Posted by Phil Long On November 19, 2014
In my research post I talked about the work by Paul Graham in “American Night” which presented over-exposed slums with vibrant newly-built suburbs and my own idea of mixing black-and-white “modern” and the city with vibrant “old” or “industrial”. My thinking is that much social documentary imagery is in black and white, it tends to give some “authenticity” to the shots of declining industry, it could be argued therefore that colour used in vernacular (every day shots by everybody) is therefore somehow not authentic and by extension “modern” and anything that is not industrial is not authentic. What I want to test is whether that idea can be challenged by switching things around?
This different approach is compared to my original intent to present all the images with near-identical processing, reducing saturation and increasing contrast and clarity to create a cold and forensic (I guess almost ‘gritty’ look, cliché as that is). I’ve been experimenting with this and this post covers the results of my test images.
At this point I still haven’t made my final selection – I believe adjusting the processing may well have an impact on the selection I make.
Old and Industrial
This isn’t far-off being what came out of camera, though I have increased the saturation slightly to enhance the colours a bit. What’s far more obvious in this one is the balance between the red brick and the green ferns and trees which have overused this disused part of the old factory. in Castleton. Here is the original processing:
This image becomes far more about colour with the adjusted processing, whereas texture was far more prominent in the reduced saturation image. Details I hadn’t really picked up on are evident – for example the discoloured green area on the mainly-blue section of the building behind the barbed wire. I also get more a sense of something being hidden behind the wall from the light reflecting on the bottom of the pipes and tin roof.
I switched this to black and white and added some graining, to try and give the sense of age to the image, but ultimate I felt that was over-the-top and isn’t really that representative of social documentary photography. I had another go, which I think is far more successful. Contrast was something I looked at in particular – ensuring a less “flat”:
This looks the part far more, though it is construction so really isn’t far from the idea of industrial activity. Here is my original processing:
The Other Roche
I gave this a similar treatment to the “take two” for New Islington, I really like the depth in this one because of the high contrast between the dark areas, lit areas and the shadows within the building. The more you look at it the more details within the shop are revealed. The original processing lacked that.
The different processing has brought out different features of all the images and I particularly like how the black and white “modern” images appear. However image selection and how these images look side-by-side is the key here. I’m going to proceed with this method, rather than my original processing, and select shots which I feel work well with the brief and this method of presentation.