Friday, 18 January 2013

Different applications of Photography

There are many different applications of photography within this report I will explain the following applications of photography and their purpose and origins.

  • Music Photography
  • Documentary Photography
  • Landscape Photography

Music Photography

Music photography first rose to fame after the progression of the big-band explosion of the 1930's music started to take shape in different forms taking influence from blues, jazz and swing the newly famed Rock n Roll of the 1950's was born. New and exciting recording artists like Buddy Holly and The Crickets,  Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Chet Baker and more importantly Elvis Presley were being photographed and were becoming the role models of a new generation. Subcultures such as the Teddy boy movement were becoming more prevalent both in the states and then the United Kingdom. After the fame of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean rock stars were becoming just as popular as movie stars if not more.  

By the 1964 Beatlemania hit and The Beatles pop-rock song writing reached a level of hysteria never seen before, other subcultures of Rock n Roll were emerging from the raw rooted American garage rock of The Sonics, The Seeds and The 13th Floor Elevators to the Psychedelic Rock of early Pink Floyd, Cream and Jefferson Airplane. 

Probably one of the world's first music photography professionals was the British photographer Mick Rock. His work with David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust era) in the early 1970s was the introduction to such iconic imagery that would follow in Rock's work. He went on to photograph iconic photographs that featured on many classic LP sleeves, these were famous images for Queen, Syd Barrett, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Roxy Music, Talking Heads, The Ramones and probably more importantly Lou Reed.

The photograph below was taken for the LP sleeve 'Transformer' (1972) you can see the image has been printed using high contrast paper and shot in black and white.

Mick Rock's earlier LP sleeve shoot was for Syd Barrett's 'The Madcap Laughs' for this shoot he commented on the equipment he used "It was a black Pentax and I used 28mm wide-angle Soligor lens which was quite a cheap lens. Later on I sold it to Roger Dean who did the Yes LP covers and lived upstairs above my flat in Egerton Court" 

A picture from 'The Madcap Laughs' photo-shoot

The industry is over saturated and there is an endless list of photographers in this field, the advantages to this are that music photographers are always looking for underground movements and up and coming credible artists to find and uncover. The disadvantage to this is, there probably isn't a lot of money in this particular field of photography not unless you are commissioned by the artist or venue/festival proprietors.

Music photographers need to apply specialist techniques depending on a subject's environment, this will depend on the size and lighting of a venue for an event. For example if you were shooting in a small indoor venue during a live performance, the lighting is most likely going to be poor, you should use your initiative to compose the shots. Taking photos from a compact digital camera is usually favorable in this part of the industry. It is also preferable to get up close and personal with your subjects. Possibly from the center or center-left of the audience, most photographers use the reflection from the PAR cans or LED lights this will help to capture the shots with sufficient lighting. It is often preferred to use a camera that takes images clearly in a low lighting environment. This will leave you with some scope to touch up and edit photos in the post-production stages using Adobe Photoshop. Its also useful to find a camera that may also feature a good zoom that retains quality when pushed to its maximum capability, this is used more frequently for performances in bigger venues.

Documentary Photography


'Tobacco Harvesting' - (2002) Manuel Rivera-Ortiz 


Documentary photography is a style of photography that holds more importance to historical and cultural events and social awareness rather than one's personal and artistic pursuit however the lines may become blurred. Documentary photography derived from the honest truthful photojournalism of the early 20th century. It also often objective and portrays maybe horrid and cruel circumstances world conflict as well as harmonious and memorable commemorations.

Documentary Photography first surfaced after the documentation of the American Civil War, this is seen as a necessary port-of-call for investigative journalism often experiencing devastation, near death experiences and living alongside soldiers for long periods of time this has been concurrent through numerous generations. In the early 20th century documentary photography was used as a vehicle for social reform, for example in 1910 over 2 million children were employed in the United States. Photographs emerged in the 1910's from the now famous photographer Lewis Hine who shocked the world with his photographs of child protesters, protesting child slave labour in New York City. Hine stopped working as a teacher and while working with the NCLC (national child labour committee) helped petition and put forward essential legislation that permanently ended such unethical practises in the western world. He also documented the work of relief workers of the American Red Cross after World War I. Unfortunately Hine didn't live a prosperous life and did not enjoy success its because of this that for the rest of his life he was poverty stricken, he died in his 60's with no house of his own while claiming welfare.

Dorothea Lange was an important influence in documentary photography she was educated at Columbia University and New York City she is probably best known for documenting the Great Depression during the 1930s post World War I. Her work often retains some deep artistic and social credibility her most famous piece of photography most probably being 'Migrant Mother' (1936).  The subject of the photo is a mother named Florence Owens Thompson the mother of seven children, at the time of the great depression she was pea picking, living off frozen vegetables, fruit and dead birds her children had killed. Later the women who acted as the subject of the photograph Florence Owens Thompson was identified forty years after its publication, claimed she didn't receive a penny. Once the photograph was published it was then disseminated into the public sphere. This then sparked social awareness on the extreme circumstances of the depression and the U.S. federal government donated $20,000 worth of food to the pea picker camp. This was the campsite where Thompson's photograph was taken. However by this time Owens had moved location, and didn't receive the donation. 

'Migrate Mother' - (1936) Dorothea Lange


Thereafter she worked as photographer for a number of social humanitarian organisations and government bodies. These included The Farm Security Administration and the War Relocation Authority.  Dorothea Lange founded photography magazine Aperture alongside Ansel Adams who also invited her to work alongside him as a tutor within the first ever fine art photography department, at the California School of Fine Arts.

'A lone anti-war protester confronts Metropolitan Police in Whitehall during the Cuban missile crisis' - (1963) Don Mcculin

Other notable documentary photographers and/or photojournalists are Bill Brandt, Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Walker Evans and the honoured Don Mccullin I visited his 2010 exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in Salford, Manchester which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Bill Brandt, Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal


'Miner at his evening meal' - (1937) Bill Brandt

In Mccullin’s recent press interviews he stated he uses 28mm and 135mm lenses with 35mm SLRs, equipment has evolved to this point, but theory is also important in the practise of photojournalism. It is important to capture the moment, something that will inform people, raise awareness or challenge unethical issues, this is often subjective but thought provoking, and in the 20th and 21st century documentary photography has acted as a visual component to social reform.

From a technical standpoint composition plays a big role in documentary photography, they will place the centre of interest carefully by using the principle of thirds. This is where the centre of interest will be placed in the geometrical centre of the framed shot. However photographers will usually bend the rules in order to capture the image. Surroundings in documentary photography are ever-prominent and work as a case point especially when recording war and world conflicts.

The advantages to this medium of photography would be world recognition, social reformation, courage and an affiliation with the journalistic truth. The disadvantages otherwise would be the threat of danger, injury, capture under governments that are governed by dictators, legal issues and death.





Landscape Photography 

Landscape photography emerged during the 20th century it often favours various compositions, including vacuous, long expanding perspectives found on highways or mountain roads, to close up images of ravines and sand dunes. After the shift from realism to pictorialism, landscapes had become a favoured subject for many innovative photographers these innovators were Huge Henneberg, Francis Frith and the Alinari brothers of Florence.

Post World War I was a post-watershed era after political, social and economical reformation consumers were starting to favour progression in favour of tradition. Modernism changed everything about landscape photography and aesthetic value was becoming advanced, instead of using soft focus photographers were now favouring red filters and experimenting with 35mm colour reversal film.

Nature often with the expulsion of man made landscapes became the main principle. San Francisco artists formed a group named Group F/64 which consisted of a list of San Francisco based Landscape photographers, this movement shared an aesthetic experience with the viewer, something that was not just merely a reflection of what was in front of them but an experience or feel of that mood or time the photographs were taken. The photographers who operated in this movement were Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston.

Ansel Adams is still to this day known as the godfather of Landscape Photography, he often favored using a dark red filter, he discovered its versatility during his shooting of Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1927 when he was 25 years of age. He began shooting this subject using a yellow filter but it didn't properly convey the visual image in his mind's eye. He stated on his memory of shooting the photograph "I saw the photograph as a brooding form, with deep shadows and a distant sharp white peak against a dark sky.". He realised he needed to use a deep red filter, the filter reduced the light to a factor of 16.

'Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California' (1927) Ansel Adams

Another prominent British landscape photographer was Fay Godwin who enjoyed taking photographs during long leisure walks across moorland and other quintessentially British landscapes.

'Reedy Loch abother Strathan' - (1985)  Fay Godwin

The advantages of landscape photography would probably be  its modernization as it allows artistic freedom where due, it is also one of the biggest money making mediums in the photography industry. The disadvantages to landscape photography would most probably be the competitive nature of this field of photography, which means not a lot of people in this particular part of the industry do successfully make money from their artistic ventures.  It is also common even for the most credible landscape photographers not to have any previous formal training or education. Landscape photographer often take up this form as photography as a passionate hobby of theirs that they in turn become obsessed with.

It is very important for landscape photographers to experiment with their compositions, some may stick to a conventional approach whereas others will disregard it in order to further their idea. Some common landscape photography techniques include careful planning i.e. shooting at the magic hour usually early on a morning or late on an afternoon, polarizing filters and depth of field.