Synthesis: Draft

Berenice Abbott, 'Father Duffy, Times Square'
Berenice Abbott, ‘Father Duffy, Times Square’

In my synthesis I will discuss Berenice Abbotts image ‘Father Duffy, Times Square’ (1929-1939) in relation to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘The Decisive Moment’ which is based on Cartier-Bresson’s personal journey in developing his photography work and he also expresses how he thinks photographs should be composed. I was interested in pairing this particular text with my image as in my research of the image I found out that it was taken very quickly, in a rush, but not on purpose and this is what HCB (Henri Cartier-Bresson) thought was a ‘failed’ photograph.

HCB believed that you should get the image correct in the frame of the camera before clicking the shutter release, and not during post-production. Comparing what was written in 1952 to the present day I feel disappointed in how much we edit our images after we have taken them, the importance of getting the image correct in the camera seems to be long gone as people can snap away without worry of running out of shots. Although I found that this quote was timeless to how we take photographs today [1]“you find yourself compulsively shooting, because you cannot be sure in advance exactly how the situation, the scene, is going to unfold.” As photographers you cannot be quite sure if you are missing a moment or not and so there is a reluctance to move your eye away from your camera.

Berenice Abbott’s image was taken in a rush and so she did not get the image that she wanted, yet she still submitted the image into her series ‘Changing New York’. Abbott wrote about why she did not get the photograph that she wanted [2]“A policeman came and said I was creating a nuisance and suggested I move on. I took one hurried version but was intimidated by the policeman and the crowd.” The crowd had gathered around Abbott as she was laughing at the statue covered with blue cloth [3]“I wanted to try other angles, showing the signs and background better. But I just packed up my bags and left.” Here we see that Abbott had the intention of following out with thinking about her composition but through social circumstances she was unable to complete what she had started. In Richard Pare’s book ‘Photography and Architecture’ he wrote that [4]“Photography is an art of failure in which success is measured against unattempted images…” It is all the images that we never took that play on the photographer’s mind. The photographer is [5]“…never able to wind the scene backward in order to photograph it all over again.” This is why HCB thought that it was important to compose the image within the frame before taking the image, as it will not likely happen in the exact same way again. The photograph is much about timing and getting the right moment, the right light and the right time of day, there are so many elements that can go wrong.

In conclusion HCB’s concept of composition can not always go to plan as there are social aspects that can go wrong, as Berenice Abbott found with her image; due to circumstance there are things that will not allow you to take the time that you need to compose your image the way that you want to.

[1] Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1952) ‘The Decisive Moment’, New York, Simon and Schuster

[2] Abbott, Berenice (1982) ‘Berenice Abbott Sixty Years of Photography’, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd pg. 135

[3] Abbott, Berenice (1982) ‘Berenice Abbott Sixty Years of Photography’, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd pg. 135

[4] Pare, Richard (1982) ‘Photography and Architecture: 1839-1939’ Canadian Centre of Architecture

[5] Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1952) ‘The Decisive Moment’, New York, Simon and Schuster


HT1 Essential Reading: John Szarkowski’s introduction to ‘The Photographer’s Eye’

John Szarkowski’s introduction to ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ discusses what a photograph looks like and also why it looks the way that it does.
A big part of the history of the photograph is art, as it was scientists and painters who created it. There are still debates on whether photography is art or not as art is made with someone’s two hands, whereas a photograph is taken. There is an interesting quote from Baudelaire saying photographing has “become art’s most mortal enemy” this would be true especially for realist painters, as how can you get more real than a photograph of a landscape or of a person.
Even though the creators of photography were painters and scientist the professional practitioners of photography come from all kinds of different backgrounds and by the thousands, Szarkowski lists ‘silversmiths, tinkers, druggists, black smiths and printers’ as people who converted to photography. As it became easier for people to do photography in 1853 the New York Daily Tribune wrote that three million daguerreotypes where produced in that year. With photography becoming cheaper and in the early 80’s the dry plate was introduced which could be bought ready-to-use came the beginnings of the amateur photographer and also of snapshotting photographs with out any real thought.
Listed in the introduction are five of the problems the medium found over time.

  1. The Thing Itself – The actual, the thought that a photograph cannot lie.
  2. The Detail – If a photograph cannot be a story, it could be a symbol.
  3. The Frame – The edges of showed the end of the image and shows what the photographer thought was most important.
  4. Time – The photograph is the present and the past.
  5. Vantage Point – Photography taught the photographer to look from different perspectives.In conclusion John Szarkowski’s introduction to ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ talks about the photograph and how it has developed in history and how different increases in the science has enabled more and more people to take photographs and be photographers.

Final Work Review

img110-2 img111-2 img112-2

Shown above are three of my final images, they were all taken in Canary Wharf. My original idea was to have these three images and then three from my home town but after my final work review and getting the opinion of my tutor and also fellow students it became clear that my series would work much better if I took all of my final images from the Canary Wharf shoot because they are such strong images, much stronger than my Long Sutton images. It would seem that the contrast between the two is too great and so it would take attention away from my best photographs. It is a shame that my Long Sutton photographs would not work as I really liked the idea of have London and Long Sutton side by side.
I will now pick two more photographs from my Canary Wharf shoot so that I will have five final images.

Long Sutton and Kings Lynn

Long Sutton contact sheet
Long Sutton contact sheet
Kings Lynn contact sheet
Kings Lynn contact sheet

On the weekend I went back home to photograph my home town and also a town near me named Kings Lynn where I went to college. After looking at the contact sheets and thinking more into my project I realised that for my idea of home compared to London, I should really focus on my hometown. It was however interesting to go to Kings Lynn to walk around taking pictures like I did when I first started my A levels almost 4 years ago. I found that I definitely looked at it differently after spending time in central London, especially the difference between shopping in London and in Kings Lynn; it never feels busy their now.
I also thought that the contrast is much larger comparing Long Sutton to Canary Wharf as on a Sunday morning there was hardly anyone around, just people on their way to the bus stop, or waiting for buses. There are also a lot of dog walkers, I can guarantee any time of the day in any weather condition there will be someone walking their dog. It is unfortunate that the farmers have finished harvesting, it would be typical Lincolnshire is I caught a tractor going through town.
To conclude I found myself very nostalgic walking through my home town the same way I would have done when I was 15 with my friends when we had nothing to do, I have thought for a good couple of years that I need to photograph Long Sutton as it is now, and now I finally have.

HT1 Essential Reading: Between Art and Commerce: the still life photograph by David Campany

The article written by David Campany discusses still life photography and how it can both be art and commercial photography. It is one of the most well-known types of photography and can be created by almost anybody as all it requires is a camera and an object; it can be a table or a fruit bowl (which is most common in art and photography). These types of images however can be used for both art and also for advertisement.
During the 1950s-60s commercial photographers began to want more of a structure to their photographs as they were not keen on how unpredictable art is and so tried to develop a science to their image design. This then led to Roland Barthes who through his semiotic critique created an analyses advertisement desired. Barthes believed that photographs were coded with things that the photographer has embedded in them, making them not universally understood, there are several elements of an image that you could not understand maybe due to the location, or historical aspect, and also if it was in reference to a work of art, you would not know this unless you had seen the work of art it was in reference to in the first place.
In conclusion still life photography has developed over time, and is known by all whether it is for art or advertisement.

Analysing and Interpreting

Berenice Abbott, 'Father Duffy, Times Square'
Berenice Abbott, ‘Father Duffy, Times Square’

The photograph is part of Berenice Abbott’s first major photography project which was based around documenting New York City which began in 1929 and lasted until 1939.
The image taken was only as a snapshot by Berenice Abbott in Times Square because she found the statue covered in bright blue cloth, funny. She had to take the photograph quickly due to being told to move on by a policeman who thought she was creating a nuisance, and because a Policeman is a figure of authority and there being a big crowd she left. Abbott regretted moving on as she wanted to take pictures of the statue with a better background and to try different angles.
The cloth over the statue has connotations of the dead as this is how they would be covered up, however I feel that this is because the image is in black and white, if we could see the blue I feel the humour to the image would come through more. It is also perhaps due to whom the statue is of that would add to the humour of the image, as underneath is a military chaplain and priest named Father Duffy who has a very stern expression, knowing what statue lies beneath the bright blue cloth I can see why it would be amusing to see if over such a respectable looking man.

Canary Wharf

Contact sheet 4 Location: Canary Wharf
Contact sheet 4
Location: Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf was by far my most successful shoot, and from looking at the contact sheet I am very hopeful that I will be able to take my final images from here. It was definitely the kind of place that I wanted to photograph as all you see are businessmen and very modern buildings- much how I thought of London before I moved here. It is a shame that due to having had explored different areas and not knowing London very well I will be unable to do another shoot their before our deadline, especially as I have to print and also shoot in my home town to show the contrast. I am however lucky in that I can definitely see 3 images from this contact sheet that I would be happy with being final images.

South Bank, Westminster, Victoria

Contact sheet from my third roll of film for my street photography project.
Contact sheet from my third roll of film for my street photography project.

On Sunday I went to South Bank to take photographs and ended up wondering towards Westminster and then finished at Victoria, because of the area I was in I ended up taking a lot of pictures of monuments and people around them, after looking at these images I became confused with what I wanted to capture and I think I lost site of that because of my surroundings. All around me were fantastic buildings, architecture and statues made to last a life time so obviously my eye went straight to those, but I don’t think that this is the side of London I want to capture when comparing it to home. Baring this in mind today I visited Canary Wharf to photograph a very modern and business driven London, I have not seen these images yet but I am hopeful that this might be the place I was looking for.

New idea: Home

Whilst thinking of my idea and about different locations I can take pictures in to enforce the sense of how big London is I started to think of how it would work well to be able to compare the two within the series. As we have to have between 5-9 photographs I thought that I could have 3 which are taken in the same location in London and another 3 that would be taken in my home town and also another were I went to college. As my home town is very small I thought that photographing a slightly bigger one as well would give me more options.
I had also previously when I first moved to London thought about populations, and asked a few of my flat mates where they live and looked it up on Google, this is when I realised just how small Kings Lynn is (the town where I went to college) which has a population of 42,800… London’s population is 8.63 million, my hometown, Long Sutton has a population of 4,821 (2011). You can see why I was anxious about moving to London now, right?
I think that by showing the contrast between the two locations would further show how I feel about moving to such a large city and how small I feel being in it.

The Essence of the Medium: Modernity and Straight Photography

In todays lecture we discussed Modernism, Formalism, Pictorialism and Straight Photography.
The era in which Modernism was most apparent was between 1850 – 1965 and can be grouped into three different category’s; modernisation, modernity and Modernism, all three which mean different aspects of this era. Modernisation is concerned with scientific and technological advances such as the steam train, cars, camera etc… modernity is a form of experience and an awareness that things are changing and adapting, one example of this was the ‘Flapper’ which was a group of women in the 1920’s who decided that they were not going to conform to the expectations of women at that time and cut their long hair into a bob and wore loose fitting dresses (which were easier to get into cars). Lastly is Modernism which is cultural movements and the experience of the new.
Formalism, which was important to modernist art was working with pure or significant forms that possess their own unique qualities and so they would often sign their work in order to make the art even more significant and unique.
Pictorialism was inspired by paintings and would often be either nude or still life. They thought that Straight Photography, which is purely concerned with photography in a scientific form and not at all interested in making it look like a painting was too mechanical. In the 1920’s many turned away from Pictorialism and looked at Straight Photography instead. I think that both Pictorialism and Straight Photography both have different aspects that I think are intriguing, as I think that you should experiment with photography and try new techniques, but no matter what you do to the image, if you created it using a camera, it is photography no matter whether it is sharp or out of focus.
Over all I found the lecture very fascinating and I enjoyed looking into these different times in history and how they shaped what photography is today.