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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chapter ii

Technical issues
  • The well known argument, when shooting street photography, what is best - film or digital?
  • The advantages and the disadvantages of both film and digital photography
  • The processes involved in these formats
  • Printing on paper or displaying on a screen digitally
  • Colour or Black and White?
So... Film or digital?
As a street photographer myself and having used both fim and digital cameras in the past, I can say clearly say that I have produced great shots with both cameras. But if I had to choose between one of them then I would defiantly choose digital.
So why then would I choose digital over film photography on the street? 

Reason one: Cost.
Whilst photographing out on the street, The situations nearby and the activities that people are under-taking are constantly changing, and each one of these are a photo opportunity. I can be out wondering the streets for only thirty minites and I would pass by at least one hundred photographic opportunities, some being better than some but still opportunities. So if I was using a film camera, without a doubt I would get through at least four rolls of film each time I went out and unless you are a millionaire then it works out to be a very expensive hobby and profession with the average roll of film costing from between £3 - £5. So If we say that our four films cost £4 each, then it would cost £16 for that thirty minutes out on the street. 
As this is the case, it would normally make the photographer be far more carefull when choosing their shots and there for they would miss some photographic opportunities. However, with a digital camera, The photographer can take a whole load more and even choose which photographs they would like and which ones he wants to delete whilst on the shoot. This creating even more memory in the camera and the photographer will not miss any photographic shots because they will have plenty of room on the camera. 

Reason two: Your mind is not your camera.
Whilst on a street shoot, the photographer will always be trying to picture what the photograph will look like when taken. From the sharpness of the photograph or the depth of field. The photographer can guess and most of the time get quite close but there is no certain way to be sure that the picture will come out like how you picture it in your head. However, with the modern digital camera, the photographer can look on the LCD screen after they have taken the shot and decide whether they like it or not, if not, then they can shoot and shoot again until it is how they want the image to look. However, with a film camera the camera does not allow you to see this and there for the photographer will have to wait until the film is developed before they see if it worked how they wanted it too. 
And if the photograph does not turn out how the photographer wanted it to, then it is a unique opportunity that they cannot photograph again.

Reason three: Practise often
Most street photographs wil have a favorite street or small area in the city that they like to photograph more than others. As a practise, Its good to return to this area every so often. It helps build up your people skills and you will feel more confident shooting here aswell because it is a place that you know well. Now this is the ideal time that you should shoot, shoot and shoot without worry whether the photographs turn out well, you will still be gaining more confidence and also better people skills. With digital it allows you to shoot more and quicker so this is an incentive to go out and shoot without worrying about the number of frames that you have left on your roll of film or how much the film cost like with a film camera. 

Reason four: Creativity
It is well known now that digital is quick on production. It is unlike film photography, where you may be in the dark-room for hours on end. Now as I have already said, With digital cameras the photographer has the chance to shoot endless amounts of photographs (to a limit of the memory card), and so the question appears "why not be creative?". With this option to take lots of photos, then you are allowed to be creative with loads of failures and also success shots. So what are some ways that you can be creative in the city? 

Off the beaten track - Dont just go to the tourist places, go behind the scenes and photograph the real life and events unfolding. 

The background is just as important - sometimes setting up you shots so that you have a billbord or a large sign in the background can add humor or interest in you photographs. 

Angles. There are so many angles... be creative and dont just stick straight, find high places to get up shoot from. 

Let the subject really know you are there - get up close and if the subject does not like it, they will let you know, if not then shoot away!

Blurred - Experiment with motion blur, take a tri-pod out and see what happens. 

So these are some reasons why I prefer using a digital camera to a film camera, But like every camera, there is always a good side and a bad side. Now with a film camera, it is lightweight and the photographer has the advantage to move swiftly and be un-noticed with such a small camera. Now with a DSLR camera, they are much bigger and the street will notice you much more, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the effect that you want to create.  

So how does the location effect the photograph? 
When out on the street, The photographer will want to most of the time go un-noticed in order to be able to capture a natural expresion on the subjects face. If you are shooting in a busy enviroment like a market or a train station for example, then people are only focused on what they are doing and where they are going. Most people dont pay attention to other people which gives you an advantage. The busy environment also provides a lot more activity happening and there will be more to observe in the photograph. 
However, In a quiet environment like a bus stop or a side street, there is little happening and you have the risk of being noticed more. However there is a saying that refers to making great photographs in terms on composition and detail. It goes "Less is More". This means concentrate on how you set up the shot, and capture at the right time no matter how simple the frame it.

Now when placed together, in terms of speed of photo turnaround, the digital camera will always come out first, being quickest to simply insert the photographers memory card into a laptop, computer, self printing machine. In the modern day it is perfectly possible to get a printout of you photographs in under twenty minutes. 
However, with a roll of film, it normally takes longer depending on where you get it processed. If done commercially, then it should take at least forty minites to process the negatives, or if done yourself in the dark-room then it should take at least one whole hours, leaving time to wash and dry the negatives. 
When it comes to editing though, we are in a time now when the use of digital manipulation is over-taking the old school method of the dark-room. It is even possible to scan negatives onto a computer and to then edit them using software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Light room. Those two programs are a couple out of a wide range of software to use when it comes to editing photographs. 
However, the film side of manipulation would be to go into the dark-room, where there are not so many options as there are to edit on the computer, with the dark-room you are able to 

Black and White or Colour when it comes to street photography?
 Classic, enigmatic, and atmospheric – black and white is timeless..

Black and white street photography has a photojournalism edge, inherited by the renowned Magnum photographers like Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa. 

  Colour is bold; it’s attention grabbing, and it’s full of life. It’s how we see the world everyday, yet the way in which you use colour in your photographs will portray how you personally see the world. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as recording what you see, as certain situations and subjects can appear flat in colour but striking in mono.

Develop your colour palette and breathe life into your images
Colour may seem straightforward, but there’s actually a whole theory dedicated to it. We can react differently to colours based on our own cultural backgrounds and views, but generally this is what these colours connote:

Red –Warm colours are happy and inviting
Green - Represents nature and vitality
Blue – Cold colours can be bleak and verge on sadness

If you’re abroad, colour photography will help to capture a country’s culture. 

Against Colour street photography
 Color is an element of every photo. Just like framing, composition, subject matter, lighting, exposure, etc. But color is one of those elements that can essentially be turned off. Street scenes can be very busy with lots of distracting elements as is, and color will often add a level of complexity that leads to sensory overload in an image. Background elements can be a major distraction: the bright green car, the guy in the red shirt, the neon sign, and so on. My thought is that if the color isn’t adding something important to the image, it doesn’t need to be there (and it might even hurt having it there).

Here is an example that I found on flickr, the yellow car on the left draws our eyes away from the main subject in the foreground.

So now after looking deeper into this area of street photography, whether to use black and white or to use colour. It has became clear that there are good and bad sides to both areas. 

Black and White is the most common when it comes to street photography, and many of the most well known and most influential street photographers use B&W. But there is no right or wrong with this sort of photography, just a sheer matter of personal taste and opinion. 
Like just explained, with B&W photography, there will be no distractions caused by colour that takes your eye off what is ment to be the main subject of the photograph. This means that if you did shoot a street photograph and it looked fine when you went to press the shutter, and suddenly a car drives by or someone walks by with a brightly coloured bag, there will be less post production to do later on trying to remove or to lessen the distraction. 

However if shot on colour, When it comes to post-production, you will be able to choose between having the photograph either colour or black and white which is an advantage and gives the photographer much more freedom and creativity. 
Also like just explored, Colour reveals the emotion and the atmosphere in the street as well as the local culture. Depending on the photograph, it can be made vibrant and lively, pale and slow, neutral and calm. This can all be explored when photographing a street photograph and it gives the photographer a challenge and a chance to get exactly spot on with which the emotion and effect they will want to create. The chance to be creative and experimental in itself is a whole new idea and project for the photographer to think about. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Chapter iii

Photographing after dark - "Paris After Dark"

Why is it that street photography is mainly done in the daytime?, Is there a reason that street photography is avoiding after hours?
This question appeared to me whilst I was researching street photography. I found a book called "Paris After Dark" which focuses on Street photography at night and also reasons with the fact that there can be some great opportunities at night to capture.
One quote that really inspires me is from this book:

"In all great cities there are zones which reveal their true character only after dusk" - Taken from "Paris After Dark" by Paul Morand.

This quote almost suggests that cities transform in the eyes of photographers, with the street lights being the reason.  The quote that suggest this is taken from the same book, just a few lines down from the first quote:

"But when the nightmists rise, such places wake to life that is a parady of death; the smiling bank turns livid, dark surfaces grow pale and flicker with funeral gleams, coming with evil glee into their own again. It is the street lights that work the transformation."

It gives away an idea that the city is the underworld to a superstition, A world where vampires watch and wait until the sun goes down and the street lights activate. This then leads onto the idea that the photographer becomes interested in this idea and finds the urge to head into the streets at night to discover for himself just how different it is photographing at day compared to the night, it's a new experience and something different.

Another idea that the night may be avoided by the street photographer is the activities that go on in the town and the reactions that may occur.
Pubs, Clubs and nightclubs. The night tends to be the social time for most to go out and spend time with friends. With out having to say, this then creates a danger whether it is small or large, it is still present and could happen at any time. Peoples reactions may be different to when being photographed at night.

But so far I have only been stating the negative sides of street photography at night, There is so much more that is waiting to be photographed, We walk by all so often activities that only occur at night when they can be "unseen" with the result to be noticed by many that next morning. This I am talking about the people that create this city and also maintain it for us to live in.
Examples of these roles are:
The people who put up the christmas lights in the city, we never see them but we see the result.
The cleaners who clean the streets in the early hours of the morning after a friday night
The maintenance workers who fix lights and underground cables
Workers putting up banners upon the high street for all to see the next morning
The three week fair that is being set up during the night in the middle of the city center.
Stores and restaurants receiving their delivery of goods for the next week

These are just a few of the activities that go on in every city and some towns, we hardly ever think about it or see them, we more often see the result of these activities. So with this, There is a bigger reason to photograph at night. To document these events that most people never see.

"Now at last my eyes - a traveller's eyes, familier with all hours - watch, in the grey mystery of dawn, the spectical of Paris rising from her sleep"

"Home at last, I turn into bed"

Photographing Painted signs and not people.  - Sign Language

As street photography is a form of documentary photography, it is right to suggest that street photography my be anything that is in the street or city. One thing that is more in need to be documented is the constantly changing signs. This can be ranging from hand-made signs, industrial signs, graffiti signs, floor signs or road signs.
These are always changing, being put up, taken down, left to rot. All of them are different and there are so many in society, a good majority of them telling us either what to do or what not to do.

I started looking into this side of street photography as a result of finding a book called " Sign Laguages Street Signs as Folk Art" by John Baeder. It is a collection of some of John Baeders' own favouroute street signs that he has come across and photographed in his time.
John Baeder states that these signs are "cries from the heart". By saying this, he means that because they are hand made, most of them are the owner telling the public not what to do or what to do eg: "Do not park here", or "do not disturb". Also, it gives away the fact that each sign is individual and different to any other sign. Each on with different characteristics ands orders.

"One day while driving around a neighborhood that was close to where I live in Connecticut, I came across the sign, "Land to rent for signs." The purity of that message alone was enough for me. As I recall, there wasn't any land, it was a front yard. The sign was made from what seemed to be a piece of orange crate attached to a length of tree branch. I waited until dark, returned to the land and simply borrowed the sign for an indefinite period of time."
By reading this quote from the book, it is clear that even the smallest of things interests photographers. Some enough to make the photographer want to go back to the land and borrow a sign. The need to photograph these things before they disappear is too big of an opportunity to miss. By photographing these signs, it reflects the culture that we live in and how signs have become a way of life and are seen so often every where we go.
A quote that relates to this is:

" For me, the photographer is a witness. His job is to record real events rather than to stage or create something in front of the cameras" - Marc Ribound.

This is exactly what this is. Recording and photographing the signs, how they were/are without interfering with them.

"I want my children and children's children to be able to look at my pictures and know what my world was like. Even if it only helps me a little bit toward the understanding, then I've done my job and I have done it well" - Gordon Parks.

The idea still stands that even though the signs may be taken down, left to rot or covered up. The moment of them standing has been recorded. For the future to see and to keep. Every bit of documentary photography is important at showing the future what the world was like, even if it is just photographing signs.

As funny as some of the signs are, signs are not the only area that is continually changing in our cities, Some other factors that go change may be: 
Small businesses and shops - these often appear then disappear quite quickly, maybe due to no income coming in or the shop only being open a certain amount of time before the owner moves on to a new city. This activity happens alot in America and one photographer that documented this goes by the name of "Bluejake". He is is street photographer in the city of Brooklyn and is actively running his own archive of his street photographs online. 
Some of his work that relates to small shops appearing then disappearing I have place underneath: 

These images I took from BlueJakes website at

My Images
As a result of researching "BlueJakes" images, I have started to document some closed down shops that are in Plymouth, For this I have been using a Mamiya 7ii and also a Hasselblad Xpan, both film cameras with a tri-pod attatched to them. I use slow 125 ISO film in order to achieve very fine grain photographs and I also shoot on F16 and F22 so that I could get as much detail as possible out of the image. 



Paul Morand, 1987, Paris After Dark, Published in Great Britain by Thames and Hudson LTD

John Baeder, 1996, Sign Language Street Signs as Folk Art, Published in New York by Harry N.Abrams, Incorporated.

Charlotte Cotton, 2004, THE PHOTOGRAPH AS CONTEMPORARY ART, Published in London by Thames and Hudson LTD

Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLean, 2010, Street Photography Now, Published in London by Thames and Hudson LTD

Websites Photograph | Street Photography [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 28 April 2011]

Sarah Greenough,  (2011) Robert Frank goes from ignored to a national treasure. [Online]. Avaliable from:,0,2069635.story [Accessed: 28 April 2011], (Magnumphotos), [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 28th April 2011]

Jeff Share, Centre for media literacy. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 4 May 2011] 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

chapter i

Street Photography

"Everything is changing. How we take photographs, manipulate them, share them, store them - even how we pose for them. Our tools are mutating quickly, promising ever faster, clearer, bright and cheaper pictures". Taken from [Street Photography Now], Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLean

In the present time, Photography plays a major part in life. In the 1st world country, we are almost all the time confronted with images either trying to get us to buy a product or to spend money in some sort of way. 
In this blog I will be looking at how street photography fits into society, how it is recognized by the public and the responses that are got from both the street photographer taking the image and also the final shot. 
Throughout this chapter I will be looking into several different aspects of street photography. I will be covering these areas: 

  • The law and how street photography becomes more of a terrorist threat
  • The Bust Card
  • Google street view
  • Street portraits… Do we really need a model release form?

The Law

"These are not easy times for street photographers, for whom acting suspiciously is an occupational hazard and loitering with intent a modus operandi. Tightening privacy laws and fears about terrorism have created an environment in which to stare, pry, listen or eavesdrop is increasingly to invite suspicion." - Taken from [Street Photography Now], Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLean

A poster campaign run by the London Metropolitian Police in 2008 summed up the idea " Thousands of people take photographs every day. What if one of them seems odd?" It asked, Encouraging the public to report anyone with a camera who seemed to display unusaul levels of curiosity. It has become much more common for street photographers to be reprimanded informally, to have their film or memory card confiscated, or even be stopped and searched. Some have responded to this by setting up or supporting campaigning websites such as "I'm A Photographer Not A Terrorist" and "Photography Is Not A Crime"."

Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

"Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether the images constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist. This includes any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.
Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction." - Retrieved 4 May, 2011, from

This piece of law states that only if a police officer suspects the photographer to be a terrorist can they stop and search. However, Although this piece of law is very simple, photographers are often finding themselves being stopped and searched at an alarming rate. When this happens, Many photographers are not clear on their legal rights and they are often told that they are not allowed to photograph in certain areas. 

However, On 1st March 2011, The home secretary Theresa May announced that "given the current threat enviroment" she had concluded that the police do need the powers more quickly and that the most appropriate way of meeting the legal and operational powers exercisable without the counter-terrorism stop and search powers exercisable without reasonable suspicion is to make a remedial order in the interests of nation security. 
This order replaces sections 44 to 47 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

What is the difference from section 44 and section 47A?
Section 47A will give a “senior police officer” the power to make an authorisation in “relation to a specified area or place” if the officer“reasonably suspects that an act of terrorism will take place”and “considers that the authorisation is necessary to prevent such an act.”
Under Section 44 the police had to go to the Home Office for authorisation now the police will have a Code of Practice to follow.
Under Section 47A a “constable in uniform” will have the power “to stop a pedestrian” in the specified area and to search them and “anything carried by them”.  

The Bust Card.