Paul Smith: Impact Series

Having looked at Paul Smith’s work before, I have once again come back to it looking at his impact series, as this time I have begun to fully appreciate the work in regards for my current work at the minute.
In his Impact series, Paul has created a set of images of bullet shrapnel that has occurred from criminal activity. The resulting damage from these bullets were  gathered by police forensic teams in different ways such as: extracted during autopsies or removed from a bulletproof vest after impact. (Smith, 2011) If we were to just look at the images by themselves, you wouldn’t exactly know there were bullets from the way they have mangled themselves into these strange shapes.

blackclaw(Smith, 2011)

In this series, it confronts the audience with the direct results of gun crime, reminding them of the broader context of gun crime in the world. Not just from the  reports of action we hear on the news on the rare occasion which makes us sit up, but rather in the textures and details that makes up the individual narratives that these pictures begin to present to us. We have no idea what may have caused the bullets to become mangled like this, nor do we know the situation they were used in. But in a way, this is what makes them so visually appealing. It isn’t what we are used to seeing with crime shots. We tend to focus on the moment where the action is happening, rather than the aftermath.

botr(Smith, 2011)

I think what makes this work so attracting to me is the simplicity of it, yet at the same time there is so much going on within the picture as well. We are just presented with this piece of metal, in which we know something major has happened in order for this to happen. It is up to us to make the story behind it; we have to use our own imagination to create the scenario. We can see all the little details in the bullet, so we can picture the steps that occurred to what caused this. For my work, I think this is a rather important thing to note; there is no need to pull of fancy lighting techniques to make a picture look fascinating. Rather, by sticking to the basics and presenting the important parts in a way which highlights them, it makes the image so much more engaging for us as it isn’t as jumbled.

fusedSmith, P. (2011)

I think what also makes these images work is the arrangement of the bullets as well; there is nothing else to go with them at all, so we are just forced to focus on it directly. Again, this works well for the image itself as we aren’t distracted by anything in the background as it is pure black (which actually helps bring out features on the bullet as well). For my idea, if I want to focus just on the marks on watches, I can’t let anything else get in the way of them not being shown to their full potential. This comes down to focusing and depth of field, in which a more shallow depth of field may be needed to blur out anything that is unnecessary.

So from this work, what I take away from it is:

  • Positioning of the watch
  • Lighting
  • Background
  • Depth of field
  • Angle
  • Simplicity

If I can begin to meet these within my images, then I feel like that I will be onto something good; this well help me achieve the idea of these old or newish watches being able to tell a story that is up to us to interpret in our own ways, without anything else distracting or muddling up the memory process.

Smith, P. (2011). Paul Smith Photography, London UK.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].


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