Thursday, 15 November 2012

Street Art Cyphers

Nikon D90  F/4.5  1/500s  ISO-200  PrAP  EV +1  24mm
Putting street art in context is vital or you may as well just be taking record shots of someone else's work. And where's the creativity in that? There isn't any.

So even something as simple as a drain pipe, or certainly a street name plaque is all that's needed to turn a banal shot into something a bit more interesting.

In this picture I've done just that, well, both in fact, to try to move the picture away from the artwork itself and meet my street photography somewhere in the middle. I don't want to detract from the art but I don't want it to be just about that either. After all, these are my streets they are decorating!

The original of the shot above
The drain pipe serves the purpose of adding interest and context to the left-hand side of the shot, not to mention a monochrome contrast to the highly charged colours on the right. In addition its tilt, along with the receding lines of the tiles, tell us we're looking up, giving more interest than if the shot were only of the art work and the plaque.

It was a terribly dull day, as you can see from the subtle shadow behind the drainpipe, and my post processing has probably gone too far in harshing-up the colours of the art, thus losing some of their subtlety, but you can't have everything.

I've also cropped out the top of the drainpipe and the corner of an air vent or something, as this wasn't doing anything for the shot.

The picture below is an alternative version taken by moving over to the right and including another piece of wall detritus.

I quite like this too as there's again a nice balance and angle between the left and right side in a different way than above.

In the end there are few rules I trust to tell me what looks good or not. It's very much a feeling, and I reckon if you like a particular composition then that's good enough. How, for example, would I justify the above compositions being good ones or otherwise? The language would quickly become flowery and subjective and not serve much purpose at all. If it feels good, do it!

Nikon D90  F/4.5  1/640s  ISO-200  PrAP  EV +1  24mm
Again, the main thing is just that - to do it - to take the shots and a variety of them - and then see what you like when you get back to the ranch.

It's a bit like painting; if you don't try out new things you'll forever be wondering what would have happened if you had. In street photography, especially nowadays, shooting is cheap, and the more you have to work with the better. That's not to say you shouldn't try to make every shot the best it can be, but volume is another weapon in our armoury these days and you shouldn't be frightened to snap away.

When looking through the shots afterwards I aim to get one of each situation I'm happy with to work on and publish on my blogs. I might end up with two or three I think have equal merit and keep them for nostalgia's sake but the rest I try to delete if at all possible. It's only in the context of this blog that I'm publishing more than one shot of each situation. Otherwise it would be a big no-no.

There are enough interesting situations out there not to need to bore the pants off everyone with a whole series of boring variations, and your portfolio and reputation will be stronger for it. This is what I do on my Paris and I iPhone photo chronicles - never the same shot and always as different as humanly possible, and it works and everyone's happier!


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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