Photography and the Art of Reduction
It is said that unlike painting, where you ad impressions to a blank canvas, photography is the art of reduction. Reducing the amount of unnecessary clutter within the frame, reducing our multidimensional understanding of the word into a 2d frame. A frame that sometimes even doesn’t show colour. Reducing my love for the parks, the people and the streets into a series of 6-15 images.
For this assignment I did without doubt take too many photographs, but because of the shooting style I ended up choosing (flânerie + mostly shooting from the hip, and/or in passing, in order to be of the least disturbance to my surroundings and myself) my miss-rate was rather high. So with that in mind, I don’t think I could have done much differently.
848 photographs. The first stage is finding those I like, the second stage is narrowing down those I like to a manageable number guided by formal photographic knowledge and gut feeling. Keep in mind, I have still no idea what the last series will look like. Then I’ll going to print out about 50 images on cheap, glossy paper (size about A5) and see what stories I find among them. The last step is a kind of going back and forth between editing and sequencing. Getting both the look, theme, feel and subject matter just… right.
But, the problem with too many images that are fairly ok is that I can tell any story I’d like about this neighborhood. I can make a series touching upon social problems? Or perhaps study of parks and trees? Gender roles? late 19th century/early 20th century architecture? Strollers? Dogs? Here are some examples:
A Short Note on Sequencing Photographs
In a pervious post I wrote that for me a good photographic series is one where the photographs carry what one could call a «family resemblance». If the images are too different it doesn’t look right, and if they are too similar it gets boring. But what the differences and similarities consist of in each case might be hard to pin down.
In addition to this, the order of the photographs put up for show matters. As I have a background in music and dance I think about it as way of displaying a sense of rhythm. Working like a choreographer with a very long and narrow stage-platform, with dancers facing the audience. The same way each of their movements tell a story of its own, yet creates a whole narrative, I imagine each photograph as one tiny story, being pieces (ironically enough) of a larger picture. In the end I wish for some kind of symmetry, or perhaps a story arch. Something with a beginning and an ending, and yet looks whole when gazed upon all at once.
Monochrome vs. Colour Images
There are monochrome (usually black & white) photographs, and there are color photographs. There are even various versions of in-between-variations like colour images of black and white subjects, split toned photographs, and the likes. Mike Johnston, of the Online Photographer, distinguishes between three types of colour photographs: pictures that are in colour, pictures of colour and colour pictures. Photographs in colour simply means that the medium used to make that image was a colour process. A photo of colour is a photograph where (bright) colour(s) is the main subject. Colour photographs, on the other hand are images where the photographer has (actively) used or been aware of the colours within the frame to make a pleasing or interesting effect (Johnston, 2015). The first class might handle a modern, digital black and white conversion well. The other two varieties might not.
I decided early on that I unless something surprising happened I would do colour this time around. If I was going to make B&W images I might as well do film, and I didn’t really have the patience for that just now. For me, colour is more of a challenge, for many reasons. The most distinct one is that a lot of my earlier work are black and white images.
In the end, some of my most beloved pictures from this project are obviously pictures of colour. They are close-ups of pictures of street art murals, patterns form a market or just an indulgence in Autumn leaves. However, most of my images this time around are pictures in colour. They just happened, as a part of the process. The colour pictures I do got are surprisingly enough almost without any colour. Their hues are subtle, soft and quit.
After struggling for weeks getting the series right. I decided to let my pride go, and convert the same images I had previously printed (in colour) to black and white.
The result looks something like this:
Suddenly, the images look like they belong to each other! – And that they belong to me.
Next time, I’ll be a bit braver and make some of the changes I’ve already decided against…
The Final Edit
The story I want to tell is the story of the little things. Because that is what I think of when I picture the Square Mile area. The sign saying «THIS IS IT», on the roof of the National Acedemy of the Arts, the river, the parks, the graveyard, the skater boys and the basketball players, all the people walking their pets or toddler, the loud music until the early hours, the school children, the hipsters, the art, the beggars, the birds and coffee. The endless amount of places where you can buy coffee. Home. This is the place I came alive, this is the place I nearly died. The people here are funny, kind and they care.
About a lot of things.
And so do I.
In the end I wanted to create a piece on connection. A connection between people and stories we tell ourselves. Like one has to be two in order to be happy. Or as Christopher McCandless put it; happiness is only real when shared (Penn, 2007).
Or is it?
This is my square mile.