Brand-New Topographics

In the first week of starting the course we were given the task to photograph different areas of the city using a map with reference points. We had to visit these reference points and respond to the location with one of the quotes we were given. The task was all about the new topographic movement.

The New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was an exhibition which showcased a key moment in American history and landscape photography over 35 years ago. Photographers such as Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz and Nicolas Nixon were the first to introduce this style of photographing man made landscapes and have greatly influenced the way we view and photograph a landscape. Photographing the suburbs, warehouses, empty streets and roads in 1970’s America, they showed how the natural landscape was being altered by humans and eroded by the growth of cities and the development of industries. The images began to question the distinction between a cultural and natural landscape. The images, in particular Baltz’s, show the loss of the so called American Dream through mobile homes and former industrial parks in ‘boomtowns’ which had since fallen into decline.

The influence of the New Topographics is detectable in  the work of contemporary photographers such as Andreas Gursky, Paul Graham and Candida Höfer.

Although almost all of the photographs taken in the New Topographics movement were in black and white, the photographers work that stood out the most for me was Stephen Shore. He was the only one at the time to use colour in his work. Inspired by this and the work of other photographs such as William Eggleston and Paul Graham I decided to shoot my images in colour. One of the aspects I experimented with in this task was the use of light and how this changed the landscape. By shooting in colour I was able to show a realistic representation of how the city looked when I shot the images. When using black and white I found that it altered how the city appeared and took the images out of their time era. I wanted to show how it looks in the modern day. The use of black and white photography has historically been used in documentary photography, I did not intend my images to be viewed as documents and I did not intend for them to be burned down by the history of the city. This burden of the city’s history was more apparent when shooting in black and white.

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“Let the subject generate its own photographs. Become a camera” – Minor White

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“I hate nothing more than sugary photographs with tricks, poses and effects. So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people” – August Sander

“I am not very interested in extraordinary angles. They can be effective on certain occasions, but I do not feel the necessity for them in my own work. Indeed, I feel the simplest approach can often be most effective. A subject placed squarely in the centre of the frame, if attention is not distracted from it by fussy surroundings, has a simple dignity which makes it all the more impressive. – Bill Brandt

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“Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘wouldn’t it be interesting if…’ And then do it.” Duane Michals

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“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” – Paul Caponigro

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“The immortal photographers will be straightforward photographers, those who do not rely on tricks or special techniques.” – Philipe Halsham

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“I would say to any artist: Don’t be repressed in your work, dare to experiment, consider any urge, if in a new direction all the better.” – Edward Weston (to Ansel Adams)

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“The complete disregard for the camera’s presence indicates its complete saturation in their lives. The subject neither notices nor seems to care that someone has been invited into their private moment” – Nan Goldin

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“I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.” – Robert Frank

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“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa