Part 1 – Exercise 4 -Composite Image

The brief for this exercise was to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be.

Sifting through a couple of photographs I’d taken in the summer, I decided to use a an image of a bull-run street festival in a little village in Portugal where a young boy was in the fenced off arena of the street and eyeballing the bull whilst talking on this mobile phone…  I decided to teleport a little girl from Cambodia into the middle of the image… the image of the girl was useful because it was a full body image with a relatively plain dusty earth background which would enable me to easily select her and add her minus the background to the main image. Also the lighting on both images was similar, i.e. daylight but not bright sunshine. I suspected this would help both elements blend well together.

The result is shown below…. it’s not hugely successful as I didn’t feather the edges of the little girl and so her figure doesn’t blend in particularly well, however it feels like this would need a lot of practice in Photoshop to make it look seamless and the image half-way believable.




Part 1 – Exercise 3 – ‘Public Order’ by Sarah Pickering

The brief for this exercise was to look at the series of images entitled ‘Public Order’ by Sarah Pickering and explain how her images made you feel and also answer the question ‘Is Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?

I felt that the 2 images provided in the course materials were rather nebulous rather than being unnerving or disquieting. Presented alone, they depict an obviously deserted location near a nightclub (a common occurrence during daylight hours) and what appeared to be a boarded up back of a half-dismantled warehouse.

As you look at more of the images, the knowledge about the location grows and you start to piece together what it might be, rather like a jigsaw puzzle. Equally, if you only selected a particular handful of images which only offer up a few minor clues, you could get a sense of a post-apocalyptic UK, a land devoid of humans. For example, taking the following images on their own, you wouldn’t believe that a tube station would have no forms of life buzzing around it, and the alleyway, without evidencing signs of life in the form of rubbish or debris on the ground, could also leave you with an eerie sense of unease.

However, the group of images below, the one on the left being also somewhat ironic with it’s front door also doubling up as its back door, walking straight through the front door into the garden, as well as the couple to the right clearly showing the mock facades of the building walls, give clear indications that this a much less sinister location. As a film set, it’s quite grim, but the two bashed up cars facing each other, give a clear clue that this is some sort of training ground, maybe for the emergency services.

I think that the series as a whole is quite interesting, but it’s not instant information-giving and therefore, doesn’t necessarily easily fit into the documentary classification. Simultaneously I don’t think it deliberately misleads, although the artist could be accused of ‘playing with us’ a little bit. The deliberate use of the overcast skies in every image does cast a bit of a sombre atmosphere over the shots, but to me this just allows the images to feel like part of a series rather than give a real sense of any dark, other worldly undertones. As a set of art photographs, these don’t appeal to me apart from perhaps as a puzzle to unpick.


Pickering, S. Public Order At Accessed 17 September 2016

Part 1 – Paul Seawright’s ‘Sectarian Murder’ Series

The research point in the Course materials suggested looking at Paul Seawright’s work Sectarian Murder to answer a number of questions:-

How does this work challenge the boundaries between documentary and art?

I think that reverting to first principles about what documentary photography is, would be a good starting point. The course materials succinctly maintain that documentary has a ‘distanced style, often described as cold’.

In Sectarian Murder Seawright revisited the sites of sectarian attacks during the 1970’s close to where he grew up in Belfast. The texts are from newspaper reports at the time and document the murders of innocent civilians, killed for their perceived religion.

Looking at a number of the images and accompanying text from the series, they can definitely align with this ‘cold’ description: The captions, drafted by Seawright from  actual newspaper reports, are almost brutal or clinical in their lack of emotion, using hard facts with little or no elaboration.  The subtlety is all in the images.

However, to  apply the adjective ‘distanced’ to the set would be quite untrue. Each image seems to have been taken from a specific individual’s viewpoint and there is a deliberateness to this choice, lending the viewer to being acutely aware of the artist’s involvement and in turn, him clearly wanting to convey his own personal message.

itemsfs_9511Using the photograph above as an example, Seawright did not simply photograph the location in a straight documentary style, but he also wanted to give us a sense of perspective from a human viewpoint. He could quite easily have taken a shot of the location standing on the grass. Instead, he captured the location from the perspective of a child looking over the sea, waiting to head down the slide. He wanted us to truly understand the innocuous nature of the site – a child’s play area perched on a cliff top, as a stark contrast to what he had included in the text – “Tuesday 3 October 1973 – ‘Late last night a 28 year old man disappeared from a pub. It wasn’t until this morning that the body was found abandoned in a quiet park on the coast”.

Susan Sontag in her book of essays ‘On Photography’ explained:-

‘When looking at a painting we are very aware of the artist. This is not the case when looking at photographs, and in the case of ordinary and utilitarian photographs, the photographer is almost irrelevant. Photojournalism is successful because the work of good photojournalists is so similar, they are powerful images because they copy the world and do not express ‘…an individual artist’s consciousness’. In the vast majority of photographs this consciousness ‘…interferes with the primary demand of the photograph: that it record, diagnose, inform’.

Using Sontag’s quite forthright language, Seawright has obviously let his ‘consciousness interfere with the primary demand of the photograph to inform’. Applylng Sontag’s quite rigid rules therefore undeniably moves this series into the genre of ‘art’ as opposed to ‘documentary’.

The British Photography website stresses the importance of viewpoints in their assessment of the series of images and explained that Seawright had researched the events and in some, if not all of the images ‘… re-enacted the route taken from the place from which a victim was snatched to the eventual spot of the murder or dumping of the body.’ The commentary goes on to explain ‘Such reconstructions of reality built up tensions within the artist, as well as eliciting the lingering presence of gross transgressive acts from the location..’

I would contradict their assertion that ‘Each scene was photographed in colour from the victim’s viewpoint – close to the ground.’  Not only were some of the images taken at normal shoulder height (see bottom left), some appeared to be taken from the point of view of the gunmen. The image to the bottom right clearly mimics the viewpoint of the murderers as they would have held the victim children in their weapon sights outside of the chip shop, the sugar-coated colours of the car interior a shocking contrast to the text describing the bloody act, accompanying the image: ‘Sunday 3 February 1973. Gunmen using a stolen car, shot down 5 young boys who were standing outside the Glen chip shop  on the Old Park Road. A sustained burst of gunfire wounded four of the youths and killed the fifth.’

The rather obvious statement to make about the images also, is that they clearly move away from the genre of ‘documentary’ in that they don’t actually depict anything from the actual event bar the scene of the crime, and in many cases not even that, the locations were where the bodies were finally dumped. This can render the series almost as ‘late photography’, the central theme of ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ exhibition which I visited at the Tate Modern in December 2014:

Specifically, Seawright’s series reminded me very much of Chloe Dewe-Mathew’s Shot at Dawn set of photographs from the exhibition, where she also used the location of the event as the central subject, being the sites where WW1 soldiers were executed at dawn for cowardice or desertion. Whilst Dewe-Mathews was fastidious in ensuring that her image was taken at precisely the same time of day that the soldiers’ were executed, so Seawright seemed equally as methodical to ensure that he researched the route that the murdered person took hours before and after their death before their body was taken to its final location before it was discovered.


Chloe Dewe-Mathews ‘Shot at Dawn’ Image -Soldat Ahmed ben Mohammed el Yadjizy, Soldat Ali ben Ahmed ben Frej ben Khelil, Soldat Hassen ben Ali ben Guerra el Amolani, Soldat Mohammed Ould Mohammed …


Listen to Paul Seawright talk about his work at: [accessed 24/02/14] What is the core of his argument? Do you agree with him?

In the interview, Seawright explains how he grapples with the fine balance between an image hinting at it’s meaning or message, or being too blatant or ‘journalistic’. The central core of his argument seems to be that rather than stamp his message on a viewer, he wants his art to be interpreted in exactly the way we want to decipher it, and however we do that, it should never be an instantaneous process. Rather like high end cooking he seems to imply that art needs to be digested slowly in order to be enjoyed. He talks of ‘giving up meaning’ as a necessarily slow process in order to hold attention and to avoid the instant view then ’15 second later’ page turn.  He definitely wants us to work at understanding the images and by that in turn for the viewers, makes them all the more satisfying to look at.

If we define a piece of documentary photography as art, does this change its meaning?

Eric Newton, in his article ‘Four reasons why great Photojournalism is Art’ uses Oxford Dictionary definitions to argue his point:-

Art is….. “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” Artworks come “typically in a visual form … to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

He then asserts… ‘That’s great journalism’. (2014)

I agree with Newton. I think that certain documentary images are so compelling that you can look at them for a long time. And these art/documentary images don’t need to be holding our gaze as objects for morbid curiosity, such as could be argued they might, for brutal images of war or terrorism. (I think the world is long past being shocked by violent or bloody scenes.)   I think that a documentary style image becomes art when it triggers any one of a wide range of emotions,  be it humour, awe, shock, despair. All these go beyond the point of ‘informing’ in a documentary sense, and it is quite simply because photographs have the power to evoke these reactions (which will differ from viewer to viewer), that this changes their meaning. As Seawright points out also, an artwork is personal to a viewer so the meanings become much more complex and can be dictated by a whole range of factors, including personal experience, family background etc.

Certainly where a photograph is displayed has an impact on its meaning and connotation and how we react to it.  Sarah J Coleman wrote an article having visited the Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea to see photographs by Tim Hetherington, the war photographer killed in Libya in 2011. Viewing the image below, she writes:-

‘I admire Hetherington’s work, but even so it a bit felt jarring to see his images of Liberian child soldiers and decrepit hospitals commodified into beautiful 4′ x 4′ art prints. The contrast between the dirty-colorful, poverty-stricken Liberian landscape and the perfect white walls of the gallery was ironic to say the least.’ (2012)


My focus is usually always on the aesthetics of the image, however or wherever it is presented, however I can appreciate that this can have an effect on how we ‘read’ a photograph and therefore may skew its meaning.

At the moment this topic feels enormous and I feel I’m just skimming the surface. It would be good to revisit the questions later on in the course.


British Photography / The Hyman Collection. Paul Seawright : Sectarian Murder (1988).  At Accessed at 14 September 2016

Newton, E. (2014) Four Reasons why Great Photojournalism is Art. At Accessed at 16 September 2016

Coleman, S (2012). Documentary Photography at the New York Photo Festival. At Accessed at 15 September 2016

Basic Critical Theory for Photographers : Susan Sontag, On Photograrphy

Part 1 – Exercise 2 – Colour or Black & White Street Images?

For this exercise the brief was to pick a ‘favourite street’ and take 30 images in black and white and take another 30 in colour. The street I chose in Norwich was Magdalen Street, a street that starts in the historical heart of the city next door to the iconic Anglican cathedral and then deteriorates wonderfully into a world of ‘grungy’ charity shops towards Anglia Square, an area which has bizarrely been threatened with the addition of ’boutique shops’ by the local planners, and a promise which thankfully has not yet been fulfilled.

There were some rather obvious choices for colour – people walking in the low winter sunshine with the light just catching their faces (above top right), some colourful trolleys thrown around by the wind (above top left), ‘busy shop windows and a historic shop front where street signs battle for space with the extended shop floor as the furniture spills out (above).

Along with the ‘trendy’ retro atmosphere of parts of the street, some of the businesses are stuck in a time-warp, including the hairdressers shop below which proudly boasts ‘Appointments not always necessary’.. this image cried out for a black and white finish to emphasise the fact that time has not moved on and the old fashioned hair dryers work just as well as they did 40 years ago.


Some of the contents in the shop displays  were also quite bizarre and seemed to lend themselves to colour just so that they were noticed… for example in the image on the left the small pink guitar at the back of the shop would have been completely lost in a black and white image.


Conversely, for some images, I felt that the lack of colour created irony in the photograph and that’s why the colour, however little there was, needed to be retained.  Heading towards Xmas, this sad looking shop front didn’t exactly fill me with Christmas cheer!

Equally, for some images I felt it wouldn’t really matter if it was black and white or colour. In the shot below, a woman cowered behind the sign stuck to the café window, obviously in an attempt to avoid the camera. Her leopard print coat appealed to me, but this also showed up in the black and white version.  The lack of customers apart from the cowering woman also seemed to work well in the image and similarly, it didn’t matter if I’d shown the strewn empty chairs in colour or black and white.


The Xmas fun-fair in Anglia Square in the image below gave me the opportunity to play with the balance of black and white or colour during post-processing of the image.  I desaturated some of the image to emphasise the grey, dismal feel of the shoppers sitting gloomily on the benches, possibly not relishing the idea of the impending festive season, but I liked the colours of the empty ride and the leading yellow power cables providing the life in the image. I also think the bollard says ‘Danger! Watch out ! You might have fun here !’


My final comment on the choice of black and white, is that sometimes a gloomy day can be exaggerated using colour and can add to the overall melancholy feeling within a photograph. I think that using black and white can mask that atmosphere, which of course makes it a useful tool to use to combat the UK weather. The ‘Moonlight Cafe’ below sounds like it could be a rather beautiful and romantic location and therefore the dismal, colourless winter afternoon retained in what little colour there was, to me, added to the irony of the image.


This is far from my best set of photographs on a not particularly inspiring day, which in itself was a good test for me to go out and find images whatever the weather or location. Consciously concentrating on choice of colour or black and white was also a good exercise for something which often feels instinctive and therefore difficult to pinpoint or explain the reasons for choosing one format against the other.

Part 1 – Cartier-Bresson and the move away from Surrealism

Cartier-Bresson was known to have been heavily influenced by Surrealism in his early years as a photographer, he socialised with Breton and other Surrealists in Paris in the 1920’s and was inspired by the idea of allowing subconscious thoughts to create images.

The British Photo History website described how Cartier-Bresson photographed political events in Paris such as the French liberation and the 1962 massacre and the following quote from him seems to imply a certain level of automation in his image creation which of course would link him to the idea of surrealism:-

‘I kept walking the streets, highly strung, and eager to snap scenes of convincing reality, but mainly I wanted to capture the quintessence of the phenomenon in a single image. Photographing, for me, is instant drawing and the secret is to forget you are carrying a camera.’  (Pritchard, M. 2016)

However, further research into Cartier-Bresson and how his work has been exhibited, has persuaded me to ensure I avoid type-casting photographers as belonging to a particular genre or artistic movement:

In her article ‘Beyond the Decisive Moment’, Ellie Armon Azoulay reviews the Cartier-Bresson exhibition curated by Clément Chéroux at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2014. She explains that the exhibition was arranged in three sections, each of which spanning a particular time period :-

  • 1926-35 – Mostly marked by early, Surrealist photographs made during his travels;
  • 1936-46 – Distinguished by his return from the US; and
  • 1947 – 1970s – Begins with the foundation of Magnum Photos in 1947 and ends in the 1970s when he retired from Photography and turned to drawing.

Azoulay is critical of the restriction that classifying the images places on their meaning. She explains… ‘in the second section of the exhibition, “The Attraction of Surrealism,” a large number of photographs are read through the prism of Surrealism, which diminishes their humanistic, social, and political aspects.’ The example she uses is the following image of Livorno, Italy (1933):-


She explains ‘the wall text reads: “the viewer would dearly love to lift the cloth, but the image cannot be unveiled: that is how our desire to see it aroused.” This invocation of the “veiled erotic” seems out of place’.  (Azoulay, E.A. 2014)

In order to find out more for myself, I visited the Cartier-Bresson ‘Paris’ exhibition at the University of East Anglia where 81 images captured between 1929 and 1985 were on display. I wanted to see if I could distinguish any point in time where the influence of Surrealism started to become absent from his work.

The images were an ecletic mixture of different photographic styles and genres but nevertheless there were some early images clearly influenced by Cartier-Bressons interest in Surrealism:-

Both photographs above were taken in 1932 and the image to the left, harks back to the Surrealist obsession with depicting something which looks alive but isn’t (or vice versa), while the image to the right clearly echoes the Surrealist idea of ‘doubling’ (originating from Freud’s essay on the ‘uncanny’), and ‘inexplicable repetitions’.


However, other images in the exhibition from his earlier years as a photographer, appear to be making more of a social statement such as this photograph ‘La Villette’, taken in 1929. There may be a tenuous link to Surrealism in the fact that the lifeless body on the ground appears to have no head and a dark menacing form, but I sense that the essence of this photograph is all about depicting the harsh life on the streets during the years of the Depression post WW1.

It’s true that many of the later photographs curated in the exhibition appeared to have little to do with Surrealism, and more to do with e.g. composition or communicating the sense of a person via a portrait, such as in the two examples below:-

Above left: The Palais Royal Gardens. 1959.
Above right: Jean-Paul Sartre, Le Pont des Arts, Paris, 1946

Both of these images appeal to me. The Palais Royal Gardens photograph is beautiful in its movement generated by the curved rows of trees, framed by the perfectly placed row of houses in the background. The comtemplative portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre is atmospheric with the fog as well as being perfectly composed with the main subject obvious and his companion deliberately cropped out of the frame.

I get a sense that whilst Cartier-Bresson moved away from creating the more obvious Surrealist-typee photographs, he was always influenced by the movement throughout his career. In ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work’, Peter Galassi selected the following quotation which highlighted this idea:-

“Alone, the Surrealist wanders the streets without destination but with a premeditated alertness for the unexpected detail that will release a marvelous and compelling reality just beneath the banal surface of ordinary existence.”

He goes on to express : ‘The geometric formalism of Renaissance painting and the serendipity of Surrealism were two key influences on Cartier-Bresson’s photography…. Over the next half century Cartier-Bresson would travel the world with a Leica in one hand… inwardly he held onto the spirit of Surrealism while outwardly calling himself a photojournalist’. (Springer, M. 2011)

Sean O’Hagan from the Guardian re-iterated this idea by selecting another of Cartier-Bresson’s quotations:- ‘Surrealism has had a profound effect on me and all my life I have done my utmost never to betray it’ (O’Hagan, S. 2014)

Further insight from the man himself can be heard in the following video clip:-



Pritchard, M. (2016) Exhibition: Henri Cartier-Bresson: PARIS / 23 April-29 August. At Accessed at 1/9/2016

Azoulay, E.A. (2014) Beyond the Decisive Moment. At Accessed at 2/9/2016

Springer, M. (2011) Iconic Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson takes you inside his Creative World. At  Accessed at 1/9/2016

O’Hagan, S. (2014) Comrade Cartier-Bresson: the great photographer revealed as a communist. At   Accessed at 3/9/2016

Part 1 – The Surrealist Movement

The course brief was to comment on the shift away from Surrealism (as in Cartier-Bresson’s work), which the research point in the course materials required and whilst I was familiar with Cartier-Bresson, I knew nothing about Surrealism. I’ve made the following notes as part of my research using various sources on the subject:-

André Breton founded the Surrealist movement in 1924 when he wrote “The Surrealist Manifesto.”.

The ‘The Art Story’ website explains:

‘Breton defined Surrealism as “psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought.” What Breton is proposing is that artists bypass reason and rationality by accessing their unconscious mind. In practice, these techniques became known as automatism or automatic writing, which allowed artists to forgo conscious thought and embrace chance when creating art.’

The ‘Photography Office’ website describes the method:-

‘The Surrealists recognised the artistic potential of écriture automatique, or so-called “thought photography,” in the supposedly realistic recording of the camera….’

‘The work of Sigmund Freud was profoundly influential for Surrealists, particularly his book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899). Freud legitimized the importance of dreams and the unconscious as valid revelations of human emotion and desires; his exposure of the complex and repressed inner worlds of sexuality, desire, and violence provided a theoretical basis for much of Surrealism’ (The Art Story).

There are many descriptions of Surrealism which seem to magnify its power to almost other-worldly proportions:-

‘The images obtained were prized precisely to the degree that they captured these moments of psychic intensity in provocative forms of unrestrained, convulsive beauty.’ (from the Met Museum website

‘Their organization writes, “Their efforts to tap the creative powers of the unconscious set Breton and his companions on a path that carried them through the territory of dreams, intoxication, chance, sexual ecstasy, and madness.”’ (

I think surrealism becomes more interesting when you understand the techniques used to create the images. A number of methods and ideas were used:-

  1. RayographsMan Ray created “rayographs”, or “rayogrammes”. Man Ray placed different objects on photographic paper then exposed them to light and developed the paper. The part covered by the object remained white, while the area around it turns black.
    man-ray-rayograph-ca-1922-865x577   man-rays-rayographie-rayograph-1925-and-untitled-rayograph-1922
    Man Ray Rayograph 1922      Man Ray Rayographs 1922 and 1925
  2. Solarisation – overexposure of the negatives e.g.
  3. Photomontages
  4. Multiple and/or long exposures
    ‘In his 1919 essay ‘The Uncanny’, Freud attempts to analyse why certain things disturb us – things that are not quite right and have a disquieting strangeness. He suggests a number of common examples of this, such as things that reoccur in doubles or many times where there should only be one. This includes the doppelganger or ‘double’, where an exact duplicate of a person suggests a loss of certainty about identity; as well as the apparently inexplicable repetitions such as when an image, word or number keep appearing as if by chance.’ (taken from Stephen Bull’s ‘Photography’).
  5. things that appear to be alive when they should not be and, conversely, things that seem to be dead when they should be alive and most photographs simultaneously bring to life things that have passed and cause what was living to be stilled
    Bull also describes how ‘… after the trauma of the First World War, eerily accurate body doubles of the dead were summoned up by medium-phtoographers and exposed in the darkness of their studios to create spirit photographs for those wishing to see their loved ones again’. This exploitation of grief for commercial ends is something the world is not all too familiar with.
  6. Rotation / Distortion
  7. The Ugly

Above Left:- Jacqueline Goddard Man Ray : 1930. In this image Man Ray solarised the image (black has become white), shadows glow, and gravity is defied. The result was achieved by taking a negative print, rotating it 90 degrees.

Above Right – Dora Maar – Portrait of Ubu. This image featuring an armadillo fetus immersed in formaldehyde doesn’t involve any unusual photographic processes or manipulation but the resulting image is unnerving and gives the viewer an uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what they are looking at.

8. Juxtaposition
‘A very common Surrealist technique is the juxtaposition of objects that would typically not be together in a certain situation or together at all. This has been described as “beautiful as the encounter of an umbrella and a sewing-machine on a dissecting table” (de la Croix 710). Juxtaposition can be used to show a metaphor or to convey a certain message.”’  (

Having viewed a number of images categorised as ‘Surrealist’,  I’ve decided to add some photographs which appeal to me, one of which is from a founder member of the Surrealist movement, Philippe Halsman, one from a contemporary professional Surrealist photographer, Lara Zankoul, and some other images found on the internet which have followed some of the same Surrealist principles.

salvador_dali_a_dali_atomicus_09633uPhilippe Halsman – Dali Atomicus, 1948

The playfulness of Halsman’s image really appeals to me. Here is an artist who thinks anything is possible when creating an image – its only his imagination which limits what you see in the frame. The hands of the prop man holding the chair to the left is a wonderful inclusion .. imagine his excitement at achieving creating this photograph that he neglects to ensure he remove the mechanical tools/people that are contributing to it. The overhead lighting creating the shadows on the floor was obviously designed to evidence that all the human/feline or inanimate objects were magically suspended in the air, but the shadows also give the photograph almost a menacing feel.

‘Frenemies ‘- Lara Zankoul
This photograph really resonated with me and seemed to perfectly describe the complexities of female friendships. The linked arms harks back to the simplicity of friendships in early school days and yet the threatening underwater scissors, hidden from viewers at the surface, unsettle the viewer… it is a physical or mental attack just about to happen. Will anyone find out the truth? The twin-like women, dressed alike, hark back to the idea of ‘doubles’ in Surrealist images.


Heather Buckley
Heather’s image to the right was used to advertise a street photography workshop she held in the US. I like the expression of the giant grumpy dog looking up into the sky. Has he just had enough of sight-seeing for one day? His owner holding the map seems oblivious… The church is also well placed between the two subjects completing the well thought composition.

My final two images were created by John Meehan. See his art photography at:- They are clever examples of contemporary street photography which echo the Surrealist ideas of a century ago.


Part 1 – Black and White v. Colour in Street Photography

The course materials suggested researching some street photographers including Helen Levitt and some of her images are shown below. I think that the first two photographs suit the black and white/colour format choice: the image to the left repeats the same green in 3 separate areas of the frame and this really adds impact to the composition. In the second image, the choice of black and white accentuates the shape of the two pairs of legs and allows the viewer to concentrate on the visual curves and form of the entwining legs rather than being distracted by colour.

The photograph below from Helen Levitt is one which I feel might have been more successful if it had been shot in colour; the boy’s face appearing out of a sea of clashing colourful comics would have made him stand out from the background and given the  photograph more impact:-

Helen Levitt - Hide and Seek

In addition to the suggested photographers, I also reviewed images from the popular ‘Street Photography Now’ book by Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren. The following photographs are my particular favourites from the book. I’ve included some comments on how I think that the choice of colour or black and white, has added to the overall impact of the image.

Above left:- Macief Dakowicz – Pink Hat, Cardiff, 2006
Above right top:- Matt Stuart – Oxford Street, London, 2004
Above right bottom:- Melanie Einzig – First Avenue, New York City, 2004

Each of these images above is really strong because of the use of colour which has for each highlighted the individuality of the characters depicted. Matt Stuart’s photograph of his ageing subject shading her eyes from the low sun, comes to life because of the repetition of the colour red throughout the image – in her coat, her nails and in the bus. The feminine pink and purple of the ‘Pink Hat’ character in Macief Dakowicz’s image, renders it comical because the colours are at odds with the burly frame and the ungainly pose.  The crocheted character stands out because of his uniformly lemon outfit, which is actually quite regal!

The two images below from Katy Grannan’s ‘Boulevard’ series shot in Los Angeles, California, USA 2008-10, are striking with their stark white backgrounds rendering the characters unequivocally the main subjects; no distracting background or props providing any additional narrative. Whilst I feel that the colour has added some interesting detail especially with the harsh pink lipstick and the ginger tufty sides of the man’s beard, shooting them in black and white could also have been used to accentuate the character and the lines of the ageing, sad-looking Marilyn, and add to the texture of the baseball hat-toting character’s hairy head and body. Using colour for the subjects but blanching out the background gives the images a contemporary ‘minimalist’ feel.

The image below, entitled simply ‘London, 2003’ from the British Street Photographer David Gibson is particularly clever in it’s use of black and white. An obviously colourful object, the Rubik’s cube has been photographed here deliberately in monotone shades so that it mimics the subject’s striking diamond-patterned tie. The man’s walking stick also subtly mirrors the railings and adds to the rhythm of the image as you read it from left to right. Removing the man’s head from the composition also serves to focus on these elements. Gibson wants us to notice how the shapes and patterns are echoed throughout the image without being distracted by colour.

David Gibson - London, 2003

The image below from Raghu Rai – ‘Rickshawman taking a nap in Jama Masjid Market, Delhi, 2005’, is possibly my favourite street photography shot from the book. There are so many creative and clever street photography techniques within the frame that appeal to me beyond it’s obvious lure of it being shot in colourful India. The juxtaposition of the peacefully sleeping, almost ‘giant’ rickshaw man in the foreground against the hustle and bustle backdrop of the blurred passers by behind him with the third layer of the image, the chaotically stocked tyre shop, is so inspired. The image could have been equally as successful in black and white but this doesn’t seem appropriate for a photograph in one of the most colourful countries in the world.

Raghu Rai - Rickshawman taking a nap in Jama Masjid Market, Delhi, 2005


Howarth S., McLaren S. (2011). Street Photography Now’.