My interpretation of this exercise is that it is all about the path to composing “the shot” without actually knowing what the subject you are after actually is. Along that path there will be many “not quites” but at some time, hopefully, there will be that eureka moment. I have to say I launched into this task with some concerns; it’s one thing taking pictures of public parades, tourist areas etc but another when you are photographing people going about there everyday business. Intrusion, invasion and paparazzi were some words that sprung to mind! However, mindful of a number of articles that appeared in the media over the years and that I was confident as regards the law on this area I set off to Bristol Market which, on a Wednesday, also hosts a Farmers Market.
I planned to walk around for a while to get a feeling for what was going on and select strategic positions for taking some shots, others as the opportunity arose. I had no idea what I was really after, I just thought that there would be interesting people and probably some stalls that would inspire. Should I encounter any hostility I determined that I would deal with it as and when.
Just getting a feel for photographing the stalls. First observation, people will enter the frame at will! I felt very self conscious with my eye glued to the viewfinder scanning the scene. Also if you have a heavy lens camera set up you soon begin to experience camera shake. Need to think about using a different lens for such exercises. This was a fairly constrained view so decided to move to a wider perspective with the ability to zoom in on any interesting subjects.
A little more variety here in terms of stalls. The only thing that caught my eye was the plants in pots stacked on the upturned crates, colour and geometrical shapes. There may be potential at the cheese counter so decided to get a clearer view.
No sign of Wallace and Gromit so move on!
Initially attracted by the arrangement of the soup pots on display and the form of the pies in the boxes but decided to move on.
Fish stalls usually have interesting displays but this one did not have anything special; noticed there was another fish stall opposite so thought I would try that.
A bit more of an interesting display but not sure it is truly eye catching.
Don’t you love it when the subject closes their eyes as you hit the shutter button! Move on.
Out of the corner of my eye spotted the long arm of the law approaching! Thought turned to the experiences of street photographers so thought I’d test the situation.
Well no adverse reaction but no friendly engagement either, the look says it all! Pity, quite a striking subject.
Showing a clean pair of hooves so this is going no further. Back to the market.
Picked out this bread stall due to the arrangement of many different shapes and sizes of bread on offer. However, I thought the glass screen was a distraction and it was not possible to get a clear shot for the composition I had in mind.
While surveying this scene through the viefinder considered whether a sequence of a shopper browsing through to deciding to purchase might provide something interesting. This guy walked on by.
It was the arrangement of the vegetables that caught my eye in this scene, in particular the carrots. Just after I had taken this shot the stallholder approached me and asked what I was doing; up to this point I had only had glances from stallholders. We had a friendly discussion and it transpired he and his wife had been asked to pose for a photograph at the market a few months before and they had ended up in a massive poster on the side of one of the Bristol Harbour sheds, he was not happy about that. We parted amicably and I moved on.
I took this shot as this guy walked into frame, it was the look on his face, bad news(?), and the bright blue phone glued to his ear which seemed at odds with the character.
Just people watching.
The directions to move on were clear!
This is the covered area of the market dominated by a multitude of food stalls of various nationalities popular at lunchtime for local office workers and those in the know. I picked up on a group that had descended on one stall and were going through that ritual of “what are you having?”. Despite watching for few minutes I was not able to get a shot which included their faces which i thought would tell a story.
I took this shot as I was attracted by two things; the arrangement and colours of the fruit and wheatgrass and by the juxtaposition of the health juice stall offering therapy and “pieminster” which, I guess, offers a different type of therapy; where were all the punters going! I then decided to explore a composition of the fruit on the juice stall.
Yes, interesting but not grabbing.
Moved to another part of the market, flower stall might provide something of note; I could not see anything of note. It was now getting busy, not easy doing the eye to viewfinder routine without risking a black eye. Move back outside.
Back in the open air. This was in the overflow area. I had spotted a very colourful stall in this group which I decided to home in on.
Look at the way those people are eyeing that stall.
Bingo! I had found my target. To me this sums up the essence of the Farmer’s Market. Whilst i would have liked to have had more time composing shots of this subject I was at the mercy of the customers, many of whom had kindly stood back to allow me a couple of shots. Note, on this occasion I asked the stallholder’s permission.
I did not find this an easy task, essentially going out not knowing exactly what I was after, yet doing a specific exercise. Also, as mentioned above, I had some reservations about undertaking what I understand to be street photography and any potential difficulties with the subjects selected. I think this held me back a bit and perhaps bolder approach would have been beneficial. It has certainly made me think about how to interact with people in such situations and I found the article on the BBC website, Religion and Ethics, “Q&A: The ethics of street photography”, an interview with Eric Kim a street photographer based in Los Angeles, quite interesting; a lot depends on the culture you are dealing with.
Some other thoughts on this experience. The practice of spending much time with eye to viewfinder is somewhat alien to me, notwithstanding it is the best way of confirming the scene; perhaps I was taking this too literally although I have heard of people walking about with a cardboard frame to view potential scenes. I kept thinking that while I was looking in one area something better might be going on elsewhere. Also I detected a lack of creative juices in selecting a subject to home in on yet I have done this successfully on landscapes. In this case there was a lot going on around, particularly in the covered market, and I felt a distinct challenge between capturing the moment and composition; this was heightened by the constant thought of it is better to crop in camera than during post processing. Looking back at my shots I also wonder about my camera settings; once I got going I gave little thought to changing settings. Finally, the weight of the camera equipment; a long period spent in the firing position really makes you think about the weight of your kit, especially as I had gone out for the day with other tasks in mind and was carrying a fair load.
In conclusion, did I achieve the aim of the exercise? Well I ended up with a final image which I think was a successful conclusion to a journey that took many twists and turns and a good deal of time; that final shot could have done with further work. With a shot in the can and much to think about so, overall, yes.
BBC Religion & Ethics. Q&A: The ethics of street photography. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/21532400 [Accessed 26 March 2013]