I can’t quite believe I have arrived at this point and am ready to submit my assignment, given the despair I previously felt about my ideas and images taken. I still keep coming up with ideas on a theme that might be better, and recently came across the following quote in Digital SLR Photography Magazine (Digital SLR Photography / February 2015 / Issue 99 P.17) by Imogen Cunningham:
“Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
I really identified with this quote, it seemed to sum up exactly how I was feeling – I like this photo, but I’ll get a better one tomorrow! However there does come a time when you need to move on otherwise I was in danger of being stuck on Colour forever!
I did mention in my last assignment post:
that I would take some Martin Parr inspired still life shots to accompany my street photography pictures for the assignment. I had intended to present them in a similar way to his montage styles in Think of England (Parr, M (2000) Think of England. London. Phaidon Press Ltd) where the images displayed across two pages of the book would somehow be related using clichés. However, having reviewed my street photography images I felt that I had enough images to meet the criteria of the assignment without having to do this. Now that I have narrowed them down to the final 16 I am fairly happy with the end results and think they make an interesting and varied set.
Although I have not included any still life images, I feel this is ok as with a couple of images where I found an interesting background, I did have to wait for the right person / colour to move into the frame and this in a way is a conscious arrangement. The majority of my pictures though were uncontrolled and based more on observation and reacting quickly.
- Take 16 photographs illustrating the following colour relationships:
- Colour harmony through complementary colours
- Colour harmony through similar colours
- Colour contrast through contrasting colours
- Colour accent using any of the above
- Make notes for each photograph about how the colour works and make a sketch for each to show the balance and movement.
1. Colour harmony through complementary colours
Complementary colours are those that face each other across the colour wheel and when used together, balance each other in a harmonious way. The three pairs of complementary colours are Red / Green, Orange / Blue and Yellow/ Violet. To create complete harmony the hue should be taken into consideration when using complementary colours, for example orange is much brighter than blue. The ratios suggested by poet / playwright J.W. Von Goethe for each colour occupying space in the same frame are: Red / Green 1:1, Orange / Blue 1:2, Yellow / Violet 1:3
1. Orange / Blue
This photo was taken in September and I was attracted by the sunlight shining through the tie-die sheet. I believe the event was a charity raising awareness for children in Africa and the workers were all wearing bright orange sweatshirts. I wanted to compose the picture from the front but couldn’t capture the sunlight highlighting the patterns in the sheet as the sun was then behind me.
Composing the shot from the back actually worked quite well as I was able to capture the blue kiosk on the other side of the street which really helps to accentuate the orange and balance the picture. The proportions are also correct in that there is more blue – the darker colour than the bright orange creating a nice harmony.
Finally, I like the orange ice cream cone in the background. It helps provide rhythm to the image with the sequence orange, blue, orange, blue which draws the eye across the frame.
2. Red / Green
This image is all about the red and green but I was delighted to capture the expression of self-importance from this young woman’s stare! She is the focal part of the image and her expression is contradictory – on the one had it is unapproachable, back off, don’t come near me and on the other it is challenging! I was quite glad there was a barrier and piece of glass between us!
Another reason I was so pleased to have captured this expression was because it reminded me of an image by Martin Parr from The Last Resort in a book I have at home where there is a woman with a very similar expression :
Phillips, S.S. (2007) Martin Parr, London, Phaidon Press Ltd
New Brighton, Merseyside, England from The Last Resort 1983 -86
Copyright Martin Parr / Magnum Photos (only being used for educational purposes)
In my image I think the red and green are very well-balanced within the frame as they are roughly equal with a ratio of 1:1. The red dominates the left hand side of the frame and the green on the right. Again there is rhythm in the image with the sequence red / green / red/ green from left to right across the frame providing a sense of movement even though the woman is static inside the booth. This movement from left to right is reinforced by the sloping railings and the way the woman is facing.
Finally, I like the way the red flyer on the right breaks up the green side as does the green on the booth breaking up the red. This little detail has helped to balance the image very nicely.
3. Yellow / Violet
This is one of the images that I spent a long time debating if it was good enough to include – mainly because the proportion of yellow and violet are roughly equal as opposed to the ratio of 1:3. However I have included it as the yellow / violet combination is really hard to find on people in the street and I spent a good half hour stalking the owner of the yellow wellies around the market until she stood still long enough to get a decent shot! I think the composition works well though – the yellow boots and violet trousers only take up about a third of the frame and the leaves in the foreground lead the eye to the boots and then upwards with the toe pointing to the burgers and kebabs. The whole picture could be described as “grubby” from the leaf debris, dirty wellies, rubbish and finally the unhealthy stigma of fast food.
4. Orange / Blue
I loved the dreamy reflection of this boy in the bus window and the way the sun was highlighting his hair. It was pure luck that the seats were orange and blue and in the right proportion of 1:2. Unfortunately there is a distracting blur in the left corner caused by the seat in front of me. This was unavoidable on a bumpy bus ride – I did try to crop it out but lost too much of the seating which lessened the impact of the colours.
There is a bit of two-way movement in this image as the eye travels from left to right over the back of the seats and rests on the boys reflection in the window. The sunlight is obviously moving in the other direction highlighting the boy’s hair.
2. Colour harmony through similar colours
Similar colours are those that are placed near each other on the colour wheel or described as either a warm or cool range of colours.
5. Red / Orange / Yellow – Warm Tones
I spotted these two ladies deep in conversation at the back of a restaurant down a narrow back road. I liked the way there was a shaft of sunlight highlighting the red and orange brickwork and yellow bins. Red, orange and yellow all sit next to each other on the colour wheel and convey a sense or warmth associated with fire and the sun. The shaft of sunlight in this image also increases the sense of warmth. These warm colours contrast nicely with the cool tones of the grey drain pipe, road and white wall, all of which are in the shade. The image could almost be divided into half by a diagonal line across the frame, separating the warm and cool tones and creating a good balance.
6. Violet / Blue – Cool Tones
This image is a great example of cool tones. there are no warm tones at all even though the sun is shining from behind the camera directly onto the subjects. I particularly like how the left feet of both women are in exactly the same position. This along with the directional gazes of people walking towards me along the diagonal line of the pavement create a nice two-way movement.
7. Yellow / Green
I was really pleased to find this composition – taken in October before the leaves had fallen. The Autumn sun was low and bright causing lovely shadows on the wall of the building. In theory I would class red, orange, and yellow as the 3 warm colours on the colour wheel and green, blue and violet as cool. Although the bright yellow building is in the shade, the picture still evokes warm feelings because the saturation is such an intense yellow and balances nicely with the yellowy green leaves highlighted by the sun. Also the sun has lightened the tone of the green making it look warm. Again there is a nice sequence of yellow / green / yellow drawing the eye across the frame.
8. Green / Blue / Violet – Cool Tones
I composed the background of this image using the bank green sign and frames of the cash point machines and then waited for people to walk into view. Luckily all of them were wearing blue jeans and the women were both wearing violet tops. There is no physical movement in the image as the people are all static but the eye is drawn from left to right across the frame due to the gaze of the young woman on the left and the shadows caused by the directional sunlight.
3. Colour contrast through contrasting colours
Colour combinations are considered contrasting when they are spaced about a third of the way from each other on the colour wheel. In some combinations the colours look like they clash and others can be vivid and eye-catching.
9. Green / Violet
I was attempting to take shots of the tomatoes and chillies at the market for the colour relationships exercise. This dear old couple were affectionately stroking each others hands whilst waiting to be served and I couldn’t resist capturing the moment, using the hands as the main focal point of the image and letting the red and green serve as the background.
The womans coat was a beautiful violet colour contrasting with the green background and appears quite intense due to the sunshine directly onto her, whereas the man was totally in the shade. I did crop the edges of this picture to centre the hands and used the bodies to balance each other at the edge of the frame. The highlights on the red tomatoes add extra interest to the top of the frame and brings an element of warmth to the picture.
10. Red / Blue
I made use of the sunlight to compose this image and waited for somebody to walk into the frame. I’m not sure if the man’s t. shirt was blue, or white but appearing blue because of the shade. Which ever way, it appears the same tone as the blue door providing balance and a nice contrast against the red. There is strong movement in the image from the light and shadows and the direction of the man walking.
11. Yellow / Red
This is my favourite image for the assignment mainly because it is just a simple image:
- The yellow sweatshirt is balanced by the yellow leaves and water hydrant on the ground
- The white of the sign balances the white trainers , stripes on the sweatshirt and bollard and the highlighted edges of the seat
- The black lettering balances the black trousers, bollard and background
I was able to take my time composing this shot because the man was totally engrossed with his phone. I paid a lot of attention to the bollard so the white stripe was in line with the grey stripe on the sweatshirt and the white top positioned against the black background so that it stood out in the frame. I also positioned myself to get all of the Express Pizza lettering in and enough of the red signage at the top of the frame to contrast with the yellow. Although the red and yellow clash the white and black help to balance the image and make it quite eye-catching.
In the feedback from my last assignment, my tutor suggested I read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes (Barthes, Roland (1993) Camera Lucida, vintage Classics, London). I have to confess I found it extremely hard going and will benefit from reading it a second time! However, Barthes use of the terms Studium and Punctum to describe the meaning of a photograph is absolutely fascinating. In a nutshell when a photograph stirs and interest in the viewer he refers to this as the Studium. The Punctum is the rare detail or element that rises up out of the photograph disturbing the studium to pierce the viewer with either pain or delight.
In his book Barthes quotes:
“It is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me”.
“Punctum is also a sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also a cast of the dice. A Photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)”.
I was really taken with this idea and it is now something I look for when looking at the work of other practitioners. When I loaded this particular image onto my computer, I kept returning to look at it not just because of the eye-catching red and yellow but there was something else happening in the image that I could not put my finger on. When I finally spotted it, it was a eureka moment!! The Punctum in this image was the young man’s device hooked up to an outlet of some sort (assuming electrical) in the bollard!! Just what on earth was he doing?? What a chancer!! The delight I got in finding this little detail was piercing – just how Barthes describes it!
12. Red / Blue
I was fascinated by this lady – assuming she was a tourist, heading from the bus station, through the market towards the taxi rank. She was extremely polished and classy, her clothing coordinating with her grey and red luggage and she just looked so out-of-place in the market! This is a contrast in itself!
Although there isn’t much blue in the image there is enough in the background and the clothing on others to make the red stand out providing a nice contrast and eye-catching image.
13. Red / Blue
This festive lady and her bored husband caught my eye at the christmas market. Her jumper and his expression are priceless! I particularly like how the royal blue shade of her hat is repeated at various points in the image which helps balance the contrasting red in what would otherwise be an image of cool tones.
4. Colour accent using any combinations
Colour accent is where one small spot of any colour sits against a larger background of another colour.
14. Yellow / Blue
Although there is pink in the shop window, it is the blue tones that dominate the background. I think I can get away with using this image as a colour accent of yellow / blue as the lady’s dress is also blue – if it had been any other colour, it wouldn’t have worked. This image took a long time to take as i was standing on the other side of the road and had to wait simultaneously for gaps in the traffic and people to walk into view. It would be a much better image if the sunflowers were in front of the shady doorway in order for them to stand out more, but any later and the view would have been obscured by a passing car.
15. Yellow / Red
In comparison to some of the other pictures, this one was relatively easy to take as the man was stationary. the only thing I had to decide was where to place him in the frame. Remembering the positioning a point exercise in part 2, I placed him near the edge of the frame to avoid a static composition. This naturally gives a bit of movement from left to right across the frame.
Red and yellow are contrasting colours – perhaps the image would be more striking if the colours were the other way round? A red background and yellow as the accent colour since it is brighter than the red?
16. Orange / Blue
Orange and blue are complementary colours and as orange is the brightest colour in this image, it is correct that the orange should be the accent colour. This was taken late afternoon in December, the light was very low casting cool shadows. the stall holder’s face is bathed in light from the bulb and acts as a second point of interest as well as creating some movement between her and the bag.
Digital SLR Photography / February 2015 / Issue 99 P.17)
Parr, M (2000) Think of England. London. Phaidon Press Ltd
Phillips, S.S. (2007) Martin Parr, London, Phaidon Press Ltd
Barthes, Roland (1993) Camera Lucida, vintage Classics, London
Shore, S (2004) Uncommon Places. London. Thames & Hudson
Eggleston, W (2002) William Eggleston’s Guide. New York. MOMA Press
Demonstration of visual skills
Since completing part 2 I have thought a lot more about the design and composition of my images. During this assignment I have actually quite surprised myself by using lines and shape to create tension and movement automatically rather than trying to remember to do so. It has been really interesting learning how to use colour as part of a composition and I’m beginning to instinctively use colour when wanting to create certain effects with my images.
Quality of outcome
After a bit of a shaky start on ideas at the beginning of this assignment, I am quite happy with the quality of my final images. Although I didn’t achieve what I initially set out to do with the work of Shore and Eggleston and subsequently feeling like a failure, I now feel I am beginning to create my own style of documentary / street photography particularly with the use of people. It has been interesting to look back on the images for assignment 2 and see how many images included people even with the architectural theme.
Demonstration of creativity
As mentioned above, I feel my style and personal voice are really developing and I am now more confident at going out into the street and photographing strangers to get the images I want. As with Assignment 2, it is interesting that I preferred to go out and find situations / subjects to shoot, rather than plan the details beforehand. Maybe this has contributed to the amount of time it has taken me to gather a set of images that I am happy with along with the mindset that “there will be better opportunities tomorrow”!! However, maybe this is a good thing – Martin Parr took his Think of England images over a series of 4 years and after all – Rome was not built in a day!
I have already scanned the criteria for Assignment 4 and see that the images should all be of the same subject. This will certainly require pre-planning and more thought about the outcome – very different from the approach I have taken so far. I will definitely need to think creatively to achieve different images for only one subject.
Although I didn’t particularly like the work of Eggleston (Eggleston, W (2002) William Eggleston’s Guide. New York. MOMA Press) and Shore (Shore, S (2004) Uncommon Places. London. Thames & Hudson) I have realised that you can learn so much from studying the images of other practitioners and it is just as important to do this with work you greatly admire as well as work that you don’t. Having read Camera Lucida, I now really scrutinise images to interpret their meaning and peel back the layers to try and reveal a bigger picture / story. In this context I feel my critical voice is beginning to emerge and I’m looking forward to discovering new photographers and their work over the duration of the course.