Introduction to Experimental Photography

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at experimental photography. This will involve looking at other photographer's work and experimenting and trying different techniques in order to produce my own experiememal photographs. I am looking forward to this project a lot more than street photography as I'm excited to get creative with image manipulation techniques.

Experimental photography is a much more artistic and surreal form of photography and comes in many diffrent forms that I will be exploring such as chemigrams, manpulating analogue photographs and through exploring new ways of going and taking photos. I also want to work with how I can use materials to adapt my lense and learn digital editing techniques on Photoshop.

My physical outcome of this project will be the production of lots of experiments accompanied with written reflection, analyse of my references and visual records here on my blog and in my sketchbook.


Some Lost Portraiture Photos


When doing my Marta Bevacqua inspired photos back in September half of my photos could not be recovered from my memory card. Finally I have managed to retrieve them, these are my favourites.

Fireworks | Non Project Photos

As it was bonfire night yesterday I decided to try taking photos of fireworks. I've never done anything like this before and I definitely learnt how difficult it is, as you need to be patient and there is very little time to set up your shots as they are coming from all different directions. These three are the only ones I thought were ok, so I thought I would share them as it is defintiely a new experience for me as a photographer.

Lush | Non Project Photos

When out in Sheffield City Centre taking street photos the other day, I decided to pop into Lush and with having my camera around my neck, one of the employee's asked if I wanted to take photos of the products and of course I said yes. I love taking photos like this and I think they help show my preferred style of photography well as my interest in photography initially came from reading beauty and lifestyle blogs.

Inspired By Johnny Stiletto // Sheffield City Centre

Using Johnny Stiletto's technique for photographing, where he positions his camera at his waist and does not look through his viewfinder. I went around Sheffield City Centre to photograph the people that I came across. I decided to take most of them as I walked around the high street to capture these quick moments that would occur. I definitely prefer this technique to putting my DSLR up at someone's face, and I do like the slanted and more surreal looking composition it gives.
This is my favourite picture that I took and I like it because of the three children all in the foregound and background looking in one direction. I think this focus on the three boys is emphasised by the fact you cannot see the faces of the two adults in the foreground, bringing us to the children's level, amd making us curious of what they are gazing at. I also like the use of colour in this photo in particular in the forground with the earthy tones that the two adults are wearing and then the boy in his bright red coat, because of this I just couldn't make this photo black and white as I do love colour photography and how it can be used and it really adds to the style of photography I have as I always colour correct my photographs.

 Through doing this I've found a technique for street photography that I am more comfortable with and have more of an idea of what I like to photograph as I prefer the photos with strong elements of colour and composition.

York Street Photos

For my next street photography shoot I decided to go to York for the day with my sister to capture subject matter related to tourism inspired by both Martin Parr's last resort photos and also looking at typography like in the photos in 1955 taken by William Klein to give me structure during this shoot.

The photo above is of a very talented street performer who me and my sister were intrigued with straight away when he started setting up all his equipment. He juggled with these torches blindfoled and even got onto a giant ball to continue doing so, once he had taken his trousers off to reveal a tutu, which made him very animated and captivating to watch. For me this above photo in particular came out really well as it uses anomnimity well like the Hong Kong picture by Martin Parr which draws even more focus to this blindfoled character we can see and these stricking torches in his hand.

The next two photos are of two tourists who I found particularly amusing as they spent ages trying to get the perfect photo of one another in front of York Minster. The first photo I find particularly funny because of the expression on the woman's face, who is trying to concentrate on the photo she is taking as it is so ridiculous to me. I put these photos in black and white as I felt because I'd used a higher f-stop the colours and sharpness of the background took focus off the two subjects in my photos. 

My other favourites from this shoot focused on typography without people like William Klein went and did in New York in 1955. I personally liked doing street photography in this way because it definitely allows me to give my own style to my photos a lot more and It made me think more about what each picture was representing. The photo below for example reminded me very much of a still from a from a 1970's thriller I watched created by the people who made the Avengers. I really love colour film photography so being able to create a digital photograph that has this old feel really made me happy in that I could put my own preferred style into what I was doing.

I'm definitely a lot happier with the results of this shoot and now want to build on my abilities and confidence in photographing people more in street photography, I will do this by going into Sheffield City Centre and photography shoppers and passers by on the high street.

Johnny Stiletto

Johnny Stiletto's photos were taken throughout the eighties with a 35mm camera and he used around half a roll of his black and white film a day creating a collection of over 100,000 street photographs. His technique was simply to travel around London with his camera and he photographed anything that interested him. He positioned his camera at his waist, not looking at the viewfinder to create this very surreal perspective to his photos.

This candid photo above shows a couple kissing. I found it in an article on the BBC website and many people commented saying that they don't think Stiletto's photos show any skill or talent. Personally I think photography and any art form is subjective and there is no right or wrong way to do something. Johnny Stiletto used this candid technique of taking photos because that is what he finds aesthetically pleasing, he also used black and white film in the eighties despite colour photography becoming the norm for photographers at that time, but personally I like Stiletto's style. I think the use of black and white is powerful in making you focus on shape and form rather than colours in the photos. The way the photo above is blurry makes it even more captivating in my opinion, as it makes us feel caught in this quick moment like the passionate couple and I really think it adds to this intimate shot. The angle of the photograph also makes it look very surreal with how Stiletto has taken it at waist level without looking into the viewfinder, it changes all the dimensions we see, in particular with the lines on the steps and walls. I also think it adds to the passionate feelings we get from this shot because this slanted angle makes us feel like we are leaning with the embraced couple.

Another intimate photo from Johnny Stiletto is this one above of a woman in a ra-ra skirt, stood at her car. For me this photo represents a lot of what Stiletto's work was about, capturing the variety of people you see in London, from Mick Jagger and Francis Bacon on the underground, to new romantics and those from around the world. But London is also full of fashion variety and eighties fashion is something we often visualise when we think of that decade. Not only is this communicated through the woman's ra-ra skirt but I also think the composition and vantage point of this photo is interesting, in that it was taken passing this woman in a car and also the lines we see crossing each other from both cars and the station behind them.

After looking at Johnny Stiletto's photos and technique I decided to try taking some candid photos myself, with my phone at waist height without looking at the screen. I think especially with these kind of photos the decisive moment is very important to get a photo that is particularly captivating. I don't think these were particularly successful and for my next proper shoot I want to take my DSLR camera out to try this technique around my city.


Contact Sheets And The Decisive Moment

The decisive moment is massively important in street photography, which is when you decide to press your shutter and capture you photo. The decisive moment is particularly important in street photography as it isn't like going into a studio and taking a portrait of someone, because with that you know what you are going to get as pre production and planning are involved. Street photography is spontaneous. You can't plan a photo to any great extent, you simply have to find it or wait for it to come to you, and capture your shot when everything comes together to make an interesting and effective photo for you. The time you decide to capture these situations in your camera is the decisive moment and it is crucial in creating captivating street photography.

As research into street photography techniques I decided to look at Magnum contact sheets. A contact sheet consists of strips of film printed onto photographic paper, and reveals every shot the photographer has taken acting as a diary of what they have done with a roll of film and a tool for selecting photos worth enlarging. Contact sheets reveal to us that person's photographic process and decision making techniques, and also how they experiment and approach their chosen subject matter. Because they are very personal we rarely see contact sheets from a photographer, instead we see what to them is the perfect outcome of what they were trying to achieve.  

I decided to look at Elliot Erwitt's contact sheets in particular as he was one of the original Magnum members and I do like his photographic style in terms of making what can be quite everyday subject matters more humorous and entertaining to observe through a photograph. In the contact sheet above we can see how Erwitt went about photographing these two dogs and their owner. We can see that he took a lot of photographs and experimented with lots of different angles. In the earlier photos he was at a higher vantage point to his subjects and then turned his camera around to take portrait photos, after this you can see that he decided to lower himself and returned to taking landscape photos. The photo highlighted at the end is the photo Erwitt chose and printed, and has become a well known and recognisable street photograph of his world wide. 

What this contact sheet reveals about Elliot Erwitt is his process for taking photos, he takes many shots and experiments to make the best photo he can, being patient and waiting for the perfect moment, whereas William Klein for example would see something, take a photo if the moment is right for him and move to the next subject matter.

William Klein On His Contact Sheets

"I would look at my contact sheets and my heart would be beating, you know. To see if I'd caught what I wanted. Sometimes, I'd take shots without aiming, just to see what happened. I'd rush in crowds - bang! Bang! I liked the idea of luck and taking a chance, other times I'd frame a composition I saw and plant myself somewhere, longing for some accident to happen."

I really enjoyed this video by William Klein talking about his technique because it really revealed his style and attitude to his photography. I love the way he doesn't take himself to seriously and It really helped me learn more about his process for taking his photos, he see's an oppotunity, takes it and looks for another.
Looking at these contact sheets and the way these photographer's go about doing their street photography has really made me think more about how I go about taking my own photographs. Next time I take photographs I want to be more patient like Elliot Erwitt and really work for the best shot I can make.

Inspired By Martin Parr's Rural Communities

Martin Parr's rural communities series of photographs taken from 1975 to 1982 looked at what we know as traditionally British in and around the northern town of Hepden Bridge where he lived. I went to visit my family who live in the town of Colne last week, which is only a few miles from Hepden bridge so I decided to explore the town of Colne and do some street photography in an attempt to represent this rural community. Being such a small place there were very few people around to get some more typical street photography however I think the photos I've taken represent this community well in the way I've shown the very traditional Lanchashire buildings and cobbled streets with things like rubbish among them, for me this represents this standing still that places like this are. Many young people move away from these places, as there are very few job and educational oppotunities and places like mills and mines are no longer a main source of employment for the community like they were fifty years ago.

These black and white photos are of a mill that is currently being demolished. My grandma and most other young girls fifty years ago would have been sent to a mill like this to work for very little. My grandma worked in this particular mill and told me about how much she used to hate working there. To me this is street photography because it really defines communities like this. Hundreds of people would have worked in this mill decades ago and now it is abandoned and being destroyed.

Through taking these photos I've learnt more about how I can use street photography to communicate more than what is directly in front of you. After doing this I definitely want to go out around my city and try taking more photos with lots of people in them to experiment with different techniques and composition.