Steve's OCA Blog

Photography Learning Log


Part 2

Photographer Review – Andreas Gursky and Henri Cartier-Bresson

Both photographers were highlighted as good examples of candid portraits. They do, however have very different approaches. Andreas has a very macro style, often without people. His images are generally colour and feature macro patterns in buildings, people or nature. When people feature, they aren’t recognisable or aware of the image being taken, however the people do seem to be individuals as the choice of background or timing makes them clearly distinguishable. I assume that this may also be due to the use of a wide Depth of Field. A good example is the following image of a swimming pool, where the people seem to be spread evenly, right across the macro viewpoint. Clear, light backgrounds and wide depth of field ensure each individual stands out.

Andreas Gursky, Ratingen, 1987.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the images of Andreas Gursky as through his macro approach he adds a sense of abstract to the images he creates.

Henri Cartier-Bresson has a different style, with clearly recognisable individuals, sometimes staged images, but often candid. Using Black and White and careful use and placement of backgrounds, the subjects of his images are very clearly the people. He uses the contrast in the black and white images well to draw out the people. Often they appear as silhouettes.

The following is a really good example of one of his candid images that highlights the features described above.

FRANCE. The Var department. Hyères. 1932. Henri Cartier-Bresson


Exercise 2.1 – Part 1

The first part of this exercise was to emulate the work of Karl Blossfeldt by capturing images of plants with plain backgrounds. His work shows many macro images of plants and objects captured against plain backgrounds,  using natural light in a way that avoids shadows. His images really emphasize shape, textures and details of his subjects. Due to this approach the work looks very staged and almost like a series of images for museum specimen categorisation. All his images are black and white (he would be restricted by technology to black and white), but the real beauty in the images for me, is in the grey tones, the texture and details that these tones expose.

I took a number of images in strong overcast daylight using  100mm macro lens, using a white sheet of A4 paper as a background. Some images were converted to black and white where this was thought to enhance the image.

One image stood out for me, with shape and texture very evident.


The colour image was also striking, but the impact comes from the colours


Other images from this series, are as follows:

My learning from this exercise was that plain backgrounds really do change images. For black and white images, they tend to highlight shapes and textures, whereas for colour images ,which have strong colours, it is the colour that dominates as the subject. On a technical note, I used a wide aperture (f2.8) and gained a narrow depth of field and whilst it added to the aesthetics of some images, it distracted from most, as the texture and detail was lost due to the narrow depth of field.

Now for the next part of this exercise, to do this with people.

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