08th November 2021
Snapshots: A Day in the Life of My Feet
The final assignment is an open brief. Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject exploring the theme ‘Photography is Simple’. Each photograph should be a unique view; in other words, it should contain some new information, rather than repeat the information of the previous image.OCA EYV (2014:111)
Although not strictly a terrain, I have included carpets and tiles as a terrain within my text. Therefore ‘terrain’ is any surface beneath my feet for this assignment.
Snapshot: A Day in the Life of My Feet
The final ten images presented within a grid:
The ten images seen individually:
The simple electronic camera on an iPhone is used to capture the images which supplements the objective for this assignment. The settings were:
- iPhone 7 SE phone camera: 12 megapixels
- f/1.8 aperture
- 28mm focal length
- Mode: Auto
- WB: Not available
- No tripod
The settings of the camera phone were not altered within the shoot to keep with the concept that ‘Photography is Simple.’ The theoretical aspect of this body of work examines the instant technique of the ‘snapshot’ and not the technical correctness usually connected with taking and producing photographs.
The aim of this shoot with the chosen camera is to produce the rawness of a fleeting second and the untouched visual truth that it can catch, therefore altering the technical settings and checking and composing the images during the shoot, would take away the ‘any moment, point and shoot’ snapshot result.
Contact sheets, annotated contact sheets and final selection of images
Contact Sheet 1: Original files
Contact Sheets 2: Original files annotated
Contact Sheets 3: First reduction of images
Contact Sheet 4: Second reduction of images
Contact Sheets 5: Final reduction of images
The first images chosen for assignment
The following ten images are the original response to the assignment. Once the images had be seen as a collective, it was noted that the static shots, of which there are five, fall under the term of composed images. These shots do not adhere to the snapshot technique of ‘point and snap’, as when taken they were viewed on the screen and the composition adjusted before the image was taken.
Developing the idea further: Reviewing and Re-working
During the analysis of the content of the work so far, I had noticed one particular contact sheet that intrigued me. This contact sheet held screenshots from the iPhone’s photograph library. These images are viewed in time order and as tessellating squares presenting themselves comparable to contact sheet layouts.
Screenshots 1: Original iPhone images
Screenshots 2: Annotated
Annotation in the above screenshots led to the final selection of images for the assignment.
Snapshot: The Day in the Life of My Feet
Presentation of the images for viewing
Each of the screenshots hold thirty images in a square grid format. This sequence presentation allows the viewer to see the movement and positioning of the feet, the changes in the surfaces as they occur from one to another, as well as being able to view changes in time.
The visual patterns and shapes within each individual shot, features such as lines, shapes, man-made symbols and text, textures, colour and natural elements such as grass and soil can be seen in detail and form strong patterns within the grid layout
The grid layout enables the passing of time to be noticed. This important content is seen by the changes of colour from the cool colours of the winter daylight to the warm colours of the indoor lighting and the yellow, almost orange colour of the streetlighting at night.
The grid importantly shows the information collectively, however, to allow the viewer to see the finest details within images, each screenshot needs to be also seen individually so that the viewers eyes are not distracted and wander around the grid.
Therefore, the series is best viewed in two distinct parts, the collective grid format and individual screenshots.
‘A Day in the Life of My Feet’ is an observational series rather than an artificial construction with set compositions. The objective is to engage the viewer in examining how the surfaces beneath feet change within a day, and to discover the richness of the visual information that we tread and stand upon. Visual information such as natural and man-made surfaces, lines, textures, colours, patterns, symbols, and text etc…
The simple part of the brief not only covers the subject matter of feet on various changing surfaces, but the simplicity of the content caught by the snapshot technique on a basic camera phone. This simplicity also includes the benefit of being easily portable and bulky equipment is not needed.
To begin my journey for assignment 5, two questions were asked, ‘What is photography?’ and ‘What is a photograph?’
Google searching these questions brought up the following answers,
‘What is photography?’ – noun the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.
‘What is a photograph?’ – a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused on to light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally.Oxford Languages (2021)
My personal answer to the questions can be read below.
photography in its simplest term is concerned with an end product, the visual image. How one obtains the image can be as easy or as complicated as the photographer requires. It can be as simple as the observe, point and shoot technique or a more controlled approach by means of pre-conceived ideas and planning with the addition of manipulation of camera settings and use of post-processing techniques.Tomlin, D. (2021)
The shoot began in bed, or more precise, showed my legs and feet being swung out of bed. From here I shot them in various locations throughout the day and ended back with them on my bed.
As a whole the shoot was successful, however there were parts of the day that I forgot to record my feet and unfortunately they were missing sections of the day such as in the shower and a route in London Road South which visited every charity shop. Due to time restraints and my extension being nearly over, I did not run a second shoot revisiting these missing ‘times’ of the day. This is an unfortunate decision and one that I am not happy with as I like to be as thorough as possible when completing a series of photographs.
Apart from the mistake of forgetting some important key moments in the life of my feet on the shoot day, the actual shoot went very well. I took photographs as often as I chose too, without preconceived ideas of when these images would be shot and therefore without knowing, until the end of the shoot, of the images taken.
Reviewing and Reworking the Snapshot Series
During the initial creation of the contact sheets, I noticed that a pattern of movement occurred, different terrains would merge almost seamlessly into one another and the right foot swung inwards and rolled to the right as it walked.
Noticing the patterns connected with the walking movement reminded me of Muybridge’s movement studies which included people walking, although his studies looked at the whole body and did not focus solely on the feet as my series did.
During the initial image examination, I noticed that as the daylight faded images became more and more blurred through movement due to the cameras settings inability to focus on and capture the shots quickly enough.
Having already thought about Muybridge’s work the images were presented as one screenshot representing one image. This enables the viewer to see so much more information including how the terrains can change so drastically yet merge almost without any detection for those that are walking on them.
It has been interesting to note that the information within the series relates predominantly to manmade surfaces which adhere to two principles, solid surfaces for example tarmac which consists of colour and texture and the constructed tessellations of quadrilaterals such as paving tiles and wooden flooring.
The natural occurrences of surfaces fall into two categories. Firstly, grass that is controlled by man to fit into a specific area, for example in a park space, and secondly, which is unpredictable, the weeds and grass which grow in a multitude of places including through the separating lines of the paving tiles.
The final and one of the important outcomes for this series of work, is that the information gained within the days journey included the visual awareness of the passing of time. By arranging the images chronologically the viewer is able to see a beginning to end journey which is strengthened by passing time being represented by colour changes within the grid. The colour changes are also coupled with the gradual appearance of shadows which are at their strongest at the end of the journey. The evening light not only cast warm colouring throughout the last third of images but they give rise to the presence of shadows which also bring the existence of the photographer into images through their casting.
This series of work satisfies the phrase ‘Photography is Simple’:
- Simple electronic camera.
- No changing of settings during the shoot.
- No equipment, for example, lenses and tripod are used.
- Photographer does not compose the image or pre-conceive images content.
- Point and shoot technique.
- The subject matter – feet – are present wherever the camera is.
- The subject matter – terrain – is present wherever the camera is.
- The journey is well trodden and familiar.
- Analysis of images through simple contact sheets and iPhone screenshots.
- There is no post-processing of individual images.
The practice of photography can be as simple or as complicated as the photographer wants it to be. It depends on the motivation of the photographer to produce the photographs, the audience that he is producing the photographs for, the concept within his photographs and the camera and equipment the photographer wishes to use.
Therefore, in this assignment ‘Photography is Simple.’
The research focuses on the concept of snapshot photography, the ‘Snapshot Aesthetic’ movement, Psychogeography Photography and three specific photographers, Robert Frank who is thought of as the father of snapshots, Garry Winogrand, Keith Arnett and Nan Goldin.
Snapshots and the Snapshot Aesthetic
“I snap, therefore, I am” Rene Descartes Devisite pgxi
The technique ’snapshot’ is seen as a low ranking technique and is often called the ‘point and shoot’ method.
A snapshot is a casual photograph typically made by an amateur with a handheld camera. By contrast, photography is more considered and often carried out by a professional or semi-professional. Photography seems much more complicated than shooting snapshots – but it doesn’t have to be.Goodrow, G. (22.11.19)
Parnell-Brookes, J. (2020) states that,
…a snap is just something taken hastily with minimal thought behind it, and a photograph is taken with planning and precision. But, there’s plenty of overlap between a snapshot and a photograph.Parnell-Brookes, J. (2020)
Notes taken from: Say ‘Cheese’! The Snapshot as Art and Social History
The Snapshot Aesthetic
Mary Warner Marien in her book, ‘100 Ideas that Changed Photography’ states in her opening paragraph,
Whatever its name may suggest, the snapshot aesthetic – actually an anti-aesthetic – describes photographs made by professional and art photographers depicting commonplace scenes. Despite the skill of the photographer, these images look like they have been made with little regard for compositional balance, lighting, focus or other technical matters.Marien, M W (2012:187)
Acquired knowledge from ‘100 Ideas that Changed Photography’:
The term ‘snapshot’, which relates to people’s photographs quickly taken, are informal images which are unplanned moments in time. Snapshot photography differs from the term ‘snapshot aesthetic.
The concept of snapshot photography began to develop in the late 1950’s. The images were black and white and shot on cameras which the general public were able to afford. The film was processed at local stores or large factories such as Kodak who processed the film and reloaded the canisters to be used again.
These snapshots were taken by families who wanted to record their happy times, their houses and possessions, such as their car and pets. Common snapshot subjects included children, buildings, sunsets and views of landscapes.
The snapshots taken did not have to be technically perfect, framed correctly or in focus because it was about the act of taken a photograph and the contents were the most important aspect of the process.
Timeline of ‘snapshot’ cameras
- 1948: First Polaroid instant camera
- 1950’s: Introduction of the first Kodak Brownie
- 1960’s: Kodak Instamatic compact camera
- 1965: Swinger Polaroid
- 1970’s Kodak Pocket Instamatic, Leica, Nikon and Canon – 35mm film format
- 1980’s: Disposable cameras
- 1990’s Autofocus cameras, beginning to see the beginnings of the digital revolution
The architectural critic, Joseph August Lux who in 1908 wrote a book called Kunstierische Kodakgeheimnisse (Artistic Secrets of the Kodak), championed the use of cameras like the Kodak Brownie.
The ‘snapshot aesthetic’ concept however began to emerge in ‘international art and photography circles beginning in the 1960’s’ and developing into the 1970’s through to the 1980’s. Examples of photographers who are linked to this movement are Robert Frank’s and his series The Americans, Gary Winogrand, who would shoot fast and sometimes not look as he did so which produced images that seemed accidental, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore.
The snapshot aesthetic movement worked against the photography worlds need for technical correctness and produced images that highlight everyday routine experiences, the realness of life. There are various photography sub-genres that fall under the umbrella term of ‘snapshot aesthetic’ these include, street photography, diaristic photography and also taking photographs of objects and places that are deemed boring and mundane.
However, looking through many of the images that fall under the heading of ‘snapshot aesthetic’, the images are not pre-planned, however, the subject matter and the compositions are, for the most, perfect.
Mora, G. (1998:179-180)
amateurs, record family events such as vacations, weddings etc…
Some professional photographers adopted this direct and spontaneous approach, but the aesthetics of instantaneity and of the posed photograph have traditionary been understood as opposite and even antagonistic approaches, (“Innocence is the quintessence of the snapshot,” declared the photographer Lisette Model.)Mora, G. 1998:179-180
Notes: ‘Women Photographers and the snapshot aesthetic’
Psychogeography describes the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.Hiller, T. (1937)
The concept of psychogeography is quite fascinating. However similar to the ‘snapshot aesthetic’ my series also does not fit in with the psychogeographical principles such as the psychological effect that the environment one walks in has on the mind and behaviour of a person. This is where the term psychogeography springs from, the meeting of the psychological with the geographical locations. This practice encourages people to walk somewhere new away from routine journeys or known locations and to allow the walkers emotions to evolve within the places that they walk.
I am presuming that, by walking new routes, our senses are more alert as they are used to take in the environment around us, this would mean that we would take in information more precisely and focus more attentively, absorbing the environment and connecting to it stronger.
However, although the images that I have created are from a well known route that I walk, the viewpoint is new. Looking downwards throughout the whole journey I engaged in unfamiliar visual information, for example, textures, colours, patterns and shapes that I walk on. I found a rich abundance of new visual information that excited me.
Robert Frank: Father of snapshot photography
Robert Frank is one of the most influential photographers of the 20th Century. ‘Frank’s 1959 photo book, The Americans is credited with spawning the gritty snapshot aesthetic that influenced future photographers such as Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Weegee, and others’. Dafoe, T. (2019)
Frank estimated that he travelled in excess of 10,000 miles on his American road trips and he took more than 27,000 black and white images using his Leica 35mm camera.
While he was taking his photographs he did not compose his images so the compositions and content were seen as unorthodox. Examples of his loose style can be seen below with the tilted horizon and framing of portraits.
Notes: The Genius of Photography
Focus on personal – radical method of image capture – not looking through the camera, shooting from the hip or holding at arms length and trusting serendipity – images looked dynamic, loose and off-kilter – little technique, grainy, ill-focused – subject matter was the everyday – fragmented elliptical images – indecisive moment. THE AMERICANS photographic community split – outraged of the technical roughness (2007:121)
Candid Cameras: Garry Winogrand’s art snapshots
‘… he insisted on snatching images from the flow of life rather than setting them up, an approach that made it certain he would shoot in quantity.”
“… Always a heavy shooter, Winogrand was photographing obsessively during his last years, in the clutches of what Szarkowski calls “a creative impulse out of control.” Falling victim to all kinds of technical errors, failing sometimes even to hold the camera steady, he would ritualistically cruise his Los Angeles haunts, snapping, snapping from the window of his car.”
throwaway style – haphazard composition – lack of refined detail – mundane subject matter – a lot of his work is reminiscent of our own black-and-white snapshots. Not the good ones where everyone looks terrific, but the rejects–the ones with eyes closed, heads cut off, backgrounds jumbled, perspectives off kilter, subjects misplaced.
Szarkowski says Winogrand’s goal was “not to make good pictures, but through photography to know life.”
Winogrand shot mostly with a 28mm lens – getting up close to his subjects – opposite of Henri Cartier-Bresson who tried to stay invisible.
Notes: Coffee and Workprints
Mason Resnick who attended a two week workshop with Winogrand: “He challenged us to forget our preconceptions about how to photograph something. “A photograph,” he said, “is the illusion of a literal description of how the camera saw a piece of time and space.”
Winogrand’s technique- walked slowly or stood in the middle of pedestrian traffic as people went by. He shot prolifically….. I asked him if he felt bad about missing pictures when he reloaded. “No,” he replied, “there are no pictures when I reload.” – constantly looking around, and often would see a situation on the other side of a busy intersection. Ignoring traffic, he would run across the street to get the picture.”
“… people didn’t react when he photographed them. It surprised me because Winogrand made no effort to hide the fact that he was standing in way, taking their pictures. Very few really noticed; no one seemed annoyed. Winogrand was caught up with the energy of his subjects, and was constantly smiling or nodding at people as he shot. It was as if his camera was secondary and his main purpose was to communicate and make quick but personal contact with people as they walked by. At the same time, as he passed from shadow into sunlight into shadow again, he was constantly adjusting his meterless camera. It was second nature to him. In fact, his first comment right out the door was, “nice light–1/250 second at f/8.”
“I tried shooting without looking through the viewfinder, but when Winogrand saw this, he sternly told me never to shoot without looking. “You’ll lose control over your framing,” he warned. I couldn’t believe he had time to look in his viewfinder, and watched him closely. Indeed, Winogrand always looked in the viewfinder at the moment he shot. It was only for a split second, but I could see him adjust his camera’s position slightly and focus before he pressed the shutter release. He was precise, fast, in control.”
“Cropping was out–he told us to shoot full-frame so the “quality of the visual problem is improved.”
“He never developed film right after shooting it. He deliberately waited a year or two, so he would have virtually no memory of the act of taking an individual photograph. This, he claimed made it easier for him to approach his contact sheets more critically. “If I was in a good mood when I was shooting one day, then developed the film right away,” he told us, I might choose a picture because I remember how good I felt when I took it, not necessarily because it was a great shot. You make better choices if you approach your contact sheets cold, separating the editing from the picture taking as much as possible.”
Winogrand found some of his best-known themes by looking through his workprints. He never went out saying “I want to photograph X today,” because this would create preconceptions and prevent him from being open to seeing other things. He worked with no preconceptions about what would be a proper photographic subject or how a photo should look. He said, “I photograph something to see what it will look like photographed.”
“Why did he tilt his horizons? “What tilt?” he answered. He wasn’t interested in keeping the horizon straight within the frame, but always had a vertical frame of reference in his images.”
Nan Goldin: Intimate Snapshots
The Art of Creative Photography
“Snapshots are the only form of photography that are completely inspired by love.” Nan Goldin
In this online article it states, ” At first glance the images of Nan Goldin give the impression that anyone could have taken them. It seems like they were taken from a family album, typical “snapshots”. The Art of Creative Photography
Nan Goldin herself admits that her work comes from the snapshot.
Fragments that make sense as a whole.
Goldin lived in a world of drug addicts, alcohol excess, sex, gender identity struggles, people with illnesses such as AIDS. Her snapshots of the community of friends that she circulated in provided visual memories of those that shared her life.
She captures that which is going on around her, taking her camera everywhere. This oneness with her camera means that her subjects – her friends – did not feel uneasy, they acted naturally in front of her.
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
Some of the text and the images are taken from my Foundations in Photography Course blog.
This is one of my favourite books that I own. The snapshots are raw and honest and documents the life of Goldin and her friends. The images have challenging themes such as sexuality among couples, domestic violence, drugs, masturbation, gay, lesbian and heterosexual free love and sex.
The images were taken in bedrooms, bars, pension hotels, brothels, cars and beaches. The areas were Provincetown, Boston, New York, Berlin and Mexico.
The book begins with 4 sides of text, an autobiography written by Goldin and explains that The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary that she allows people to see, it is public, her written diaries are private. She talks about the work, family, relationships and the role of gender within society. She touches sensitive subjects such as domestic violence, sex, and the death of her sister Barbara and the effects it had and still has on her.
Fig. 5 Examples of images in the book, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
I find this book not only very interesting due to the 127 photographs that are present within it, but for how they have been placed within the book. ‘The photographs within the book are not organised chronologically like a diary would be but there is a little format of the women being presented first, then the men and then groups, although they are broken up with images of couples.’ Tomlin, D.
‘The photographs themselves are raw, and honest, Goldin reproduces life in photograph format, they are true memories. Although some images have been presented singly on the right side of the open book, those that have been paired have been chosen with care. We have some pairings that promote the dynamic colours that Goldin captures, others using leading lines to compliment the flow of the viewers eye. Example of pairing can be seen…’ above. Tomlin, D.
Fig. 1&2 Frank. R. (n.d.) Artist Robert Frank. (Photograph) At: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/robert-frank?all/all/all/all/0 (Accessed 16.12.2021)
Fig. 3 Frank, R. (n.d.) Book Review The Americans. (Photograph) At: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robert-frank-the-americans (Accessed 16.12.2021)
Fig. 4 Winogrand, G. (1964) World’s Fair, New York City, 1964. (Photograph) Online, At: https://erickimphotography.com/blog/2012/08/20/10-things-garry-winogrand-can-teach-you-about-street-photography/ (Accessed 19.12.2021)
Fig. 5 Winogrand, G. (n.d.) Women are Beautiful. (Photograph) Online. At: https://publicdelivery.org/garry-winogrand-women-are-beautiful/ (Accessed 19.12.2021)
Fig. 6 Winogrand, G. (n.d.) Untitled (Photograph) Online. At: https://alchetron.com/Garry-Winogrand (Accessed 19.12.2021)
Fig. 7 Goldin, N. (2000) Nan Golding Thanksgiving. (Photographs) At: https://whitecube.com/exhibitions/exhibition/nan_goldin_duke_street_1999 (Accessed 16.12.2021)
Fig. 8 Goldin, N. (2019) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. (Photographs) Online, At: https://dawntomlinphoto.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/photographic-self-portraiture-nan-goldin-warning-some-sexual-images/ (Accessed 16.12.2021)
Badger, D. (2007:121) The Genius of Photography: How photographs have changed the world. (1st Ed.) London:Quadrille Publishing Ltd
Heiferman, Holbern, Fletcher (2012) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency: Nan Goldin (3rd Ed.) Italy: Aperture Foundation
King, G. (1986:pgxi) Say ‘Cheese’! The Snapshot as Art and Social History. (2nd Ed.) Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd
Mora, G. (1998:179-180) Photo Speak: A Guide to the Ideas, Movements, and Techniques of Photography, 1839 to the Present. (1st Ed.) New York: Abbeville Publishing Group
Marien, M W. (2012:idea no 90) 100 Ideas that Changed Photography. (1st Ed.) London: Laurence King
Goldin, N. (2019) Truth: Nan Goldin – The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. (Photographs) At: https://dawntomlinphoto.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/photographic-self-portraiture-nan-goldin-warning-some-sexual-images/ (Accessed 16.12.2021)
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Marshalls PLC (2018) An Introduction to Psychogeography. At: https://www.marshalls.co.uk/commercial/blog/an-introduction-to-psychogeography (Accessed 09.12.2021)
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Resnick, M. (n.d.) Coffee and Workprints: My Street Photography Workshop with Garry Winogrand. (Article) At: http://www.photogs.com/bwworld/winogrand.html (Accessed 19.12.2021)
Silberman, D. (1988) Candid Cameras: Gary Winogrand’s art snapshots. (Article) At: https://chicagoreader.com/arts-culture/candid-cameras-garry-winogrands-art-snapshots/ (Accessed 19.12.2021)
The Art of Creative Photography (n.d.) Nan Goldin: Intimate Snapshots. (Article) At: artofcreativephotography.com/famous-photographers/nan-goldin/ (Accessed 16.12.2021)
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Dr Wright, L. (s.a.) Women Photographers and the Snapshot Aesthetic. At: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/women-photographers-and-snapshot-aesthetic (Accessed 15.12.2021)
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