Brand-New Topographics

Who were the Brand New Topographics and what did they do? In 1975 , Williams Jenkins curated a collaborative show of American Landscape Photography at the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. It featured a collection of, what could be described as, banal images featuring streets, warehouses, city centres , industrial estates and suburban housing. A man-made landscape.

Using the work of Photographers such as Bill Brandt, Nan Goldin and Robert Capa and reflecting upon their thoughts to create a set of images showing my interpretation of New Topographics.

I wasn’t imposing my presence on anyone ,.. which is very important for a would-be journalist. I stayed back. Always let people be themselves. – Elliott Erwitt

Taking a rest from the rigours of shopping , the subject’s weariness is shown in his face, his eyes closing on the hustle and bustle of the market place.

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

A market trader completely absorbed in going about his daily business.

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.

Caught unawares ,without posing, the subject is unselfconscious in her laughter.

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

The way in which the hub captures the reflection adds another dimension to this street scene. The photograph really did seem to present itself to me.

” I would say to 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

Walking under the by-pass I was intrigued by the lines and structure of the underpass. This image is taking my photography in a new and, until now , a little explored direction. Rarely do I take images that are industrial yet I feel that this piece works.  The man-made concrete structure, rigid and composed is mirrored by the decay and rust that seem to blend itself in with the lines of the structure.

“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 – page 115 of U.S Camera 1958. Published by the U.S Camera Publishing Corp. in 195

Reading the above quote by Robert Frank, I picked up upon his assertion that “it is important to see what is invisible to others..” and used it to inspire the above photograph. The way in which the newspaper seller, although wearing brightly coloured clothing and surrounded by a bright yellow stand, seems to be invisible to the passers by. His face portraying feelings of boredom and resignation. When we are going about our daily business, how much do we really see?

” You have to follow your nose… to have a mental attitude about what you feel good about and yearn for in a picture. Being able to say ” I like it. ‘ or ” I don’t like it.’ That’s first. – Jan Groover.

The Global giant IKEA looming over the city market. Although not displaying the best technique in terms of composition an lighting, I do like this picture. To me , it just seems to sum up how the ‘little guys’ seem to be standing in the shadow of multinationals such as IKEA.

Bertolt Brech Photography has become a formidable weapon against truth in the hands of the bourgeoisie.The enormous quantity of picture material spit out daily by the printing press, that consequently appears to possess the character of truth, actually serves only to obscure thefacts. The camera can lie just like the type-setting machine. – Bertolt Brech, Multiple Views :
Logan Grant Essays on Photography, 1983-89 by Daniel P. Younger , ISBN: 0826312446 ,Page: 225

I saw this couple on a street corner , at first glance it appears like the man is acting aggressively and the woman is trying to appease him. The truth of the matter is, he was asking for directions and she was providing them. The moment I caught on camera is evidence that the camera can lie and misinterpret.

Bill Brandt
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 – “Camera in London”, The Focal Press,
London 1948, p. 13

I feel that the above photograph exemplifies what Bill Brandt was saying in relation to the simple dignity that a straightforward and uncomplicated photograph can possess.  The photograph below also show this.


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