I was tasked at college with shooting 1 roll of black and white film or shooting in colour film the theme or influence of a chosen photographer. The first photographer that sprung into my mind was Vivian Maier, who was an American street photographer who died in 2009.
Maier’s work was mainly shots of people but she also took shots of architecture in and around New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. During her lifetime Maier shot over 150,000 images and many of her shots were still as negatives when she died. None of her work was published until she had passed when most of her collection of images were acquired by collecters John Maloof, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow.
Maier’s work was first published on the internet in July 2008 and received not real response but in 2009 her work was viewed on the image-sharing website Flickr and the results went viral with thousands of people interested. Since then her images have been exhibited around the world.
While taking a lot of her shots Maier used a twin lens Rolleiflex camera and later on a Leica.
Maier’s style of image was primarily of street scenes and people or close up portraits of people in the streets, she also shot architecture and later on when she started to work in colour her work became more abstract. I planned to shoot images in London of primarily people in scenes and close up portraits just like what Maier used to do. Maier’s work is inspirational and I wanted to emulate her style while in London wether in black and white or colour.
London is a great place to shoot street photography because it has lots of different types of people with lots of different fashions and an immense amount of backdrops for the images. I shot my images in the daytime (most of them) and captured a few at dusk as the light was fading although these images were on my DSLR which handles low light a lot better than the film camera I was using.
My film camera was a Fuji STX-2 with a 50mm lens attached and my DSLR was a Nikon D7200 with either the 20mm f1.8g, 35mm f1.8g or 85mm f1.8g lenses attached I felt these were the right lenses to use as they were the closest lens types to what Maier used, maybe not the 20mm but I think it produces good close up portraits anyway similar to the way Maier shot them but with a modern twist. I could not leave out the 20mm because it is one of my favourite lenses for this type of work.
The train ticket to London from Leicester was £70 and I think the tube ticket was about £8 so the costing for a day out in London shooting images is well worth it. I did not need any special permissions to shoot as it was in the streets of London.
I may use some of the images for my portfolio but the main reason for this trip was to blog my day in London and to get further experience of doing this kind of shooting.
After I got back from London and had developed the black and white film in the darkroom at college I was pretty happy that my negatives had come out well exposed and the shots I was exited to see were ok, the wait from shooting to developing can be a pretty nervous one if you think you have a good shot or two. I had taken a photo of the ex-Leicester city football player Steve Walsh on my first roll of black and white film since having a 20 year gap of not shooting film and I forgot to release the film properly in the camera before winding it back into the canister (school boy mistake) and was gutted when I had lost the image. I do not think I will ever do that again!
Below is one of the images I was particularly pleased about because I felt like it fitted the brief to produce something that was influenced by my chosen photographer Maier. It was shot on the film camera and printed at home on my old enlarger.
As you can see in the image; it looks like the people in it had not even realised I was taking a photo and were just going about there daily business, just like in a lot of maier’s images.
Here is one of the close-up portraits that I liked, I used the 20mm lens to get in close to this person and I asked him if I could take a photograph or two. I shot about 5 images of this man to try and get a look from him that seemed to me like he was being natural, I also spoke to hime for about 15 minutes to make him feel comfortable about the ‘ordeal’ and this is something that Maier, also used to do with some of her images.
Another photographer I admire a great deal is Steve McCurry, he is an American photographer who is probably best known for his ‘Afghan Girl’ image he shot in an Afghanistan refugee camp. He shoots a lot of portraits in this close up style and I like his work a lot. Years ago I never thought I would enjoy taking portrait photographs as much as I do now. I think it is because everyone is so different and to get these close-ups in this manner you need to really have a conversation with them and everyone has a story to tell. Out of the 20 or so people I asked to photograph in London only one person declined which I think is brilliant.
Above is another image I like because of the hugely ‘differant’ hairstyle. I decided to shoot this side-on portrait against the light colour of the sky as I thought it would accentuate the hair. This was one of the images I hoped turned out ok in particular, although I like this image it does not fir the Maier mould as much as the other one because the hair is 70’s/80’s style and was not around when Maier was shooting but, this just goes to show how times change along with our surroundings all the time and more recent photographer’s have new things to capture that past photographers did not.
The above image was shot at the train station on the way to London and shows a different method of trying to make an image work by using colour, William Eggleston was a master at this and brought colour to Art photography to the masses for the first time. I like the way the colour of the mans turban matches the pole to the left of him and the seat he is sitting on as these things all frame hime in some way, I just think the image works because of this.
Here again, the colour of this womans lipstick and pink on her hat and coat ‘if the coat colour is pink?’ helps the image in my opinion.
Here is an image I like, this is because it has Maier’s style in the fact that in some of her images the people in them do not realise they are having their photo taken until the last minute and there is a inquisitive glance over at what Maier was doing. Just like in this image.
In this film photograph the homeless person was totally unaware that he was having his image taken like in a lot of Maier’s street work. I like the long shadow in the image of the person walking-by. It somehow suggests that the homeless person is anonymous.
While in London we all went to The Photographer’s Gallery and had a look at the exhibition that was on. The main photo-exhibition was focusing on drag queens, cabarets, men cross-dressing, prisoner-of-war camp’s with men dressing as women and women dressing and behaving as men in the way that they dress and act tom-boyish and smoke. As these women cross-dressers were photographed in the 19th and early 20th centuries smoking was not the norm for women at the time.
It was called the Wolfson Gallery Under Cover: A secret history of Cross-Dressers #Undercover.
It was quite an interesting gallery to see how people entertained themselves in these times like the men who dressed as women on the POW camps and performed on stage at the camp theatres as drag queens. Maybe this shows a fragile mental state that the war-weary men were in but nothing about the images is certain apart from the fact they were people acting against the norm and even the law in certain states as these people were flirting with prison or even worse.
All of the images were anonymous and without information concerning the people in them or the circumstances in which they were taken. The collector just identified the subjects here as men who were dressing as women or women dressing as men. Interesting.
There was also a dark room that was made into a camera obscurer. The image shone onto the inside wall from a hole made in the outside wall of the window. This was worth a look.
I would encourage anyone to visit The Photographer’s Gallery wether your are serious about photography or not as there is always something worth looking at.
I had a good time in London and felt that I had took a few good shots these are just a few on this blog and I will use some of the capture in my portfolio. I felt as though my street photography got slightly better while I was shooting, you know how the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect but your never perfect so always practice!’.