21 Nov 2016

things fall apart

Caption. Just a few words about the picture please. How hard can it be? Yet my love of photography - and street in particular - is that its meaning is open to the eye of the beholder. No nudges or hints necessary. Just breathe in and breathe out. Simple.
Perhaps it's my Irish roots but this year had a particular significance even before it began and the last 11 months have compounded that dramatically. I was looking back at my work over the summer, at two images in particular. Ordinarily they'd be filed as candidates for the next part of the journey but bringing them together is as close as I ever have to making a statement, however oblique, about my take on the images.
link to 2016 part 1
link to 2016 part 2
What's that you say? Where's the caption? 
Let's make it a quote from W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
End of sermon.

6 Oct 2016

bodies, rest and motion

Well I've spent the first weeks of Autumn doing something else I've not done before on the streets. Gosh, twice in a year. I feel almost giddy.
Following my adventures in eye-level photography I've now being learning how to stand and shoot. I know it all seems very basic but, after 30 years of taking pictures on the hoof, for me an unnerving experience. Why torment myself so? What if I missed that perfect picture waiting around the next corner? Well I really wanted to follow through on my musings about digital and see where they took me.
I decided to use a particular feature of my mobile camera called video collage. It appealed to me as it felt I was actually using a function that wasn't simply a replication of a stills camera. The concept was interesting. 6 seconds x 4 "scenes". Easy to shoot. Easy to share.
link to new London street photographs
Interestingly enough despite its modernity the format reminded me of stereoscopes. The intent then was the illusion of depth of vision. My intent was the illusion of depth of thought!
link to new London street photographs
Again taking advantage of another attribute of using a mobile device, the immediacy of results, gave me the opportunity to experiment. Fixed camera position, fixed subject area, movements of both by degrees left and right. The possibilities were endless. There was still the sense of the unexpected so, you'll be glad to hear, I wasn't totally in an unfamiliar world.
link to new London street photographs
So what have I learned? Well it's still a work in progress but I do like the mini narratives that build up even in such a short space. In a way they remind me of The Present by Paul Graham. They layer further ambiguity and possibility on an already uncertain scene. Just my cup of tea.

3 Sep 2016

modernising street photography

My latest embrace of the world of street continued with a wonderful weekend at the first London Street Photography Symposium. I found some lovely like-minded souls with whom to share ideas, walk the streets and hear their thoughts.
What struck me was the populism that the phrase "street photography" now holds. Nick Turpin recalled how he felt like the only street photographer in London, sorry the only photographer taking pictures on the street, when he started in the 80s. It was still an isolated, idiosyncratic practice. Since then the popularity of the term has grown, facilitated by the internet, to a point I regard as "peak street" in 2011. Now street photography is used comfortably to describe a variety of styles, subjects and forms of image making. I find parallels here - sorry it's a bad habit of mine - of the adoption by the mainstream of underground or transgressive creative forms like punk or rap, skateboarding or street art etc. With acceptance and familiarity come a dilution of the "ideals" of the original movement. Pale imitations proliferate, superficially similar but soulless. But don't get me wrong. There is no one way to do street. Like any faith it can accommodate many beliefs, disciples and prophets. However it's inspiring when you do stumble across the real deal.
link to new London street photographs
What is interesting about street is how it's shadowed and refracted the mainstream technological developments of the medium. Think 35mm Leica and Contax in the 1920s, the Speed Graphic in the 30s. I've reflected on my own love of old school techniques. They grew organically, a product of my own circumstances in time and place, not as a deliberate homage.
My recent experiments with digital have made me reconsider my work in relation to the facets of that technology. I'd argue cameras on mobile phones are now fundamentally different to the classic machines I've referenced above. They are networked devices designed and used to record, manipulate and share, often in realtime, very personal moments with both intimate friends and anonymous authorities. Is there a new form of street photography that can reflect our times in that way? My ideas are still hazy. I'm not talking scavenger hunts!. Perhaps time to revisit Ambiguous?
Time will tell.

14 Aug 2016

untouchability

I've rekindled my love of books about cities reading Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. Set in New York City it bridges my last post well...
He felt the street around him, unremitting, people moving past each other in coded movements of gesture and dance. They tried to walk without breaking stride because breaking stride is well-meaning and weak but they were forced sometimes to sidestep and even pause and they almost always averted their eyes. Eye contact was a delicate matter. A quarter second of shared glance was a violation of agreements that made the city operational. . . No one wanted to be touched. There was a pact of untouchability here.
Using my phone has changed my technique out of necessity rather than deliberate choice. My from the hip style reflects a covert/non-confrontational/sneaky/zen-like (delete as you wish) attitude. Working with my phone necessitates a precise touch on the screen to take a picture: simply speaking I need to bring it to my eye level...and subsequently to that of the photographed too. 
link to new London street photographs
And my problem is? Well, as DeLillo says, eye contact is a delicate matter, a pact of untouchability. To break that is to tear the veil we share between us. A touch melodramatic? Perhaps but I have found this "new" way of walking as exciting as any period of my work. 
Bear with me while I find my feet again!


21 Jul 2016

still looking at me

Another return after a break. This one almost 30 years. Back to where it all began. 
I certainly had mixed feelings on my return to New York. My fears of a sanitised city were unfounded though. Manhattan, its people and its streets, I'm glad to report are still alive and kicking against the pricks. I found Times Square and my old rat runs as stimulating as the first time.
Here are some rough cuts of some ideas in progress. 
Do not adjust your monitor. Yes they are colour and digital. 
Have mercy.
link to street photograph
link to street photograph
link to street photograph
link to street photograph
And here's a quotation I heard on the radio one morning
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.  TS Eliot
Feel there's another book in the making here...


4 Jun 2016

finding my feet

Ah there you are, now were was I?
It's been a while since I posted but don't worry I'm still here. Still snapping. Still street. Still black and white. Still, well, still.
My latest project is called Finding My Feet for both literal and metaphoric reasons. I found myself with an opportunity to spend some dedicated time back on the streets of London this year. I'd never stopped seeing street. I just needed to start remembering it again. Tool of choice, as a way of getting myself back in the game, was a digital phone. Heresy? Well maybe I'll have to revisit my classic recipe for street photography and make it a little more nouvelle...Interestingly enough my analogue style has translated without too many adjustments. 
link to London street photographs

It's a work in progress. That's the nature of digital. That's the interesting part for me. Will the infinite overwhelm the finite.
I hope to find out!