Sunday, 27 November 2016

Southsea Ghetto

 St Judes, Portsmouth by Five Architects 

What makes a good picture? Whether it is a photograph or a painting, a sketch or a piece of embroidery, the number one litmus test has to be: does it look good? The photo above looks good.

Which leads to secondary questions.   What makes it look good? Is it the subject matter,the colours,  the composition, the message, the mood you're in right now?   Do you want to keep on looking at it? If you keep looking will you see more?

For the picture above - the subject matter is workaday: roofs, chimneys, a steeple, sky.  Every city, town, village, hamlet has those.  Colour? well the picture is monochrome but the fifty shades of grey are as expressive as a rainbow.  The composition is spot on.  How can I say that? It just looks right.  Is there a message? Is it nostalgic: this is a timeless cityscape, it could be a Victorian photograph, it could have been taken a few weeks ago. Do I want to keep looking at it? Yes, I'd like it on my wall, I'm sure I could see it anew for ever.

Here's another couple of questions.  Why do so many people buy bad postcards?  Why are they even produced?

There are technical questions too.  For some people that would be the important part. In a photography competition the criteria would be quite different to my litmus test.  I'm not really interested in the technical side of photography.  I'm a philistine. I know what I like, even if I don't know why.   The following picture had a 6 second exposure usin 2x Formatt Hitech reverse grad ND filters.  I don't know what that means but I know I like the image.

Fluid Motion by Howard Hurd

The technical trick of using a long exposure turns another potentially workaday setting into an abstract image.  The wave takes on the quality of Trump's hairpiece or the banshees escaping from the ark of the covenant or becomes a statement about impermanence in a rigid world or an example of chaos theory. Or anything you want it to be.  Even a wave breaking over a promenade.

Floating crane Canute by Grzegorz Kopacz

If we're talking about composition take a look at Canute here.  The reason that Aunty Flo's holiday snaps look rubbish is that she positions Uncle Ernest right there in the middle in the viewfinder (and waits till he looks really uncomfortable before taking the shot).  Canute is taking advantage of the Golden Ratio.  The photo is not of the tree, although that takes up a large part of the picture. Your eye is drawn to the crane.

There's something about juxtaposition too, the tree, irregular but recognisable and the crane, fixed and solid but strangely strange, looking like a post industrial dinosaur marauding the countryside.

 Last leaf of Autumn by Five Architects

With a whole world of photo art available at a mouse click or two what is the point of taking the same photo that has been taken a thousand times before?  No, seriously, I'm asking.  In one sense the photo above is totally original. Probably, no-one else took a picture of that leaf, in that tree, with that sky.  In another sense that is just another Classic Autumn Photo.  Here's a few reasons for taking it: it looks good (Litmus test passed); the photographer wanted that shot, his own version of that shot; it is a particularly good version of that shot, clarity, composition, colour are all spot on.  When I was mooching through Five Architects photos it stood out as an eyecatching image.

The photographers featured in this post are all Portsmouth based.  They all know each other,  They share interests - photography, architecture, street art, for starters.  They photograph a lot of the same things.  Southsea shore, the piers, the fairground, Portsmouth's brutalist architecture.  The challenge has to be how do you take an original picture of something that has been photographed a thousand times.  Here's a couple of answers to that:
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth by Howard Hurd

Spinnaker Tower, Portmsouth by Grzegorz Kopacz

CP Fastenings by  Five Architects 

Explanatory note: I asked Five Architects, Howard Hurd and Gregorz Kopacz if I could use their photos in this blog.  I didn't ask for specific photos or say what I was going to do with them.  All three graciously gave permission, for which I thank them.  The very simple reason I wanted to use the pictures is because over the past few months I have seen their work on Twitter and thought how powerful many of the images are and how well they would fit on a Corn Poppy blog

Portsmouth Catherdral by Howard Hurd

The pictures I chose are not necessarily the images that the photographers themselves would have chosen.  My criteria was images I liked.  Full stop.  All of the images used have already been shared by the photographers on Twitter @fivearchitects, @HowardHurd, @G3Kopacz.  Find them and follow them for more excellent work.

 Hot Walls studio, Southsea by Gregorz Kapocz

 This is the closest I found to a group photo.  Thanks you guys.

Picture of Five Architects and Howard Hurd  by Gregorz Kopacz

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