Influences: Brassai and Bresson

His photographic collection of prostitutes, pimps, nudes, couples romantically interested in each other and of other taboo subjects give his other works a seedy tone; an empty dark street with a lamp post or bench becomes a waiting spot for men and women of the night to take part in their sexual exploits.

I, however, am purely interested in his technical ability, how he creates aesthetically pleasing photographs, and how he captures the atmosphere of a given moment.

His photographs are close to perfection as ‘the blacks are bottomless, the greys are pearly and the lights are warmly alluring.’ – Sante, Luc. ‘Brassaï’s Cloak Of Night By Luc Sante’. Nybooks.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

The big difference between Brassai and Bresson is that Brassai’s subjects have a consciousness of his presence and are actively taking part in being photographed, giving a staged or performed appearance, whereas Bresson’s way of shooting minimizes subjects’ awareness of being photographed, giving a more natural and less forced appearance.

‘Using his training as a painter, Brassaï framed his shots so that small areas of light pierced large areas of blacks and shadows. Light reflected in wet streets and diffused by fog, would define shapes within the dark.  This contrast gave his printed images richness and depth and he called these prints his “little boxes of night.”

Cartier-Bresson neither processed his own film nor made his own prints. Bresson always shot with a 35mm Leica camera, working quickly and unobtrusively. He would shoot dozens of frames chasing his “decisive moment.”

In contrast, Brassaï shot with a large, fixed lens and mounted the camera on a heavy wooden tripod. He never used a 35mm Leica, saying that he had no interest in taking dozens of shots of the same scene.

Also, unlike Cartier-Bresson he happily employed auxiliary lighting. For interior photographs like his café shots, he worked with an assistant who prepared a flash powder gun and a reflecting screen, while Brassaï chatted up and posed his subjects. The exploding flash powder produced a softer light than flashbulbs, giving the pictures their distinctive lighting. However, these powder explosions were so bright and loud that Picasso nicknamed Brassaï “The Terrorist.”

Brassaï was never the distant observer Cartier-Bresson was. Not only were his subjects co-conspirators in the photos, they were his acquaintances. Brassaï wants us to like them: we are among friends. We are guests at the table.’

- Meltzer, Steve. ‘The Piercing Eye Of Brassaï: The Stunning Work Of A Master French Photographer’. Imaging-resource.com. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

I much prefer Bresson’s unobtrusive style, but I prefer how Brassai used his skills in painting, and developed his own prints to create an interesting photograph.

Your response would be greatly appreciated!

Does the hypothesis below help you decide at all whether colour or black and white is better and why?

Black and white should be used for a fleeting moment that takes your attention or when lines, textures or shadows are the main subject.

Colour should only be used:

– when it has an instrumental role in helping the viewer understand the scene

– if a specific colour or group of colours coincidentally appear in an obvious way, regardless of whether this was noticed at the time of taking or post-processing the photograph

– if the presence of a colour appears to be exceptional (eg, northern lights/aurora borealis, a sunset, eye-catching coloured lights)

The clarity of subject and photographer’s personal taste ultimately decide upon which factor(s) play the more important role in choosing between black and white, and colour.

Thanks

My third and final hypothesis, and concluding opinion

I have addressed the use of black and white as well as colour and is mainly directed at trying to help photographers decide between a colour image and its black and white variation:

Black and white should be used for a fleeting moment or when lines, textures or shadows are the main subject. Colour should only be used: when it has an instrumental role in helping the viewer understand the scene; if a specific colour or group of colours coincidentally appear in an obvious way, regardless of whether this was noticed at the time of taking or post-processing the photograph; or if the presence of a colour appears to be extraordinary. The clarity of subject and photographer’s personal taste ultimately decide upon which factor(s) play the more important role in choosing between black and white, and colour.

Concluding opinion:

From my conclusions in the first two chapters, of finding black and white more artistic, serious, neutral and sometimes more modern than colour, and the concluding hypothesis I constructed in the third chapter, I have arrived at a final conclusion which is the complete opposite of my opinions in the introductory paragraph which stated that I strongly preferred colour to black and white because we see in colour, and to shoot in anything else would be illogical and pretentious, especially when used in the modern context.

In terms of how a photograph is taken, I now believe that it is better to shoot with an eye for black and white, as this creates more emphasis on light, tone, shade, texture, line and content, but to be just as open to keeping images in colour, rather than believing that colour is a distraction.

Photographing Harrogate

More photography

Experimental photos for 2nd hypothesis

My second hypothesis:

Colour should only be used when it has an instrumental role in helping the viewer understand the narrative element to the scene; if its interestingness is a product of an obvious coincidence of the appearance of a certain colour; or if the presence of a colour appears to be exceptional. If not present in the scene, colour must not be introduced in front of the lens, or falsely edited by the photographer. The clarity of subject and the photographer’s personal taste ultimately decide upon which factor(s) plays the most important role in choosing between black and white, and colour.

Ones that correspond with this:

The other versions of the photos above:

Photos that have challenged the second version of my hypothesis: