As the brief for this exercise specified, planning to achieve this kind of shot was difficult and I had to wait for the opportunity to appear. Since starting Part Four of the course, I have kept a camera on me more regularly and have taken to working through the exercises in the module simultaneously rather than chronologically. That being said, I did have the opportunity to grab a few shops that utilised the distant figure in the frame. I was particularly pleased with the first example (see below). The figure is distant enough to be anonymous, although the context is clear and there is a clear narrative to the image. The composition is also quite interesting in that the figure is placed off centre and the clear contrast between the white railings in the foreground and the array of greys in the background.
I concluded the images at the second location (also on a footbridge) are less successful. I aimed for a similar style and angle (black and white + looking through foreground railings) but opted for a slightly different composition.
Tilting the frame works to some extent by adding a sense of movement to the man walking, introducing some visual tension.
Whilst compositionally and stylistically the images are interesting, I don’t think they are quite as effective as the first image in fulfilling the brief. Firstly I was perhaps too close to the figure and so the sense of place is lost for the viewer. There is also no clear visual narrative – the viewer is left guessing the nature of the place and how the figure is interacting with it. As an exercise it was interesting to experiment with composition and proximity to the figure, and the conclusions reached from the resulting images are lessons I will take into the upcoming exercises and assignment.
For the second part of the “user’s viewpoint” I opted for a similar space to the commuter set in the previous part. For those images I shot from the perspective of a commuter on a suburban train. I referenced Tom Wood’s series “Bus odyssey” which he shot over the course of the 1980s-1990s in Merseyside as providing some inspiration for these two separate sets.
The key difference between the two sets is evident in the use of the space – the previous user being on the transport vs. the user waiting to embark on it. Whilst they are very similar I found the resulting images to be quite different. I noticed a lot of Tom Wood’s images had unusual and disordered compositions. I took this approach and ideas about perspective – that is shooting from the exterior environment of the transport. I chose the tube station platform and shot through the train window. The shot above and below are when the train is moving. I tilted the frame slightly to create the impression of movement and found that the blur also helped with this sense of movement.
I found the results effective in conveying the fast moving train and the function of the space – waiting for the arriving train to stop and catching glimpses of the passengers on the moving train. I quite liked some of the moments I captured, although impressionistic and blurred, they are effective in capturing the function and atmosphere of a busy tube station.
This (like the first part of the exercise) relied on luck and some guess work with composition for example I again relied on autofocus. But I found it a useful and refreshing exercise in putting into practice some approaches I liked from Tom Wood’s series. I would like to experiment with this space and perhaps use different shutter speeds, perhaps using longer exposures standing at the back of the platform, and giving myself more time to explore the possibilities and some different approaches.
For this exercise I also shot a busy area of Kathmandu. I selected a TLR medium format camera as I had such success using this for the earlier “standard focal length” exercise in this module. I find a TLR camera with a waist level viewfinder affords a certain subtlety and stealth when shooting people in public places. It is unobtrusive, people can recognise it and if they do it is often a topic of discussion since these cameras are rarely seen these days. I asked a couple of people for portraits and for the rest I shot subtly and on the move. I chose to walk around Boudhanath stupa an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. It was extremely crowded but I could sense some order in the activity, there being layers of different types of people walking around the stupa – tourists, pilgrims, police, street vendors, shop owners and beggars. To help convey the colour and activity I chose medium format Velvia, a slide film known for its vivid colours and exceptional level of detail particularly in 120mm.
The above shot was taken on the move – unfortunately the TLR camera I was using is prone to light leaks and double exposures. The band of overexposed film on the right is a double exposure from not advancing the film far enough due to a faulty film counter. However I still love the colour and composition, and with the other shots in this small series conveys something of the varied activity going on at the location.
This shot was taken slightly later as is noticeable from the changing light in the frame. I also observed the location served as a meeting spot for local people, or just a place for individuals to sit in quiet contemplation. Though it is crowded with people and nearly always busy, it is a reminder of the spiritual nature of the location for many people.
For the last shot, I asked permission from an old lady sat just beneath the stupa in shadow. I surmised that she may have been a pilgrim as is evident from her clothes and religious beads in hand. I noticed that she too was sat alone and looked quite sad in her contemplation. Once I had taken the shot she did gesture and try to talk to me but unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from finding out more about her. The TLR camera here cropped for me due to the film counter problems, but I actually like how it is cropped so let’s call it a happy accident!
Boudhanath is an extremely crowded and often stressful place, but this exercise enabled me to notice the people away from the tourists and internet cafes, and my images show the diversity of people present there everyday. I hope that this activity continues after the devastating earthquake last month, as it is an important place not just for pilgrims but also for the local people in Kathmandu.