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Joe Cunningham

What do we photograph on the streets (in color)?

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I'm new here and while attempting to make my first post I was surprised to find that the main thread for street photos contains black and white photographs, exclusively (the thread is even tagged "mono"), and the street photo I want to share is a color shot, so instead of sheepishly going away, I've started this topic.  I don't know if there is value in keeping the color street photography separate from the monochrome, I'll let the moderators decide that.  But currently the only thread of any importance in the entire street photography forum containing color pictures that I could find are all photos taken at beaches, so I hope others find this topic as useful and necessary as I do and post in it.  I'll go first.

 

Woman on LSD, Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis, 2018

(Leica M10 and Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH)

She was obviously high, which is why I followed her, and after I made this shot I asked her with a smile if she was tripping. "Yeah, tripping balls!" she answered and then did a pirouette and dashed off into Target before I could say another word.

Edited by Joe Cunningham

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Actually I think B&W would improve the shot... :( By accentuating the forms, the shadows and the highlights. I agree 100% with you that colour can be an essential part of the image, also in street photography, but for me it should serve a purpose. It is a very good photo IMO, BTW.

 

Oh, and welcome to the Forum :)

 

Ps. If you object to my conversion, I will happily delete it. It is your image, after all.

 

 

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I love B&W photography, and I often convert my M10's images using Mastin Labs' excellent Illford presets for Lightroom (and I am seriously tempted to acquire am M Monochrom for purity's sake - the less software intervention the better), but my criteria for converting to B&W is always based on a simple question: Is this color image actually a B&W photograph waiting to happen? For example, am I using contrast like a knife and should emphasize that by removing color from the equation? Am I trying to show you the interplay between forms (architecture, for example) and should emphasize that by removing color.  Or is this image about reality?  If so, then it should remain in color because reality is in color.  The photo I shared is definitely about reality, and furthermore the glow about her head (her hair all alight) is important because it's where the action (her LSD trip) is taking place.  In B&W that glow would blend in with the rest of the monochrome photograph and lose much of its impact.  As a color photo, that glow is a certain hue not found elsewhere in-frame, which sets it apart. 

For these artistic/philosophical reasons, I strongly encourage you to either incorporate color street photography into the main street thread called "What do we photograph on the streets" or keep color and B&W street work separated, but also allow this thread to blossom.  Pin them both, in other words.  Thank you for taking this under consideration.  :)  -Joe Cunningham

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Ha!  We clicked "Submit Reply" almost simultaneously.  Please read my reply above for an understanding of my decision to keep this image in color.  And also please consider my proposal that there be a place for this photograph (and ones like it) in the Street Photography forum, be it in the main thread, or a separate one.  -Joe

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In that case, I'll happily discuss colour versus B&W in this case. What do you suggest that colour adds to this specific image? And what do you think of my shapes and contrast argument? I think the hair adds a halo-effect in the B&W image.

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Photographs that are primarily about shapes and/or contrast definitely should be converted to black and white. You'll recall my saying "For example, am I using contrast like a knife and should emphasize that by removing color from the equation? Am I trying to show you the interplay between forms (architecture, for example) and should emphasize that by removing color."  That applies if contrast and/or form *are the primary point* of the image.  A photograph can be about many things at once, but the more focused its goal the more effective it is.  There is a lot of light and shadowplay going on in this shot, but it is not an attempt at showing you whats great about contrast and shadowforms and how they can be used to maximum effect.  That there is contrast happening in this shot is incidental. Similarly, it not about forms, though the photo contains forms.  It is about what the subject is experiencing and my goal in that moment (and also in post-process) is to convey her experience of being psychologically overwhelmed by a blazing psychedelic drug.  Converting to B&W shifts the emphasis back to contrast and form which is far less interesting than what she is going through right before your eyes, and in public (people don't normally trip in public so it's a rare catch).  If one tries to make the photo about all of these things at once, its message becomes diluted.

I don't feel a need for you to delete your B&W version of my photograph.  That being said, it's a color shot, for the record, and I hope I've conveyed my reasons behind that.  But the presence of your version does serve to illustrate both of our points by allowing a comparison for others to consider.   The question of whether any given photograph should remain in color or not is deep water.  And well worth exploring in a major thread about color street photography. -Joe

Edited by Joe Cunningham

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One other thing: you stated that "I think the hair adds a halo-effect in the B&W image."  I respectfully disagree.  I think that the halo stands out more in the color version because it is has more red going on in it than the bright region of the sidewalk directly under her arms.  In the B&W version the two bright areas are both the same color (white) and cancel each other out. 

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My photography is not a constitutional republic.  It's one man, one vote: mine.  Though I do get a big grin out someone taking the newbie's side.  Very cool of you, sir! ;)

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Joe Cunningham said:

My photography is not a constitutional republic.  It's one man, one vote: mine.  Though I do get a big grin out someone taking the newbie's side.  Very cool of you, sir! ;)

Ah - but you raised the dilemma: colour vs B&W.  Whatever else - an interesting subject.

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5 minutes ago, jaapv said:

Ah - but you raised the dilemma: colour vs B&W.  Whatever else - an interesting subject.

I agree, its a great subject and the cats out of the bag now 

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As the newcomer, I must say I'm very surprised that there is a dilemma at all.  Color photography isn't exactly a niche thing, obviously.  When I logged in this morning to make my first post, I quickly realized that I would have to start a new topic simply because my photo was color, and I found that to be very odd.  Plus, I'd rather be posting ALL my stuff to a longstanding, ongoing thread that everyone visits instead of creating my own junior topics, like a room off to the side that I hope people notice.  

Personally, I don't believe color and B&W should have separate threads.  Street photography is street photography.  Whether a picture should be color or B&W really depends on the photograph at hand - the right answer is dictated by what the photographer is trying to achieve with a given shot.  And what's problematic is that the current status quo encourages photographers to convert to B&W arbitrarily so they can post in the main thread.   I know I'm a newbie and all, so maybe some things need to be explained to me, but I feel there is a real case for opening up the "What do we photograph on the streets" thread to all street photography, be it color or B&W.  

Edited by Joe Cunningham

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Well, You are clearly not a photographic newbie, but in Leicaland a considerable part of photography is in B&W and a large proportion of that on film. There is really no clear division. This also implies that many B&W photographs on this forum have been visualized in either colour or monochrome, only a minority is converted as an afterthought (although I must confess to being guilty of "solving" a desperate colour cast problem by a conversion from time to time ūüėČ) It is not for nothing that Leica is the only company to offer monochrome cameras.

 

 

 

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Your point regarding Leica's close association with Black and White is well taken.  It is a company that makes bold statements with their products (not unlike Steve Jobs' Apple in its day).  Leica's statements are not just about pushing boundaries to say how photographs should look (think 0.95) but they also make values-related statements regarding the art of photography with products like the M Monochrom.  I know what you're saying, and I often set aside the M10 and hit the street with my M7 and I've never once loaded it with color film.  But then there's people like Joel Meyerowitz.  Type his name into Google images and it's about 50/50 color/B&W.  Not that I'm fit to wash Joel Meyerowitz's car, but you see my point.  Vivian Maier also shot color in the later half of her amazing, invisible career as a street shooter.  I'm sure these examples are just the tip of a very long list of street photographers we've all admired who include color in their art.  And many of them shoot Leicas, I'd bet.  My point is that opening up the main thread to color imagery doesn't trod on the art of street photography or the values of the company this forum is dedicated to.  People who shoot and post all in B&W will continue to do so. Removing the limitation does no harm and recognizes that both approaches to shooting street are valid.  Leica makes color cameras and black and white cameras and film cameras and digital cameras.  It's all good.

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to me, what makes the photograph is the giant reflective shadow, which is much more pronounced in the B&W version.  I agree that the glow in the color version is an attribute of the color version that is not in the B&W version.  But that shadow is more important to showcase, and the B&W version does this very nicely. 

 

Having said this, it seems that Jaap took the liberty of enhancing the highlights around the shadow in order to make it pop more.  This is very effective editing, and I'll bet that doing the same to the color version with showcase that shadow much more, and perhaps even deserve the crown as the better of the two taking into account the added benefit of the colorful glow.  

I still can't figure out why a thread dedicated to street photos is needed within a sub-forum dedicated to street photographs.  Too cliquey for me...

Edited by A miller

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6 minutes ago, A miller said:

to me, what makes the photograph is the giant reflective shadow, which is much more pronounced in the B&W version.

This photo is not about the beauty of long shadows, despite one being a prominent feature in the image.  It's about drug abuse and the euphoria drug users experience (and more generally about what goes on in downtown Minneapolis).  To me the fact this actually is a person having an acid trip on Nicollet Avenue (downtown's main drag) is what makes the photo.  This more important aspect of the image is downplayed in the black and white version.  Your comment demonstrates that effect.  The black and white version makes the shadow really pop and you missed the point because you were distracted by it.

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Just now, Joe Cunningham said:

This photo is not about the beauty of long shadows, despite one being a prominent feature in the image.  It's about drug abuse and the euphoria drug users experience (and more generally about what goes on in downtown Minneapolis).  To me the fact this actually is a person having an acid trip on Nicollet Avenue (downtown's main drag) is what makes the photo.  This more important aspect of the image is downplayed in the black and white version.  Your comment demonstrates that effect.  The black and white version makes the shadow really pop and you missed the point because you were distracted by it.

If that is what it means to you than that is great.  But you can't expect me to read that into the photo.  It doesn't suggest that at all.  I live in NYC and people pose like that all the time and they are not on acid.   

Without the large reflective shadow in the foreground (which amplifying the person, who is serendipitously making an amplifying pose) the photo is wholly uninteresting to me 0 and I can't stress that enough.  The glow is barely more interesting than neutral and the pose is, well, of mediocre interest.  That shadow is really needed to bring it all together as an image with wide public interest.  Just my opinion.   

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To me Joe's color photograph has a certain honesty. The color in downtown Minneapolis at a particular time of the day is depressing as hell, but regardless here is a human being in love with the moment.

FWIW, I still love Minneapolis.

 

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1 minute ago, A miller said:

If that is what it means to you than that is great.  But you can't expect me to read that into the photo.  It doesn't suggest that at all.  I live in NYC and people pose like that all the time and they are not on acid.   

Without the large reflective shadow in the foreground (which amplifying the person, who is serendipitously making an amplifying pose) the photo is wholly uninteresting to me 0 and I can't stress that enough.  The glow is barely more interesting than neutral and the pose is, well, of mediocre interest.  That shadow is really needed to bring it all together as an image with wide public interest.  Just my opinion.

You trivialize my intent with "If that is what it means to you than that is great.  But you can't expect me..."   While it's true that everyone with have their own perfectly valid individual reaction/interpretation, the artist's intent is of paramount importance.  I want to communicate what it means to me, to you.  It's why I bother to take pictures.  That's why we make art: to communicate ideas - and we make creative decisions in our work that will give our intent half a chance of not being misunderstood, or in this case, missed altogether.  You are certainly correct that the photo would be utterly ineffective without the visual drama the shadow provides her moment of epiphany, and you're right that I should not just expect you to read what's happening into the photo which I why I titled it "Woman on LSD" because yeah, that's not an uncommon pose.  Some photos NEED captions to deliver their entire weight.  Some do not.

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2 minutes ago, Joe Cunningham said:

You trivialize my intent with "If that is what it means to you than that is great.  But you can't expect me..."   While it's true that everyone with have their own perfectly valid individual reaction/interpretation, the artist's intent is of paramount importance.  I want to communicate what it means to me, to you.  It's why I bother to take pictures.  That's why we make art: to communicate ideas - and we make creative decisions in our work that will give our intent half a chance of not being misunderstood, or in this case, missed altogether.  You are certainly correct that the photo would be utterly ineffective without the visual drama the shadow provides her moment of epiphany, and you're right that I should not just expect you to read what's happening into the photo which I why I titled it "Woman on LSD" because yeah, that's not an uncommon pose.  Some photos NEED captions to deliver their entire weight.  Some do not.

I gotcha.   I will say that if your story behind the photo were told as I was viewing it I might enjoy the color photo better.  But I would want to burn the highlights a bit in the street in the foreground to make the shadow pop more.  It wouldn't disturb your storyline and I think it would add some dynamism.  

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