NOTE: This is a Guest Blog post written by Timothy Lunn exclusively for www.streethunters.net.
iN-PUBLiC member Richard Bram speaks to StreetHunters about the importance of gesture in street photography.
A view of the London river emerges from the dull cloud of a December morning. Richard gestures out along the estuary, pointing toward the distant buildings of an occasional project.
When asked about the secret to his own street photography, he points to another artist: one to whom winter landscapes were also dear, one to whom a stoop of the leg or a wave of the hand was as important as a shaft of sunlight or a pop of vibrant colour.
But Richard doesn’t point to a photographer. He doesn’t point to the latest Magnum nominee or to the old masters of street photography.
Instead, he points to an old master of the painterly kind, a Flemish painter from the city of Antwerp working back in the 1500s.
That artist was Pieter Brueghel.
Of Brueghel, Richard says:
‘You know, you have to study the history of art. One of my favourite painters of all time is Breughel. A lot of his best paintings, like “The Road to Calvary” or “The Fall of Icarus” or some of his winter scenes, are filled with people.’
From the hunters bent forward, leaning out of the foreground, to the flattened peasant stretched across the ice in the mid-ground, his work is filled with actions, bodies, gestures.
For Richard then, the key problem in photography becomes not one concerning hard light or soft light, monochrome or colour, Canon or Fuji, but rather:
‘How much action can you put on one canvas before it falls apart? There are hundreds of things going on in some of Brueghel’s paintings – and yet they’re all gorgeous.’
To understand this problem further, we have to go back to the career of a failing businessman; one just starting his hand at photography in the mid-1980s, hoping for a change of luck.