I’m not sure if we’re supposed to be doing a sketchbook/blog post on the development of our summer photobook project but I’ve got into the habit of doing them to run alongside projects I do, so thought I might as well.
After initially struggling to come up with an idea for or even know what goes into a photobook, I’ve now had a few ideas for possible topics.
The first idea I had was to take photographs of items that are blue. This piece would, unsurprisingly, be called Blue. The items would be anything and everything I could find and were the correct colour. It could include things as large as architectural pieces, all the way down to small items such as bottle tops. Things could be photographed in their natural environments or set up in a studio environment like a product photography shoot.
With the Blue idea, yes, there is a narrative running through it (everything is blue) but after some research into other more famous photobooks, I decided not to do this just yet. Perhaps it’s an idea for a personal project at some stage in the future.
Another idea I had was to call a photobook Chair, and simply put a bright coloured chair of some description in places you wouldn’t normally find it and so making it stand out and look out of place. This piece could call for the chair to be placed in scenic places for more interesting backgrounds and compositions or, it could have the chair put in more urban areas like streets and car workshops etc. The idea of the urban areas evolved into the capturing of people’s reactions to the brightly coloured chair in a place it shouldn’t really be.
The Chair idea then envolved further into an idea I really rather like but have decided not to go with for a formative summer assignment. I feel it needs more nurturing to, maybe, use in the future, either in a summative assignment or another personal project to make me pick my camera up more than I have been doing recently.
This project/photobook would be titled, Take a Seat. This is an idea that came about from me furthering the thought process of Chair even further. During the summer break, I’ve been researching several photographers and came across a chap whose work I really rather like; Alexey Titarenko. During the first year of my degree, I experimented with motion in some of my images after coming across artists such as Gjon Mili and Michael Bosanko. Titarenko has also used motion in his still images for exhibitions such as City of Shadows.
The image above is one of my favourites from that body of work and is what led to the evolution of my Take a Seat idea.
Take a Seat would involve me taking a seat of some description, the more colourful the better, to busy locations to place in high human traffic places. These places could include a busy indoor or outdoor market, the Clock Tower in Leicester city centre or places of work etc. Once the seat was in place, I’d mount my camera onto my tripod and set it up to take a long exposure. This would then capture the busy people walking past the chair but keep the chair and surrounding scenery in sharp focus as they wouldn’t move for the duration of the exposure.
I feel that I’d need to place the chair in areas that have decent scenery so as to give the viewer something to look at other than a lot of images purely focusing on the motion of people past the same chair on every page of the book. It’s this repetitiveness of the image idea that makes me wonder if this would work for a photobook or whether it’s best used for a single image. The photobooks I’ve researched are documentations of communities and so have the same theme running through them but are varied enough by being of different subjects in different places. This idea is one that needs to be discussed with tutors.
The idea to be Used
Right, so after going through a few ideas, I finally settled on one that I’ll title, Before the Storm. This photobook is inspired by a Duane Michals book/exhibition he called, Empty New York.
In his piece, Michals got up early on Sundays and wandered around the city of New York taking pictures of areas of the city devoid of people that would normally be bustling with its citizens as they make their way through their daily routines.
I plan to take this idea and twist it a little by wandering around the city of Leicester as the shopkeepers and market stall holders are setting up for yet another day of selling. I’d hope to capture the people and architecture of the city in my images as well as, perhaps, a close-up shot of some of the products each trader sells. This would involve me going out of my comfort zone to approach people to explain who I am and what I want the shots for. If I can get myself out of this silly, annoying shyness when it comes to approaching people, I could maybe also get a portrait shop of them too.
It’s titled, Before the Storm as I’d be documenting the calm that occurs every day before it.
Before the Storm Initial Shoot
I finally managed to drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday for a trip to Leicester city centre in order to test my idea for Before the Storm with some test shots. In a nutshell, I don’t think I’ll be going with this idea after all.
My idea and thought process were to capture the market stall owners and shopkeepers setting up shop ready for the day, before the throngs of shoppers descended upon them. It would appear that I had this notion that shopkeepers still setup displays etc. outside their shops to entice passing shoppers in. I guess with the number of not-very-well-off people in the city centre who would find these displays to be rich pickings, as well as the health and safety laws around public places these days, it’s no wonder there wasn’t the kind of opportunities I’d hoped for to create some images for my book.
In the end, I basically ended up looking like I’ve copied Duane Michals’ idea of capturing the city of residents in a state void of people (I must admit that I prefer it in this state).
Because I ended up with work too close to that of Duane Michals (even though the scenery in mine isn’t as cool), I’ve decided not to go with this idea now. As I’ve said, the subject doesn’t give me what I’d envisioned so it’ll never be right in my head.
Having said all that, the trip wasn’t a complete waste as it’s given me the initial thought-process ideas for another possible project. I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘people person’ (which makes me wonder if I’ve chosen the wrong career path) but, now that I’ve had a look at the images I took during my early morning walk around the city, I can see that it’s actually not that ugly a place to photograph. For me, it’s the absent distraction of people that makes the bricks and mortar cityscape stand out and present itself as a possible subject for a future photobook. This book could have a title that eludes to the fact that it’s humans that make the place look and feel untidy and ugly. I think this would require shooting during the summer when the sun comes up earlier to give me more chances to photograph an empty Leicester city centre.
Hmm, ponder ponder…
I did have another idea after deciding against Before the Storm. It would be called Is This Leicester? and would be a series of fine art pieces produced from my photographs I’d take of architecture around the city. Most would be turned into black and white with a minimalist feel to them, as per the example below.
This fine art photography style (as I believe it’s called) is definitely something I want to explore and learn how to create but feel it’s going to have to be put on hold until I’ve completed my degree as I still lack ability and confidence within Photoshop and, after a look into how these images are created, doubt that I’d have time until next summer to teach myself how to create them (unless I can somehow fit it in as my exhibition assignment in year 2?).
Anyway, until I learn how to use Photoshop, and other software, to a much more advanced degree than the course teaches us, this style will remain way beyond me and will, unfortunately, have to wait.
New (Simple) Summer Photobook Idea
Car shows. Simple.
After having another read of the assignment sheet, it became apparent that I’d started thinking about grand ideas for my first photo book, to the point that I’d forgotten that we could keep it simple and “charts your adventures during the summer vacation” (how very American).
After dismissing previous ideas or putting them on the back burner, I’ve decided to keep it simple and go for the charting of some of my adventures. Well, they’re not exactly adventures but are what I’ve been doing over the summer break. Car shows aren’t exactly exciting, but they do bring together in one place a wide variety of human beings. My idea is to try to capture some beautiful automobiles but to also capture the kinds of folks that attend these shows to appreciate such feats of engineering. My main problem now, though, is the fact that I only came up with this idea towards the end of the summer break. This is an issue as it only leaves me with 2 shows to attend in order to get the photos. Because of this, I may have to extend it to people-watching at the IWM Duxford Battle of Britain show. This would give me 3 events to shoot at.
The sample images in the gallery above may not be that interesting on their own but with a little bit of text to go with them, they might become a bit more enjoyable to some people. For example, the couple driving into the show in their Commer camper van are interesting to me. Although I think those vans are cool as ****, that’s not why I took the photo. It’s more to do with the relationship of the couple and the fact that the woman looks REALLY bored and depressed about the prospect of spending yet another day plodding around yet another car show looking at yet more boring cars talking to yet more boring people who think they know it all. Another challenge (other than the limited time I’ve left myself with to get images) is going to be in the creation of a small amount of text to help bring the image to life to add some kind of depth to it, other than them just being photos of shiny cars.
As is the case with the images I took around Leicester city centre, the images above are straight out of the camera and compressed for showing my progress so far. Before they were to be considered for inclusion in my photo book they’d be edited within Lightroom for cropping and reduction of highlights etc.
Two more shows to go to with IWM Duxford’s Battle of Britain show and Pistons and Props at the beautiful Sywell Aerodrome….
Putting it Together
After an unsuccessful trip to Pistons and Props at Sywell Aerodrome and a none event at Duxford due to the rain, I’ve been restrained to mainly using images from the car show in Sheffield. To be honest, the images I got there were pretty good in terms of what I was after from my people-watching.
In terms of software to use to produce the book, I’ve decided to go with Bob Books. This is a piece of software that needs to be downloaded onto your computer (they also have an app for phone and tablets) and isn’t solely online like some of the other companies. I prefer this as it means I can work on my book even if there is no internet connection available.
The initial feedback I’ve received has been helpful and has cleared up one of the decisions I’ve been trying to make about whether to have the images level on each page or at different angles to look like a scrapbook.
The image above shows the Bob Books interface and what I mean by having images at an angle on the page.
The feedback I received was that the book would probably benefit from doing away with the angles and go with correctly placed images which sit straight on the page. It was also stated that the book would be better if it was all about the people at the show and their obsession with cars. To achieve this, I’ll remove a couple of the images that are purely about the car and replace with images of more people (if I can find them on my PC).
I will also redo the Forward to be more about the obsessive folks I find at these kinds of shows engaging in their chosen niche pastime.