Exercise 2.2 Covert

The brief
Closely consider the work of the practitioners discussed above, then try to shoot a series of five portraits of subjects who are unaware of the fact they are being photographed. As you’ve seen, there are many ways in which you can go about this, but we can’t stress enough that the objective here is not to offend your subjects or deliberately invade anyone’s privacy. If you don’t have permission to shoot in a privately-owned space, then you should only attempt this work in a public space, where permission to shoot is not necessarily required.

This is a very interesting challenge, which some students will find incredibly difficult. Remember that the creative outcome of the practitioners discussed above has come about through a sustained approach, which is then heavily edited for presentation. You’ll need to shoot many images in order to be able to present five final images that work together as a set.

Think everything through carefully before attempting this exercise as the responsibility for the outcome of the portraits rests entirely with you. If during the course of this exercise you are challenged in any way, be prepared to delete what you have shot. If you can see that you are annoying someone, or making them feel uncomfortable, stop shooting immediately. You’ll be required to operate with a degree of common sense here and not take unnecessary risks. There are ways of completing this exercise without incurring risk, such as shooting the work at a party you’ve been invited to, where all the guests have been invited for a particular celebration.

The reflection about your methodology will be as important as the final five images, so be prepared to write about how you found the experience (around 500 words) and present your findings via your learning log or blog.

As a rule I don’t have any problems doing street photography but lately I have been in a bit of a funk and seem to have lost my mojo. Being a senior on the street with a camera seems to pose little threat to those I photograph. I’ve only ever encountered a homeless person, probably high on something, shout at me once when he saw the camera, even though I wasn’t even taking a photograph at that time.

I took some street images when I was in South Africa and during my stopover in London and thought initially that I could do a theme of different cities, as I had a few good images from both locations and would just need to complete with some from Vancouver. So I headed downtown yesterday to work on my Vancouver images. I didn’t go out with any specific idea in mind, rather just hit the streets to see what was happening.

I first roamed around taking photos of people on buses, waiting for the bus, street musicians, folks walking going about their weekend business in general.  Some people realised I was photographing them and looked straight at the camera and I excluded those shots when making my selections. I tried to take some shots with the camera just hung around my neck and aimed at people I was passing by or approaching, but that method is very hit and miss for me. I was on the verge of heading back home when I heard loudspeakers so went to investigate and came across an Arabic protest march – still not sure what it was about though. After taking a few record shots of the protest, I then turned to photograph those watching it. Subconsciously I think Lukas Kuzma’s work (reviewed here) influenced me quite a bit. Looking through my contact sheets I realise that the most successful images were those taken at street corners where I was simply waiting for the subjects to flock around me while they were waiting for the march to pass so they could cross the street. Returning home and reviewing the images, I realised that I had a better theme in my collection than my initial idea of three cities. My series is all about “watching”.

Below are my contact sheets for the exercise:

Covert Contact Sheet 1
Covert Contact Sheet 1
Covert Contact Sheet 2
Covert Contact Sheet 2
Covert Contact Sheet 3
Covert Contact Sheet 3

My final five images:

Fig 1
Fig 1
Fig 2
Fig 2
Fig 3
Fig 3
Fig 4
Fig 4
Fig 5
Fig 5
Reference List

Kuzma, Lukas (n.d.) Transit London [online] http://www.lukaskuzma.com/transit-london/ [Accessed 10 October, 2016]

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