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Ex 5.2 – response to Bill Brandt

[Recreated from pdf following blog crash]

24TH AUGUST 2015 / 0 COMMENTS / EDIT E5.3 EYV

” Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it.

I have chosen a Bill Brandt photograph that was originally published in Lilliput Magazine, which was an arts and photography magazine published in the UK in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ian Jeffery explains Brandt’s photos in this period in his introduction to Photographs 1928 – 1983:

” … it is the furrow of the gutter that is treated as real spaces … townscapes play on an idea of disappearance into that infinite fold, as if he were some kind of photographic sculptor attentive to the point where the representation meets and slips into a shadowy reality.

Jeffery explains that the most outstanding of these
townscapes was ‘Hail, Hell and Halifax’ (1948). Here is the photo to which I have responded:

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 21.48.17

Source: beetlesandhuxley.com

I know from the caption that the photo is taken in Halifax, a town of the industrial revolution in West Yorkshire. Brandt’s title includes references to bad weather (hail), bad living or working conditions (hell) and the location (Halifax). These conditions were common to the towns of the industrial revolution – cramped living conditions, close to the mills and their smoking chimneys. The cobbled (stone set) street was a precursor to modern roads and many of these are still preserved in old English towns. The weather in the North of England is unfortunately often inclement.

The style of the image itself is ‘sculpted’ as Je!ery puts it. Brandt has worked in the dark room to close up the shadows into blackness and bring out light on the pathway. The industrial buildings are silhouetted, dark and forbidding. There is little detail or texture, only the stones of the path, surrounded by black blocks hewn in the processing. This is not an image taken straight from the camera-machine, it has a human touch.

The presentation of both images in this instance is within the context of this blog, both reproduced and transmitted over the internet and mostly likely viewed small-scale on a computer screen. The narrative is shared for the photos – here they are part of a piece of photographic research.

Brandt’s picture was commissioned by Lilliput Magazine, which had a focus on arts on photography. So, it was originally presented as art and not documentary-style photography of industrial an industrial town.

Here is my response to Brandt’s photo:

Response to Brandt

Fuji X-T1, 52mm efl f1.4. 1/750 sec @ f/8. Castle Street, Skipton.

There is a similarity in the subject matter. While Skipton is an ancient town, it was transformed into a busy mill-town during the industrial revolution due to its location on the Leeds- Liverpool canal. The photo shows similar cobbled streets, and the terraced housing is also typical of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately there is no avoiding the ubiquitous cars.

While Brandt worked with film and a dark room, I have tried to replicate a similar style in Lightroom. I made extensive use of the brush to add light and shade to the RAW file, particularly to increase the black. I think this approach captures a similar mood to Brandt’s photo – the dark-light, and removal of much of the detail and texture.

My image was shot on a bright summer afternoon, with high contrast in the scene. Ideally, I would have shot in lower contrast conditions, with wet stone cobbles. I was not able to
arrange Brandt’s weather conditions!

REFERENCES

Brandt B. Introduction by Ian Jeffery. Photographs 1928 – 1983. London, Thames and Hudson Limited, 1993.

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