Exercise 2-13: Street Photographs

Choose one of the weekly instructions given to the contributors of the Street Photography Now Project in 2011 and build a small portfolio of B&W images on your chosen brief.

The Street Photography Now Project was a collaboration in 2011 between The Photographers Gallery and the authors of ‘Street Photography Now!’ (2011), Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren. Each week, a leading contemporary street photographer posted an instruction intended “to inspire fresh ways of looking at and documenting the world we live in.” Participants were invited to upload one photograph to a special Flickr group.

I approached this exercise by taking the approach of the flâneur, spending an afternoon walking around Durham city centre and photographing whatever attracted my interest. After reviewing the images, I read through the weekly instructions, eventually deciding on Arif Asci‘s directions from week 18: “Look for a window. Through a window, out of a window, or at the reflections on a window.” I was struck by how many of my images featured windows – perhaps a subconscious influence of the reading I had been doing on surrealism, windows and glass are a common motif.

#18

Look for a window. Through a window, out of a window, or at the reflections on a window.

Arif Asci

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I photographed this scene of two women looking in the window of a vintage shop from a high vantage point which immediately suggests voyeurism. What attracts me to the picture are the jumbled window displays and particularly the way the woman in black is standing completely still, I wondered what has captured her attention for her to be looking so intently, and, the reflection emphasises this. There is also a contrasting tension with the woman behind who is walking by and taking in the window displays in a more casual way.

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As I photographed this scene, I was struck by what makes this café Mexican – indeed, what is a Mexican café? Perhaps it is iced coffee on the menu, the amateurish writing on the window is certainly making a strong case for it. The reflections show the movement going on in the street and my eye is drawn to the woman on the left watching the street and me. The woman on the right with her head obscured by the food hygiene rating sign.

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I photographed this shop window because of how old fashioned and out of place it appeared compared to other shop fronts in the area, the shop name and design suggests a store that has been in business for some time and has remained traditional despite a changing world. I was also reminded of some of Atget’s photographs of shop fronts, such as this image.

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The reflections and positioning of the people shown here are an unintended piece of luck which demonstrates how important serendipity is when photographing. I suspect that something behind the glass was my intended focus for this picture but the reflections make the image something very different.

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The menus for this Thai café are the subject here, the reflections obscure and frustrate being able to view them fully, the snatched views of the people eating adds layers and a sense of voyeurism.

Post script:

The instructions in the Street Photography Now project have potential to provide inspiration in the future, potentially these are something I will return to in the future as a strategy to kick start some creativity. Out of interest, here are the other instructions that I immediately considered and short listed for this exercise:

#15: Wander aimlessly most of the time.

Melanie Einzig

#26: If you’re not sure it’s a picture shoot it anyway.

Carolyn Drake

#45: See the characters but create your own plot.

Martin Kollar

 

 

 

 

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