Saturday, October 22, 2011

Assignment 2: Colour Set

Although there are a number of decisions that need to be made prior to submitting the assignment, a key one will be whether to go ahead with a colour or B&W set, mixing the two is not an options.   When I started I was pretty sure that this would work better in B&W, the rather somber sub-plot and the highly structural nature of the space all suggested a monochrome treatment.  However, we have just enjoyed one of the best late Summer, early Autumn periods that I can recall, resulting in far more colour in the photographs than I had anticipated.  Subsequently I am first assembling a set of images that would work as a colour set.  B&W versus Colour is not simply a matter of processing it is also a matter of selection, some images will work as colour or B&W, but not both.

The other consideration is the colour palette that I am working with.  One reason I had B&W as the intended goal was that the Platz is largely monochrome, a mixture of stone, concrete and glass, with limited other colour.  With the good weather, a vibrant blue sky illuminated this dull world and mixed with the terracotta of the roofing tiles in the older buildings suddenly yielded a balanced colour scheme.  Although there is some greenery in the space, it is limited and the photographs that work seem not to contain too much.

Having determined to build a set with colour as the rendering intent, the question of how to theme the set becomes point.  I have struggled to get to this point, often documenting the fact that I am experiencing a lot of frustration with this assignment.  This stems from the fact that rather than creating a narrative sequence of photographs, I am documenting a small space occupied by some very large buildings.  Sure there is a tale of rebirth and survival, however this is a constant buzz, not a developing narrative.  These photographs have to illustrate elements of a whole, singly they might mean nothing, only together will they tell my story.

This set of photographs has to achieve a number of goals:

  1. Show that Judaism is alive once again in Munich
  2. Illustrate that the space is part of the broader culture of the city
  3. Place the new buildings within the old city of Munich
  4. Demonstrate the architectural nature of the space
  5. Leave a sense that all is not completely well
  6. Do all of this with a series of technically good photographs that have visual quality irrespective of the subject
Added to these concerns I also add the need to populate the photographs, this is a used space.  Not all of the photographs feature people but most do.  Finally I make no pretensions towards getting it right in the camera, I have utilized a variety of crops and have used Lightroom the the best of my abilities to improve the visual quality of the images.

Finally, before the photographs themselves a comment on the space occupied by the Synagogue.  In my first post on this assignment I displayed the following image, a Google maps screen grab showing the Platz and the buildings within:

The green line is the boundary of a single acre of space, the yellow line a rather larger area that I was going to allow myself.  As it turned out every photograph in this post and under consideration for the final set was taken within the green line, the acre ceased to be a limit and became a linking boundary. 

To start the set I begin with a shot of the old Munich arsenal, now the cities museum.  This houses a substantial Nazi exhibit, I have chosen not to include this in my set, it adds nothing that we do not already know about Munich.  The bicycle against the lamppost is a recurring theme in this set, people need somewhere to chain their bikes when they go shopping:

I like the eye on the building watching me, it is in the next photo also.  The next photo starts to juxtapose the newer buildings of the Jewish center with the older buildings of Munich.  To the right is the Museum book shop, to the left the Jewish Center, containing a cultural mission and a kosher restaurant.  Again I have included someone moving through the Platz to add movement and scale.

Walking 20 meters forwards and turning around the wall of the synagogue comes into view on the left, with the gaunt edifice of the cultural center behind.  This is not an attractive building and is heavily protected, bullet/blast proof glass occupies the windows.  Again a group of people adds movement and scale to the shot

There is a good deal of glass in the museum and given the right time of day it acts as an effective mirror.  This is a busy photograph, containing several ideas.  First of all is the reflection of the traditional Munich architecture in the glass, the old and the new.  I tried to directly image the pink building but could not find a satisfactory way to do it with interest.  To the right a lady runs her hands over the rough wall of the synagogue, most people are drawn to do this at some time, such is the texture of the stone, reminiscent of the wailing wall.  Finally a lady with a buggy is reading the text on the wall of the museum, which tells in German and English a number of little stories about what it is to be Jewish in modern Germany.  These stories are funny, but also very serious.

This is simply a descriptive shot showing the synagogue and the children's playground to its front.  I need to add some scale and perspective to the Platz.

Getting a little closer I am very fond of this capture, it conveys much of what the Platz is about, the gaunt synagogue is adjacent to a nice little playground, kids are always here playing.  There is life in this space, this is not a place of mourning, which it could easily be, 4,000 Munich Jews did not survive the war.

Now in a descriptive social documentary mode, I have turned the camera ninety degrees and imaged the cafe at the front of the museum, a place for parents to take a break, a beer or coffee and let the kids play in a safe car free environment.  This one may not survive transition to B&W, colour is the basis of the shot

Next I turn to a few details in the Platz, these are the armored windows of the Jewish center, reflecting the Munich museums older architectural style.  Not 100% sure about this, but it shows the old within the new in a kind of diptych.

A further juxtaposition is the roof of the synagogue with the Alter Peter in the background, two religions co-existing in a harmony of blue sky.  The lattice work seems to me to be a part of the Star of David and is meant to symbolize the tents that the ancient Israelis would have lived in.

Sadly it is not permitted to photograph inside the Jewish Museum, but one can use a camera in the lobby, so a chance for an inside out shot.  Once again the bicycle

Whilst pulling these images together I have tried to mix up the time and weather, once returning at dusk with tripod and 17mm tilt shift.  This is the first time in the set that I have shot the entrance to the synagogue.  I also wanted to show the inside of the museum, the dusk light makes this possible, whilst the two guys in front once again add some scale to the picture.

My final shot is a reminder that all is not completely well, the red bollards in the foreground and background exist to stop any vehicle getting close to the synagogue, car bombs are considered a serious threat to the buildings.  Although Judaism has been reborn in Munich, it is still under threat wherever it exists.

Well, that is my first go at creating a coherent set of photographs for submission as assignment 2.  I will think about the photos some more, there are a few weak links, the interior shot is hard to understand, however, I see no need to do any more shooting at this stage.  Next I will take another look from the perspective of what will work as Black and White.

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