Saturday, September 24, 2011

Assignment 2: Exploration

I have to admit that I having doubts about whether I can create as compelling a set of photographs as I did with the first Assignment.  The location I am currently considering, St Jakobs-Platz, has great narrative potential, but I am not yet convinced of it's photographic potential.  Conversely, this might be a problem for any small location, the variety of imagery is going to be limited and the point of this assignment is to develop an ability to document a space in a varied yet thought provoking manner.  For previous courses I have already completed similar exercises, as an example for the B&W assignment in DPP:  DPP: Assignment 3.  I have also done some detailed studies of locations in build up for other projects or assignments. In these cases the context was more limited, the point of the work was not the space, but demonstrating ability in a particular form of digital photography.

I have a few other spaces in mind for this assignment, each of which would, I believe, deliver good photography, but without a continuation of the legacy theme from my first assignment.  This is the point I am at, I have thought of building the entire course around a single theme, "Legacy", but this might inhibit rather than stimulate my development as a photographer.  I think a central narrative would add structure to the overall course, but only if I can make it work.  I can see how this could develop towards Assignment 3, I am less sure how it would work for Assignment 5.

In any case I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon simply walking around St. Jakobs-Platz, getting a feel for the place and watching the light shifting.  A key challenge in urban photography is that light is far less forgiving than in a more open space.  Shadows are harder and develop faster than in the countryside.  A tight space may only have direct light for a few hours.  I have been shooting mostly during the day in clear skies (the prevailing weather right now), which is probably more challenging than working with cloud cover.  This location will also work well in the rain, especially with a B&W theme.

I am not processing these photographs to B&W for this post.  I want to retain the colour for the time being.  I have divided the photographs into a number of themes that drew me whilst walking around.  The first is the Stadtmuseum, the old city armory built in the late Gothic style, and very strikingly different from the synagogue.  One reason that I have left these images in colour is that I love the colour combination of the roofs with the sky

What I have tried to do with this set of images is to explore different angles for shooting the museum together with different framing.  In each case I am very concerned to keep people in the frame to add scale, but also to emphasize that this is a public space.  The  second image works best for me in this set, the overlap of the glass and concrete with the museum, coupled with the people walking adds depth and helps describe the interlock of elements within the space.

I next turned my attention to the synagogue, struggling with the light, in fact from no angle was the building evenly lit at this time of day.

This image is back lit adding some, but not much, luminance to the glass cube sitting above the lower block.  The line of black columns are an anti-terrorist device, every approach to the synagogue is protected with these columns, each topped by a red light and capable of being retracted into the ground.  There is an obsession here with security, clearly driven by the Isreal connection, but also sadly by threats from German neo-nazi groups.  These barriers could form an important part of my narrative and link the intolerance of the past to fears in the present.

In this second shot of the synagogue I have deliberately used the shadow as a pictorial element, but without any special meaning, this is simply an exploration of shape and form.

Next I started thinking about how to capture details of the synagogue, first considering the challenge of how to image the wall and glass cube.  The first image uses the specular reflection of the sun to add a detail, it clearly does not work, but is a possible if I can work the sun into the frame work.

In the second shot,I have used the sky to add texture to the cube, whilst including both sky and wall in the frame.  This one works for me and has some potential as a detail.

Another way to use the wall in the photographs is via juxtaposition, using the wall as one edge of the frame

Again, this idea needs more thought and development, it will also work better in a tight crop with softer light.

Stepping away from the buildings and their architecture, I turned my lens towards the people occupying the space, enjoying the sun.  St.-Jakobs-Platz has a number of seated areas, which gather people together.  In many of these shots I have gone with panoramic framing to emphasize the people

With these photographs I want to steer this assignment towards "People and Place", avoiding turning this into a simple architectural study, tempting though that might be.  Each photograph must imbue itself with the location as well as the people, must remember that this is the Landscape course.

The two key features of St.-Jakobs-Platz are the synagogue and Stadtsmuseum, however, a number of other buildings intersect the space, two of these are the Jewish Museum and Jewish Center.  Both are very modern buildings, stone faced with plenty of glass.  This glass reflects the other buildings and people, especially as the light falls in the afternoon.

These photos offer juxtaposition, in particular the first one has the old museum reflected in the windows of the new.

I finish with a few images, that do not sit within a category

Just off one edge of the Platz is a short street filled with open air cafes, in good weather this is a popular hang out.

This intrigued me, the two posters and the waiter smoking underneath them

My final image is an odd one, this is the very understated museum of the 3rd Reich, a difficult place for Munich, but a sign of growing acceptance of the past and recognition of a new to admit to what happened and move on.

Working through these photographs I find that I am more comfortable with the location, but it still needs some thought if this is going to be strong enough for my 2nd Assignment.

My final comment concerns equipment and focal lengths.  For this shoot I took 3 prime lenses, a 35mm, 85mm, and my 24mm TS-E.  I used the lenses fairly evenly, however looking at the exif on this set of shots: 12 came from the 35, 10 from the 85, and only 2 with the 24.  I am increasingly finding that 35mm is a great focal length for working in the city, good field of view combined with excellent contrast.  The 85 allowed me to step away from my subjects, allowing some compression of planes, but without placing me too far away.  The 24 was less useful this time as I was more concerned with people in the space, than with the space itself.  The tilt-shift lenses are fabulous for inner city work, but are not well suited to quick moving exploration, they work best with a slower more deliberate method.

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