This colourful man was a performer at the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow a couple of years ago. I always thought he would make a good subject but the background of the original image was far too ‘messy’ and distracting. Consequently, he ended up as part of a montage image, with the new background shot in Spanish Harlem, New York City.
I had the pleasure of watching an extraordinary documentary about Vivian Maier recently. She was an amateur photographer who specialised in ‘street’ portraits and scenes, all done whilst working as a nanny in New York.
During her lifetime (1926 – 2009), Vivian did not show her photographs to anyone, nor did she seek the approval of anyone or their critique of her work. For her, it seemed that photography was not – as it normally is – about the sharing, but was a purely personal adventure. Often, particularly latterly, she did not process the films; this led to a comment that for so many of her images, Vivian was the only person ever to have seen them – and then, only in her viewfinder.
Shortly prior to her death, a number of storage lockers containing her images – some prints, but mainly rolls of film and negatives – were sold to pay the cost of the storage; this eventually led to the discovery of her work, with critical acclaim following fast. Now, it seems, her place in the history of photography is assured – not simply because of the story of the discovery of her work, but primarily because of the exceptional quality of her images.
“That rare case of a genuine undiscovered artist, she left behind a huge trove of pictures that rank her with the great American mid-century street photographers. The best pictures bring to life a fantastic swath of history that now needs to be rewritten to include her.” – Michael Mimmelman, New York Times
This young woman was standing outside the subway station on the afternoon of the West End Festival. By that time, the sunlight was too strong for photography, creating too much contrast and shadow. But in the even light of the station entrance, Marie was complimented by the light and looked very photogenic indeed, as well as very stylish with the headscarf.
I asked her permission to make a portrait of her, creating two shots – this one was the first. She very kindly agreed and this was the result.
I have done very little to the original image apart from tone it to monochrome and adding very slight sharpening, before cropping a little from the top of the frame.
This image began with one idea but then became something entirely different as I processed it. Initially wanting to include a larger element in the foreground, I realised the image needed nothing else and worked well as it was. I liked the combination of the blue and the gold colours, which always work well together.
The final image is comprised of two separate images – one of the sky and the other of the beach. At the processing stage, the trick was blending the two together in a reasonable way. The figures on the beach were retained as they gave a sense of scale, and also acted as a point of interest upon which the eye can rest.
Very much an experimental image, this portrait was made at the Edinburgh Festival, the subject being one of the many street performers to be found there.
The point of the image was nothing more than to extract the subject from the background, which was far too messy, and to isolate him against a cleaner background. This was the result of that.