Assignment Two: Market – Submission and Update on Learning Contract

Posted on June 24, 2012

0


I have just submitted my second assignment to my tutor in line with my Learning Contract, the details of which I now realise I  have not posted to this blog.

The contract sets out seven key deliverables. The first is the Learning Contract itself. The following six are specific assignments – five collections of photographs each based on a specific theme and  a written critical review of my chosen genre. The assignments all revolve around my chosen genre of Portraiture (and in particular ‘Portraits in Series’). The Learning Contract is a dynamic document and could be subject to change as I move through my work an pursue different avenues. For those who may be interested I have provided a link to a pdf file showing the contract below:

Advanced Learning Contract Keith Greenough

My aim with the second assignment was to produce a series of portraits of market traders from central and east London. The work is intended as a brief typological survey of this group of people within contemporary society. The portraits were conceived as environmental studies with each market trader shown within the context of their market stall.

I elected to use colour for the work as I thought that this would properly reflect the vibrant nature of the markets. I used a digital 35mm rangefinder camera, which I felt would be less intimidating than a larger professional camera.

I spent many days touring London’s markets. I had no preconceived ideas about what kind of subjects I was looking for. The process of selection was somewhat random and in part reflects how responsive potential subjects were to my request to photograph them, as I always asked for their permission.

I did not direct my subjects as to how I wanted them to pose. In some instances they chose to engage directly with the camera/viewer. In other instances they averted their gaze. My intention was to try to capture them at a moment when they are no longer simply putting on a show for a tourist photographer  – a moment when their minds had moved on. Rineke Dykstra refers to this as “ a moment when [the subject] display[s] a certain introversion” (Dykstra, pp 47). In practice this is far more difficult than it sounds.

August Sanders’s Face of Our Time is a major influence. Sander compiled some 450 photographic portraits of the German population during the years preceding the Second World War. He divided his subjects into seven classifications based on his interpretation of the prevailing class structure – a notion that might now be considered fallacious given contemporary thinking on photographic realism and identity. A key characteristic of Sander’s work is that  “he exhibits the same photographic respect towards each of his models, including the beggar and the marginal ‘last people’ whose lives have been overshadowed by adversity” (Betancourt Nunez, pp 36). Alfred Doblin’s introduction to Sander’s book refers to the work as  “comparative photography” and suggests that it is  “writing sociology not by writing but by producing photographs” (Sander, pp 13). Sander is regarded generally as a seminal figure in typological photographic studies.

A more contemporary reference point is Tom Hunter’s East End Business series (Hunter). His photographs are environmental portraits of local business people in Hunter’s north London neighbourhood of Hackney. The subjects are pictured in their business premises, be it a shop or a workshop, surrounded by their stock and tools of their trade. There is a stillness about the portraits probably resulting from Hunter’s use of a large format camera. Apparently the photographs were inspired by a nineteenth-century model of a local a butcher’s shop in the Bethnal Green Museum. Whilst the photographs are portraits of the individual subjects, taken as a whole they also present a picture of economic activity and social and cultural elements of the neighbourhood. I wanted to achieve something of this in my own work.

Other influences are Bernhard Fuchs’ sensitive portraits of people from his native Austria (Fuchs) and some of Wolfgang Tilmans street portraiture (Tilmans). Both of these photographers produce portraits, which in my view seem relatively understated and through this convey a sense of authenticity.

I approached this series of portraits with an open mind. In a sense I was developing my skills as a portrait photographer. I had to overcome my natural reluctance to approach people to ask for a portrait. Sometimes I was turned down but most often I was not. Timing of when to make the image was another learning curve. When asked for a portrait most people immediately respond by giving a beaming smile. I have started to learn how to wait for that  ‘moment of introversion’.

I began to feel that a market trader’s stall is an extension of their personality – more so in situations where the product they are selling has been made by their own hand. As the project developed it also seemed to me that the photographs were beginning to form a picture of the diversity of London’s market traders today. Viewers will form their own opinions on these issues.

My subjects remain anonymous with only the place and date of capture being recorded in the caption. In order to provide a broad representation I have presented an initial edit of 20 photographs. Most of these were made in the last 12 months.

REFERENCES

Dykstra R. (2012), Rineke Dykstra: A Retrospective New York: The Solomon Guggenheim Foundation

Sander A. (1994) Face of Our Time Munich: Schirmer/Mosel

Betancourt Nunez G. Portraits in Series a Century of Photographs Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag

Hunter T. East End Business Available from:  http://www.tomhunter.org/html/sf_06.htm  [Accessed 22 June 2012]

Fuchs B. (2003) Portrait Photographs Salzberg: Fotohof

Tillmans W. (2002) Portraits Jackson: Distributed Art Pub Inc

A pdf file of my covering notes which I sent to Jesse is available here:

Keith Greenough Assignment 2 market – Covering Notes

A contact sheet of the photographs is available here:

Keith Greenough Assignment 2 – Market – contact sheet

I have presented larger versions of some of the portraits below:

Brick Lane Vintage Market, December 2011

PIccadilly Market, July 2010

Covent Garden, August 2011

Brick Lane, June 2012 – 2

Brick Lane, June 2012 – 1

Advertisements