When we look at classic street images, a lot of the time if someone asks what you like about an image, you probably will not even know.
You will pause, study and be drawn into someone else’s world, click like maybe.
You may be inspired and decide you want to create that sort of impact or emotion.
Indeed when we share with each other in Progressive Street, we hope for good feedback and hope to inspire others.
It is always lovely to be in a gallery for people to appreciate. But more importantly we want to know why people like our images.
Let’s be honest, sometimes we are not sure ourselves why it works. Then someone may pop up and say wow! “ I love how layered this image is, wonderful perspective, the triangular connection”
Of course we respond, “yeah I knew that”! And of course a lot of the time we do.
Ever heard the phrase, “you have a great eye” Well the classic masters had that eye. An ability to see an image before taking it.
A lot were classically trained photographers born out of photo journalism, the likes of Robert Capa, who not only recorded horrific events as they unfolded, but every day moments in time.
They will have known through study, all the technical aspects of a good photograph, as we do from our passion. Don’t we?
Not all were learned scholars though, some were just given a camera and the rest is history. But they had a natural ability to get an image that incorporated all or a lot of those technical aspects.
Of course back in the day, taking analogue images in mono presented a whole heap of challenges, but they overcame them with punchy monos, depth, framing, diagonals, curves, perspective, focal points, rule of thirds, leading lines etc. We still love that BW nostalgia don’t we.
Then of course came along colour and all the challenges associated. Tonal matching, contrast, warm and cool, lighting and the direction of it.
Sound like a lot of similarities? And it did not end there, they did not have lightroom back in those days but they did retreat to the dark room.
Dodging and burning and exposing for best impact, who says processing is cheating?
Of course life is easier now, reviewing and dumping as we go, but we still have to recognise technical aspects to know what to dump.
Or do we? Maybe we shoot and dump on instinct. Of course there is a lot of luck involved capturing a split second moment. If your head was full of alignments you would never shoot. You must get all the technical aspects into your sub concious. Have your camera ready for the changing conditions.
We brought this challenge to you, to bring a sub concious to the fore that has existed since the start of photography.
The challenge was a little reminder of the methodology of the past masters. Many of the classic photographers used the hyperfocal distance method. Having the camera set so all they had to do was worry about who entered the scene. Of course this is a method that is being used to great effect today.
A name that came up time and again throughout the challenge was of course one of the great pioneers of street photography, Henri Cartier- Bresson. The image of the jumping man reflected in the water was most chosen for assimilation. Nothing special one might think, for clarity and technical perfection. But it strikes a chord with most people for the dynamics. There were some fantastic interpretations which you will see in the ensuing images.
I myself chose to assimilate the HCB image, “The Cyclist”, trying to recreate similar dynamics and movement. Once put together, it was an obvious fake and copy, but I could not help feeling a sense of nostalgia and classic thought process in creating.
A lot of course chose images that they have taken with past master images in mind. They were inspired and re-produced the same qualities for us to enjoy. Indeed one of the successes of the challenge.
Some just chose images that were similar to a past master shot. This proved that similar techniques and technical aspects for a good shot are still being used today. Again a success highlighted by the challenge.
Mark Guider paid tribute to Saul Leiter, who a few took inspiration from. Saul was a fashion photographer who was a master with the use of colour and framing. A glossy magazine style that we can all learn from, but the antithesis of HCB
Another master that popped up a few times and again totally different in style and technique was Vivian Maier. I have been inspired by her search of real people and connection. She was an enigma and mysterious woman that was ultimately a total natural photographer. A nanny most of her life, not seeking fame and fortune, but leaving a photographic legacy forever.
One could talk for hours about the myriad of masters that there have come and gone. Ultimately though the same technical aspects of a brilliant image will be found in their work. I can only suggest you study a few masters as this challenge has encouraged you to do.
Wolfgang Schreier, a master himself, whom we could have assimilated ourselves, submitted some brilliant images. Wolfgang, a life long professional from the analogue era converting now to a digital world.
Wolfgang Schreier commented and I am paraphrasing, Robert Frank and the like took inspiration from him. I have no reason to doubt it.
You will be able to read Wolfgang Schreier on analogue photography in progressive-street.com
Gerd Bonse, Doug Hilson and Don Trammell submitted a couple of images that were classic style, inspired by all the past masters. Brilliant and proof that the masters and classics are in our psyche.
Abra Asad must get a special mention for honouring both Batsceba Hardy and I, for submitting assimilation of our images. As indeed António Cvs asked the same question which was a great compliment. Batsceba Hardy responded by saying we were not classic photographers. We use the same technical qualities for a pleasing image and we have been around for a while, so maybe we are.
On that note, until the next challenge, please appreciate the outstanding submissions and enjoy!
Challenge compiled and presented by Robert Bannister/Batsceba Hardy