Brand New Topographics – 154MC

During the first week of Uni, we were all given the task of taking pictures in set locations. However there was a twist to this, as we were given a list of 16 quotes, in which for each picture we would take, it would have to mix with the quote as well. So the aim? 10 locations, 10 quotes = 10 outcomes.

So what is meant by the “Brand New Topographics”? Well we need to travel to 1975 first, to William Jenkins. In that time period, he collected a variety of black and white photos that consisted of the American Landscape. The reasoning behind this was to challenge the view on landscape pictures that photographers such as Ansel Adams had created. The photos were the opposite of what was normally seen, so it was challenging the norm.

Robert Frank “I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my  point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.” Robert Frank – Page 115 of U.S. Camera1958. Published by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. in 1957

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With it being freshers week, there has been plenty of people advertsising for companies or nightclubs, with a vast majority of people rejecting the hand outs. So it struck me when reading the quote as to how we see these people when we walk by. We treat them as if they are invisble, showing no emotion towards them at all, nor do we care about how they might feel as well. So I was set up waiting for a time where someone would reject. But what I got was in a way the opposite of my aim. I managed to catch in the background the look of rejection from a seller, looking down at his feet as people walked by, not giving him a second glance at all. But I feel the the depth of field makes it also look like he is blurred out of our sight, as if we are trying to not see him from our sight. And I think putting it into black and white adds to the sandess as well, as any colours gives it all a more vibrant mood, but in grayscale it seems to put us into a more serious, sadder state.

Eliot Erwitt I wasn’t imposing my presence on anyone,..which is very important for a would- be journalist. I stayed back. Always let people be themselves. – Elliott Erwitt

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This was perhaps one of the harder pictures for me to take. When you have your camera up to your face, it always draws attention to yourself, and it stops people from being themselves which was critical. So for this picture, I just melted into the shadows, staying out of sight whilst keeping my eye on people. This couple were being so carefree with not a care in the world, I needed to make sure I wouldn’t intrude; but in order to get the picture I had to be fast. What I like about this about this picture is how everything falls nicely into the Rule of Thirds, with the head and hands being situated nicely with their bodies. Everthing seemed calm and collected, which made the picture seem more natural rather than being set up, giving it that flase impression.

Paul Caponigro “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro – Jenson, Brooks. “Talk at the Wilson Centre for the Arts, Sep 2007”. LensWork Podcast LWO0420

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I was walking around the Frederick Lancaster building with Paul Caponigro’s quote in mind, trying to fathom what I would be able to do. So it was by luck I managed to pass a worker that had decided to stop working and just start playing on his phone. This made me stop and think, as we usually think of builders as hard working, dedicated people who want to get the job finished quickly so they will be able to move on to a new project. However this really revealed the true nature of builders, as how often do we pass by areas that are being worked on, but with no workers?
So I knew this would fit perfectly into the criteria as it was showing the builder’s true nature, especially when he was truing to hide himself as well from the public by being behind a pillar. I also feel that the low lighting in the area made gave it a more sullen mood as we begin to think more negatively towards the person. But then again, what do we know? It could be he does have a break, or he might just be waiting for others to help him with something…

Edward Weston I would say to any artist: ‘Don’t be repressed in your work, dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better.’ – Edward Weston – to Ansel Adams

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When it comes to my photo’s, I don’t tend to look at extreme angles  as I feel that it doesn’t fit me as a photogrpaher. However when I was looking up at this building, I couldn’t help but stop and think as to how we couldn’t really see at all when the building ws going to stop. The angle was so great, it made me step away from the builidng to get a true idea of how big it was. So I knew that this was the perfet angle for taking a picture like this, and I would try by best with something that I’m not used too. What I found was that the way the points go out at jagged angles, before slowly coming together made it look like it was coming close together, to the point that we could not see past it any more. I believbe the symmetry of the points also helped as well because it makes it look like it’s pointing into the builidng rather than away in my opinion.
Looking back at this picture, I wouldn’t say it’s brilliant at all, so it look’s like I have to work on extreme angles a bit! But for a proper attempt, it’s not too bad really, bust a tad bit boring.

Jan Groover “You have to follow your nose… to have a mental attitude about what you feel good about and yearn for in a picture. Being able to say “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” That’s first.” – Jan Groover, More Joy of Photography by Eastman Kodak (Editor)

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For another location, it was situated more or less away from the busy uni life, but into a moere quite and relaxed area. But it was when I was walking around I noticed that tthe tree’s in the area were beginning to suffer the effects of winter, with some of the bracnhes beginnging to wither away. But for this picture, it was a lone branch surrounded by more vibrant, liveing branches. And I thought to myself “I really like the contrast of the more grey, morbid colour compared to the bright chlorophyll in the other leaves.”
So with Jan Groove’s quote in mind, I decided that I would go ahead and take this picture, as to my eye I thought it was something different from the other pictures I had taken at that point. Even though we can’t physically see the other leaves due to the depth of field blurring them out, we can still sense the brightness coming from them in the background though. And its this comparrison that makes the dead leaves stand out even more in my opinon, as it makes me rememer that winter is approaching quickly, and all the summert things we have enjoyed are at an end now.

Yoosef Karsh “Photography is, to me, more than a means of expression, more than my particular prefession(sic) – it is a way of life. And if I were asked to choose one word which holds the key to my work I would select ‘light’ – for light is my language, and it is international, readily understood by any person of any race. It has been my good fortune to welcome before my camera many great men and woman who have made their mark on our generation and will find a place in history. I feel that my life’s work is to interpret th (sic) the best of my ability, the inner strength, the true character, of these personalities, through the medium of photographic portraiture. I can think of no elation equal to that when something close to my ideal is achieved, through necessarily there must always be a spark of what I call ‘divine discontent’ – the constant striving for near-perfection. In this self-appointed task, which also carries, I believe, a great sense of responsibility, the medium of light is all important. It is the portraitist’s chief tool, and he can never learn enough about it.” – Yousuf Karsh, The Best of Popular Photography by Harvey V. Fondiller , ISBN: 0871650371 , Page: 101

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Light is by far in my opinion, a way that can influence a way a picture can look. If its by Slow Shutter Speed to use light as a way to show the movement of objects, or different times in the day to make something look different compared to another time. However one thing I feel that is un-appreciated when it comes to light is stain glass windows. From doing RS as a subject from GCSE to A levels, I have been on many trips with the department to many countries with so many churches holding amazing stain glass windows. And seeing them in the person is simply fantastic, as you do take in the wonder of them.

So it was when I was walking around Coventry’s Cathedral that I saw the reminiscences of these windows up high in the structures of the buliding. And it made me think of how little we see photogrpahers showing work of the wonderful things, and how under appreciated they are in a photogrpahic way.
So for this photo I aimed to get most of the structure into the building, whilst trying to make sure the remains of the window were still visible. From then onwards, all I had to do was go into photoshop and select the windows and place them into a seperate layer. This meant I could change the rest of the picture into Grayscale, whilst keeping the colour of the windows intact.
I like this picture due to the contrast of the colours from the serpate things, making it stand out more. But it also raises the question as to what image was in the window in the first place? Now that we can only see the shards, showing how it has been withered down to nothing, it makes me want to go out and find out what was there in the first place, and how important was it? Was it just windows, or was there images in the other spaces as well?

Bill Brandt I am not very interested in extraordinary angles. They can be effective on certain occasions, but I do not feel the necessity for them in my own work. Indeed, I feel the simplest approach can often be most effective. A subject placed squarely in the centre of the frame, if attention is not distracted from it by fussy surroundings, has a simple dignity which makes it all the more impressive. – Bill Brandt – “Camera in London”, The Focal Press, London 1948, p. 13

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It’s funny how this picture came about, as initally when reading the quote from Bill Brandt, I went trying to follow what he said to the tee. And I think this image actually both agrees and disagrees with the quote. It was when I was walking around Alma street I came across a little grass area with some bences on them, with a mother sitting down with a child in a buggy. At first, I was going to go up to the mother and ask to photograph her and her child, but they went before I had the chance. So I sat down evaluating my options, when I saw this beer can on the ground near the bin.
And my first reaction was how someone could be so lazy to dump the can on the ground when the bin is so close. So I dismissed it pretty quickly. But it made me think even more that as it was freshers week, this sort of thing must of been going around everywhere really, and it would be a good representation of the week as a whole.

So you may be thinking as to how does this picture go 50/50 with the quote? Well when I went to photograph it, I realised that a bird’s eye view of the scene was in all honesty, bland. It showed nothing at all, and it was pretty hard to get everything in. So it meant that I had to crouch down at an angle to get everything in, making sure the can was in focus whilst the bin, still visible, was blurred. And this perspective showed actually how close the can was to the bin.
And it was then that I realised that, yes, the simplest approach can be the best way to make something look more impressive. But does that mean we have to get rid of all angular photographs at all? As in this case, having the picture at such an angle was the most simplest way, making it seem more impressive. So I think we have to see each situation in a different light. A good picture will require different elements, whilst sometimes it may be best being simple.

Minor White “Let the subject generate its own photographs. Become a camera.”

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So me and a few others from the photography group were just passing the Coventry Leisure Centre, and this lady had just come out from the building. She had looked over at all of us, before her interest went away, carrying on drinking form her bottle. And I found this quite interesting as we had really became invisible to her, and she was acting like she would in any normal situation.
So I simply did what Minor White said: Become the camera.

Duane Michals “Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if….’ And then do it.” – Duane Michals, More Joy of Photography by Eastman Kodak (Editor)

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This particular picture I feel is the second weakest of the lot, simply becuase the viewers may not see the full menaing behind this picture. What I mean by this is that from a first glance, you see the metal fences blocking off public entrance into this un-maintained piece of land. And from a public point of view we wouldnt want to go in there as it is overgrown, graffiti on the walls, and the area just has the dodgy feel about it. And thats all we might get.

However, onto the pictures left we see this other building. Now if I was standing further backwards with a very good wide anlge lens, you would be able to see this new, state of the art sports centre for the Coventry University students. And it was seeing this that I saw this contrast bewteen the two sites, and how making a new building is valued more, rather than getting this house back on track for someone to live in.
So what I was trying to show was the contrast bewteen new and old, and the zoom with the picture didn’s show this too well at all. However one thing I do feel that works well is that putting it into gray and white actually makes it all seem more gloomy, which is a nice touch, rather than having vibrant colours that would make it more uplifting perhaps. I think that if I was going to re-shoot this particular picture, I would have to go as far back as possible and have the camera on a tripod to keep everything straight.

August Sander I hate nothing more than sugary photographs with tricks, poses and effects. So allow me to be honest ?and tell the truth about our age and its people. – August Sander

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This picture, again, has a story behind it that agree’s with the quote from August Sanders. Again a group of us were going around looking for suitable location for pictures, and we had arrived at the bus station. Now we were only outside the entrance, looking for something to photograph when we was approached by the guy on the right in the picture, telling us we weren’t allowed to take any photographs at all. So naturally we were quite annoyed with this, as this was a set location in which we needed a photograph from.

But what I think annoyed me more was how this person then proceeded to chat with two other workers for a good 10 minutes. So he had stopped us from doing our jobs, whilst he went about not giving a care in the world about his. So I went and rebelled against this claim and took a photogrpah of the lot without them knowing at all.
And its this which I think links in well to the quote. My generation now is quite rebellious, as we dont like being told what we can and can’t do, we try to break the rules if its possible in some cituations, like in my case. But at the same time it shows the truth about these workers about if there is a chance to get out of work, then they would take it. And it’s that complete disregard which I think makes the picture quite interesting.

So overall, I think this project went quite well really. I think with all my pictures my work combined well with the quotes I chose for them, resulting in somewhat in a harmony. In some cases I feel that my pictures weren’t possibly as good as they could be, either in the subject or the posistioning, but it all somewhat worked out in the end.
I think my best piece has to eb the picture with the beer can and the bin, as to me it was the most effective out of the lot. However it does make me realise that I tend to focus on having more of a back story with all of my photo’s, and in some cases to the viewer it may not be obvious to them as to what I want to be showing. So perhaps for the pictures I take at a later stage, I might have to prepare somewhat before hand as to what my pictures will include, so that the story can be shown in perhaps an easier way rather than it being in a bulky part of text.


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