Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘street photography

The human presence

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Max Colson photography photographer tomato advertisement

Over the summer I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I had a camera in my room and it was burning a hole in the drawer where I kept it. What the hell kind of images should I make? What was the point of using the camera? Where was I going?

Earlier on in the summer I had handed in my first assessed MA project Napoleon Dynamite with a sense that it was okay. There were some nice images in there but, as was later commented upon, it was a piece which didn’t hang together as well as it could. Nevertheless I learnt a lot more about how to handle my camera under pressure and so it good learning experience in this respect.

I didn’t have any gleaming ideas over the summer either but I wanted to play around with how I was photographing and try something new. To try and free myself I decided to do some walking around London with a tripod and to try not photographing with a journalistic story in mind. Instead the only thing I would do is would to capture anything building or surface that struck me. Inevitably, being pictures taken in a city, there would always be a human presence.

Max Colson photography photographer shadow and face

Max Colson photography photographer council estate bin bag London

Max Colson photography photographer front door spyhole

Max Colson photography photographer council estate delivery boy london

Max Colson photography photographer atm cash machine london

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Written by Max Colson

November 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Day out in Rochester for the Dickens Festival

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I went to Rochester a couple of weeks back to take in the glories of the Dickens festival. I find it exotic enough just getting out of London period but one thing’s for sure – when half of any town town have dressed up in Victorian costumes for a three day weekend it’s got to be a pretty amazing place.

I was only able to make it for a one day unfortunately but I still had a laugh.

max colson Rochester old couple

An old couple and a pigeon

Rochester cathedral tombstones churchyard max colson

Rochester cathedral

Punch and Judy Rochester Max Colson

The end of a Punch and Judy show

child playing near a castle Max Colson

Child playing by a castle ruin

dickens festival rochester max colson

Some Dickens fans in front of a parked van

fantasy armoury max colson

Fantasy armoury (with skull)

street photography rochester max colson

Men, waiting

england boy flag and castle max colson

Boy dressed in Victorian costume

bill sykes dickens festival rochester

Bill Sikes (from Oliver Twist) lookalike

Test Driving the Panasonic Lumix GF1

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After checking out people’s work from the Street Photography assignment a few weeks back, I realised that I was definitely missing having a small camera to take around with me. What originally got me into photography was the point and shoot. It’s well small. You can just stick it in your pocket and forget about it, which is represents some serious freedom for the typical DSLR user. However their build quality is seriously lacking, and after having two pack up on me I’ve decided to opt for a better build of machine as I want my next compact for the long-haul.

I saw Italo Morales was having a whale of a time on the street with his Olympus EP-1. After some immensely helpful advice from him I actually eventually ended up opting for the EP1’s direct competitor the Panasonic Lumix GF1. It is small, it is lovely and it takes nice photos. I took it out for its first proper test drive this weekend. Here are some of the adventures:

 

Wedding dinner in Chinatown

The bride and groom cut the cake

Loadsa chats

Some sleeping

 

Unidentified man in bookshop

The Theatrical Backdrop (more thoughts on the street photograph)

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I was reading Uta Beyer’s post on street photos (which also has some lovely images and can be seen here). Aside from her images the other thing that I respond to is her enthusiasm for the ‘theatrical backdrop’ approach to taking the photo.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, snapping a moment is incredibly difficult. I’ve tried walking down the street snapping people literally in the face and to be honest it really doesn’t work for me at all. It’s not very nice; I’m not Bruce Gilden enough; I don’t like fights; it’s also an inefficient use of a frame. It’s a bit like cold calling I guess, because in that context people are really not expecting anything. In addition, sticking a camera directly in their face is a fairly violent act. I’m sure Gilden doesn’t think so, but it is. (At a public event I feel it’s quite a different matter however – more on that in a later post.)

But the backdrop approach I find to be much more pleasant, and enjoyable even. 1. You’ve worked out your frame, you’ve worked out the appropriate settings, and you can wait for everything to form in front of you. 2. You’re also not targeting particular people, which you are consciously doing in the street walking approach. 3. You are not disrupting other people’s space; people are only drifting into your frame. (But then I have also previously commented on Jo Ellicott’s blog that street photography is also slightly creepy, so obviously my views on this practice are slightly contradictory at the moment.)

The only thing that this approach drains from you is time.

I’ve been walking through quite a few museums this past week and a half, but the place where I think I found the nicest spot was the British Museum. I don’t think that these images are quite there yet, perhaps there could be more going on in them perhaps, but I do like their simplicity.

Mobile Phone Camera, British Museum

 

Passers By, British Museum

 

Head, British Museum

Written by Max Colson

February 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Street photos: acting, tourists, and memories of the banlieue

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Couple, Regent's Park

 

Capturing the spontaneous moment is difficult. It says so on the tin (and if it doesn’t then some poor sod should carve it in with their nails in frustration). I’ve been thinking on the things I should be aware of for next time, and the variables which give a decent chance of a street photograph to happen. I give you:

Max’s Street Photography Suggestions for Max

**Go to places at the times where the people are, don’t wait for them to come to you.

**Try not to look as if you are seriously taking these photos. Try walking around, do whatever —-> squint your eyes and act as if there’s some funny dust in the air slightly near where your subjects are. Do some acting. Just don’t let them know that they are the main subject (unless you want that to be a key part of the photo that is.)

**Try to look unfocused, even if you are on a seriously frustrating LCC course assignment and especially if you are trying to frame kids in your photos —-> (looking rather intense whilst sneakily taking pictures of someone else’s kids AIN’T a good look Max, especially in Britain!)

**Don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Getting the shot is hard enough, so if you don’t feel that you’re blending in then it’s even harder. (Unless you’re Bruce Gilden – but then you think he sits in the ‘different’ box anyway).

You can make yourself less noticeable by tweaking with the following variables:

  • The size of your camera
  • Your dress
  • Your people skills on the day (obviously don’t be confrontational, and if they’re checking you out then smile at them and they will be less likely to think you’re weird)
  • Your acting & movement  (move around a lot, pretend you’re looking at other things – it’s kinda important to make think that you’re not taking a photo of them)
  • The kind of location you’re shooting in

**Location is really key, especially if you are you and are shooting with a large  “HEY GUYS! **WAVE, WAVE** LOOK AT ME, I’M A PHOTOGRAPHER!!” kind of DSLR. Tourist areas great to shoot in because:

  1. Everyone else has a camera the size of yours – they’re less likely to notice that you’re strapped with gear
  2. Everyone is taking photos of each other – this is perfect camouflage for your snapping
  3. Tourist spots are tourist spots because they are usually visually interesting landmarks. These can provide interesting backdrops to your ‘moment’
  4. There are tons of people walking willy nilly about. And they are moving and floating into all kinds of weird and wonderful arrangements in front of your lens.

Oh yeah, the last thing is quite important too – try and not go into areas that you don’t feel safe shooting in. Max, do you remember that time back in the day when you thought you needed to go to the banlieue in Paris in order to get some authentic ‘street’ shots? Thought so :-p  !! There’s enough of the above to stress about as it is without adding anything else onto your brain…

I don’t think this checklist is by any means comprehensive at all, so please feel free to chip in with your comments and experiences if you have any…

Written by Max Colson

February 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm