'Themes in Contemporary Photography' - Why should an image be a snapshot of just one moment?

A blog documenting my creative process regarding my University Module titled 'Themes in Contemporary Photography'.

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I chose this picture as an example of my favourite picture not because of its technical merit, but because it is very personal to me. Before starting University, I spent a year living in a Canadian ski town. I managed to ski 90 days throughout the season and it was one of the best years of my life. It was taken at the start of the season after our first big dump of snow. The freedom skiing gives you is depicted perfectly in this picture.

The picture was taken in Whistler, British Columbia in 2012. We went on piste and were exploring a new area of the mountain. I quickly took the picture on my phone and did some simple editing. What I like about the picture are the memories that flow into me when I view it. Aesthetically it is beautiful, the vast open space contrasts perfectly with the small figures (my friends) in the background, highlighting the awesome scale of nature and the Canadian landscape.

Although the main reason for choosing the picture is a personal one, it is still a beautiful shot. For this reason I chose it as my favourite picture.

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After the lecture regarding cinema and photography, I am very interested in creating a cinematic look for my five photos. However unlike Gregory Crewdson, I would like to achieve a realistic look within my photos. I have always been a fan of realism in films and the camera work is obviously a defining feature of the style. I would like to tell a story through 5 images (as if they were stills from a film), staging each one perfectly to achieve a natural look. I would probably use the same character in all and give him a working class background. The working class nature of my photographs would put them into the social realism category, a style of film making I adore. I have watch many Kitchen Sink Dramas, French New Wave and also Italian Neo-Realist films. I would like to imitate the shots used in films of this style.

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Colour Street photography, it is a beautiful shot and the colour is vibrant. Does it depict the real life situation though?

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The photography walk helped me get used to using a camera again, I was very impressed with the Canon 6D and cannot wait to use it again. After a brief conversation with Simon, I have decided to centre my essay around the use of black and white in documentary photography. It is a heavily debated topic, why does an edited black and white photography depict real life better than a full colour one?

This essay will fit in perfectly with my practical project. I will be imitating street photography and cinematic realism within my photographs, so at first I planned to present all my photographs in black and white. Now however I want to explore the use of colour, I plan to vary the saturation in each image ranging from black and white to full colour. An observer would be asked to ponder the realism of each image compared to the next, the five photographs presented together will educate many people including myself. I still do not know which will look more 'real'.

Regarding my essay, I will read around the subject. Fortunately Simon and Peter gave me a few starting points so today I will start my research.

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Black and White. The more common style of documentary photography. It seems grittier and essentially more 'real' than colour. Is this simply because of societal norms though? Does it actually give a better portrayal of the 'real'?

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Although not staged, this image is very cinematic and is supported by a strong narrative.

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After reading around the subject of documentary photography, I have slightly altered my photography project. I was finding the genre of fictive documentary very interesting, I decided to centre my essay around the different ways documentary photography can document the real. Firstly, they can capture a moment of genuine reality, second the photographer or subject can add fictive elements allowing a more precise truth to be told or an artist can digitally alter an image to tell a story a genuine photograph cannot. I planned to stage my photographs as use realist tendencies regarding style. I still plan to stage my images but use more of a cinematic style. The work of Margaret Bourke-White inspired, she took documentary pictures in 1930s America but used a different approach in comparison to her contemporaries. She made her subjects pose for photographs and would re-arrange objects in their houses, she also photographed people from different angles (not just straight on). These techniques provided her photographs with a cinematic look and although she has been hugely criticised for exploiting her subjects, gained them mass pubic attention. She tells a story unlike other photographer of her time and this is why her images were so powerful and popular.

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Although not staged, this image is very cinematic and is supported by a strong narrative.

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Anthony Goicolea - Pool Pushers

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During the previous weeks, I have been doing more research into digitally altered photography. I have been greatly inspired by the work of Peter Funch, Anthony Goicolea and Mathieu Benard-Raymond. They take many images of the same person or people and digitally collage them to create a very surreal and interesting image. I am thinking of absorbing this idea into my project. I still plan to take pictures of friends walking the streets, however now I may place copy of the person within the frame. The copy will always be staring at the original person, this will hint to themes of self surveillance and also mental health.

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Mathieu Benard-Reymond - Intervalles

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Peter Funch - Babel Tales

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After my presentation, I was certain I would change my idea. Before I planned to take staged street images of my friend; next I planned to take the same images but clone my friend; now I plan to take images of people 'doing activities' and cloning the people or person. Example of activities: working, running, tourism, skateboarding, exploring, shopping etc. My friend works in a bakery so that is my first point of call. I have booked a wide angle lens from University as the bakery is relatively small. The lighting is very yellow so I'm excited to amp this up in post production. I will take photographs of him at different workstation from the same viewpoint, his fast working hands will be blurry. The image will portray the chaotic nature of the workplace much better than a traditional photograph. I plan to use very similar techniques at my other locations.

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Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I found out that I could not photograph my friend at work due to health and safety issues. Adapting to this, my idea now focuses on a place instead of a person and the people in the shot are subtly cloned so at first glance the image appears normal. I used locations around Shrewsbury and Leeds that I consider to be 'points of interest' and took many photographs from exactly the same perspective using a tripod. I stayed at each location for 5-10 minutes and the result produces a better 'feel' for the place at that specific time.

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I thought my pictures without the backgrounds are visually striking and cartoon like. Although I won't be handing them in I've attached one example to illustrate my process and just to share the image I accidentally created.

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Overall I enjoyed taking these pictures and am relatively happy with the outcome. I wish I could hand in the images without backgrounds but unfortunately there's no theory or reason behind them, they're just visually stunning.

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