Assignment 3: Monochrome

In this third assignment from the Digital Photographic Practise course I am to look at monochromatic images, the use of different colour channels, noise and contrast within the image and also what makes a good subject, the conditions favourable to black and white imagery and the sensibilities brought by the photographer. I am to select a theme that I feel suits black and white photography, I then will after conceiving the themed idea, plan, shoot and process solely in black and white. I will do this with the intention that by immersing myself in monochrome I will be able to get more out of the assignment and further my understanding and ability in black and white photography. I will aim to produce 10 images for consideration along a theme.

I have chosen to photograph in a street photography style while also incorporating street portraiture amongst this to overall create black and white images of day to day public life in Winchester. I have chosen street photography as a whole due to its raw ability to capture people in there natural self. Using a tonal range in black and white ensures the viewer gets incapsulated in the essence of the photograph, like expression, form and unusualness rather than perhaps being drawn by high saturation. South African Trotskyist Ted Grant once said;

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”

Its under this premise that I feel best suits street photography and portraiture to black and white, capturing the individuals personality in a split second in an environment and surroundings that can have a profound effect on them and the understanding of an image. Black and white photography as a whole holds a simplicity that invites the viewer to look into the image rather than to just look at it, this engages the viewer emotively be it happy or sad, the feeling that is created within the viewer and the questions they ask themselves about an image is the sign of a good image, which I think is very much the case in street photography and portraiture. Henri Cartier-Bresson has always been a very inspiring photographer for myself, his ability to capture people, at the perfect moment that shows purpose, movement or something will not be repeated. I find his work, notably his social documentary images to really capture sense of feeling and emotion, the image of the young boy carrying two bottles of wine, his expression of pride is perfectly captured along with his purposeful stride and open chest holding the bottles at his sides. In regards to the street photography style of images I wish to include in this assignment I looked at Swiss photographer Thomas Leuthard, and specifically his book, Street Faces, a photo book of his work on very close street portraits in which he explains his premise, technique and also the ethics behind such intrusive images. His approach of being up close and personal with his subjects gives a very interesting and stunning image, the audacity to be some obvious is brave but its completely worth the approach, I found his work in the aforementioned book to be inspiring and eye opening, I have very much attempted to include some along this style in my assignment.

My aim for this assignment was to create ten images that fitted perfectly within the style of street portraiture and photography, I wanted to ensure that I captured the essence of the people and the place, while also being able to effectively show the image qualities of black and white photography. By being able to show the form and shapes within the image, the viewer is drawn into the lines and function. Due to the lack of colour in the image this is a very important element that attracts a viewer to the image rather than relying on colour and contrast. Tonal contrast is also an element I will aim to capture, using tonal range within a black and white photograph will help to show contrast, depth and texture. As in colour photography, highlights and shadows can be overpowering factors in an image, however I do feel that there is more scope for it in black and white images. The subtle simplicity of black and white, light and dark and highlight and shadows makes texture in images when sharp a real focal point of an image, by giving the viewer the illusion they can feel the subject it gives them that connection to the image that can create something lasting, similar to food photography, the feeling of being able to taste what you can see. I would also like to consider looking into key, in this assignment, aiming to produce something either high key or low key depending on the conditions of the day. By using high or low key techniques in black and white photography it gives the image a high contrast and tonal range which can be very good at gaining attention.

IMG_5568This first image was taken on the high street in Winchester. I was initially attracted to this image as I enjoyed the subjects pose, creating a very rigid shape using lines. This coupled with the darkness of the suit really helped him stand out against the background. I like the profile view of the subject, I continued to take images from behind him but found that the eye-line added an interest and an element of thought and reason in his mind.Tonal range in this image is very apparent with the darkness in the suit coupled with with overall lightness within the image draws the viewers eye and cements the focal position on the subject. The slight area of darkness in the top left of the image, this helps to balance the image, although not overpowering it helps to pull the eye from the subjects eye line.

IMG_5579This second image was taken on one of the approaches towards the front of Winchester Cathedral, I initially noticed the lighting along the floor, how it is lighter in the foreground and gradually darkens into the image. I took a couple of exposures to ensure this was visible in the image, I then waited a few moments as this couple approached until they were captured within the foreground light. I felt this set them apart from the rest of the people on the path, the tonal range between themselves and the rest being significant. In most cases it is considered better to photograph movement with space for the person to move into, however in this case I feel it still works even tho they are moving out of the frame, the lines of the paths, trees and other people draw the viewers eye into the image which works well in this instance. When looking closely at the image I have captured the subjects movement well, showing both with a foot in the air, this adds to the street photography feel of movement and travel. The lighting of the image is overall the most important aspect in this image that aids the tonal range, form and texture, the lighter areas, along the bottom or the image and along the top, pull the viewer in adding depth against the well lit subject who stand out against this.


This third image of the assignment is the first particular street portrait, however this image includes a sense on anonymity which I find attractive in the image. I firstly noticed this ladies hat, feeling the black tones of it contrasting wonderful with her pale complexion and red lips. I was keen to also show the texture difference between the woollen rough knit scarf and smooth leather jacket, A small element that I found interesting to see in black and white. I was at a rather high vantage point, so I took a number of frames as she passed below me aiming to find a proportion of the hat covering the face that both gave an anonymous feel but still enough to take the eye. I like how her lips are slightly darker to give contrast and context on the face wight he added detail that adds a little attraction too. The timing of the composition, catching the subject with a foot about to be planted on the ground, this gives an interesting example of movement, something I achieved using the method mentioned in assignment 1 feedback by counting the steps. I really like this image, I feel it is extremely interesting and somewhat alluring with the mysterious element of a partly hidden face and dark lips but the contrast between the hat and skin tone really grab the attention of the viewer and the form of her positioning and texture of clothes really work well together in a black and white photograph

IMG_5639I feel this fourth image is perhaps the strongest of the assignment, I really like the composition of this image and the moment captured of who I presume is the girls father holding her up as she skates, this added to the young girls eye line matching, who I believe to be her mothers, adds a very interesting aspect to the image. With both having a rather disapproving look its interesting how there features match so perfectly, the shapes of the eyes, nose and mouths are very similar which add to the interest of the subjects. I also like the young girls obviously lack of interest at this moment, perhaps due to what she has taken her eye but the look of limpness in her shoulders and what appears to be a father telling her to perhaps do it properly and stand up. The three subjects create an triangle within them that pulls the eye around each of them before the eye lines pull you across out of the image. The lightness of the ice, although textured with leafs and shadows  and the hoarding around the rink gives the subjects almost sold background which helps them stand out well, the tonal range of this is very nice I find, with the darker foreground moving onto being lighter as we lose focus which is perfectly set on each subject.

IMG_5710This fifth image and second portrait has captured this young lad ice skating in Winchester, its a fun and captivating portrait, with eye contact being made. This adds a completely new dimension than almost all the other images, most of which are with people unaware. I am unsure if I he poked his tongue out as he saw me or if it was a concentration thing that a lot of people do. Either way I really like this portrait, the composition, pose and eye contact really set it apart. The tonal range of this image is also, very similar to the previous. It works really well in adding to the contrast and depth with the out of focus background, while also the slightly more highlight area gives a nice ice effect. Although slightly out of focus the hands of the subject add to the movement and interest, I like how it seems he is using them to pull himself along, as if swimming.

IMG_5722Image six and the third portrait is this high key image of a woman outside Winchester Cathedral, sat against a memorial in the grounds the sunlight reflected off the memorial gave a very highlighted background coupled with some trees to the top right of the image. This overall highlight and in place blown out areas of the image, coupled with the overall highlights on the face and hair give this image a very high key effect, while still retaining the shadows and darkness of the lips, eyes and eye lashes which add a nice definition and interest for the viewer. The overall composition is nice, although perhaps slightly to close to the left of the image the eye line and overall 45 degree angle of the subject gives an interesting and flattering pose that compliments the subject.

IMG_5733The seventh image and fourth portrait was captured in the same vicinity as the previous, however the obvious difference in lighting the composition is relatively similar, although in this case the subject is looking directly at me, with a somewhat menacing angry look, perhaps due to me taking his portrait however he did seem to have this look before hand, which is the main reason I felt he would make a very interesting black and white image. The rather low tonal range with no real highlights can somewhat give this image a low key feel. While also the strong eye contact and furrowed brow makes an interesting texture and compliments the overall facial expression. I think compared to the previous image the composition of this image is a lot stronger, the subject sits comfortably in the frame, again from an almost 45 degree angle, in this case tho looking towards me. I find when looking at this image the eyes are extremely powerful, managing to really pull my view, continuously taking me back to them as I look further into the image. I think in hindsight I would like to have removed the buckle on the chest of the subject, although not particularly highlighted the regular shape adds to the tone and it can pull the eye.

IMG_5734The eighth image of this assignment was taken at some distance, noticing the subject sat on the bench engrossed in their mobile phone. I felt that the bench was an interesting subject, along with the subject to depict form within a black and white image, the different shapes within it and the tonal range make it stand out against everything else, along with the shallow focal plane, showing an area of blur in front of and behind the bench. I also found that the balance of the image was really good, although I have placed the bench center in the frame, the fact the subject is sat to the side still makes it a balance composition, coupled with the tree and cars on the opposite side in the background, they are out of the way enough not to completely draw your eye but you are aware they are there, placed to balance the subject. I also like in this image how the lighter hands and face stand out against the darker clothes, this contrast again pulls the subject in to focus. I think by removing the lamp post in the background would improve the image, the tree balances the image well enough but the dark lamp post is a touch to much.

IMG_5740This ninth image of the assignment was captured very quickly as I walked past, I noticed these two girls sat together smoking, initially the girl with the lighter tights caught my attention due to the contrasting colours of her outfit, I felt it would be an interesting image with the angle they are at, however it wasn’t until I looked through the viewfinder trying to fill the frame that I noticed there completely matching pose which I thought added to the composition a great deal, the contrast between light and dark but still maintaing the similar pose and angle of legs made it a very interesting image. The form of this image is obvious in the symmetry and lines, while the tonal range works really to differentiate each subject. The image could be vastly improved by the removal of the bollard in the foreground which serves to purpose, however as I noticed this and moved accordingly they moved.

IMG_5771This tenth and final image was a very quick capture, as I noticed the couple coming towards me, the character of the gentleman was captivating, he was moving rather slowly but focused on his destination with all purposefulness in his movements which in this exposure, with his eye line, and movement of his feet and walking stick is apparent. I managed to photograph them with a small focal length as I was aiming to show them within the high street and other people moving around them. I took a couple of exposures before they carried on beyond me. It was when I looked at the image in Lightroom that I noticed the rather highlighted exposure, and with a small number of adjustments with contrast and highlights I was able to give this image a really strong high key effect that makes the subject the sole focal point. I really like this image, I think its a strong composition that is an interesting street scene and a strong character captured well.

Overall in this assignment I feel I have been relatively successful, each image works well and shows an interesting scene or portrait that captures individuals in natural and expressive poses and situations while also incorporating the black and white elements into the photographs, although some images are more so than others, I feel as a group they show form, texture, tonal range and in placed key. In each image I have looked at in Lightroom, making slight adjustments to both the lens correction and the basic adjustments like highlights, shadows, clarity and contrast. Once I found I was relatively happy with an image I would then look at it using the colour channels, adjusting each until I found I had a good balance to depicting what I thought when capturing the frame. I think that as a whole its a strong collection of images, they work towards a theme which I feel they do well and the best judge of this is the emotive feelings of the viewers, do they see the cheeky facial expression of the young lad ice skating or if they can feel the strong pull of the eyes of the older mans portrait.

I feel that in this assignment I have shown as is the case with good street photography a strong ability to observe and use my technical ability to create good photographs in a fast paced style, although in some cases a subject is still, it is always the possibility they will move at any moment so it is important to work fast and accurately, a skill that comes with observation and an understanding of the technical ability both in camera and in processing. However there are still occasions where I overlook or do not notice details in an image, be them positive or negative, for example the bollard in the image of two girls, if I had of noticed it sooner I would have been able to move and capture them better before they moved on.

I think within this assignment my quality of work has been good, I am happy individually with the images and also as a whole, I am aware that there are a number of improvements possible within them and more importantly I know how to learn from these and get it right next time. The overall quality of the work against the brief, firstly set by myself, I have produced a strong selection of black and white street photography and street portraits that capture something interesting or special about the person and or scene. To compare the work against what is asked in the assignment, I feel that the photography is of a good quality that comprehensively covers all the black and white image qualities of form, tonal contrast, texture and key as mentioned in my image descriptions.

In this assignment I feel although constricted within the black and white street photography style I have shown a fair number of elements, using high and low key within the images, using rather close up portrait styles which are rather rare in a street photography scene. I think in this case I have shown a very natural personal style in these images, as well as my other street photography. I like to capture peoples expressions and moments that are unlikely to be repeated, I also have an overall picture style, high contrast with normally a wide tonal range.

I have looked into and planned this assignment, giving a great deal of though in to what I wanted to create, once decided I also gave a good think into how and why, as explained in the beginning of the assignment, I also researched styles and photographers who inspire me, like Cartier-Bresson, Nick Turpin and recently Thomas Leuthard.


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