Project 3: What matters is to look – Research point

Research point
Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001)
available in five parts on YouTube:
www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF
Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log,
taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words).

  • Whenever you read or watch something, get into the habit of putting anything you
    take directly from the source in quotation marks and note down full bibliographic
    details. If you do this, you won’t have to spend ages hunting for half-remembered
    references later – and you won’t inadvertently plagiarise someone else’s work.
    Always use Harvard referencing; print out the study guide on the student website
    and keep this to hand.
  • Be very careful about what you put on your blog. Take a moment now to read what
    the OCA learning blog study guide says about copyright law and fair use or fair
    dealing.

Parts 4 and 5 of the Henri Cartier-Bresson video ‘L’amour tout court’ have had the
audio muted by YouTube owing to copyright. However, the subtitles are still
included in the video which does allow the conversation to be followed without
audio.
‘L’amour tout court’ is also available on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/106009378
(accessed 26/09/2016).


The YouTube excerpts of the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ started with Henri mentioning that he escaped from prison. I looked into this for more details and found out that he was captured during the Second World War. From his confinement in forced labour camps he finally escaped after two failed attempts. He says in the video ‘I always feel like a prisoner on the run.’ (‘L’amour de court’, 2001). It is my opinion that this experience has been one of the major driving forces to his developed style of photography.

Shortly after this Henri comments ‘It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters… just be receptive and it happens’ (‘L’amour de court’, 2001). But this I think is more down to his uncanny awareness, heightened by that feeling of being on the run; always aware, always, looking, always listening, always searching. Using this amplified sense of awareness allows him to instinctively understand the geometry of what he sees and visualise the golden proportions within his field of view, enabling him to take images that seem naturally balanced. In this way he selects his framing waiting for the decisive moment, in anticipation of his target moving into the perfect position.

He lets the viewer into a few trade secrets. When with other people he tunes out, to him taking photographs demands ultimate concentration. Yet to those around him when he is taking photographs he seems to converse as if aware of them, though he confesses to talking nonsense. While taking photos he does his utmost to blend in with and become one with the scene, gentle and unobtrusive. To the point that he painted all the shining parts of his Leica black so that the camera attracts the minimal attention. ’I look, I look, it’s an obsession’, he muses (‘L’amour de court’, 2001).

My overall impression of Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of deep and profound awe. He demonstrates such amazing spatial awareness and a sensitivity to his surroundings, it is almost magical.

Reference

‘L’amour de court’ parts 1-5, 2001 YouTube video, added by Rangefindergeneral [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF (Accessed 2 April 2017).

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Project 3: What matters is to look – Exercise 3.3

Exercise 3.3

  1. What do the timeframes of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual
    film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera
    first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the
    shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright
    daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.
  2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do)
    where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things
    closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle
    distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole
    landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes).
    Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together,
    all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your
    camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to
    your learning log.

  1. Unfortunately the only film camera I have is a Nikon EM, which is an aperture priority semi automatic 35mm film camera. With the back open the shutter speed automatically defaults to 1/1000 sec and all that can be perceived is a brief flash of light. The only other speed settings are bulb (shutter stays open as long as the shutter button is depressed) and manual 1/90th sec setting for using a non TTL flash. Even when set to 1/90th sec the flash of light from the shutter is slightly longer but I am still unable to perceive a recognisable image. So the shutter speed would have to be a lot slower for me (personally) to be able to distinguish an identifiable image other than a vague shape. Maybe as slow as 1/2 sec or 1/4 sec. Without having the camera capable of setting these shutter speeds I am making only rough assumptions which for an experiment is not good enough.

2. Looking out of the study window I perceived the:

  • flat roof
  • caravan
  • driveways
  • cars
  • trees
  • roads
  • houses
  • telegraph pole & lines
  • sky

Taking in the whole scene there appears to be some natural framing and negative space. There is no wind so there is no movement in the trees and the clouds also have no distinguishable movement in the bright sky. I listen and hear a car door slam down the close and its motor start. From that I know it must come out of the close in front of me. I raise my camera to focus on the space between the two trees near the entrance to the close. I press my shutter as the car moves through this framing as shown below.

Out the study window

I believe that the purpose of this exercise is to help us to attune ourselves to our surroundings and to gain a level of spacial awareness that helps us to detect and act on movement within our peripheral vision. But for me it is not just sight but sound (as in the sound of the car, or people talking, sound of the wind in the trees etc.) and a level of gut feeling. All this Henri Cartier-Bresson called luck, but for me he was a man with amazing spacial awareness and sensitivity to his surroundings that borders on a 6th sense.

A link to my handwritten notes on my opinion of the Decisive Moment is below:

Notes on the Decisive Moment 

Project 2: A durational space – Exercise 3.2

Exercise 3.2
Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another
technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement
within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots
together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you
captured the shots) to your learning log.


As part of Assignment 2 I took a number of images around Waterloo station in which I was attempting to capture images that evoked the chaotic movement of commuter crowds. The following images were all taken handheld due to the restrictions regarding tripods within Waterloo Station. I tried various combinations of; height, angle, focal length and exposure. I think that the images evoke movement and provide the traces of time I was attempting to create.

Blur 1

Blur 1 – Focal Length 450mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 2

Blur 2 – Focal Length 123mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 3

Blur 3 – Focal Length 123mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 4

Blur 4 – Focal Length 90mm, ISO 400, Exposure 1 sec at f/22

Blur 5

Blur 5 – Focal Length 217mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2.5 sec at f/22

Blur 6

Blur 6 – Focal Length 450mm, ISO 400, Exposure 1/15 sec at f/6.3

 

Project 1: The frozen moment – Exercise 3.1

Exercise 3.1

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject.
Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible
blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated
John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and
a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.


The following series of 3 images were taken at covent garden during the performance of a street artist. I was lucky to have a seat and be able to carefully use my tripod discreetly.

The 2nd of the three really captures the action but  the 1st and 3rd provide context and the series works really well as a triptych.

artist 1

Artist 1 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

artist 2

Artist 2 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

artist 3

Artist 3 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

Post processing involved aligning and cropping images in photoshop. Followed by conversion to black & white and a few minor adjustments.