Are you suffering from a lack of inspiration? Do you Street shots look the same? Are you in a rut?
Often enough we plough our own furrow and on occasion what used to inspire only confirms we’ve reached a stepping stone in our street photography and it’s time to scale new heights but we don’t know where or how.
I come from a fine art background and have painted for a number of years so rather than incestuously digging over photos again and again, although this very much has it place, I reach into other visual media to inspire.
Loving the blur
In 1946 the painter Francis Bacon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bacon_(artist)) painted what I consider one of the most remarkable portraits in contemporary art, not only revealing the identity of the sitter but also investing the portrait with much more than a copy. Blurred and smeared , scratched and roughly worked ‘Screaming Pope’ marries both subject and method harmoniously in a single image with enormous impact.
How can this painting help my street photography?
Although blur has been used in photography, even taught in the ‘How to get motion trails like a pro’ handbooks, Francis Bacon’s painting is not about motion. The blur is about revealing the character of both the photographed and the photographer. This is terribly difficult in photography, a smudge too far and it reveals nothing, a smear too little and it’s just a bad snapshot. Although the appearance of this revelation could be ‘shopped in’, to push and inspire your practice of candid street photography, it would be to lower shutter speeds, adjust iso, widen the aperture, use flash in the day and shoot the soul of the street as it happens.This image I captured around dusk with a flash in the rain. I hope it speaks more than just of motion blur.
I personally love empty car parks, empty shops, places where hustle and bustle should happen but because of the time of day or circumstances or even cropping , nothing and no-one is in the image. I get a feeling of the beginning of something, something is about to happen, it sets me to dreaming of a story or a strange incident which might happen. A pregnant space. Edward Hopper(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper) , an American painter, is the master of insinuating something is about to happen in quiet empty spaces. Not wholly empty but a isolation born out by use of lighting and muted colours and ordinary people doing ordinary things. There isn’t the ‘decisive’ moment in these paintings, no leaping over a puddle or a happy boy carrying wine, it’s just life, adult and sombre.
This image is of the light cast by a take away kebab shop just outside a nightclub.
Photographs are a memory; the place , the time , the motion (hmmm I feel a song coming on :)) and British painter Howard Hodgkin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hodgkin) uses similar parameters to form his paintings. Although very abstracted, they are all of a certain happening in Hodgkin’s life. He uses lush, glowing, ‘fat’ colour to bring a lip smacking reaction from his audience and although they weren’t present at sometimes very intimate moments in his life there is this feeling of intimacy of experience which is shared through his use of colour. This image is a flower shop inside a shopping mall, closed but not quite.
So the next time you go out, digital paint brush (your camera) in hand, consider the painters, use their ideas to inform your own image creation and see where it takes you.