During my recent stay in Melbourne, I had the good fortune and pleasure in meeting up with Dave Porteus The-Egg
for a photo-shoot around the back streets and lanes near the Queen Victoria Market. Dave introduced me to the vibrant street art culture for which Melbourne is well known. We visited several alleyways in which big, bold and brash images painted on brick and concrete walls assaulted the eyes with their colourful characters and compositions. In those couple of hours, I learnt more from Dave about street art and how to photograph it and its environments than I could possibly have imagined. Many thanks for such a wonderful shoot, Dave.
Dave is a master of HDR and low light photography, two images from our adventure are shown below. This is not the place to give a full blown account of High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography; suffice to say that the technique which involves the blending (tone-mapping) of severally images with different exposures allows detail in shadow and highlight regions to be captured that might otherwise be lost. Depending on exactly how blending is carried out, the image can appear as anything from realistic to surrealistic. When used in low light conditions and with specific parameters, the characteristic style of The-Egg
appears. Visit his Home page and Galleries to see some more remarkable works.
I did not wish to emulate Dave's style. I had to think of my own view - how should such vibrant street art be depicted? I decided to go even bolder and more colourful than the original works, hoping that the original artists would appreciate this different take. There is a technique that goes back to the beginnings of photography when images were sometimes accidently, and sometimes deliberately over exposed during processing. That technique is called solarization, and most photo-editing software has a tool to carry this out. I have used the filter of that name that is in Colour Efex Pro 4 from the Nik suite of software (now owned by Google). Solarization can be thought of as inverting either wholly or partly the colour hues in an image - white becomes black, red becomes cyan, yellow blue, and so on (Check on a colour wheel for more examples.) Applying this to a more complex set of colours in an image can give dramatic results, often over-the-top garish, but in these instances I claim they add to the original street works.
The first of the images, "Kaatz" is my solarized version of a cat's face, a street image that appears all over the place in Melbourne street art . We think the script like symbols to the right of the face may be a signature, but the artist is not known. The second image, "Downtown Alley" (yes, there is a little word play there for UK viewers of a certain TV series!) is closest to Dave's style and I have chosen in all these to create a dark feeling to the shots. The third image relates to one of Dave's shown earlier, and I've called it "Tombstone Teeth". The diagonal between wall and ground and the cropping have been deliberately set to create a classic compositional device of leading in on thirds. The final shot, "Red Eye", gives full rein to the solarization slider, adding, I think, to the macabre nature of the original artwork.
As well as photographing the painted art, Dave and I were keen to explore the alleys to find structures and buildings that were in themselves photogenic - see the second of The-Egg
's shots above. As with the wall art, I have taken a very different approach to depicting these structures from that of Dave. I have used the Silver EXef Pro monochrome software to accentuate lighting contrasts, to add a selenium tint, and to add some edge burn to bring the eye into the image. I am happy with the way these have turned out, and think they work as examples of the "street as art". A key point to bear in mind is that while possibly appearing mundane these images are packed full of what are known as "Itten contrasts". Again, this is not the place to discuss Itten contrasts in detail - I have written about these before - see okavanga.deviantart.com/journa…
. Contrast in photography is normally thought of in terms of light and shade, but the Bauhaus artist Johannes Itten pointed out many years ago that contrasts include things such as rough/smooth; wide/thin, near/far and so on. When I view these images with this idea in mind, they gain that extra impact. Of course, others may disagree.
As a worked example, check out the top left image, "Dead End". Figuratively, there are two building separated by an alley. Light and shade contrasts are obvious; there is a sort of overall compositional balance, left to right, then you start to notice the round curve of one building against the sharp angular bulk of the other, the squares of a pattern at the foot of the alley versus the angular rectangles of the windows on the right versus the windowless left hand wall, but that wall has very narrow slatted structures as opposed to the smooth surface of the alley, then you have the foreground fronts of the buildings versus the square wall in the background of the structures....and so on. Picking out these contrasts becomes an intellectual as well as a visual challenge.
But enough - this has been a challenging Journal to write with a great deal of information and ideas to impart. I finish with my thanks again to
for an excellent photo-shoot.