Shooting from the hip
In Manhattan earlier this year I tasked myself with shooting spontaneously, pushing to not be tentative or hold back. Eyes wide open as I moved through the city I sought out character, in the people I saw but also the environment itself, to build a collection of images which told a story and created a sense of place. The Ricoh GR ii has quite a slow autofocus. Not slow as such but it requires you to take a moment to shoot, embrace the moment to shoot rather, which I think is more of an advantage than a fault. It somewhat forces you to think about how you are working within the situation. You have to be present for a second or two, you can’t simply fly in and out of someones space. Theres no chance for cowardice, only boldness and courage and you are rewarded accordingly with the image you envisioned.
(the images below and layout is screenshot from my Instagram and not curated.)
Observing the details
I also challenged myself to begin to observe and record subtle details within the environments I was exploring - in colour, light and form mostly, with a view to honing my visual language. Again working mostly with the Ricoh or iPhone 7, continuing with street portraiture but taking time to exist within the spaces and let the moments take place rather than chasing them around. Quite naturally I began to move beyond making portraits of the people I saw to the environment as a whole and the elements which combine to form them.
What I need to do next is to take this visual language and apply it to a more specific subject matter, perhaps setting myself limitations to work within (location, time, subject or thematic). What I am interested in exploring is storytelling through the images, documenting character and moments in time which carry narrative. I think at first I need to simply begin working somewhat speculatively, to just record and exist within the environment as I have been and see if a natural means of progression appears.
I also need to research the laws surrounding street photography and rights, to take them into consideration as I am working, and respond accordingly when people challenge my practice as I am sure they will and have done in the past. Given that I am exploring narrative, progression and sequence it seems natural to me to compile and curate my work within a book of some sort. Therefore another step forward in my secondary research is to examine existing photobooks and texts.
The regulations for street photography in France can be found here: http://www.eschon.com/photographie-de-rue-la-loi-en-france/
The page is in french but I have translated and summarised key points - You are allowed to take photos of people in public spaces, as long as the images are not for commercial use, are not invasive and there was no objection from the subject. Also, you may not shoot from a public space into someones home or other private space, and you cannot record peoples conversations. François-Marie Banier took a photographer to court for publishing an image of him without his permission but lost because the court ruled "Those who create, interpret, broadcast or exhibit a work of art contribute to the exchange of ideas and opinion essential to a democratic society"
I think that these are pretty good guidelines to practice within in general, as they help mark quite a clear line between documenting life as it passes and being invasive/unsympathetic/ignorant. Working freely within these parameters and seeking the relevant permission to go beyond them helps to keep my work ethically sound.
For now, I am going to move forward with the working title “Short Stories”, with a view to collecting experiences and interactions and recording them. There are a couple of themes I have been bouncing around my head which I have listed below, but for now will document more broadly with room to specialise in any of them.
moments which occur in the same period of time, say a minute for example perhaps in the early morning, or two minutes like 7:33am and pm - keeping the time frame the same but changing the location - “Around the world in 80 seconds” maybe
keeping the location specific; a country, a town, a street, a street corner, a cafe, but over an extended period of time.
working in different locations of a similar variety; shopping malls, town squares, parks, underground stations etc
certain people or groups
or, simply the world is my subject.
Secondary book research…
… upon visiting off print, I made an attempt to leave no page unturned in search of inspiration for my own work. Here is a summary of concepts (content and/or book design) I was drawn to.
IMPROMPTUS / JAPON / PUBLIC MATTERS / PER STRADA / 11:00AM
Below each segment is a short statement explaining what interests me uniquely within each volume.
IMPROMPTUS - GÉRALDINE LAY
Lay explores sensitive observations within everyday situations, similarly to how I do within my own work. The clean and simple layout of the book leaves the work to the images themselves to tell the story, using a couple of layouts with varying amounts of white space interchangeably - which seems to keep the eye engaged/breaks up the pace a little.
JAPON - YANN AUDIC
I am very keen on how Audic uses a soft and earthy palette of colours which compliment his photographs, The images in themselves are sensitive and gentle and the design of the book aligns with that. The asymmetric spreads, with images of centre on the page is also interesting, and the text as well is so delicate and perfectly placed.
PUBLIC MATTERS - JANET DELANY
I find the actual layout of Delany’s book less interesting, it is a fairly standard photo book similar to those of her contemporaries. But I find the content itself more inspiring - the way she has compiled images over time which all explore an umbrella theme - in this case protests, demonstrations and public group activity in SF (Public Matters).
Other examples include ‘New York’, where the common factor is the location itself, and ‘SoMA’ which documents changes and developments South of Market in San Francisco (a current ongoing project).
PER STRADA - GUIDO GUIDI
Guidi’s "Per Strada’ is an interesting example of books in a series. The subject itself is an exploration of tracing a journey, following a road through Italy, and the journey runs as a motif through the design of the books themselves - through the use of hand drawn maps. Collating the books in a sleeve/box which matches the covers also stores them neatly and cleanly which I like.
11:00 AM - TITUS SIMOENS
I can’t quite remember what 11:00am looked like and there isn’t much evidence of it online, but the statement above which appears on Simoen’s website interests me. “I met him by accident” resonates with the way I shoot, coming into contact with people, situations and moments possibly by accident, or chance. Simply beginning, setting off and seeing where I go and finding something of substance within that.