Shown above is how my images were presented, and next to it is a mock up of how I would present my work. The second image of how I would like to have presented my work shows the landscape much larger than the photographs of the cans; this presents my theme much better and makes it obvious that the image shown is not a true representation of the surroundings.
Photographers that have influenced my work have been, Paul Graham, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. Throughout my project I looked at different body of works by Paul Graham, I firstly looked at his series A1 – The Great North Road; what interested me in this series was how he photographed on a dull day, I liked the misty, moody vibe it created in the photographs as this is something I wanted to create in my own. However, this changed and in my final images I have actually included an image of the landscape on a very sunny day, although the sky is still grey as it had been raining the sun shined through creating patches of direct sunlight on the landscape. Another body of work I looked at by Paul Graham was American Night as I was interested in how he used over exposed images to represent the poorest parts of the country in contrast to the vibrant images he took of the richest areas, photographing their cars and houses. This is a technique I thought about using, but felt that it wouldn’t work because of the difference in circumstances, there wouldn’t be enough of a contrast between the subject matter within the images for it to have the same impact.
What drew me to the work of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore was their use of colour and composition I looked at William Eggleston’s book William Eggleston’s Guide and Stephen shore’s Uncommon Places they influenced the way I looked at how I was going to composition my image, thinking about my horizons in my landscapes and the angle of which to take them.
For my project I approached my subject matter using the rule of thirds, and compositionally I was conscious of getting an even horizon in my landscapes and also having an even amount of sky and ground as I didn’t want one to over power the other. I also made sure that my aperture was on at least f8 or f11 in order for me to be able to get the whole landscape in focus by focusing on the mid-point in the frame. Focal length was also important to think about when I was photographing the landscape as the wider the lens the more distorted the subject matter became; bending the horizon and so I decided to shoot in-between 35mm and 70mm as I was using a 18mm-200mm zoom lens. With my close ups of the trash I tried to have the cans in the center of the frame as they are the main focus of the images, these were shot at 135mm making the images very compact keeping the cans in proportion. For all of my photographs I used a tripod so that I had the ability to really think about my composition before taking the photograph. I was able to take a photograph and make slight changes to it without losing what was in the frame; this also allowed me to have a slow shutter speed without having to worry about camera shake; I also decided to use a remote shutter release for very slow shutter speeds so that I didn’t accidently move the camera when pressing down the shutter.
My intention for my project was to show the different perspectives of Harrow-on-the-Hill which was my chosen location, the area that I was focusing on was the church as when visiting it I notice that at first you are overwhelmed with beautiful landscapes but when walking through the graveyard there was so much garbage discarded on the floor. To begin with I wasn’t making it clear enough that this is what I was looking at; there wasn’t enough of a contrast between my images and so I decided to do close ups of the cans left on the ground among the leaves. This made my theme much more clear. I think this is now what is the strength of my images, I also think that because the greenness also links the images together it makes an interesting body of work. What I think is weak about my project is the cans I photographed, I think if it wasn’t so last minute I could have had different cans and bottles. If I had more time I would carry on with what I was previously photographing as I think it would have worked as a much larger project and so I would continue photographing the subject matter more discreetly making a body of work that could become a book that would make the reader think about what connects each image.
(Weegee. (1941) Dead on Arrival. Available from url: http://www.stevenkasher.com/artists/weegee#3)
Within my essay I am going to be looking at press photographer Weegee’s image titled Dead on Arrival (1941) in correlation to The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler (1988). There are two sides to the documentation of crime; there is the press photographers and the crime photographers; or you could perhaps say fiction vs. non fiction. Even though what Weegee photographed was real crime, it wasn’t a forensic depiction of what had happened, it is a dramatised representation the press want to see so they can sell more papers. Crime photographers want to document the crime in a way that will help them solve what happened; as evidence for judge and jurors.
Weegee’s photograph Dead on Arrival (1941) is one of many press photographs the photographer has taken of crimes; most of which were of murders. As a press photographer Weegee’s main reason for taking the pictures was to sell them to editors to put with their grabbing titles of the latest crime story. It would appear that for Weegee it was difficult to sell editors his photographs if they didn’t think the story was “meaty” (Fellig, 1976, p37) enough, they were only interested in “A truck crash with the driver trapped inside, his face a crisscross of blood… a tenement-house fire, with the screaming people being carried down the aerial ladder clutching their babies… a just-shot gangster, lying in the gutter…” (Fellig, 1976, p37) these are the sort of stories the tabloids wanted at the time, and these are supposedly what their readers wanted to see as this was during the Depression; by reading about other peoples woes, they would be able to forget about their own (Fellig, 1976). One of the tabloids that Weegee talks about is the Daily News, who were one of the photographer’s best customers because “Anything went with them, the bloodier and sexier the better.” (Fellig, 1976, p40) The murders and tragedies that Weegee photographed were what kept him with food and shelter, and during the 1940’s in Manhattan (where Weegee was based) it was non-stop to the point where he had too many photographs of dead gangster and the editors wouldn’t take them because their readers were bored of seeing and reading about them. This is when the work becomes fiction; when an audience can glance at a news story about a murder and not care, the emotion is lost and therefore so has all meaning.
In Raymond Chandlers essay The Simple Art of Murder (1988) he talks about the detective story and how it is written; what makes a good detective story and what does not. Detective stories are often about murder and even though they intend to be realistic they hardly ever are as murder “…has been going on too long for it to be news.” (Chandler, 1988) The act of murder is no longer a shock, it is heard about so often it doesn’t matter whether it is seen through Weegee’s gruesome images, or read about in fiction; both novel and photograph are taken with a “spirit of detachment” (Chandler, 1988) as Weegee has no ties to the victim he is photographing, nor does the novelist (or unlikely) have any real experiences with murder. “The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost cities…” (Chandler, 1988) this is much like a description of Weegee’s world as he recounts how many dead gangsters he has photographed to the point where the tabloids no longer wanted to buy them or to tell their story. Chandler goes further into detail with his description, which when read adjoined to the image Dead on Arrival (1941) seems to be an overview of the time and world it was taken in “where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing; a world where you may witness a holdup in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone…” (Chandler, 1988). Weegee is photographing what is real, but much like the realist writer Chandler is talking about he makes “…very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it.” (Chandler, 1988) in order for editors to want to buy his images, even though he is capturing a frightening reality Weegee and other press photographers are displaying it, but in a way that makes it bearable to look at. There is something about looking at an image in the tabloids that disconnects the reader from the reality.
(New York City Police Department. (1915) photograph of homicide, circa.)
Crime photographers working with the police arrive at crime scenes to document every piece of evidence there is; when comparing Weegee’s photograph Dead on Arrival (1941) to that taken by a member of the police you can see a distinct difference between how they have been taken. The image taken by the New York City Police Department (1915) was taken in the 1900’s, this was a time when they used eight-by-ten-inch glass-plates and was taken from above the body, because the photograph was taken from high up you can actually see the tripod legs within the image. This is one of the most distinct differences between the two photographs; Weegee’s image does not have the correct angle to have been used as documentation, the victims body is too distorted for them to be able label the correct measurements. The face is also turned away from the camera which conveniently enabled Weegee to be able to photograph the blood dripping down the side of the victims face, making them unrecognisable. This makes it even more clear what the press photographers intentions are, you can see that the crime photographer’s “focus is documentation. The other photographer rushing to the crime scene is the press man. His focus is drama.” (Evans, 2001, p15) however, something that both photographers have in common is that they photograph subject matter that is hard to look at; they do the job that not many people have the stomach to do “We are wildly ambivalent about crime photography. We want to look, and we want to look away.” (Buckland, 2001, p41) We as the viewer have the choice to not look, and even the press photographer has the freedom of different camera angles and a choice of subject matter; they are there as our “surrogate observers” (Buckland, 2001, p41) however “The police photographer has no option…” (Buckland, 2001, p41) They are there to document and nothing more. There is something very eerie and strange about how normal the image taken by the New York City Police Department (1915) is; when the drama is taken away we are left with nothing but the reality. There is no blood splatter or obscured camera angle to distract the eye from what it is supposed to see, perhaps the reader of tabloids needs the press photographer’s drama and almost fictional representation of the crime in order for them to be able to look. I think that if images such as the one shown by the Police Department were on the front page it would be much harder to look at with the same detachment.
Weegee’s image Dead on Arrival (1941) has a very dynamic structure, when following the rule of thirds, the centre of the image of which your eye is drawn to is actually empty; this is the spot between the arm and the body. Surrounding this area is the victim’s body placed diagonally within the frame forming a triangle with the blood splatter as it’s tip. The use of a flash gun has illuminated this area showing the dead body, dirt on the floor and blood with gruesome detail, the flash has also caused the edges of the image to be blacked out, giving an accidental vignetting to the image which adds to how the image draws the eye inwards to the centre. The body in the image has been tagged by the police ‘D.O.A’ which means ‘Dead on Arrival’ which can be seen on the victim’s wrist. This in a way de-humanises the bloody corpse as they have been left “Like a piece of luggage left in the gutter” (Purcell, 2004, image 12) labelled and then left to be photographed by the press. At the edge of the top of image you can see the beginnings of a tire, hinting at what setting the crime scene might be in; this is another element that marks the image as a press photograph, the photographer is not interested in showing the setting of which the crime happened, he has only shown the viewer the grittiest part of the crime scene, getting straight to the point.
In conclusion to my essay I have found that Weegee’s image Dead on Arrival (1941) relates to Raymond Chandlers The Simple Art of Murder (1988) by showing how the detective story, much like the press photographer is trying to make the reality of murder and crime bearable to read and look at. By over dramatising the crime scenes he photographs Weegee is actually making the reality of the world fiction to the tabloid reader as they see it through him as a secondary source. This is in contrast to the police photographer who has to look at the scene in-depth; he has no other choice but to photograph the reality as it is.
- Buckland G and Evans H. (2001) Shots in The Dark. Italy: Constanco Sullivan/Hummingbird books.
- Chandler R. (1988) The Simple Art of Murder. Vintage books. Available from url: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simple-Murder-Vintage-Crime-Lizard/dp/0394757653)
- Entin B. (2007) Sensational Modernism, experimental fiction and photography in thirties America. USA: The University of North Carolina Press.
- Fellig A. (1975) Weegee by Weegee, and autobiography. New York: DaCapo Press, Inc.
- Kerry P. (2004) London: Phaidon Press Limited.
- Tierney J. (2006) Criminology, Theory and Context, 2nd Longman.
For my seventh shoot, as previously said due to feedback from peers I decided to go back to my location but look specifically at the trash on the floor with one image of the landscape to present the contrast between what we initially see and the hidden elements of the surroundings; such as trash left on the floor.
I began as you first walk into Harrow-on-th-Hill where the sign is for the town as when I was last there I noticed a traffic cone through the fence, this didn’t photograph as well as I hoped, I also found that using a tripod made it especially difficult to photograph through the fence. I also photographed a crisp packet and also a condom wrapper.
The area I found most interesting was where I began; at the graveyard. When walking along it I noticed so many alcohol cans so I began to photograph them, some were more hidden than others. It was as though they had been placed there just for me and the title ‘Let’s Get Drunk in the Graveyard’ came to mind. Instead of mixing the cans with other items found I preferred how it looked with just the cans.
Shown above are both of my layout ideas for the project, as you can see in layout 1 there are very similar colours in the images, they’re all very green much like the landscape image I have picked to have in the centre. Layout two features other trash that I saw elsewhere in the town, but as the leaves were more dead than is the others it is quite brown, so I’m not sure about including them and instead just having the cans. However as I can print up to 9 I think I will print the crisp packet and condom wrapper also to see whether I want to include them or not as when seeing them printed out I may change my mind.
Yesterday for my sixth shoot as I was walking into Harrow I noticed that I hadn’t really paid attention to the walk up to the hill as you first enter Harrow-on-the-Hill so I focused on taking pictures of this area.
Shown above are the images I showed my peers at our final work review, the feedback I had was that the images I have taken would work in a larger series, but in just six images they do not give the viewer enough information about what I’m trying to portray, it needs to be more obvious. What was suggested is that I use one image of the the view of the landscape, and then have closer photographs of the hidden trash seen around the town to make more of a statement. This I thought is a really good idea, and perhaps I will carry on with this project to create a bigger body of work which will contain all of my other images that will not be included, but for this project I think that what has been suggested will work a lot better so I will go out and do further shoots looking closer at the subjects I want to photograph.
Paul Graham’s book American Night was published in 2003 by Steild MACK. The book itself is a creamy white (obviously scuffed and worn from so many people handling it) with white writing that is barely visible with the title of the cover. Similarly all the writing in the book is just as difficult to read as it is only a slight different shade from the paper and shinier which makes it visible if you look at it at an angle in the light.
The layout of the book shows one image on the right hand side of the page aside from a group of images in the centre of the book which are grouped together with both pages covered, and then it returns to the previous layout.
The book contains mostly images such as the first shown which is so over exposed it is barely visible, this is how Graham chose to photograph poorer areas, most of these images contain a figure which appears to be the main point of focus whether they are clearly visible or not, there is always someone in there. Due to these photographs being so over exposed you are given a shock when after seeing a few of these images to see very contrasted, vibrant photographs such as the second image shown. This is how Graham photographed the richer areas of America, these do not contain people, but just the houses and cars parked out front. In the centre of the book shows a selection of images of people, these are taken with quite a low exposure and are very contrasted, in some of the photographs you can only make out outlines of the subject, which appears to be people living in poverty, and in some cases, blindness.
I found Paul Graham’s American Night very interesting to look at, I found the layout of the book and also the techniques used to show a visual difference between classes.
Burden of Proof is currently exhibiting at The Photographers Gallery and looks at his experts, researchers and historians began using photography as a way of documenting evidence at crime scenes. I was particularly interested in the metric photography of crime scenes, which began with Alphonse Bertillon who established a scientific way of representing crime scenes. The reason I was mostly interested in this section of the exhibition is due to previous research I have done on crime scene photography during the 1900’s and consequently on Alphonse Bertillon for my Image and Text assignment.
The photographs at the crime scenes were taken with an overhead camera with a wide angle lens on a tripod which was more than two metres tall and so in the photographs you can actually see the legs in the images. What I had not previously seen was how these images were mounted onto special cards which had gradations in centimetres, perspectometric framing and indications of scale.
I felt quite lucky that this exhibition was available for me to look at as I started my research on the subject and so got to not only look at the images in books, but also as they would have been shown to police, investigation judges and jurors.
The image shown were taken from the Stephen Shore book ‘Uncommon Places’ published by Thames and Hudson in 2004 and includes 163 coloured photographs by the photographer.
The images show a journey Shore took across the U.S, and were taken over a span of 11 years and began July 3rd, 1973. For the project Shore used a 35mm Rollei which was perfect for the point and shoot method Shore wanted to use as he wanted to look at the world from a tourists perspective and so also got his images printed in the same way at a Kodak lab. He also chose this camera as it was uncomplicated and did not intrude with the travellers activities.
I chose these specific images by Shore as I liked the perspective they were taken from, the angle has not made it so cars are in the way of the frame, but add to it. I also thought that the colours were very interesting and the composition.
For my fifth shoot I went back to the same location as my previous shoot as I wanted to focus on a specific area and improve it from the last time I photographed their.
In one of my photograph from my previous shoot I noticed that the dinted garage in the photograph would be good subject matter for my project and my theme, but I had not quite got it within the frame, and was certainly not the main point of focus.
Along with my contact sheet from the shoot I have also included a mock up on Lightroom of my first look at how my images could possibly go together when looking for my final images out of what I have already shot so that I know what areas I need to improve on.
When looking at the layout I think that on the first row the two images from the top left and centre go nicely together as they were shot in the same area, whereas the image on the top right was a completely different area and doesn’t match the green tones of the other photographs. To correct this I think that they need to be three different areas, or I all need to be different. As all of the bottom images are from different locations I think that I will do this also with the top images.
For my next shoot I will go back to Harrow-on-the-Hill and find another area I think would fit in with the different perspectives I have shown of the town.
For my fourth shoot I went back to the town centre, but instead of dawn I went at dusk as during the morning the town was far too busy to be able to take pictures without getting a line of cars in the photographs.
At dusk I was able to go back to the same locations and take the similar images as previous but without the cars. I did prefer shooting during the morning as you don’t have to worry about running out of light as it gets brighter, at dusk I do not get as many images because I spend too long composing my photographs and it gets dark very quickly.
I am now going to look at images from all my shoots and see which ones so far fit together and which I need to improve on.