Part 4: People interacting with Place – Projects and Exercises

People & Place

Part 4 : People interacting with place

Projects and Exercises

I tackled these by keeping both mental and written notes of the exercises in mind as I visited various locations. My aim was to then analyse why I took a particular photograph at a particular time.  The exercises covered:-

A single figure small

Busy traffic, i.e. ebb and flow of people

Anonymous figures (2 to 4)

small/many

facing away

in silhouette

partly obscured

motion blur

Balancing figure and space – varying attention between them

Selecting processing and prominence – using digital processing methods

 My first thought was that I should be pretty good at making figures anonymous given my reluctance to get up there close!

Here are the locations

London September 2012

London Coliseum

I have a fascination with these doors (even though they don’t really make a good backdrop because of their beige/brown colour) and endeavour to take a photograph every time I’m in the area. The main problem is that I have to stand across the road to get a good view. Thinking about balancing figure and space; I think the last one works best. They are walking towards each other but both appear oblivious of place or people; one of them with his ear phones and the other on his mobile phone.

 

Leicester Square

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Mainly anonymous – facing away, almost in silhouette. I framed this shot so that I could include the two men back left.  I was interested how the sleeping man was guarding his  trolley bag, whilst being ignored by the two young men front right. They were standing so near to him. Would I stand so near whilst talking to someone? I think probably not as there would be my inner politeness regarding not wanting to disturb him plus not wanting him to overhear what I was talking about. Is this something again about anonymity in a City full of strangers? Would they stand so near if it happened in Woking rather than London?

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Figures fairly small and few rather than many. I was interested in how they were spectators ‘on show’.

Trafalgar Square

The interesting aspect for me about Trafalgar Square is, why do people want to climb on the lions and sit on steps?

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Small and many; facing away, party obscured.

The young men below were organising themselves for a group shot so  I took one as well ‘surreptitiously’ and was then rather taken aback when one of them gesticulated at me.  I thought he was telling me off but in fact he wanted me to take a photograph of them with his iPad. Of course, that then gave me carte blanche to ask if I could take one also. At this point they moved from ‘unaware’ and ‘anonymous’ to ‘aware’ and ‘slight acquaintance’.

Could have done better. There’s some distortion from my smaller camera, pointing upwards;  portrait format or TSE lense would have been preferable I think, but they did pose nicely for me. I think this is actually more of a snapshot than my first one though. Also ‘people unaware’ can show more animation and liveliness.

Anonymous figures and facing away again apart from the gentleman left front. I was intrigued – was this really a policeman or someone wearing a policeman’s hat? Was he helping her up or down or pulling her down off a rather precarious spot?

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Almost a single figure and showing his smallness in relation to the lion

More on balancing figure and space

 

the last one works better for me in terms of balance.

Brighton, November 2012

People interacting with place

That wonderful, long wavy hair drew me, another young woman’s pale blue eyes matched the stands and there was some motion blur as well.

and also performing.

He had a very appreciative audience and I also moved further around to take the second shot as I liked his posture.

What interested me here was his total absorption in what he was doing and also that he was doing this without an audience (except for me of course), although I don’t recall him being aware of me.

London 7th December 2012

 

Small, anonymous people, ebbing and flowing on their way from here to there.

Figures in a landscape 8th December 2012

 

Anonymous and mainly small figures and, as ever, they are there to enhance the landscape for me.

London January 2013

On the way to Somerset House

There can be a crowd of anonymous people but, then, someone stands out and the girl in the grey coat did that for me..

 From Somerset House along Waterloo Bridge

It was misty and late afternoon – people getting ready for the end of the day. As I followed them I was drawn by their silhouettes against the skyline and buildings.

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I waited until the sunset deepened against the mist so I could look at the view as well.

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Victoria & Albert Museum – February 2013

Anonymous people, indoors, coming; going and sketching

 

Thoughts

I felt self-conscious to begin with, as I usually do but once I started photographing people it became easier and I relaxed.  I began to realise that it isn’t usually the people in themselves that attract me but the patterns and shapes they make in the environment. I wondered about the life that people give to built environments as in what would an empty Trafalgar Square look like? I also thought again about the differences between  portrait, landscape and social documentary in terms of the balance between people and space and how much focus is given to activity.  For instance, I think most of the photographs I took in London/Trafalgar Square are mainly on the social documentary spectrum, apart from the posed young men which is a snapshot cum group portrait whereas the ones I took on the Common are still landscape (I think?) because the figures are small. What about the ones on Waterloo Bridge though?

30th April 2013

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6 thoughts on “Part 4: People interacting with Place – Projects and Exercises

  1. It’s surprising how much better it feels when you’re relaxed and getting to enjoy the work of making images of people. I also find that the density of the crowd makes a huge difference too and find that you can be quite bold in those circumstances as people don’t want to cause a scene when there’s lots of others around. It also means you can use a shorter lens and get much higher quality shots. Well done with this lot I think you’re getting to like ita lot more now.

    • I certainly feel better in London when I’m just one of many taking photographs as it’s easier to merge into the background. I’d soon back-off though if I got the impression someone was objecting. Guess that’s why I wouldn’t make a very good street photographer!

  2. I enjoyed this post a lot. You really got around and some of the shots are quite interesting to me. I like the experiments you did in trafalger square (balancing figure with space); really like the railway stations series (often I think I want to a project just around the railway stations) and let’s not forget the figures in the landscape. The first time I went out shooting in public, I was so nervous, my hands shook and none of my shots were usuable (lol). London is a wonderful place to shoot on the street. Hardly anyone notices. In dubai, it is one of the most difficult things to do.

    • Pleased you liked it. Trafalgar Square is just one of those places that is so photographic in itself and the tourists just paint in the scene All those people from all over the world just coming to be in that place – think of all those stories!I can’t imagine what it must be like to take such photographs in Dubai. You do get some good shots even so!

  3. I think it’s interesting how things are developing with your people shots. The more you find a focal point the more the image starts to communicate to me. The way you have captured people standing out “on the way to Somerset House” shows the technique starting to emerge. The girl with the beautiful copper hair is one part of that story, the better part is the chap opposite – the expression in his face has a lot of content – you can’t say how these shots happen, they appear as if by magic – I think, as we are told incessantly, it’s about the continual use of the camera to find things, which may at first appear through the sub conscious.
    Good work.

  4. Thanks for that feedback. Reminds me of Gestalt and how the figure emerges from ground. I realise that that’s important to me in a big city like London (and elsewhere come to think of it) – how something interesting to me emerges from that amorphous mass of people as they ebb and flow.

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