Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Street Photography Research - Christophe Agou

Figure 1: Life Below, 2004
The photographer captured the personality of the underground world of the New York City Subway. I find Christophe Agou is able to capture an individual’s sitter’s personality by taking close up shots that reveal the facial expressions and the moods of the people more strongly. By capturing the facial expressions, I find that Agou has captured the sitter’s personality in the shot without creating their own interpretation.

Taking photographs in a busy oppressive environment has allowed the photographer to achieve the outcome. The outcome shows people from all walks of life and was achieved by the approach of observing, in addition formerly just taking the photograph without attracting any attention.
The photographers work has attracted me to their photography through using a different approach. Rather than standing in the street waiting for something that grabs their attention, Agou has looked at the life below the street. The photographs make me feel as though the photographer is trying to open the viewer’s eye to things you see every day. My thoughts on Agou’s work are that, through photography they are trying to portray a message to the viewer. The message I’m getting is that, Agou wants the viewer to look past what you see every day. While being a passenger you are also part of what makes the life below flow through tunnels and destinations. The viewer has most likely been on public transport and may even feel a personal connection, as though they are sitting on the train ride with the photographer. I feel as though I’m not looking at a photograph, but I feel as though I’m there and this is what I can see on my train ride, as though I’m part of the life below.
The lighting throughout Agou’s photography looks mainly lit through artificial lighting provided by the public transport. Because of the monochrome effect through Agou’s Life Below photo shoot, I find the contrast has worked well. The black and white colours are evenly distributed, this allows the photographs to have the right exposure, not being overexposed nor underexposed. To let more light through the lens, I feel as though Agou has used a large aperture, this also allowed the photographer to focus the camera on a shallow depth of field, possibly around f4. A shallow depth of field allowed the photographer to focus on the main point rather than having a deep depth of field and focus on unnecessary objects in their surroundings.

Throughout looking at Agou’s work, I have noticed that there are no more than three people within one frame. The framing of the photographs may not be a true representation of what the photographer can see overall. The choice of framing could influence the viewer’s opinion into question, what was beyond the photograph? Or why only photograph that person? But I think it works well, as it makes me as a viewer curious at maybe what the sitter in the photograph was looking at in that moment in time.


Figure 5: Life Below, 2004
Agou’s viewpoint throughout the Life Below has been captured from different angles. Some photographs have been captured straight on, as though you are standing on the public transport among the people. Other photographs have been captured from a low angle, suggesting the photographer was sitting down at that point while capturing the shot. I can also tell that one shot was captured at the waist of Agou; this is evidential in the photograph of a man wearing a tie and a shirt that is too tight.

The use of focus throughout Agou’s photography is what interests me most; the change of depth of field allows the viewer’s eye to draw straight to what the photographer wants the viewer to look at. The main point of interest is mainly in focus, while the rest of the surrounding will be blurred.
Figure 6: Life Below, 2004
Different techniques have been used to capture a different mood throughout each photograph. One technique I have notice throughout Agou’s photographs is the angle change. The angles are always from a low point of view, normally below the sitters face. But when capturing the photograph of a sitters legs, the angle is very, very low. This gives the viewer the impression that this is an inappropriate angle, giving off a sneaky type of mood to the overall photograph.
Overall I think that the photographers work has been successful and has encouraged me throughout my photography. I am inspired to experiment by capturing photographs with only an arm’s length between the sitter and I. The depth of field has been used correctly, drawing attention to what needs to be focussed on most. I also can see a narrative throughout the photo shoot, that also gives the photographs a professional look, rather than having photographs together that make no sense at all.

Figure 7: Life Below, 2004
Christophe Agou Photograph Analysis

The mood in this photograph looks threatening; this is because of the facial expression on the sitter. The lady in the photograph doesn’t look very happy, and has an aggressive look on her face. But the lady’s hands that aren’t in focus, give off the impression that the lady is holding onto the bag that is in her hand, to be a valuable item to her. The lady gives off a threatening look, but her body language proves she may be the one threatened.
The photograph has a shallow depth of field, this is because the photographer has mainly focussed on the sitters face and the bag handles. I feel as though the bag handles create a pattern in the photograph, guiding the attention of the viewer to look straight at the contrast the bag handles cause. From the bag handles, the viewer then looks up to realises the facial expression of the lady. It’s as though she feel the viewer looking at the bag handles, like they are going to grab the bags away from her, but she’s holding onto the bag so tight that there are creases being formed on the bag.

The lighting in the photograph looks as though it was lit from above the sitter, maybe artificial lighting from the public transport. The lighting mainly hits the right side of her face from the viewer’s angle, giving evidence that there was a light from above, on the left side from the lady’s perspective. The shadows in the photograph work well and I think it gives the photograph a professional look, especially being captured in monochrome. The monochrome effect gives the photograph hard quality, resulting in a much better photograph as appose to being in colour.
I like how in this photograph you can literally see the proximity between the sitter and the camera. The photograph provides evidence to the quote “The distance that separated me from my subject was only the length of my arm” by Christophe Agou. The angle the camera was at, looks as though the photographer was sitting down for this one. The photograph has clearly been captured from a low angle, looking up to the sitter. The low angle suggests the photographer took this from a low angle to give the sitter a powerful look. The composition of this photograph is open; this is because the sitter’s fingers aren’t fully in the frame. Also part of the sitter shoulder isn’t in the frame either and extend out of the viewer’s focus.

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