpful suggestions, including recommending a number of street photographers to research, and a comment that she would like to see my work shot in colour (see here for summary of feedback).
I’ve learned much about the approach of renowned street photographers both in their approach to ‘street craft’ and in what they look for in a good photo. I explore this is detail in my other posts, for example: Garry Winograd, Street Photography Now, and Joel Meyerowitz. In particular, I found documentaries of the photographers at work important in understanding their approaches photographing strangers on the street, and I found Joel Meyerowitz’s work in colour, with its rich contrasts, inspired me to make my own work in colour. I also found William Eggleston’s colour work in small-town American broadened my thinking on what might make worthwhile images in northern English cities, which are not renowned for their colour vibrancy.
I wanted to take the photos in colour, so my challenge was how to ensure a strong rendition of colour in the final images. At this stage, I don’t have a strong knowledge of working with RAW images in Lightroom to generate interesting colour tones, akin to what different types of film might produce. I therefore decide to shoot the project using the jpeg rendition from my Fuji X-T1, which is renowned for producing excellent jpegs modelled on some of their film characteristics. To ensure correct colour balance in the jpegs, I adjusted the white balance in the camera as I moved from location to location in the shoot (using custom settings and a grey reference).
I’d read about some street photographers working with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second to ensure sharp images despite any movement in the subject or the photographer. I wanted to try this approach and therefore, fixed the shutter speed to 1/1000 and aperture to auto. I made periodic adjustments to the ISO to ensure that I generally had a mid-range aperture to give a reasonable depth of field for capturing details of the streets. Where lighting conditions were very poor (for example an indoor market), I compromised on the shutter speed.
I used the same location for the shoot as the original assignment, Leeds city centre. However, my approach to capturing images was different: a) I put my camera on a neck-strap rather than wrist strap as I suspected the action of lifting my arm from my side with the camera triggered some ‘danger response’ in potential subjects (ie is he about to throw something at me?); b) I tried to avoid signalling that I was about to take a picture by not directing my camera at the subject until they were in shooting range – this stopped them either walking around me so they weren’t in the photo (not appreciating that they were the subject!) or being distracted from their own moment by me; c) I aimed to frame and shoot quickly so my subjects were not necessarily sure whether they or something else was being photographed; d) finally, I was sure to smile and nod to people who noticed my presence to show I meant no harm.
Given the conditions were unpredictable (from bright sunshine to heavy rain), and I had limited time for the shoot, I decided not pre-select a specific topic but just to explore the streets for subjects of interest and then find a linking theme for a final selection of images during edit. However, I collected some useful ideas for future themes, including the hoards of people arriving for Saturday night in Leeds as I was returning home.
My contact sheets are posted separately (here). Where I also discuss the images that I thought strong, but didn’t fit into my selected theme.
The selected theme is Obscured where subjects in the photos are somehow obscured from our full view. All photos were shot with a Fuji X-T1 and 35mm (53 efl) f/1.4 Fujinon lens.
Click on the images to view as a gallery.
The deliberate intention to work in colour changed the way I thought about the potential of subjects during the shoot. While it added another dimension to think about, it also added the possibility of images that would not work so well in black and white (for example image 2 with its clashing colours). I think Joel Meyerowitz has changed my perspective on street photography as primarily something that is better in black and white!
I feel that the changes in my technical and physical approach to street photography (described under ‘my process’) have led to a significantly improved set of images over the original assignment 3. Inspired by my research on street photographers, the framing is closer/improved and the subjects more interesting – I particularly enjoy the visual pun in image 1.