To kick off my Photography Course at Coventry University, I was given the task of researching and producing my own set of photographs based on Topography and photographers who use this. For this task I was given a map of the city with ten locations that I should visit which would be the locations for my photographs. I was also given a set of quotes from photographers who use Topographics in their work; I had to take inspiration from the quotes given to me to inform and provoke ideas for photographs that I would take at each location.
So what is Topography? Topography in photography is where the photographer captures a scene, either a natural one such as landscape or a man-made one i.e a city, in the most realistic and detailed way possible, without using fancy techniques to alter the viewers perception of the scene. In 1975, when the exhibition ‘New Topographics’ was exhibited, there began a shift away from the old method of depicting a scene that was made to seem beautiful and inviting, to ones of unromantic and stark everyday scenes that normally people wouldn’t give a second glance to. The exhibition included work of photographers such as Robert Adams, John Schott and Henry Wessel.
After researching what Topography was, I then went back to look at the quote from the different photographers and read them through thoroughly, I highlighted and annotated them with brief notes so that it made it easier when thinking of ideas for my own photos and how I would link my work to the quotes of the photographers. Then I could go out and begin collecting my own photographs.
Bill Brandt- “I feel the simplest approach can often be most effective. A subject placed squarely in the centre of the frame, if attention is not distracted from it by fussy surroundings, has a simple dignity which makes it all the more impressive”- ‘Camera in London’, The Focal Press, London 1948, p.13
‘The Snicket’- Bill Brandt, 1937
From this quote and piece of his work, I took inspiration for my photo taken at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. I used Brandt’s idea of not needing any tricks or gimmicks to make my work look good, I focused on the subject and nothing else. For my photo, like Brandt does in his work, I filled the frame with the subject, in my case it was the interior of the building. I decided to take this photograph as I thought the interesting architecture of the building and the contrast created by the lighting made the photograph very bold and dramatic. In my work, like Brandt’s ‘The Snicket‘, the photograph has been taken so that the viewers’ eyes are drawn into the photo leaving all the attention on the subject. Furthermore I desaturated the whole photo to make the photo even simpler like Brandt does in his work.
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
Minor White- ‘the subject generate its own photographs.’
‘Boy Reading Book’- Minor White, 1942
I took inspiration from White and his work, as he creates natural photographs by just letting the subject do their own thing, White feels that he doesn’t need to direct his subject and that they will create photographs by themselves by being natural and relaxed. When visiting the Student Centre I took a photograph of a boy texting, he was natural and comfortable and so therefore my photograph doesn’t feel forced. Similar to White’s work, I changed my photograph to black and white to make it simple, and so that the viewer could concentrate on the subject rather than the colours.
Robert Frank- ‘deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view’ ‘important to see what is invisible to others’- page 115 of U.S. Camera 1958. Published by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. in 1957
‘Parade’- Robert Frank, 1955
Frank uses photography to show the viewer what he sees and what others may not, they may just pass on by without even noticing something, he looks at things that are less obvious. For my work I took a photograph of a small hairdressers by the sports centre, to most people when walking past they wouldn’t have noticed anything and just thought it to be empty, however I noticed the reflection in the mirror of someone getting their hair cut, and so I took this photo to show that if you look at the less obvious you may notice something that on first glance you would wouldn’t normally. I also desaturated my photograph to echo Frank’s work.
Hairdressers by the Sports Centre
Eliot Erwitt- ‘I stayed back. Always let the people be themselves.’
‘New York Dance School’- Eliot Erwitt, 1977
Erwitt believed that as a photographer he shouldn’t get in the way and just let his subjects act natural. I took inspiration from him when taking a photograph outside the Hub, as a group of business men where just standing there and so I captured them in a natural state just chatting, with them not noticing me. In both mine and Erwitt’s work there is a sense of irony, as in his photograph the viewer would expect adults to be dancing all dressed up, whereas it is actually children in this photograph; and in my photograph the viewer would expect business men to be seen in a meeting room and not talking around a rubbish bin. Similar to Erwitt’s photograph, I desaturated mine.
Helmut Lang on Juergan Teller- “I love his ability to say out loud what other people are afraid to even think.”
‘Stars- Kristen Stewart for W Magazine’- Juergan Teller, February 2013
As Lang said, Teller isn’t afraid to tell it how it is, he captures realistic shots and doesn’t dress up the photographs. When visiting Alma,I took a picture of a dead tree as I wanted to show, like Teller, how not everything is perfect. I wanted to show the real view, how it is rough and ugly, most photographers would have taken a different shot of the city to make it seem more appealing, likewise they would have dressed Kristen Stewart up and put make up on her to make the whole photo something that the viewer wants to see, whereas I feel I’m telling the truth, and that not all the city is perfect.
Nan Goldin- “complete disregard for the camera’s presence’ ‘The subject neither notices nor seems to care’ ‘invited into a private moment.”
‘Heartbeat 7’- Nan Goldin
Goldin uses a camera to capture intimate scenes, as though she and the camera are both invisible. When visiting the Coach Station I took the photograph of people waiting for their coaches to arrive, I especially concentrated on two subjects in the whole photograph that are in the foreground, a mother reading to her daughter, I felt this was a very intimate and personal moment to capture, and most mothers usually read to their children at bedtime and they do it out of love. Whereas Goldin shows the love of two young people in her photograph and the physical connection they have, my photograph shows the love and connection of a mother and her child.
Edward Weston- “dare to experiment, consider any urge’- Edward Weston to Ansel Adams”
‘Pepper #35’- Edward Weston,1930
I took inspiration from Weston and how he feels impulse shots can be successful, and that if you see something that looks good or that catches your eye you should be brave and take the photo even if it doesn’t always work; you could get an amazing photograph. So when walking into the Ellen Terry building, I took a photograph of the flyers on the wall as I thought they looked interesting and unusual due to the lighting and texture they created. Furthermore, like Weston I feel that the photograph is brought to life by the the lighting creating contrast and bringing interest to the whole photo. I also made the photograph black and white to echo Weston’s techniques.
Martin Parr- ‘I don’t announce it’
‘Cara Delevingne for Ponystep Magazine’- Martin Parr, 2012
From Parr’s work I took influence in capturing natural photographs of people and their surroundings without them posing. I took a photograph outside the Swimming Pool of a girl sitting at the bus stop, like Parr’s photograph of Cara, both photographs show the girls lost in their own world of thought. The bright colours contrast with the idea of the girls looking unhappy, due to their sad expressions or the posture and sitting alone in my photograph, however if the camera was ‘announced’ the girls would put on a false smile to cover their sadness, showing how photography should be used to show a true portrayal of a person and not what the viewer wants to see.
Duane Michals- “Trust that little voice in your head that says “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…” And then do it” – More Joy of Photography by Eastman Kodak (Editor)
‘Sad Farewell #4’- Duane Michals, 1968
Michals uses instinct for his photographs, if he thinks it would be interesting then he takes it. For my photograph influenced by him, I took a photograph of the bus stop near the Jaguar building. I found the lines of the car park lead the viewers’ eyes up to the main focal point of the bus stop, making the photograph more interesting. I also desaturated my photograph to have further linked to Michals’ work.
Bus Stop near Jaguar Building
Philippe Halsman- “do not rely on tricks or special techniques”
‘Untitled (Pregnant Woman and Cat)- Philippe Halsman, around 1950
Halsman says that you do not need to rely on anything to take a good photograph, simple shots with nothing fancy can be better than over exaggerated ones. For my photograph I decided to take the entrance of the library, as like Halsman’s photograph, the lighting creates a point of interest. In Halsman’s photograph the lighting illuminates both the woman and cat, whereas in mine the lighting highlights and shows off the beautiful architecture of the building. I changed my photograph to black and white to recreate Halsman’s work.