Erdal Redjep's Blog

Weeks 3-4, Focus 3: Human Relationships / Interaction

Posted in Uncategorized by erdalredjep on February 13, 2010

For this focus, we considered the importance of human relationships and the interaction between people as a key feature of reportage photography. Looking specifically at this element in the work of some of the documentary photographers whose work I really like (I spent some time this week looking at some of the less publicised work of people like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith, Paul Trevor and so on) shows their concern with this area. That said, other photographers whose work I really like – Nuri Bilge Ceylan, for example – don’t use human ‘exchanges’ in an obvious way. Ceylan’s a good example, I think, of someone who has a stillness in his images (not just his photographs but also his cinema) which doesn’t necessarily make his work particularly well-suited to moments of drama, action or animation.

If I look for the human interaction element in my own pictures, it’s a feature that I think has increased in the last year or so (but this hasn’t necessarily been a conscious thing). It’s something I’m keen to explore to a greater degree, so I tried to challenge myself with the shooting for this assignment. Being able to capture moments of interaction felt much more straightforward with subject matter that I had organised (a planned day at a traditional pie and mash shop, for example) than it did working in a more spontaneous way out and about on street locations. Our technical parameters remained the same as for the previous practical assignments, apart from being able to increase our ISO speed to a maximum of 1600 if needed. Just as well, actually – one of the scenarios I photographed was a group in a dimly lit pub where I had to combine high ISO speeds with f-stops as low as 1.4. Ordinarily I’d shoot with bounced flashlight for this type of location but I was forced to work differently and – although it gave a really shallow depth of field to this set of pictures – it made me think in a different visual way. Fewer tools at your disposal, I think, can sometimes lead to more creative decisions; this is definitely something I’ve also found with the cinematography I’ve done on short films and documentaries. It’s the same principle, I guess, as the argument that shooting on film – where your frames are much more limited and costly than when working digitally – can make you think more carefully about each composition, each exposure and each click.

We also had a (packed) session on exploring and using the web as a tool for connecting, networking, publicising and so on. I can certainly see how powerful the potential of the web can be for journalistic and artistic practice (online blogs like this being just one example), though I do think it’s easy to get bogged down with so much online activity that it begins to overtake the more fundamental aspects of your work in terms of the time, effort and constant monitoring involved. It was an informative session but I think everyone in the group felt overwhelmed with the flood of web-based suggestions; choosing how much of this you get involved with is, I guess, about how beneficial these online tools will be for you and how much of it you can realistically maintain.

In the tutorial where we viewed and discussed our pictures, we spoke about how important our body language and reactions to the people around us can be when we’re photographing. On reportage assignments where the intention is to make pictures without your subjects showing awareness that they’re being observed, one of the difficulties as a photographer can be your awareness of yourself. Talking about this with our course leader was useful. Below are some of my pictures…

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