Exercise 2.2: Explore a road
- Whether you live in an isolated village or a city centre, roads are something we all have in common. Make a short series of photographs about a road near where you live. You may choose to photograph the street you live or work on, or another nearby. How you choose to approach this task is your decision, but use this exercise to develop the observational skills that will be challenged in Assignment Two. The objective is to try to think about something that is familiar to you in a different way. You don’t need to make any preparations for this exercise. Work intuitively, and try not to labour the exercise. Compile a digital contact sheet from your shoot and evaluate your work, identifying images of particular interest – to you or, potentially, to a wider audience.
I was inspired by Chris Coekin’s monograph The Hitcher and how he shot with only a cheap compact camera. It made me think about the freedom you have when you shoot with something very simple, whilst I love shooting with my DSLR there’s nothing like an iPhone or compact cameras to get those shots that you couldn’t, especially in street photo -journalism where you don’t necessarily want to be pointing a giant camera conspicuously at someone. His journey is both a physical journey but also a personal journey, emotionally and metaphysical, the viewer also experiences a different type of journey, almost like they are accompanying Coekin on his great journey. It is so much more than a simple hitchhiking journey but a story of humanity.
The course said not to spend long on planning and work intuitively. The only preparation for this exercise, therefore, was scouting a location and deciding which camera to use. With my studies of ‘The Hitcher,’ in mind, I decided to photograph this exercise using both my DLSR Canon EOS60D with the 50mm lens (perfect to replicate human vision) and my iPhone.
I was a little confused at first as to whether I was doing right, ever since I was a young child I have loved and noticed all the details and little things, forever stopping to photograph leaves and cracks in a wall. So as this is what I naturally do I wondered whether I was doing it correctly. Was I looking deeper enough, or should I not be scrutnising everything so closely?
I chose a stretch of the road that I have never ever ventured on. There are in fact so many places I have never visited close to where I live because of my debilitating illness, even being in the mobility scooter causes a lot of pain and exhaustion but with my new treatment, I was well enough to explore somewhere a different. At first, it was a path I’d been on once but as we journeyed deeper suddenly we came to the beginning of a new path. A path I’d never even walked on. Whilst before I was enjoying seeing all the little things suddenly everything was so fresh, like walking from the dark into the light. Or seeing as it was the unknown, perhaps it was more walking from the light into the dark.
Below is my thumbnail of DLSR and iPhone images.
iPhone (frustratingly my iPhone went flat before I reached the final destination)
To choose three from the two sets I think these were the most successful images.
I just feel the wire wrapped around the trees makes me feel like I’m standing on the edge of something and I want to know what lies beyond deeper in the forest.
As you can see I had more freedom with the phone to photograph people, though I got braver and did some back shots with the DSLR.I still feel like I didn’t do this exercise justice. I was focusing too much on what was expected of me instead of simply enjoying taking photos for the sheer enjoyment and discovery. I was constantly thinking what people would think, why is she photographing a feather, that’s terrible composition, that’s overexposed. I have never felt this before and I’m unsure. Why am I suddenly feeling this stigma and almost becoming camera shy? This awareness of what I’m doing is even affecting my photography whereas before I’ve happily gone up to people and asked to photograph them and produced results I’m happy with. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m overthinking things, I just need to, like my tutor says, have fun. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going on a mobility scooter walk with my elderly adopted Auntie today so I will take photos to enjoy myself and compare the two when I return home.
In between the shoot above and the one with my Auntie I came across Maria Plotnikova.
Maria Plotnikova is a beautiful story teller and street photographer capturing the seen and the unseen of the streets of South America. It feels to me like she is just a passer by, immersed in the action, perhaps noticed by few but capturing images that document peoples lives on an emotional level. I especially love her use of shadows. Shadows and silhouettes are something I often seek out as well as the power of light in nature, the way beams illuminate the elaborate mazes and labyrinths of a leaves structure noticed only by those who stand underneath them. She uses crowded street scenes to highlight the smallest of details that go unnoticed.
This is really inspiring as whenever I go anywhere that is exactly what I do notice, I may not notice the obvious, what the friend I’m meeting is where, but I’ll notice the dappled shadows on their feet caused by the perforated table acting as a stencil for the sun. Or I’ll notice the most beautiful and tiny spider on my hand creating an iridescent silk hot air before watching it being carried away by the soft wind.