Hull KR v Wigan

This week I was asked to take some behind the scene photos at Hull KR’s Lightstream Stadium during some of their matches. I had previously met with some of the media and design team to discuss the club’s requirements. The photographs will be used in Hull KR’s posters and publicity.

As a bit of research I attended the match against Wigan. I had a tour of the stadium and was then given permission to wander around and take photos of the crowd, the family area and in fact almost anything apart from the action on the pitch which was being photographed by others. I was really enjoying myself until the bitterly cold weather forced me inside. It has given me a good idea of the shots I want to take next time when I do it for real.

I chose to use my Sony A77 with the 18 to 200 lens as this would give me the best wide angle and zoom without the need to keep changing lenses. These were going to be test shots so I set the camera on Aperture priority and started with an aperture of F11.

These are a few of the images I took this time.

The photographs are going to be used in colour and there wasn’t a lot of post-processing that I needed to do. There was the usual cropping and straightening and to correct a couple of converging verticals. It was a very dull cloudy day so where the sky looked particularly dark I tried to brighten it a little being careful not to allow clipping in the lighter tones.

In the camera calibration part of Lightroom I also increased the blue saturation slightly. Not only does it make the blues look brighter it really makes the red of the Rover’s kit pop.

Typologies

Typology is a systematic classification or the study of types. In photography it usually consists of a series of photographs taken at the same angle, in the same lighting conditions and filling the same amount of frame. Individual images are then assembled as a panel.

Karl Blossfeld, Plant No.38

There are several significant photographers that have chosen this style for their work starting with Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who used a home made camera that enlarged his subject by up to 30 times. He concentrated on photographing flowers, nuts, seeds and other plant life. When his work was eventually published in 1928 he became an international bestseller and his book has been a significant read for photographers and botanists ever since.

Probably the best well known photographers of this style are German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Beginning to work together in 1958 they began by travelling around the German Ruhr and Holland to large industrial sites and photographed the large structures they find there. They later also photographed in Britain, France, Belgium and USA.

Bernd and Hilla Becher. Winding Towers, Belgium, Germany.

Their images of water towers, blast furnaces, pitheads and winding towers are clearly detailed and appear to look more like diagrams than photographs.

The early morning flat light gives the viewer a detached feel and the inclusion of surrounding objects and buildings gives a very real sense of scale.

For the Becher’s, this style of photography came from a love of the environment and a desire to document and record the structures that were being dismantled as industry was disappearing.

In a different style, but also in the 1960’s, Ed Ruscha’s book ’26 Gasoline Stations’ is another notable typology. Taken between Ruscha’s home in Los Angeles and his parent’s home in Oklahoma City the photographs are all taken from the street and often include the forecourt and the street.

Ed Ruscha, 26 Gasoline Stations

Another project of Ruscha’s was to photograph every building on the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas.

Over the past decade, Donovan Wylie has photographed military watch towers around the world. First in Northern Ireland where he grew up and then on to places like Afghanistan and Canada.

The watchtowers are all shot at eye-level, often from a helicopter against a plain sky so that you can easily see the differences and similarities between them.

Donovan Wylie, A sign of things to come … Northern Ireland, 2006. South-east view of Golf 40, a British Army surveillance.

 

KCFM Station

I have made several visits to KCFM to take photographs around the station for my documentary project. I tried to attend at different times of day in order to photograph what was happening throughout the day. I have also tried to get some detail shots as well as some wider views that show some context.

Lighting is different in some of the studio photos as different presenters like to work in different lighting conditions. The breakfast show presenter likes it to be very bright as it helps him wake up in the morning. As the day goes on though, presenters dim the lights to help them focus on the screens better.

The team at KCFM have checked and approved all of these photos for use in my project and to be posted on my blog. They wanted to double check that there was no confidential information on display in any of the images.

This has been one of the easiest projects that I have done in terms of getting the photos that I wanted. I have enjoyed my time with the team at KCFM and there has been no conflict at all. Once or twice someone has asked me to not use a photo because they didn’t like the way they appeared in it but I have simply pointed out that it is for my assignment and if it fits with the final images then I may have to use it. Even this hasn’t really been an issue.

KCFM Right Up Your Street

This week I did my final photo shoot for my documentary project with KCFM.  I accompanied Breakfast Show presenter Matt as he approached members of the public for the Right Up Your Street feature.

We met in the Prospect Centre shopping mall with Mel, a member of the Street Team, and a couple of Christmas elves to look for people that Matt could chat with. On this occasion they were particularly looking to talk to people with small children as the Christmas elves, who worked for the Prospect Centre, were giving out vouchers in envelopes that were suited to this demographic.

Matt and Mel usually take photos on their mobile phones that they can then add to the station website so, from me, they were looking for better quality photos that showed the presenter interacting with his listeners.

It was much more relaxed that the other events I have attended with KCFM and I hope that the photographs reflect that. The team were much more aware of my presence and, without me asking, stood in a position where I could photograph them clearly. I think also that having worked with the KCFM team a few times now they were comfortable with me being around and confident that I would get the photos they wanted.

Don McCullin

This week I watched a film about documentary photographer Don McCullin.

He is known particularly for the war and famine documentary photographs that he has taken over the past forty or so years. What struck me most about him is that even though he has been to some terrible places and seen some appalling things he doesn’t appear to have been hardened by the experience. He still seems to be very sensitive to the victims that he has photographed over the years.

He began his career working for the Observer magazine in 1959 by shooting photos of the boys he grew up with in Finsbury Park but his first experience of conflict was in Vietnam where he was shocked to see his first execution. Sadly it wasn’t the last execution he witnessed and he speaks of how he never wants to glamourise death. At times he has even deliberately put his camera away and stopped taking photos, especially when soldiers or mercenaries have been showing off in front of him.

Over the years he has worked for several newspapers and magazines including the Observer and Sunday Times magazines, but many of his assignments have been through his own intuition or determination and he has gone to dangerous places because he chose to go and wanted to go. He clearly enjoyed the thrill of being in war zones but he has always battled inside his own head about why he was going and what his purpose was.

“You have a moral sense of purpose and duty, you have to work out which of those purposes and duty you’re there for. Its very difficult too, you want to take this picture and you want to stop it.”

And that desire to ‘stop it’ has been what has caused him to intervene in some situations. He never wanted to to be a voyeur who simply looked. He describes the time when he carried an elderly lady to safety in Cyprus and elsewhere he is described as becoming one of the troops, risking his own life in order to help rescue wounded marines.

“Photography suddenly didn’t come into the picture even it was…, it had nothing to do with photography. After a while if you are that involved in that kind of situation, its not about photography, its about humanity.”

He demonstrates a deep empathy for the very poorest people and it is their stories that McCullen felt he needed to tell through his photographs. He had a passion to report and thought that there are some things that can only be found out through reporting. He could get to places and find out information that even governments didn’t know about.

“I’m a photographer. I am neither an artist or a poet. I’m a photographer. And one of the things I have learnt most of all, over and above photography, the very best qualifications you can have when you are in this situation and you are exercising this duty as a photographer or whatever, reporter is that it’s much better to be on the side of humanity.”

In terms of his photography he suggests looking for the little things, saying that they tell you more about a situation than the more obvious things and highlights a photograph he took during the civil war in Cyprus where a beautiful dog is in the middle of a team of fighting men who are crouching with old rifles behind a makeshift barricade.

McCullin feels that it is “My duty is to be there (in a war) for a reason, not just to have a bloody good time.” He always wanted his  photos to be hard hitting and make the situation real for his viewers.

Shell Shocked Soldier

However it was the honesty of McCullin’s photographs that eventually worked against him. He wasn’t allowed to go and photograph the war in the Falklands for reasons that were never made clear but most likely because the forces were uncomfortable about McCullin’s honest and dangerous reputation. Soldiers felt that they had been let down by the media during the Vietnam war and now the forces wanted to carefully control the images that are released during war time.

I was building a reputation as a war photographer, which today I really detest. I worked for it and then when I suddenly felt that I was being acclaimed as a war photographer, suddenly I felt uncomfortable and dirty. I felt being call a war photographer was like being called a mercenary.

Today Don McCullin spends his time photographing the English landscape. It seems to me to be a welcome change from the haunting images of war, famine and atrocity that he has previously photographed.

Documentary Trends

There are a number of trends in documentary photography that have been developing over the past few years.

Firstly the way documentary photography is funded is changing. While it is possible to receive a commission and to be ‘sent’ to cover a story many photographers are turning to crowdfunding websites to support their work. Websites like www.sponsume.com and www.crowdfunder.co.uk allow photographers to post details of their project online and seek sponsorship for it.

With the rise of mobile phones with cameras, there has been an incredible increase in the number of photos that are available. It seems like there is next to nothing that has not been photographed already and no where to go that cameras have not already been. In addition there is a rise in the number of people that call themselves photographers. There is a perception that anyone can take a photograph. The sad truth is that while anyone can take a photograph, not anyone can take a good photograph. And a good photograph is what is needed to stand out among the proliferation of poor images and selfies that we are bombarded with every day.

This has also led to a rise in citizen photojournalism. Kevin Mullins said this about the problem, “whenever there is a news event, the BBC will ask for people to submit their mobile phone images. People are doing it, and some are doing a good job – it’s always important to have the news stories covered, of course, but at the same time, in the UK at least, a lot of news photojournalists are being put out of work or having their fees drastically reduced.” (Source)

In the past ten years or so there has also been new ways for people to share their photos, new images or otherwise. This was an interesting example about photojournalists using Instagram.

The line between documentary and art is becoming more and more fuzzy. Photo journalists like Mitch Epstein and Edward Burtynsky are creating fantastic fine art images that highlight social and environmental issues and these images are selling for hefty prices and are collected by galleries around the world.

Peiter Hugo is a great example of a documentary photographer that uses fine art techniques when taking and displaying his images. This is sometimes referred to as conceptual documentary.

I have a particular interest in wedding documentary photographs while there are many examples of great wedding photographers combining art and documentary styles. Two good examples are Jeff Ascough and Denis Reggie. I like the way they capture the intimate moments at a wedding without any posing.